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, 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.


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.


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.