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.


Three potent female writers celebrated mythologies on the stage at the festival, talking about the narrativizing the retelling of a story. Karthika Nair and Samhita Padikkal both retold Mahabharata while Gayathri Prabhu chose the stories of Vikram and Vetal as her subject. The session was moderated by Jonathan Gil Harris. Their books challenge the belief that a story is worthwhile only if it is original. These three authors believed that retelling is an art as important as creating an original. Retelling helps in identifying identities and cultures for people over a period of time. 


As we all know, oral literature was initially the medium of spreading and preserving literature. Samhita tells us her real life story and how she feels relatable to the characters of Mahabharata. She herself went through a dilemma of unacceptance and that is when she resorted to Mahabharata. Gayathri on the other hand chose a framed narrative. She explains to the audience, how a writer or author after making the text available for the audience has to leave it open in a space where they modify it according to their own understanding and each time a person tells a story to someone else, it is their version of it. She believes that the listener is a part of this act as much as the teller. 


“Battle never looks the same, to various actors.” is the premise with which Karthika starts her book. She believes that in a book there are several voices which are in conversation with themselves and as we have several characters each of them would have a different perspective towards the narrated reality. 


The intellectuals sketched a map that each retelling affirms that there is an origin, but does not mean the story when retold has any less significance than the original as our personal identities refute and communicate with the original text. Human beings have a great power to recall an incident from memory and recreate it for others through the medium of language; this itself is a function of language and thereby retelling is no less of an art than creating an original text.




About the Author: Aditi Dua is a Masters student in English with Communication Studies who has a knack for aesthetics and poetry. Apart from being a literature enthusiast, she highly celebrates challenging ideologies and provide disputing ideas of death. Always available for a conversation over good coffee. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Art and Soul of the City

With the premise of how festivals and culture keeps a society alive, the panel was mediated by Sadhana Rao. Sadhana is a research-led writer and curator in the Arts & Culture area. She has written on Travel, Socio-Economics, Literature, Film festivals & Music for leading newspapers and Journals such as The Hindu, The Economic Times, Deccan Chronicle, Tehelka, Housecalls, Shruti etc. The panelists included Jagadish Raja, Kamini Sawhney, Lucy Nelson, and Namita Devidayal. Jagdish Raja and his wife, Arundhati Raja are the founders of JAGRITI. Jagdish started his working life as an apprentice printer in London. He is a Graduate Member of the Communication Advertising and Marketing (CAM) Education Foundation, United Kingdom and an Associate of the Trinity College London (ATCL). Kamini Sawhney has recently joined the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bangalore as its Director. MAP is an upcoming museum that is set to open its door to the public in the latter half of 2020. Designed as a 44,000 square foot facility in the heart of the city, it will be spread across five floors and will house multiple galleries, an auditorium, a research library, a conservation lab, classrooms, a museum store and cafe. Lucy Nelson, is the Artistic Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival in Australia, previously, co-founder and Artistic Director of Noted Writers Festival. Lucy has written non-fiction for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Big Issue and her fiction has been awarded residencies and shortlisted for prizes in Australia and the UK. Namita Devidayal is the author of The Music Room, Aftertaste and The Sixth String of Vilayat Khan. She is a journalist with The Time of India and co-director of the Times Litfest in Mumbai. She is a trained classical singer. She graduated from Princeton University.


The discussion revolved around the aspects of art in a society and how culture impact brings the variations in the festivals and art forms celebrated. Jagdish touched based on his journey of creation of JAGRITI. He also relates to the fact that the perception of theatre has changed over time. And, every day brings more fractions of audience is getting attracted to theatre. Engaging audience was the next segment of discussion. Kamini mentioned that with taking art to the society, we should also try to bring the society to the heart of the art. Namita added that inculcating spaces for artists other than the work projected also plays a core role in bringing art and community together. Lucy spoke how artists from varied backgrounds should be approached and their perspective on developing more inclusive spaces for people of color and differently abled must be inculcated in our present art space. 


Discussion on how patronage can be an issue to build such inclusive spaces was also carried forth. Kamini gave statistics on how much government funding and corporate CSR actually goes to museums. The discussion wrapped up with the questions taken from audience and final insights on the efforts of creative industry making its next best moves.  




About the Author: A modest graphic designer and an amateur blogger – Liyana believes in weaving stories that come as a ‘solace on a late winter night’. She loves climbing mountains and can be seen spending hours looking at the night sky. She blogs at liyanashirin. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Beyond Asanas: Changing Perceptions About Yoga

‘Beyond Asanas’ session was titled in retrospect of the book Pragya wrote. Pragya Bhatt was born in New Delhi and grew up around the world with her parents who were in the Indian Foreign Service. After completing her schooling from various international schools, she went on to pursue a B.Tech in Computer Engineering. Upon the completion of her degree Pragya worked with Infosys Technologies Ltd (as a Software Engineer) and later on with Accenture Pvt. Ltd (as a Team Lead for their Mobilization Team). She worked for eight years before finally hanging up her business suit. After receiving her Yoga Instructors’ Certification from SVYASA (Swamy Vivekananda Yoga Anusudhana Samsthana), she continues to deepen her practice under the guidance of noted teachers. She conducts group and private classes, international trainings and retreats. Her teachings are also available online.  Pragya is the author of ‘Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures’. The book is published by Penguin and was released in June 2019.


The session primarily focused upon the idea of yoga beyond the notion of a mere weight loss mechanism. In the 30-minute conversation, Pragya talked on how yoga is still relevant and how it helps in the holistic well-being. The discussion was taken forth in regards to the sound philosophy that yoga carries. She mentioned her collaboration with the illustrious photographer, Joel Koechelin for her book, ‘Beyond Asanas’. In the discussion, the audience was able to understand the idea Joel had to illustrate the various asanas for the book. Pragya vividly remembered how Joel wanted to show yoga as an art, beyond the apparel and beyond glamourous relevance it carries. With sound facts, she elaborated on how yoga is more oriented to bring balance of the body, to look at the health perspective and not on the weight. 


Yoga was elaborated as a constant learning process. Throughout the discussion, Pragya gives solid statements on how yoga has helped her and her students. On the meditative aspect, she mentioned that it is quite difficult to train the mind. However, with the discipline of following the routine of physical impact that yoga brings; it eventually helps the mind for the routine cycle of balance.  




About the Author: A modest graphic designer and an amateur blogger – Liyana believes in weaving stories that come as a ‘solace on a late winter night’. She loves climbing mountains and can be seen spending hours looking at the night sky. She blogs at liyanashirin. She currently writes for TheSeer.

The Power of Realism – Writing Workshop

The hall was huddled with a larger audience than it could handle. Taking the little spaces on the seamless carpet, more people chimed in. The writing workshop organized was titled as ‘The Power of Realism’. Julia Prendergast headed the 2-hour long workshop. Julia is a lecturer in Writing and Literature at Swinburne University, Melbourne, and Deputy Chair of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP), the peak academic body representing the discipline of Creative Writing in Australasia. Julia was the 2019 Director of the Australian Short Story Festival, held for the first time in Melbourne. Julia Prendergast’s novel, The Earth Does Not Get Fat was published in 2018 (UWA Publishing: Australia). Recent short stories feature in Australian Short Stories 66 (Pascoe Publishing 2018).


Julia initiated the workshop regarding the effect, time has on stories. During the initial fragment of the workshop, she states, ‘write what is gut wrenchingly significant to you.’ She discussed about the idea of ‘register of intelligence’. She broke down the entire workshop into 3 divisions. Initially, she asked the audience to write about an ‘unresolved incident’, then from the perspective of the character and later from the introduction of a new character. Julia gave details on how the same story can be written in multiple perspectives. She went ahead and engaged the audience in a story writing session. She encouraged many to come forward to read their stories for the small pack huddled in the hall. At various stances of the workshop, she took the time out to read a few stances from her book, ‘The Earth Does Not Get Fat’. The excerpts proved to be effective examples to help the audience understand character perspectives over the space of time. Julia elaborated that a reader would not be interested in the author’s thoughts. Rather the reader wants to experience it. As the workshop progressed, Julia also mentioned languages are meant to make a reader feel. She also recommended the idea of simple language. And how the usage of language makes the reader experience the emotions within the stories. 


As final notes, she recommended aspiring writers to set self-imposed deadlines. This helps writers to complete their writings within the allocated time frame and build on their skills. She urged the audience to get to writing than to merely aspire about writing. Stressing on the fact that an aspiring writer is one who polishes their skills consistently, Julia made a divine impression on the audience.




About the Author: A modest graphic designer and an amateur blogger – Liyana believes in weaving stories that come as a ‘solace on a late winter night’. She loves climbing mountains and can be seen spending hours looking at the night sky. She blogs at liyanashirin. She currently writes for TheSeer.

I’m OK, You’re OK – Exploring Mental Landscapes

The biggest panel of Bengaluru Literature Festival focused on breaking mental health barriers and was moderated by Amandeep Sandhu, author of the novel ‘Sepia Leaves’.

The conversation involved remarkable writers and pioneers of mental health awareness. Amandeep started the session by sharing his views about mental illness and asked each of the panelists the same. 


According to him, it is a double-edged sword where the victim suffers alone. Contradictorily, he mentioned his third book titled ‘Journeys Through Fault Lines’, wherein he found peace in the visits of Punjab’s mental asylums. The recipient of RK Narayan award, Gayathri Prabhu put across the answer highlighting her journey that led to ‘Memoir If I Had To Tell It Again’ which was not only the outcome of the unfinished conversation with her father who passed away but also a zeal to share her story. 


As a professor at Manipal Institute, Karnataka, she was inspired to provide resources for the student community who shared their stories about mental illness. She shed light on the importance of her journey of 3 years as a writer, teacher, counselor, and advocate.



Himanjali Sankar, a Young Adult genre author, shared her fascination as a reader of books involving marginalized characters. She commented that her works were blurred lines between reality and fiction. Himanjali said that her teen novel ‘The Lies We Tell’ was more research-based than her personal story, as it is about a 17-year-old boy suffering from depression. Another novel ‘Mrs. C remembers’ was closely tied to her life involving a fictionalized character based on her mother suffering from Alzheimer’s. 


Psychiatrist Dr. Shyam Bhat’s take on mental illness was that it is difficult to describe, as it has been used as a tool for oppression throughout the history of psychiatry. Most geniuses like Galileo were labeled insane. Although we are getting better at defining mental illness, we tend to define a person’s condition in terms of words. He felt that the narrative plays an important role, reducing a person to their diagnosis makes them lose their individuality. 

As a writer, Shyam emphasized fiction having an upper hand with the power of describing mental illness and the nature of the sufferer’s emotions.


Bangalore based novelist Roshan Ali said the idea behind his debut novel ‘Ib’s Endless Search for Satisfaction’ was solely just writing a book, suffering from depression and anxiety impacted the storyline of the book. Jerry Pinto shared his experience editing and translating ‘A Book Of Light’ which made him understand the true sense of a writer and people with mental disorders. 


Columnist and Chairperson of the Board of trustees at TLLLF, Anna Chandy highlighted that she would call a person approaching her for therapy as a client rather than a patient, the reason being empathizing with their narrative. 


The session was informative, insightful, and also humourous. An audience member asked a question as to why genius is often confused as insanity. Jerry and Shyam had different perspectives. The former felt that when insanity can make money then it’s genius, with an example Merda d’artista faeces of an artist sold for 87,000 euros. Moderator Amandeep concluded the session appreciating the efforts of the six speakers who found themselves suffering or their closed ones fighting mental illness and shared their narratives to the world. 




About the Author: Ayesha is a student pursuing Media Studies, Psychology, and English. She is an appreciator of new things, places and people. She believes good food and a trip to a beach can heal the soul. Her personal blog covers themes such as mental health and travelling. She currently writes for TheSeer. Instagram handle – gudiyaaa_



Bard of Blood and The Family Man

When two amazing writers of rival streaming platforms Netflix and Amazon come together to discuss their popular web series The Family Man and Bard of Blood, a very engaging session is expected and engaging it was. The conversation at one of the most anticipated sessions at the BLF 2019 ranged from script writing to technicalities involved while adapting a book for web series.


When asked if the spy genre was going to be the thing for the web series scene in India, Suman, while bringing in The Family Man, said that he tried to give his own spin to the traditional spy thrillers. Considering that of late, more and more books were bring converted into web series, it was asked if the writers should be considering the possibility of their books getting made into a series while writing. Suman said that there of course was a commercial angle to it and it is good for the writers, but while writing one should not worry about the web series. Bilal agreed with Suman that books being made into series were great for the writers.


Bilal said that he was closely involved in the process of making of the web series, and added that he was also aware of the things that needed to be redone for the web series. “It is a new way to tell the same stories”, said Bilal on the web series as a medium, and added that “You can’t be so attached to your work that you become a problem”. On screenplay, Bilal said that it was nothing but a technical document for the director to follow.


On the differences between web series and movies, Suman said that there was more time to develop the characters, and that’s one of the reasons that people binge watch. Asked about what they thought of their shows releasing at almost the same time on rival platforms, Suman said that there is no Friday Box Office in case of the web series that they needed to worry about. Bilal echoing Suman said that streaming platforms are such that both of them can co-exist. They both broke into laughter saying they love each other’s shows.


Also the big question about the possibility of season two for The Family Man, Suman confirmed it was on.


About the Author: An avid reader and traveller, Prashant likes to write and often expresses his opinions ranging from entrepreneurship to travel on his blog He writes scripts for Edtech companies and also happens to be a  marketing geek while struggling to clear his engineering backlogs. He currently writes for TheSeer.

The Havoc of Choice

Choice is something that some have and some don’t. But when it comes to elections, everybody has a choice. The choice that we make will significantly impact our lives. Election changes the lives of people, in one way or the other. Similarly, the choice Kenyans made during 2007 election has resulted to what Kenya is today. This is been brilliantly portrayed in the novel by Wanjiru. 


Wanjiru Koinange is an author from Kenya, who has written a book titled ‘The Havoc of Choice’ among others. Her novel describes about the traumatic phase of recent history of Kenya.


The book begins with a character called Kavata, who is a daughter of a corrupt politician. The story is based on the events around the Kenyan election of 2007. Dr. Sanjukta Dasgupta, a professor of English Literature at the University of Calcutta and also a poet, critic and translator raised questions about how she addressed herself in terms of trauma, whether in terms of what she has lost or in terms of what she has gained. So, Wanjiru had started this novel when she moved to Capetown, where people looked down upon her and her other life experiences in her life which paved way to this novel.


Wanjiru was a part of several teams that created a series of events and festivals that continue to shape Kenya’s cultural landscape till date. 





About the Author: Rohini Mahadevan is 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.

Art and the Raj

As dusk settled into the horizon, we moved towards discussing the bygone eras of India. The atmosphere was fitting, the excitement subsided and the gathering calmly awaited the perspectives that cameras had captured of our pasts. 


We missed Mr. William Darlympole’s perspectives on painted records of the past due to his unfortunate absence during the session. However, Ms. Alka Pande very comfortably filled in his shoes and took us through the visuals captured by the colonial camera. Until this session, I believed cameras to be impartial to the subject. There are only so many ways in which you could capture the truth in the past. We didn’t have photoshop after all! But the biases underlying each shot were very skillfully addressed by Ms. Pande. She brought to the spotlight the idea of colonial documentary. Unlike documentaries today, which delve into multiple imagery, photographers relied on single image documentaries to describe and tell the story of a given location, architecture, or people, colonial photographers in particular always brought a glaringly obvious view to their art- The white gaze. The white gaze looked at exotic elements with such an object of scrutiny that they no longer remained as organic elements. They reduced people to objects and human culture to hollow architecture.


With great finesse and detail she took us through slides of old photographs, described styles, tones, colours, and distinct individual styles of capturing a frame. We were able to witness the works of renowned British Era artists like John Murray, Cuthbert Christy’s Album of India, Watson and Kaye’s The People of India or the works of Baker and Burke through the 19th century.


When describing Kaye’s People of India, with quite disdain and distaste, Ms. Pande went on to describe the chronicling of tribes and the real objectification of nativity in India. The pictures were staged to capture the naked Indian in shades of brown, with distinct features and characteristics used to describe exotic species. This lack of empathy was integral to the white man’s gaze.


However, we also witnessed an Indian photographer Raja Deen Dayal’s works. He documented the opulence of the British colonial era more compassionately. His pictures were as exotic and removed from everyday British reality. His photographs were also heavily staged. However, the dynamics portrayed were familial dynamics. The architecture was displayed with pride, royalty were depicted in full glory, and the settings were picturesque.


Through this vivid imagery, the Q&A also took a turn towards the inter cultural influences in art. With India’s enormous past and multicultural influence, no art form could be claimed to be purely Indian. We have embraced hybridity in expression. Irrespective of the lens that perceived our past two centuries, the documentation of biases that has accompanied physical documentation has added a wealth of perspective to our understanding of colonial India.





About the Author: Deepika Aiyer is a 20 year old Literature Fest enthusiast who looks forward to being blown away by new ideas, opinions, and schools of thought. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Children | Literature | Fun (C | L | F) – Day 2

The youngest reporter and blogger on the team, Devaarsh Mehta attended a few of the CLF sessions for children in his age category (12+) at the Bangalore Literature Festival, Day 2. Find his take on these sessions that are specially designed for children to have fun and also take home a lesson or two.


The Grass is Red on The Other Side

Gautam Benegal is a great illustrator. He showed us many of his illustrations in different books and how he uses a different style in each book. He then told us that solitude is essential for ideating. Too many sights and sounds can make the imagination blind and deaf. Yet, if we focus we can even do art in hectic places. Use your fingers as a frame and capture a view, including the time and space in your mind’s eye (you can eve click a picture on your mobile) and then paint/draw it.



Talking Objects – The Museum as a Storyteller

In the museum, we saw many things like old royal fans, teapots, sugar holders, telephones, butter churners, graters, statues, pictures of weddings, masks, puppets, textiles and many pictures of the Ramayana in different mediums.

It was a lot of fun as we played many games such as guessing games, thinking games etc. I was a little sad in the end, as it had exceeded the time limit and had to be stopped.



Wonders & Visions – Why Science Fiction?
Vinayak Varma and Gautham Shenoy

This session was the one I enjoyed the most in my entire time at BLF. It was a talk on science fiction. The authors said that reading Sci-fi relaxes them as they can escape from the real world and jump into a world where anything is possible.


All good Sci-fi stories have different branches of science at their core. For example, zombies come from zombie ants, ants that are infected with a virus, which causes them to climb up a tree and commit suicide, because of which more viruses are released and this infects other ants.


Sci-fi stories also have this what-if-question. Like what if robots took over the earth or what if there is an alternate dimension, etc. Sci-fi stories breathe life into science and they are very different from fantasy stories as they are more in the realm of possibilities. About 30 years ago, having a cell phone would have been something out of a Sci-fi book. Come to think of it, tomorrow itself is Sci-fi because everything IS Sci-fi till it actually happens.




About the Author: Devaarsh Mehta is a certified bookworm, guitarist (almost), riddle maker, puzzle solver, and earth warrior with a huge collection of books in his personal library. He currently writes for TheSeer.

Accidental Magic

I can’t stop reading it, being a Harry Potter fan”, was the note with which Shrabonti began. The next thirty minutes saw Keshava taking us through his journey from entering the world of Harry Potter to his work, Accidental Magic, that journeys through Boston, Madras and Bangalore.


The Beginning

During the summer of 1999, when Keshava was in the 4th standard, he won the 2nd prize in a quiz contest and bought the Lord of the Rings, his first self-bought book from the Premiere book shop. “Ek kitab ko dekha to aisa laga”, was his reaction, which took him on an odyssey starting with Harry Potter and Pottermania. 

Keshava mentioned that he hated being a child and thought that children are defective adults. This led him to discover and sign up for adult Harry Potter communities, which revolved around fan art and a lot of discussions on the relationships between Ron, Harry and Hermione. He was mostly what people refer to as a ‘Lurker’, more interested in what others had to say rather than writing his fandom.


His foray into writing started when he had a sense of loneliness as a student in the US. Keshava wanted to write about people. This, along with his Pottermania, resulted in Accidental Magic. The seeds were sown in his childhood, because he grew up in a home full of books and had a lot of freedom to read the genre of his choice.

According to him, calling something a ‘literary fiction’ is a serious crime. One needs to read a book like taking a nice glass of wine, not like taking multivitamins or broccoli!


Is the book only for Harry Potter fans?

This was an interesting question that Shrabonti posed. Keshava replied in the negative, saying that Harry Potter fans appreciate the familiarity, whereas the others would appreciate the unfamiliarity, or being able to relate to other aspects such as Boston and Madras.


A glimpse into the protagonists

Keshava gave us some insights into two of the characters – Kannan and Curtis, two very different people. Kannan is in his 20s and goes to the US to do his Masters; his family is defined by the absence of love. Curtis is in his 50s and hosts a radio show. Curtis is Keshava’s favourite character, whereas Kannan comes closest to being a ‘protagonist’, having had the highest number of revisions.


Three Wishes…

Shrabonti asked Keshava about the genre of books that interest him the most and what would he like to see in young writers. These are the three wishes he put forth:

  1. To see more fiction that seriously engages with India. Keshava listed Arvind Adiga and Arundhati Roy as his favourites. 
  2. Wish young writers would write in the language they think. Keshava felt irked that a lot of writers nowadays sound as though they are trying to emulate someone else in the writing style, which takes away the originality of content. 
  3. Hope to see more writing in the past tense. He referred to youngsters, who, in their thirst for immediacy, write in the present tense – this is often seen as a virtue in social media.


Keshava read an excerpt from his book, about the Bangalore that Kannan finds when he returns from the US in order to see a girl from Madras in a matchmaking alliance.





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.