Ever since a child I have been fascinated by the lives of those who have followed the order of Guru Gobind Singh over the last 300+ years. A few weeks back I met some of them at Anandpur Sahib and realised that something important to them was at risk. Read here.
Archive for the ‘Other’ Category
Review of a collection of short stories called Urban Shots. It is a series. I am glad some publishers are still publishing anthologies. Read here.
Edith and I have exchanged our writings for a number of years and I have loved the drafts of her novels. Her character sketches are evocative, she weaves the plot well, the stories are well paced and ultimately satisfying.
Wind Over Troubled Waters, available in print and as an e-book, is located at Corn World, Britland after a deluge. All that is left is Cerridwen’s dreams. From her dying mother she learns of the mural in Saint Eyes and sets out change Britland’s future. It is a dystopia story with an ending that uplifts the reader. It is structured like a Bildungsroman. The book even reads like a dream, both alluring and disturbing in parts. The drama is clear in the first chapter itself. The story moves on, sometimes at breathtaking pace.
It is a fascinating world the writers explore, shorn of knowledge and traditional security systems. Though the location of the story is scary, it is the text that holds up the reader’s confidence. The quality of the language is such that when tense moments come, the reader feels at sea but not adrift. This is where I feel it shows how the writers have assimilated the different registers of English by going to a deeper level – language as a sense of assurance. The language of WOTW takes the reader closer into the grip that the sure penned writers have on emotions and language.
I also liked it that though the story is set in a strange space, the drama is so human. WOTW is based on the kind of characters who shine through our classic texts. Its emotions play out in grand heroic ways. To me the quality of a good book, whether it be science fantasy or utopian/dystopian or even historical or literary fiction is that it is a big story, a universal story, a story in which the reader is awed by the happens and yet it appeals in an intimate manner.
Another aspect is how the writers explore what does it mean to be human. This is the ultimate quest of any art, to reflect us upon ourselves with the art being a medium of insight. Kudos! Edith and Francene, I am so glad you have reached the glorious heights of writing in your first joint venture fantasy novel.
For the book, click.
I have adored Ryszard Kapuscinski for years. Last summer I got a chance to visit Warsaw. I wanted to walk the streets Kapuscinski would have walked and sit in empty classrooms where he would have once taught. But surprise awaits the traveler. Lidia Puka helped me meet Mrs Alicja Kapuscinska and visit Kapuscinski’s study. Here is the interview. Read, enjoy!
A few weeks back I found many of my Sikh friends abroad protesting against the would be hanging of Balwant Singh Rajoana. Then the media was full of news. His sentence was deferred and the media went silent on the issue. I traveled to Balwant Singh’s village to learn about the man. The article in two parts:
when I started reading Rhythms of Darkness by Anjana Basu it seemed it would follow the life of a politician who has come into power recently but it did not. However, it did more, showed me how Maoism thrives in the Realpolitik. See review here.
Jeet Thayil is a famous poet and now he has a new book of fiction to his credit. There are a number of books on Bombay, or its underside, but I have never heard a voice like his expose the city. Read the review of Narcopolis here.
Vidya Rao has many personas: Thumri-Dadra singer, theatre person, scholar, editor and above all an extremely sensitive human being. It is in her tribute to her Guru that she brings all these qualities together. Heart to Heart: Remembering Nainaji captures the texture of Vidya’s relationship with the legendry singer Naina Devi who was born Nilina Sen in a Bengali Brahmo Samaj reformist family and then married the heir to the throne of Kapurthala Rajkumar Ripjit Singh. Through her seventeen year married life Naina Devi gave up singing. Upon the untimely demise of her husband, facing extreme economic hardship, Naina Devi returned back to music on All India Radio and later as administrator and teacher.
At the book launch Vidya said that she had structured the book as a Thumri. The beginning and ending is not as important as the disciple’s memory of instances and the thoughts on the events from their shared life. For instance, how Vidya portrays a whole gamut of musical threads and inspirations in the fact that Nainaji does not tie the ganda, the sacred thread of a musical inheritance and legitimacy, on Vidya’s wrist or how Vidya depicts Naina Devi’s spiritual leaning and the devotion to the Pir in Bareilly. It is through many such instances that Vidya constructs the gender argument of music.
One of the revelations of the book is how Vidya traces the history of what is considered a lighter form of music – the Thumri. She traces the history through generations and historical events. Here is an instance I found particularly striking:
…while all artists confront the paradox of the aesthetic and the erotic, perhaps for women this is experienced in a particularly poignant way. For the woman singer, for the thumri singer, there is always the memory of the tawaif. The tawaif performs for an audience, revels in their admiration and applause, is thrilled by a responsive audience, speaks to each person, directly, completely without barriers, seduces each one, insists that each person, for the brief lifetime of the performance, falls irrevocably in love with her who is a nayika. Yet she sings for no one…
The beauty of the book lies in the fact that Vidya has talked about music, the history of music, the role of an important singer and of how she learnt music from the singer in a way that makes sense to a layman like me. It is how she seamlessly weaves history with genres with personalities and with lyrics that the book comes alive. Through it all what really shines forth is how she depicts the value and importance of that ancient system of education: the Guru-Shishya tradition. Not only in her relationship with Naina Devi but also in Naina Devi’s relationship with Rasoolan Bai and with so many other pearls that adorn Naina Devi’s crown. My only regret is that such an important book is too short. I wish Vidya writes more and brings more music appreciation to us.
Price: Rs 199
I admired Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s The Gabriel Club. Partly because, like him, I too am a steel town boy who loved Central Europe and the way Joydeep brought the Danube in Budapest to life. Of course, I am nowhere close to his reading of philosophy. His next book on Morocco is different. Here is the review of The Storyteller of Marrakesh.