Festering Wounds – The 1984 Riots

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.

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#Blrlitfest 2017 is here

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”

Tagore’s Classroom

BoiTHEK – বইঠেক is a bookstore in Bangalore that caters exclusively to Bengali readers in the city. The place also transforms itself into a cultural café 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.

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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 – Orwell and the language of politics

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.

Yard of the Bards – Ayn Rand & Her Manifesto

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.

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Rammohan to Ramakrishna by F. Max Muller – Lest We Forget!

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!”

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”