While the session was titled ‘Festering Wounds – The 1984 Riots’, Preeti Gill, who is an independent editor and literary agent and someone who experienced the horror of 1984 first hand, broke ice with the panelists suggesting that to address the ‘84 violence as riots would be a tremendous mistake. According to Gill, it was a premeditated ethnic cleansing and a pogrom. She spoke of her brush with the 1984 violence and narrated how she was spared only because she didn’t wear any identification mark of a Sikh.
The Bangalore Literature Festival has arrived early this year. As we gear up for some scintillating conversations and intellectual gossips, I am all nostalgic about #Blrlitfest2016. The festival last year covered a diverse range of topics including history, politics, geography, biography, popular fiction, erotica, food, travel, evangelism, human rights and a lot more. You might want to read our report on the Festival here. I also remember how thrilled we were when the kind Mr Piyush Mishra agreed to our request for an interview.The experience of interviewing him was a reminder on how to stay grounded even when you achieve greater heights of stardom. Continue reading “#Blrlitfest 2017 is here”
BoiTHEK is a bookstore in Bangalore that caters exclusively to Bengali readers in the city. The place also transforms itself into a cultural cafe encouraging many forms of art like music, dance and theatre. When a friend approached Bookstalkist to conduct a Yard of the Bard event in BoiTHEK, the first thought that flashed across our minds was Tagore. I have three copies of Gitanjali with me. One of them, I bought for myself and the other two of were gifted by Bengali friends, indeed.Thanks to my interactions with friends from West Bengal, I did know how Tagore, Gitanjali, and Rabindra Sangeet were celebrated by the Bengali speaking lot. However, being someone who weeps over Tagore’s The Cabuliwallah, I had to discuss the other aspects of Tagore’s mastery as well. So, we decided to discuss Tagore beyond his much revered Gitanjali and ask all those questions that have been lingering in our heads for long.
We began with “How do you connect with Tagore? ” The answer was almost unanimous – Rabindra Sangeet, except probably one who connects through his paintings. But just as we had feared not many of them had experienced Tagore beyond his songs. Interestingly, some of them had hated Tagore and his songs as a child and some of them learnt Tagore’s verses only to impress a girlfriend or partner. However, as they grew up they have come to look up to his songs as a panacea for all sorts of troubles in their lives. An important observation while discussing why Tagore was not read as much was that although Tagore never created for the galleries, the custodians of Tagore’s art seemed to have continued an ‘elitist’ approach and denied the masses an easier access to his works for a long time. Only in recent times have they opened it up for the public at large. While the statement might need to be validated with a larger audience, it was intriguing nonetheless. The above scenario also seemed to have paved way for people to appreciate writers like Satyajit Ray who came after Tagore. However irrespective of how much they had read of Tagore everyone clearly revered Tagore because he was the pride of Bengal.
The session was split into two parts. During the first part of the session we discussed the short stories of Tagore. When we introduced some of the short stories, some faces lit up in recognition. They had read a couple of them as a part of their curriculum and the group had the opportunity to go down the memory lane with those stories. Not only did we discuss the stories but also the hidden metaphors and messages that Tagore was leaving for his readers.Some of the stories that were discussed include The Cabulliwallah, Subha, Homecoming, The Child’s return, The Postmaster, Master Mashai etc. The group also dwelled briefly upon Gora and Chokher Bali. The short stories set the platform to discuss Tagore’s take on a lot of societal issues including women’s role in the society.
The second part of the session was designed to introduce the audience to the non-fictions of Tagore. Since it is impossible to talk of his works in entirety in an hour, we decided to focus on his collection of essays and lectures titled Nationalism. If there is one work of Tagore which need to be read thoroughly at this juncture of heightened nationalism and anti-nationalism, it must be ‘Nationalism’. We quoted for the audience few gems from the book. Some those quotes did leave the audience unsettled despite their adulation for Tagore. Nevertheless, we did have a bunch of open minded audience and the ideas from Tagore did leave them with something to ponder over. We hope that this pondering will help build a better society.
While the audience thought that they had not read much of Tagore, in reality they did start their first lessons in Bengali from Tagore. Even as we talk, Tagore’s Sahaj Path continues to be the first classroom for any beginner in Bengali. As we walked out of the discussion that evening, we knew for sure that at least some of them would take home a little more of Tagore to keep them company.
Dear Readers of Bookstalkist
We are in the running for The Indian Blogger Award 2017 brought forth by IndiBlogger and VOW. We are running for the following categories –
The sun dissolved in the western sky, as the moon rose. The clouds seemed to hold no more interest as well as they streaked behind the sun washing up any yellowish-orange remnants in the palette. The creations of God headed home hauling in their forage. Man alone defied and defiled nature. Continue reading “In One Evening”
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”
It was only the beginning of summer and the day was 2nd April, 2017. Having already experienced a hot March we had to forego our usual meeting spot in Cubbon Park to find a better venue and a better time. Freedom Park, we thought would fit our needs apart from being the metaphorically appropriate venue for the subject we had chosen for discussion – “George Orwell and the language of politics”. As the sun went down, they walked in one after the other eventually turning into a diverse group of interesting minds.
George Orwell had been a lot of things in his life from imperial police to teacher, but he is remembered the best as a writer, novelist and an essayist. Although Orwell did not live past 1950, his works have continued to influence not only his readers and other writers, but also the political culture of all these years. His creations rendered a new adjective to the language – Orwellian indicating a totalitarian regime and a set of whole new terms which continue to be relevant even in the modern societal and political discourses.
Introductions done and the ice molten, the group began with the reading of an excerpt from Orwell’s 1940 essay – “My Country Right or Left”. The excerpt was about Orwell’s memory of the First World War. That set the context for the first round of discussion which began with a question of “Are we living in an Orwellian world? “. While some opined we probably are living in a post-Orwellian world which is worse than the Orwellian, there were also others who agreed it could be a reverse Orwellian effect. The discussion took off from there touching on the political scenario in India, in the USA; Gandhi, Hitler and the rewriting of history to suit the narrative of the rulers. The group also quoted examples of Standing Rock of North Dakota and delved a little deeper into the Aadhar scheme in India,
The group then went on to talk about doublethink, thought police, the concept of unpersoning with examples from the story of Nikolai Yezhov and the power of the ruling system as seen in the Tiananmen square massacre. The non-existence of privacy, the idea of alternate truths, winnability vs representation, corruption vs efficiency etc. were discussed too and out came some interesting questions which also drove the discussion. Some of these probably did not have a conclusive answer at the end, nevertheless we want to leave them here for our readers to ponder over.
How much of Orwell has come true today?
Is there a collective “We” who can be represented? Can this collective “Us” be represented at all? If yes, what would be the quality of that representation?
How powerful is the system? Is our view of the system a reductionist view?
Do we have constitution for the people or people for the constitution? Or is it what me make of it?
p.s: Our next event will be held on April 29, 2017 and the title is “Munshi Prem Chand and his Social Realism” . Follow our Facebook page for more updates on the event.
On 19th February, it was the turn of The Bookworm (Church Street, Bangalore) to host us for a discussion on the philosophy of the Objectivism exponent – Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand, who has written a few of the most widely known books of all times including The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged has been a subject of great interest among readers of all ages and nations. We were aware by the virtue of our own readings and our discussions with fellow readers and friends that Ayn Rand’s usage of literary devices to drive her beliefs about man, society, and economy into the reader’s realms of imagination is intoxicating.
Countries have habits. Our country has a habit of either believing too strongly in somebody or not believing a word of the person. Whether a person is truthful is a thing to be analyzed only much later when someone else who can have a greater command on our belief system appears on the scene. Many nations have a national habit of believing only their own. Other nations have the habit of believing anything that is imported. Few countries can maintain a balance between the two and analyze. Continue reading “Rammohan to Ramakrishna by F. Max Muller – Lest We Forget!”
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”
Darkness was beginning to fall upon the lawns of Royal Orchid hotel, Bangalore. With the onset of winter, the chill in the air was apparent on the skin in despair. It helped that I was at the Bangalore Literature Festival, 2016. Authors, thought leaders, and opinion makers kept the evening warm. Continue reading ““I don’t define myself” – Piyush Mishra”