The City as a Protagonist

How often do we flow into the city and see it as a living, breathing space that weaves in memories? Imraan Coovadia, the author of five novels (‘The Wedding, ‘Tales of the Metric System’, to name a few), Suketu Mehta of ‘Maximum City’ fame, in conversation with Ravi Singh of ‘Speaking Tiger’ were in to discuss the workings of the city, and what these residents bring to help the cities thrive. Both authors bring in their experience of being in multiple cities in their lives, tracing it from their forefathers seeking to move out of their cities in India to cities elsewhere around the globe. Continue reading “The City as a Protagonist”

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India and China: How History is a Fickle Mistress

Author and Journalist, Raghu Karnad quotes journalist James Cameron as he sits down with India’s first woman Foreign Secretary Nirupama Menon Rao to discuss India and China. India and China: How History is a Fickle Mistress – the session could not be more aptly titled given the immense depth of the relationship between India and China. Continue reading “India and China: How History is a Fickle Mistress”

A Trip to the Central Prison

I delighted myself with the joy of spending an entire day in front of the gates of the Central Jail in Bengaluru along with a friend. On retrospection, it sounds like a stupid idea to wait in front of the gates of a prison for whatever reason. However even the stupidest of ideas leave you with an experience worthy of writing. So here is my recollection of how the day unfolded. Continue reading “A Trip to the Central Prison”

Yard Of The Bards – A revolution is simmering in your neighbourhood!

The expansive Cubbon Park seamlessly transforms into a cultural melting pot of the city on weekends. There are so many events happening at any particular time that one shouldn’t be surprised to find a couple of poetry events underway in two different corners of the park at the same time. However, when one is faced by the question – how much is enough? it becomes clear that no number of such events would be enough. Imagine a city, a village or a town with lines of the named and unnamed poets and vacillating voices of various developmental philosophies of the time, floating in the air. What pleasure it would be to see people discussing ideas and just ideas everywhere! Utopian dream? Maybe, but this group doesn’t care.

Continue reading “Yard Of The Bards – A revolution is simmering in your neighbourhood!”

Swami Vivekananda, Women’s Rights, and Uniform Civil Code

India celebrated Republic Day yesterday. We celebrated National Youth Day on 12th January. We also celebrated the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on 23rd. As I started for my work location on 12th of January, I saw on my way, a statue of Swami Vivekananda in a park. The statue shimmered like diamond, was garlanded, and ameliorated with marigold. The visage was beautiful. A similar image awaited me on 23rd January for Netaji and as we celebrated our Republic Day yesterday, I see flags and flowers blanketing the city. I had a question to myself. Have we limited our appreciation and celebrations to just a tweet a year, a post-share per annum of their famous quotes, cleaning of their statues, and garlanding them? The second question in front of me was – How many ideas of these great minds have we garlanded so far? Continue reading “Swami Vivekananda, Women’s Rights, and Uniform Civil Code”

Bookstalkists @BlrLitFest2016

BookStalkist attended the Bangalore Literature Festival held at the Royal Orchid Hotel. There were some hard choices to be made as at any point of time 3 sessions were running in parallel in different corners of the venue. We attended a few sessions and here is what we thought about them. 

Having It All: The New Indian GirlSudha Murty in conversation with Chetan Bhagat.

This session was surprisingly good. Mrs. Sudha Murty is a brilliant conversationalist and Mr. Chetan Bhagat had a lot of new things to say. We only hoped he gets to know the real salary structure of Infosys employees and stops overestimating their lifestyle.

Courage and CommitmentAnuja Chauhan in conversation with Margaret Alva.

This was the session that stood out for us for the eloquence of Margaret Alva. She spoke her heart out on issues ranging from women empowerment to male dominance in Indian politics to the current problems of the Congress party. She had a few interesting stories to tell about our ex-Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao as well as our current one – Mr. Narendra Modi.

Askew: A Short Biography of BangaloreNaresh Narasimhan, Prakash Belawadi, Prof. KE Radhakrishna, and V. Ravichandar with Vasanthi Hariprakash.

This was nostalgia celebration fest where participants reminisced the good old days of Bangalore. While a lot of blame was put on the IT industry for the current chaos in the city, it was perhaps forgotten that each of the guests had come to the city from outside in the 1960s. When a point is made that the city was only enough for the population of 1980-82, one wonders what if somebody from the 1940s would say that the city was good enough only for the population of the 1950s. We wonder if there is any end to this debate. In the end, everyone is an immigrant to this planet.

The Theatre Of DemonetizationNarendar Pani, Sanjeev Sanyal, and Shiv Vishvanath with Mihir Sharma.

This was a case of one-upmanship – everyone trying to put the other one down. In this rather superfluous discussion on Demonetization, the moderator came out victorious with his fine sense of humor. So much disconnected were the guests from the topic that Shiv compared the whole initiative to a bad b grade movie(bad sarcasm) and the one speaking for it – Sanjeev, thought that 500 and 1000 ‘dollars’ were banned. This session was nothing more than an exhibition of self obsession.

Literature And The Democratic Imagination: A Discussion of UR Ananthamurthy’s Bara – Prashant Keshavmurthy, Saikat Majumdar, Shankar Ramaswami and Shiv Visvanathan with Chandan Gowda

This was an academic discussion on the story Bara. Written by UR Ananthamurthy in Kannada, the story has been translated to English by Chandan Gowda who played the moderator to the discussion. It started on an insipid note but went on to become one of the most academically intensive sessions. Speakers highlighted different aspects and devices of storytelling in the book. Saikat Majumdar and Shiv Vishwanathan were the highlights of the session. While Saikat stressed on the debate between two schools of philosophy – one which says that you can’t talk about pain unless you have been through it, and the other that says that you standing at a vantage point gives you better clarity of the situation. Shiv has a habit of putting his co-panelists down and he didn’t fail to do so here either. This is unfortunate since he makes very cogent points to put across his ideas. He stressed on why sometimes misreading a book was important and cited examples of students who thought the book was about the JNU controversy.

Mukhamukham: Face To Face With AdoorAmrit Gangar in conversation with Adoor Gopalakrishnan

This was according to me an ill treatment of the guest. Amrit Gangar didn’t show any patience to listen to his answers. We believe that it is anyone’s good fortune to get a chance to speak with such legends. The host interrupted and cut Adoor short on more than one occasion. On the the other hand, the guest was an idol of grace, patience, and experience.  There was a lot to learn from this session. The battle-hardened Adoor had a lot of stories to tell. One of them was how his crew used to spend all the money from one movie on another movie and in effect, never had any money to market the movies.

The Many Roles We PlayAshok Chopra in conversation with Ashish Vidyarthi

We don’t want to write about this session. We admire Ashish as an actor but what we saw in the session was an attempt by an actor turned trainer marketing himself.

Standing On An Apple BoxPremila Paul in conversation with Aishwaryaa Rajnikanth Dhanush

We would lament the fact that most of the questions coming in to Aishwaryaa was about either her husband or her father. This, despite her having released her book – Standing On Apple Box.

What’s Cooking? The Future Of Indian FoodAntoine Lewis, Manu Chandra and Sanjeev Kapoor with Suresh Hinduja

A brilliant session where panelists discussed the millets movement, the myth of authentic recipe, recipe codification et al. Sanjeev Kapoor is a brilliant conversationalist and it was a treat to hear him speak.

Rajiv Gandhi: Chronicle Of A Death ForetoldJosy Joseph in conversation with Neena Gopal

This was one of the most interesting sessions of the festival where Neena Gopal kept the audience hooked with her insights into the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Neena Gopal happens to be the last person to interview Mr. Gandhi and has recently released her book The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on the subject. She argues that the assassination of Mr. Gandhi could have been prevented and there was complicity at every level. This was an intriguing session and people were their attentive best.

Unending Sea Of Stories MS Sriram in conversation with S Diwakar

MS Sriram and S Diwakar, both are on our To Be Read list now. It was an informative session where guest and the host spoke about why they had taken to short stories, the devices used, and how short stories more often than not cater to societal issues.

India: Reclaiming Our Civilization’s HeritageT. V. Mohandas Pai in conversation with Rajiv Malhotra

Mr. Rajiv Malhotra is star wherever he goes. That’s because he knows his subject well and doesn’t care about political correctness. This session stood out because TV Mohandas Pai has his own enticing style of making a conversation. They appeared more as a pair of batsmen on the pitch. Rajiv was taking the strike and Mr. Pai was standing on the non-striker’s end. They had a common enemy, the so called left liberal intelligentsia of the country. Anecdotes of Mr. Rajiv Malhotra being censored and uninvited because of his political incorrectness were amusing on one hand but also worrying on the other.

Anything But Khamosh!Ajay Mago and Bharathi Pradhan in conversation with Shatrughan Sinha

Our first reaction was – Shatrughan Sinha! Why? Then we realized that his biography ‘Anything but Khamosh’ was recently released and the book’s author Bharathi Pradhan was one of the moderators. Although we could not figure out what value Shatrughan Sinha brought to a literature festival, one could not but agree that he is a thorough entertainer. His sense of humor, comic timings, the famous dialogues from his movies, the occasional shayaris and mimicry of yesteryear stars Ajit and Rajkumar kept the evening alive. Mr. Sinha deftly avoided controversial questions regarding his party, politics and Mr. Bachchan.

 

Raat Ke MusafirPiyush Mishra in concert

One of the most awaited events and especially when you get to watch Piyush Mishra perform from the first row, you can barely hide your excitement. He was one of the most interactive guests in the festival and performed his songs one after the other. While the crowd kept chanting Husna, he insisted to wait and kept Husna for the end. He also read a few poems of his. The evening couldn’t have concluded better. The audio issues during his performance did seem to disturb his plane of thoughts but his first loyalty lied with the enthusiastic crowd and hence he picked himself up every time and went ahead with the performance.

 
The festival covered history, politics, geography, biography, popular fiction, erotica, food, travel, evangelism, human rights and a lot more. As much as one might appreciate the range of subjects chosen for discussion, one might also get disappointed with the choice of panelists for those subjects. Except for a few sessions like the ones of Margaret Alva with Anuja Chauhan, Rajiv Malhotra with Mohandas Pai and a couple of other sessions, most of them seemed superfluous. What the fest achieved in variety, it lost in depth. Sometimes the panelists were not impressive and at times the moderators couldn’t get the best out of even veterans like Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

One trouble that probably people faced predominantly was the unavailability of food and drinking water. Although there were food stalls, the prices were not reasonable and the options not very healthy given that there were children too at the venue.  Despite certain inadequacies, the Bangalore Literature Festival was indeed a thorough celebration of literature and literature enthusiasts will always look forward to the event in the coming years as well.

 

तैमूर-Timur-Lang-Langda Tyagi और नाम में क्या रक्खा है?

लंगड़ा त्यागी ने अपने लड़के का नाम तैमूर रखा है। इस से ट्विट्टर वालों का मुंह फूल गया है। गुस्से की वजह है – तैमूर का मतलब होता है लोहा। कोई अपने बच्चे का नाम लोहा कैसे रख सकता है? लोहा अली खान पटौडी – कैसा अटपट नाम रख दिया है! जब चाँद, सोना जैसे नाम उपलब्ध थे, तो ये लोहा क्या सोच कर रख दिया ? Continue reading “तैमूर-Timur-Lang-Langda Tyagi और नाम में क्या रक्खा है?”

Bangalore Mirror ran this blurb for its news story. What happened next …

What happened next shall be a lesson for Bangalore Mirror. When the citizens act more mature than the so called conscience keepers of the society, we should not lose hope of a better future for our nation. The story runs like this – Bangalore Mirror reported a crime incident in the city – “A 40-year-old man is fighting for his life in the ICU after being stabbed and robbed behind Mecca Masjid in Austin Town in the wee hours of Sunday. After the robbers left him bleeding on the deserted street, he ran 1.5 km to reach home, and collapsed at the doorstep……”
The man is fighting for his life in ICU and we hope he recovers well. However, men at the social media desk of Bangalore Mirror wanted to get more visitors and shares and likes and follows and what not – so a plain report detailing the incident wasn’t enough. The social media link came with the following blurb while the article didn’t have a single mention of ‘Patna‘-

“Shocking! Is Bengaluru the new Patna?”

Now, how much of the comparison is true/untrue is something I will leave to the sensibilities of the readers. It’s not very difficult to bring up a comparative study of crime rates of Indian cities. However, there is no denying that the introductory note to the article was in utterly poor taste and a vulgar visage of sensationalism. However, many of the readers chose to react to this mockery of journalism in a way that surprised me. While I had expected an unfortunate bickering between Bangaloreans and Patnaites because of Bangalore Mirror’s hara-kiri, I found something that must have made the social media rookies at BM chew their own feet.

Following are a few comments that we have chosen to highlight from the article link on Facebook. We salute these sensible readers for showing such maturity in an age when media is trying its best to disintegrate the society.
Do let us know what you think about all of these –

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Kaveri Speaks Kannada

 

It has been only a couple of months since I arrived in the city. I was returning home from office and the bus was plying down NICE road. My heart was thumping in anticipation of something. Others in the bus too would have felt their hearts thump hard against their anxiety-filled faces. The anxiety soon turned into distress when a mob of young men stopped the bus. They were shouting aloud a lot of things. The only word I could hear clearly was Kaveri. The driver tried turning around the bus to head back to office but the young men threatened to pelt stones. The driver got down, spoke to the men in Kannada and tried pacifying them. His pleas fell on deaf ears and a feisty commotion followed outside the bus. But inside there was a dreadful silence. Cars, buses and a lot of other vehicles stood there in silence while the commotion continued. A few minutes later we were all asked to step out of our vehicles. The young men said that they cannot allow our vehicles to go any further. We got down and stood there, lost! The sun was already down and there was a thick dark patch across sky. I thought it must be another one of those mystic cloud painting across the canvas of sky.

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It did not take us too long to understand that we were on our own. The emergency helplines were busy and there was no sight of police. No one was coming to rescue us out of the dire situation. We wanted to get away from there before the situation turned any worse. So we decided to walk. As we walked down the long road, I figured out that the dark patch was not the rain cloud but smoke from the fire that was eating up the city. Few meters ahead in the middle of the road there was a truck completely wrecked down by fire. Beside the burning truck I saw a bigger and louder group of young men making merry around the burning truck. We were stopped again. The young men shouted out slogans and demanded that we repeat. We had no choice but to repeat the slogans after them. They asked “Kaveri yarathu?” .We replied “Kaveri namathu”. They cried “Beku Beku”. We replied with a “Kaveri Beku”. I did not know then that this was just the beginning of a long and arduous evening in one of my favourite cities.

As the highway ended and the city came into sight, I saw things that I had never experienced in person in life. Every few meters there was a vehicle on fire. Some were being lit, some still burning, some just burnt out and some in ashes. Every junction of the road was blocked with blazing flames on all sides. The flyovers were breathing fire too. We were redirected through smaller lanes as the main roads were completely engulfed in the flames. In one of those secluded lanes I saw people getting ready with wires, tyres and barrels of fuel for the next round of protests. They were loading fuel in vehicles to transport them across the city. We were stopped every now and then, rattled and bullied for not knowing the vernacular. Strangely enough, more than a good 30% of the protesters were teenagers and more than a 50% in their early twenties. Their eyes seemed to light up with joy at the sight of people who were scared and wanted nothing more than a safe passage to home. At times a few kind hearted men and women suggested that we keep our heads down and mouths shut to get past the fire.

We kept walking because that was the only option available. Metro was shut, city bus services crippled, and every other mode of transport including auto rickshaws and taxis were stalled. Private vehicles were stopped at every few meters and their registration was checked before they were allowed to drive through a fence of fire. People were seen hurrying home without wanting to attract any trouble. There were elderly citizens trying hard to breathe through the smoke, heavily pregnant women catching their breath every now and then, young mothers with their petrified kids cuddled to them, newly-weds with their hands clasped tightly, the differently abled finding their way through the commotion, tired laborers returning home after a long day, the sick hoping for some relief and a lot more. The air that night smelled more of hatred than of smoke.


I had already walked for more than 2 hours without a break along with a friend. Our backs started to break and legs starting to scream out loud in pain. We had sipped the last drop of water from the bottle. I stopped for a minute and looked around. All shops including eateries and pharmacies were shut. There was no food, no water, no emergency medicines and still no police. Home seemed like a long way away. Few minutes later, we stopped by in front of a wedding hall and asked for some water to drink. They were kind enough to give us some juice and a bottle of water. They let us rest there for a while before we started dragging ourselves home. At around 9.30 PM we were at Rajaji nagar. Google Map said 9 more kilometers to go and the night was getting chilly despite all the fire. I was hoping for a miracle. My miracle arrived in the form of a phone call. A friend was coming to pick us up. It was a risky proposition but we had no other go. Cramped in a bike, I looked around and I was instantly reminded of a beautiful picture that used to adorn the walls of my parent’s home.

This picture had been in the house for more than 30 years now. It was a wedding gift to my parents with a personalized note. My father had it framed and let it hang on the wall along with portraits of the family. The colors are now gone and the impressions of the ink are barely visible. That notwithstanding, I have always loved the picture for two reasons. One because that probably is the only wedding gift which survived the times and stayed in the family. Another because that was my first image of the beautiful Bangalore. It was a picture of Vidhan Soudha. I am not sure why their friend chose Vidhan Soudha for a wedding gift but the image was so enticing that I was in love with Bangalore even without visiting it. The stories from uncles, aunts and cousins who visited Bangalore only made it more endearing to me. I had the exact opposite feeling towards Chennai. Now when I think of it, the lack of empathy towards Chennai probably stemmed from the blind love for Bangalore. The first time I visited Bangalore, I could hear my heart thumping hard and racing fast in excitement. It was as if I was finally allowed to have that warm embrace that I had long yearned for. Unlike a lot of other things in life, Bangalore lived up to the tales I had heard about it. It was exactly as I thought it would be. I did learn to love Chennai over the years, but my love for Bangalore never diminished a bit. Every time I visited the city even if I was only passing through it, the city still filled me with some child-like glee and my heart thumped in joy.

The day was the 12th of September 2016. My heart thumped that evening too, only this time it wasn’t in joy but in pain and horror.

 

 

 

Love & Romance, Non-Fiction!

If dogs were to control this world, this world would be controlled by dogs. – Charles Dogwin

In his zeal to pack breakfast defying all odds, he had left his debit card at home. By the time he realized, it was too late to return and fetch it and since he didn’t know me then, I couldn’t come to help either. Not that I can help him now but don’t words of solidarity help? Though he had a sumptuous breakfast, he found himself cashless at lunch. He had made up his mind to go without eating and document the results of his experiment. He tried his luck one last time and checked his bag for some cash and what did he find – a 50 rupees note! Quietly he quashed the experimenter inside him and wisely had his lunch. He seemed ready to appear on a TV debate against the mighty-righty Donald Trump to proclaim the real valuation of a 50 rupees note.

Continue reading “Love & Romance, Non-Fiction!”