Posts Tagged With: Books

Taking children on a trip of the universe

Lucy Hawking | Pic Courtesy: Alan Peebles

Lucy Hawking | Pic Courtesy: Alan Peebles

Lucy Hawking, daughter of the world famous theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, knows the art of telling a good story. Lucy is the author of two novels for adults (‘Run for your Life’ and ‘Jaded’) and the George Greenby series which includes ‘George’s Secret Key to the Universe,’ ‘George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt,’ ‘George and the Big Bang,’ ‘George and the Unbreakable Code,’ with the final book almost completed and a television series in the works. But she writes with a purpose, her single-minded objective being to make science accessible and entertaining to young readers. “Children find it difficult to relate to concepts of time or space. I use storytelling to explain scientific concepts. It is fun and engages their creativity,” she observes.

p5lucy2In the George series, we meet a charming young boy George Greenby and his friend Annie and, we learn about their adventures to the solar system and beyond. Lucy adds, “It is not just children’s fantasy, it is based on real science. To make it factually tenable, I took help from my father and his colleague, Christophe Galfard, and got them to write about the work they do.”

When not writing, Lucy travels the world, meeting children, “taking them on a trip around the universe.” She also visited India recently, making an appearance at the Bookaroo Festival for Children in New Delhi. But varied though the countries are, she notes that children everywhere share a common enthusiasm for space-related topics. “The countries themselves may be different — Japan, United States of America, Australia, Bangladesh, India. But what is the same everywhere is that these children are keen to know more about space travel and black holes. There is a willingness to learn and the wonder and joy at discovering something new is palpable.”

Though Lucy was introduced to science at a very young age, even before her father’s inevitable rise to fame, she never had the slightest inclination to emulate her father. “I loved reading books and developed a love for the arts from an early age. I therefore went on to study literature and foreign languages at Oxford and then became a journalist and a writer.” Having said that, Lucy admits that her father has had the strongest influence on her career as a writer. “He is a great writer himself. And now more than ever I look up to him, as I strive to use arts to make scientific concepts accessible.”

Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Author Interviews, Books, Penguin Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Innovators: A fascinating history of the digital revolution

The InnovatorsTitle: The Innovators
Author: Walter Isaacson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 2014)
Pages: 560
ISBN: 9781471138799
Genre: Non Fiction, Computers & Technology, Business
Rating: 4/5

Long before the advent of the computer and internet as we know it now, long before Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were beatified as idols of computing and Apple and Microsoft became household names, scores of scientists and engineers had been busy decoding the principles of science, seeking to understand the ways of the machines. Almost a century of discoveries, innovations and generating and executing ideas that helped create the “digital age” is what biographer Walter Isaacson has explored with great zeal and attention in ‘The Innovators.’

But here there are no individual heroes, brilliant thinkers and visionaries who stood above the rest. For Isaacson places teamwork as central to innovation. Elaborating how creativity is a collaborative process, he writes, “The digital age may seem revolutionary, but it was based on expanding ideas handed down from previous generations.” The best innovators are those who understood this trajectory of technological change and all of Isaacson’s characters, be it engineers, scientists, hackers and entrepreneurs, took the baton from other innovators.

When a dream was envisaged by Charles Babbage, his ideas were borrowed and galvanised by Harvard Aiken for his Harvard Mark I. To understand how the first transistor came about is to learn of the collaborative efforts of Walter Brattain and John Bardeen. Steve Jobs built on the work of Alan Kay, who was in turn inspired by Doug Engelbart, who built on JCR Licklider and Vannevar Bush. Yes, this book isn’t a book of lone geniuses and Isaacson, ever so powerfully attests to the romance of collaboration rather than individual effort.

Throughout the book, he singles out the creative genius of the various visionaries and through their stories weaves a wonderful tapestry of human-human and human-machine symbiosis, how each in their own way contributed their share to create a world where new technologies thrive.

The book begins and ends with the story of Ada Lovelace, celebrated as a feminist icon and a computer pioneer, who had a propensity for the marriage of the poetic realm with math. Assisting Babbage on his ‘Analytical Engine,’ she dreamed of a world where “machines would become partners in human imagination.” The saga of the digital age that is ‘The Innovators’ — cataloguing how the digital universe evolved, how technology progressed from transistors and  microchips to personal computers, video games, internet, et al — has amusingly reinforced this idea. Innovation after all happens when you understand the relationship between humanity and technology.

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A chronicle of a musical life

Ocean to OceanTitle: Ocean to Ocean
Author: Susmit Sen and Sehba Imam
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: September 2014
Pages: 160
ISBN: 9789351362012
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction, Music
Rating: 3.5/5

Jimi Hendrix, the American singer and guitar virtuoso, when talking about how he was a source of inspiration for many musicians, famously said, “I’ve been imitated so well, I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.” But Susmit Sen, instead of walking in the footsteps of the likes of Hendrix, read the writing on the wall: “This is not for me.” If there’s one thing that a lifetime in music has taught Sen, the frontrunner of the iconic band Indian Ocean, is how ‘originality’ is not only a test of your integrity but also a yardstick to measure your musical genius. And this instinct was what got the band through. In his memoir, Ocean to Ocean, Sen writes, “If I am asked to name only one thing that guided the music of Indian Ocean, I will say originality.”

When Indian Ocean, one of the most creative bands in India, started to lose this very quality, when the band was merely working to a formula, he felt the first tinges of creative dissatisfaction. He rues, “Had we exhausted our originality and lost our ability to come up with new compositions? Or were we losing courage? On the one hand, success encourages you to create new fare, but as you go along, it sometimes terrifies you into staying with the tried and tested.” Finally, on the day the band performed Nani teri morni ko mor le gaye and Old Macdonald had a farm, Sen took a decision to part ways with the band. He recalls, “There is a fine line between expression and circus and I could see it clearly now.”

As you read Sen’s account of his life with Indian Ocean, you gradually begin to notice a few loose ends. Maybe a take from the other band members would have helped clarify a few things. But this is Sen’s memoir after all, and the beauty of it lies in the honest and unarmed manner he recounts it. Divided into 16 chapters, the narrative is dotted with anecdotes from Sen’s life, weaving in and out of his personal life and his musical journey.

You learn about his first brush with Hindustani classical music as he wistfully recalls, “In my attempts to hand around her (the girl he had a crush on), I discovered that her father was a classical music aficionado and a regular at Hindustani music concerts. I figured this was the best way to get close to her, so I tagged along.”

In another chapter, he talks about how Indian Ocean first took shape. “By 1990 we had three bass players, Aseem on vocals, Shaleen on drums and me, finally doing what I loved the most — exploring how my guitar could express sounds that emerged from nowhere and asked to be expressed,” he writes. One chapter in particular, titled Aseem will leave you teary-eyed as Sen recounts Aseem’s harrowing demise due to diabetes.

The hardbound book, co-authored by Sehba Imam, also comes with a copy of the eponymous debut album from Sen’s latest music ensemble, Susmit Sen Chronicles. This album, which will take you back in time to the alluring sound and style of ‘Indian Ocean,’ together with the book offers a captivating look at how Sen had to “swim out of the ocean, only to re enter it once again — this time not for its vastness, but for its depth.”

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Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Books, Harper Collins, Memoir, Nonfiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Blend of Science and Humour

What if

Title: What if?
Author: Randall Munroe
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 336
ISBN: 9781848549586
Genre: Nonfiction, Humour, Sciences, Technology & Medicine
Rating: 4/5

Former NASA roboticist Randall Munroe has gained quite a fan following for regularly churning out hilarious and sometimes absurd cartoons on XKCD, “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” In tandem with this endeavour, he had launched his blog, ‘What if?’ where he provided “serious scientific answers” to “absurd hypothetical questions” asked by readers, his responses often dotted with his trademark brand of funny caricatures.

Now, he has collated the blog’s most popular answers in a book called What if?, published in India by Hachette. Munroe, who undoubtedly receives a dozens of questions everyday, has included in the book only those “particularly neat questions” which he wanted to “spend a little more time on.” The book also features updated versions of some of his favorite articles from the site and a few brand new questions which he has answered for the first time in the book.

Some of the questions that Munroe tackles are seemingly bizarre but peculiarly enough, as one finds out after reading the book, they can be explained using rational thought. ‘What would happen if you tried to fly a normal Earth airplane above different solar system bodies? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? How hard would a puck have to be shot to be able to knock the goalie himself backward into the net? How close would you have to be to a supernova to get a lethal dose of neutrino radiation? Then there are questions that Munroe has set aside as ‘Weird (and worrying)’ which he deems unworthy of an explanation, but doesn’t ignore them altogether: Questions like ‘Given humanity’s current knowledge and capabilities, is it possible to build a new star? How fast would a human have to run in order to cut in half at the bellybutton by a cheese-cutting wire? Would Thor, with a spinning hammer, be able to create a tornado like in the movie, in real life?’ are accompanied by rib-tickling comments often put forth through cartoons.

What makes Munroe’s work worthwhile is the way he blends esoteric scientific analogies and logical reasoning with an unfaltering comic commentary. His dedication to answer one weird question after another using these facts (complemented with diagrams, equations, graphs) in the most imaginative and simplest way possible, underscores Munroe’s sound understanding of the subject.

What if? is like a textbook for the curious minds who at some point of their lives would have wondered if there is enough energy to move the entire current human population off the planet or while watching Star Wars, if Yoda can produce sustainable energy to power the entire planet. Having said that, even the not-so-scientifically inclined ones among the crowd can devour it.

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First published in The New Indian Express on October 21, 2014

Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Books, Hachette, Humour, Nonfiction, Science and technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Surveyor – A journey across generations

The SurveyorTitle: The Surveyor
Author: Ira Singh
Publisher: Picador India (Pan Macmillan)
Published on: September 10, 2014
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-9382616276
Rating: 4/5

With beautifully-crafted prose, Ira Singh in her debut book The Surveyor (Picador India), brings to life the story of Ravinder on his years in the Survey of India, albeit through eyes of his child, Natasha. The narrative is a journey in itself — it straddles several decades and generations, starting with Natasha, moving to Ravinder and then back to Natasha again, travelling back and forth through memories and conversations. There are also individual stories of Ravinder’s wife Jennifer Robbins and two children, through which Ira examines the perplexity of their identities using historical events as frames. The vein of the book, however, is the cultural commentary of various generations, capturing the zeitgeist of the Loralai community and Anglo-Indians through 1947 to 1991, the pain of separation and belonging and of freedom and accomplishment.

Speaking about the book, Ira notes, “I wanted to write a story about a father and daughter — their separate stories and the story of this family, of the sisters and the peculiar position the family occupies, as well as writing about particular, cataclysmic historical moments in this country.”

Each sentence in the book is written with literary precision, layered with elegiac prose and poetic semblance, each instance, well crafted and each character, well etched. The evocative beauty of the country’s topography are also given their due — her characters travel far and wide exploring various aspects of the subcontinent and beyond. Ira says that, for the purposes of the book, she read the historical records of the survey and other related material. This and her interviews of her father and his colleague gave her a deep understanding of cartography. She says, “My father was in the Survey of India, but he was not, like Ravinder, passionate about it. Talking to him and his colleague helped me get a sense of the lives they lived when they joined the Survey.”

Ira Singh For Ira, who now teaches English Literature at Delhi University’s Miranda House, her literary journey started when she was in the twenties, writing short stories. Soon after, she started working on a novel which bore resemblance to The Surveyor. But it was not something that she pursued. She confesses, “It was Ravinder’s story, but told in a very different voice. I couldn’t persevere, it felt wrong.”

Around the same time she also started to pen Natasha’s story, but it too was a futile attempt. In her words: “It was a random, disconnected fragmentary form.” She adds, “In order to keep writing something — and also to make a quick buck! — I wrote book reviews, many of them. I found reviewing very pleasurable, for a variety of reasons. Writing articles, too, interested me, as specific responses to issues, some of which I dealt with all the time in the classroom, with students of Literature in the University.” She discovered a voice for the novel later, in what has now become The Surveyor.

One of the authors Ira admires the most is Javier Marias, essentially for his style of writing. “His sentences, they’re very long, with clauses studding them, but he exhibits absolute and perfect control over them,” she expresses. In the last few years, she has been smitten by a diverse mix of writers, all of whom have had a bearing on her psyche. “At this point, I devour Coetzee, Carver, Bellow, McGahern, Bolano. But at other times, there were Anita Brookner, Lessing, Morrison, Delillo, Cormac McCarthy, Martin Amis, Mishima, to name a few. I also consumed biographies, gulped them down. I read a lot of detective fiction, particularly Nordic crime. And then in recent Indian writing in English: Jeet Thayil and Jaspreet Singh. As a writer all you have loved and read stays with you and shapes you.”

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First published in The New Indian Express on October 14, 2014

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Stone Mattress: The queen of dark yarn shows her best yet again

Stone MattressTitle: Stone Mattress: Nine Tales
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: September
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9780385539128
Rating: 5/5

Good short stories are rare to come by. Not all novelists are adept at writing short stories, for such works do not have the luxury of a whole book to capture the reader’s interest. In my mind, very few have achieved this feat. I love Alice Munro for her captivating short takes, or Tanith Lee, who, some say, writes better short stories than novels or James Joyce, for his wonderful book, Dubliners. And then there’s Margaret Atwood, who is an accomplished novelist as she is a short story writer.

Stone Mattress, her latest book is one such masterpieces she has produced in her 50 years in the publishing industry. A missive with nine stories, some written or narrated by her in the course of her career, these stories are nothing short of exquisite. Her characters are old but feisty, callow but bold, self-aware but bohemian, lonely but free-spirited and her stories question the rules of gender, genre and age.

One may say, the collection has a theme, the theme of the transcending power of the story itself, as Atwood alludes in the afterword. It is no surprise, that those of who have devoured Atwood in the past, will find the stories imaginative and compelling, where her writing makes something magical out of the mundane.

The first story, Alphinland forms part of a (loosely put) trilogy. The subsequent stories are Revenant and Dark Lady which delve into the lives of a fantasy fiction writer, a dying poet and a muse/ex-lover.

This is followed by Lusus Naturae or ‘freak of nature’, which is one of the works which was previously published.  The other stories in the book The Dead Hand Loves You, The Freeze-Dried Groom, Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth and Torching the Dusties are equally laden with affliction. But the best, perhaps, is the ‘Stone Mattress’ which lends the book its title. Originally published in the New Yorker, the story about Verna who is raped at 14 and who now tries to avenge the brutality caused to her, is sharp and gritty and hits you with brute humour.

In her book Negotiating With the Dead, Atwood pondered: “Writing has to do with darkness, and a desire or perhaps a compulsion to enter it, and, with luck, to illuminate it, and to bring something back out to the light.” This book, which is her 55th, illuminates themes that are dark and heavy, where the characters are plagued by inner demons and a desire to avenge the deeds done to them when they were young; the book satisfies you in a way that only Atwood can.

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Tracing the roots of Urdu in India and Pakistan

Rakhshanda JalilAuthor Rakhshanda Jalil, best known for her book ‘Invisible City: The hidden Monuments of India’, has been one of the frontrunners in the movement to create awareness for Hindi-Urdu literature in India. Having come to the field of writing as a translator in 1992, she had published a series of translated works before moving to the fray of critical writing and then increasingly veering towards academic pieces, biographies, historiographies and even English fiction.

Given this large oeuvre of works, what really interests Jalil are biographies and books that require rigorous amounts of research. She recently completed her book on Rashid Jahan, an Indian writer, a member of the Communist party and the Progressive Writers’ Association. “It was then I realised that this is what I enjoy doing. I like to locate writers in a certain context,” she says. At the moment, she is working on a biography on an Urdu poet, Sardar Jafri to be published by Oxford University Press.

At the recently concluded Bangalore Literature Festival, Jalil took part in a panel discussion that traced the roots of Urdu in India and Pakistan and also mapped its future. About the state of the language, she notes, “This whole business of script , going on for the past 60 or 80 years, where people are saying it has be written in Devanagari is contributing to its downfall. When we learn Japanese or Russian or Chinese, we take the trouble to learn their script. With Urdu, why do we want to take the easy way out? This is just doing more harm than good.”

Being a proponent of translating works from Urdu to English and making it available for the masses, she does feel that the essence of the language is most often lost in the process. “There is no way you can say that what you are translating is 100% right,” she says. In a language as disparate as Urdu and English or Hindi for that matter, not only the resonances or speech patterns differ but also the way of constructing sentences. Hence as a translator you have to work within these limitations and put out a work that is sincere and sensible, she says.

Childhood, they say, has a very strong impact on a writer’s psyche and it is true in Jalil’s case. Having grown up in a house filled with books, taught by a mother who retired as a librarian and having people who talked about books and gave books as birthday gifts, she was blessed. She adds,  “When I was in the eighth grade, I got a book called ‘The Exile’ by a French existentialist writer as a birthday gift. When most children got Enid Blyton books, I was encouraged to read books from different genres. That, in a way, drew me to writing and if I hadn’t been a writer I would have done something else in writing.”

Incidentally, Jalil started her career, first as a teacher and then as an editor in the publishing industry. She agrees, “I have felt words. I write them now. But I have known them all throughout.”


First published in The New Indian Express on September 30, 2014

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‘The word difficult doesn’t exist to me’

Shobhaa De

Writer and columnist Shobhaa De has nothing but praise for the literary environment in Bangalore. Having been part of Bangalore Literature Festival, the city’s uber event to celebrate the written word, De maintains that Bangalore has a very vibrant core, far removed from the IT tag it enjoys. “One thing that we cannot and should not lose sight of is the rich literary tradition that the state has always enjoyed over several hundred years. And Bangalore, in particular, being the hub of Karnataka, is a city which is way way beyond just a IT hub,” she states.

She notes that a literary festival here was overdue and she is glad that it is run by people who have genuine level of commitment and passion to provide a platform for diverse opinions, diverse points of view, debate, dissent and more. 

On freedom of expression

De has been quite vocal about issues plaguing the country, especially those concerning women. Yes, she admits that her writing has, time and again, drawn criticism from various quarters, but that doesn’t deter her. “The word difficult doesn’t exist to me. To tell the truth and to tell it fearlessly is every human being’s right. And we should take full advantage of being a part of a democracy, where our freedom, the constitution guarantees, will not be curtailed if there’s something worth fighting for.” Of course there will be people in the world who have more clout, who are more powerful, who want to harm you, she observes. But then again, that’s the test of your own character, of who you are, what you believe in. “Isn’t that the price worth paying?,” she asks emphatically.

On UR Ananthamurthy

This year, the festival commemorated UR Ananthamurthy, one of the exemplars of Kannada literature. De has her own experience to recount about the great storyteller. “We were on the panel at the last edition of Bangalore Lit Fest. And I like how fiery, feisty, articulate and unafraid he was in voicing his opinions. Not all of them were accepted, even by a very informed audience and crowd. Despite that, he was a giant as a thinker, as an iconic litterateur, who broke so many shackles, so many rules, freed so many people from their limited thinking and limited imagination.”

On writing

“I write every day of my life,” she declares, “I write for weekly columns, blogs, Twitter — writing on every level defines me and consumes me and that’s the way I want it to be always.” She is looking to start a new book soon. But she’s not sure what it will be about. “It’s only when an idea is about to explode inside my head and makes life unbearable for me, that I actually start the book. Because the idea has to be powerful enough for me to want to write it with that sense of passion and intensity.”

On the recent brouhaha on ‘ethical journalism’

Shobhaa De has gone on record, on her blog and on Twitter, about the recent spat between Deepika Padukone and a leading newspaper. Most of her comments stress that there is nothing wrong with sensational stories and the issue has been blown out of proportion by the actress who she once termed is “overrated and average-looking”. But when we asked her about it, she refused to comment, saying, “I write for the newspaper and I don’t have anything to say against them.”


An abridged version published in The New Indian Express on September 29, 2014

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‘Congress driven more by dynasty now’

A scion of the Nehru family, Nayantara Sahgal, is known to not mince words. Driven by her belief in non-violence, she published fierce essays condemning her cousin Indira Gandhi when she declared Emergency.

Over the years, Sahgal has illustrated through her acerbic writing how Congress, once a beacon of democratic integrity, has departed from Nehru’s ideologies. Once again, she voiced her opinion of the Gandhi family at the second day of the Bangalore Literature Festival on Saturday. “Congress, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are different entities for me. Congress is nothing like what Gandhi had envisaged. It is now driven by dynastic succession,” she said.

But Sahgal believes Congress can revive itself under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership but Rahul Gandhi should not be associated with her.

In Modi, she sees a better time for India. “Modi has risen from humble origins. That is a great tribute to the foundation of democracy laid at Independence and the social mobility that rose out of it,” Sahgal said.

Talking about her political personage, author Ritu Menon, whose book Out of Line dwells on Sahgal’s life and works, said, “She is a writer who has continued to be politically engaged with the kind of integrity that is rare in writers”.

On how she put together the biography, Menon said though Sahgal’s oeuvre is fiction, the political thread that runs through her writing forms the spine of the book. “Sahgal’s life, whether it is personal or familial, cannot be understood without understanding the political. Likewise, the literary cannot be read without a reference to the political and personal,” Menon concluded


First published in The New Indian Express on September 28, 2014

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Soak in the cultural extravaganza that’s the Bangalore Lit Fest

At the third edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival, the city’s literary excellence came into its own. Bringing together exemplars of the written word and also book lovers from the city, the festival went on to reiterate that Bangalore is undoubtedly a haven for literature enthusiasts, at the same time underscoring the literary diversity the city has to offer.

Talking about the fete, writer and columnist Shobhaa De averred, “I have been to festivals across India, lit fests across the world. But I have to say, there’s something about Bangalore Lit Fest that makes it exceptional.” Why? “The fact that the fest is noncommercial, that it is truly democratic in spirit, that we hear voices that we don’t hear at other lit fests, that we hear voices that speak their minds in a public space fearlessly, that we have a very receptive audience, that the city supports it the way it does, that the number grow and grow  with each passing year, everything is exceptional,” she responds.

Like Shobhaa De, who has been part of BLF since the first edition, bestselling author and screenwriter, Chetan Bhagat, who is considered a ‘youth icon,’ also has an interesting experience to recount. “When Shinie Antony (one of the founders) told me about the idea of starting a lit fest here, I thought to myself, ‘The city favours IT. Maybe an Android Developers Conference or a Java Coding Weekend would be more apt. Or at most, a traffic festival.’ But when I attended the first edition, I saw how well it was received. And now, in just three years it has become the most sought after events in the city.”

This year, the festival was dedicated to the memory of UR Ananthamurthy, a contemporary writer, master storyteller and legend. In three corners of the lawns at Crowne Plaza, panel discussions on diverse themes were held at makeshift tents named after three of Ananthamurthy’s greatest books. Departing from the previous editions, this year the fest has focused on literature by marginalised sections of the society and aboriginal writers.

Highlights of the panel discussions

Of books, cinema and women characters

The ever controversial Chetan Bhagat was in conversation with Shinie Antony about the predominance of strong women characters in his books and screenplays. He affirms, “I like women who are smart, intellectual, passionate. That is why no woman in my stories are props. Every single one is opinionated.”

His sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes self-deprecating humour left everyone in splits. Among other things he also discussed why he has become the most spoken about author today. His take? Not because he is the best author, but because he is the bestselling author. “There are different types of writers and I write about real people, ordinary middle class life, I have to out there living that life, not running away from people. That makes me a little more visible. And I do have good marketing skills. So maybe that’s the reason why you hear about me than everyone else.”

On the plight of marginalised communities

Dhruba Hazarika, Pradyot Manikya Deb Burman and Binalakshmi Nepram spoke on the all-pervasive issue, ‘Does India neglect its eight sisters?’ Striking at the heart of the issue, Binalakshmi rues that myriad perceptions wrought by misconceived notions is why the north eastern frontier stands ostracised.

“How do you define the North east of India? It is a jungle land where you can exploit, a place where people eat everything that moves. If it is a man, he must be a drug addict and if it is a woman, she must be morally loose — these are the perceptions that are spiralling in today’s India.” It is not a place where half naked tribals live, she says. On the contrary, there’s so much that ‘India’ doesn’t know or want to know. “It constitutes of eight beautiful states, home to 45 million citizens, belonging to different ethnic groups, a place where India’s first oil was found, it a place of amazing potential.” And yet, it remains unbeknownst to most of us.

On a similar vein, a session on ‘Minority Report’ delved into the notion of secularism in the country today. One of the questions raised during this one hour debate was ‘Do we need a minority commission at all?’ Answering in the affirmative, Keki Daruwala justified, “We may have excellent laws but if the implementation is not satisfactory, it does not hold good. Implementers in our country are very often corrupt and partial. And I also feel the police in this country — and I have been to riots in Assam, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand where I  have witnessed this first hand — is biased and hence cannot be reiled on.”

On Kannada Literature

There was a session on Kannada literature where stalwarts like Vasudhendra, KS Pavitra and HN Arathi addressed concerns surrounding the pertinency of the language in the present day and age. Titled ‘Hosa Chiguru- New voices in Kannada’ the panelists shared ideas on how to promote the language not only by teaching it as a subject in schools and colleges but by enhancing its relevance through art, dance, poetry and music.

Things to look out for on Saturday

  • Writers Anjum Hasan, Susan Visvanathan, Palash Krishna Mehrotra, Usha K.R. and Saniya take a session on the art of writing short stories at at 10 am
  • We, the Children of India: Revisiting the Constitution of India with Leila Seth at 10.30 am
  • Around the Story Tree: Folk Tales withVikram Sridhar at 11.15 am
  • For children, a Ghostly Detective Workshop by Shweta Taneja at 4 pm
  • A session on contemporary Urdu literature in India anand Pakistan at 12 noon

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