BLF2020 | Calcutta Chronicles – Nandita Bose and Tony V Francis with Maitreyee B Chowdhury

All of them revealed that their works are always entrenched in Calcutta, whether in terms of the place, the people, or the experience. Bose discussed the elements she deeply enjoys and loves about Calcutta and its usage in her works like ‘Tread Softly’ and ‘Everglow’. Further, she gave us more insight about the lens through which she looked at Calcutta – as an outsider, yet deeply attached. Coming from a cosmopolitan city, she observed so many contrasts and changes. She shared her thoughts about some bad aspects of Calcutta with us, as well as celebrated the beautiful and warm aspects of it. Bose also talked about the way in which she captured and weaved together rock music and classical music in her work ‘Everglow’, just like the way Calcutta captured these two genres of music. She read out an excerpt from this romance novel for us.

Tony Francis then gave us insight into his experience with Calcutta. As an impressionable young boy whose education took place in Calcutta, he revealed that the city became something of an extended family for him. Nostalgia took hold of Francis for a while when he poured his emotions about Calcutta, its roads, the sidewalks, and other little things. He briefly traced a trajectory of Calcutta from his youth to the present-day city which has changed, just like its name. He discussed his book The Autograph Seeker which is based in Calcutta. He beautifully described Calcutta as a city so passionate that it became a character of its own in his novel. His work draws from the Sans Souci Theatre built during the colonial period (the 1800s) which was then turned into an institution. Francis discussed how this led him to explore this place and much of Calcutta’s history. He too read out an excerpt from his work.

Chowdhury briefly discussed her experience with Calcutta and its influence on her book The Hungryalists. In the discussion, she delved into her love for an era she was never a part of – the 1960s. She discussed this work of hers which was set in that era and revolves around the poetry revolution that Calcutta experienced. She also talks about her engagement with the locals of Calcutta which was an essential part of her research for the book. All in all, this session wrapped together humor, love, truth, experience in a wholesome way.

About the Author: Immersed in the process of unlearning and relearning different values and ideas, Nanditha Murali chooses writing as her medium to approach the world. She is currently pursuing her English (Honours) degree at Christ University, Bangalore.

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The 6th String of Vilayat Khan

As the second day of the 8th edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival dawned, exactly at 10.45, the visitors sitting by the Tughlaq stage were treated to the melodious sitar tones as the renowned author and journalist Namita Devidayal took over the stage to talk about her book – The Sixth String of Vilayat Khan. She was accompanied by Nandita Bose, well-known for her works like- If Walls Could Weep, Dewed, etc.


Namita opened the session with a brief reading of an account from her book where she paints a picture of the life of Ustad Vilayat Khan- the iconic sitarist better known as the trendsetting sitarist. She read out the opening account of her book which revolves around a music concert in Delhi in 1952 where Ustad Vilayat Khan happened to rub shoulders with Pandit Ravi Shankar. She quoted that Ustad Hafiz Ali, who was also present in the audience  had exclaimed “Maar Daala” (means “he killed”) , rightly explaining what a fine instrumentalist Ustad Vilayat Khan was.


Namita further discussed how the project came to her. It basically started with Vilayat Khan’s younger son, Hidayat who approached her to take up this work. It was also pointed out how elaborately people knew about Pandit Ravi Shankar but the least about this iconic sitarist, Vilayat Khan. 


Namita told the audience that she considered Khan as a complete rock star! Ustad Vilayat Khan was of the view that subtlety in music was of prime importance. Thus, she was completely smitten and took up writing about this man. Nandita added that throughout the book Vilayat Khan “is being looked at with so much love”.


Namita’s decision to write this book was also triggered by the painful life of Vilayat Khan. “Every tear of pain in my life, I have turned into a note.”, Vilayat Khan had said. Khan who liked sticking to learning with singers rather than sitar players tried to bring in the nuances of human voice to his sitar tunes, provided Namita. The most notable fact was that Khan transformed the conventional sitar to the modern day 6 strings sitar.


On being asked by Nandita to draw a comparison between Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilayat Khan who were contemporaries as well as frenemies, Namita said, “It is gruesome to compare artists”. However, she did point out that while Pandit Ravi Shankar liked to experiment internationally with his music, Ustad Vilayat Khan experimented and created contemporary sound without fusion. 


The session concluded with another round of reading of an account by Namita from her book, with sitar tunes at the backdrop which lyrically summarised the book and expressed how Ustad Vilayat Khan was true to his certainties and always wanted to stick to what he believed in.




About the Author: Upasana Mahanta is an MA in English with Communication Studies student from CHRIST (Deemed To Be University) – Bengaluru, who firmly believes that there is nothing more exhilarating and liberating as poetry. She finds solace in writing poems and travel blogs and has amongst her laurels a 1st Prize in the English category of the All India Poetess Conference, Meghalaya Chapter’s Seventh Poetry Competition cum North East Poetry Festival. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Forbidden Love

Which is forbidden love? Is it Romeo and Juliet’s star-crossed attraction or Khilji’s obsession for Rani Padmavati or the love of those women who explore love outside their own culture? What does forbidden love actually mean? Is it the love that Oscar Wilde experienced?  Can love be forbidden at all? 


Paramita Satpathy, who authored seven short-story collections and won the Sahitya Akademi Award 2016 for her work titled ‘Prapti’ in Odia briefed about her book ‘A Boundless Moment’. Sticking to the context, the speaker stated that love is more than what is really said. She also said love may be in any form but if it works one should go ahead.


The next speaker Ekarat whose novel focuses on depression and love had many enchanting stories of love to tell. He expressed his views on the belief of love.


Author Nandita Bose got the audience intrigued with her answer to the question of forbidden love. She divided the question into three entities – society, literature, and moral, and questioned who on earth was the flag-bearer of morality. She quoted the examples of Lord Krishna and Radha.


Princess Meera being an allrounder, loved Lord Krishna out of Bhakti and loved him beyond all force. Anukrti Upadhyay ended the discussion well by reading out her work ‘Bhaunri’ which was shortlisted for Atta Galatta Best Fiction. The session ended on the note that love is not about the body, possession or attraction. All love needs is honesty and we should let it live eternally and for real.


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.