Friday, June 14, 2019

Happy to be able to read and then write about this wonderful novel and an important piece of translation — Kannada author Shrinivas Vaidya’s Sahitya Akademi Award (2008) winning novel Halla Bantu Halla, translated into English as A Handful of Sesame by Maithreyi Karnoor.

In the context of the ever-present North-South divide, you can call A Handful of Sesame a beautiful bridge, where two brothers from Kanpur via Kashi land in a small town in the Dharwad district of Karnataka, and become ‘locals’.

This would, however, be selling the novel (which won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2008) short. The beauty of this novel, within the ambitious narrative of a multi-generational saga of survival, is its over-reaching achievement in creating a microcosm of modern Indian history in the marking, where this small village in Dharwad, Navalgund, stands in for India, a country under the British Raj, struggling to find its identity.

In other words, A Handful of Sesame is the story of the coming-of-age of India as a country, from a collection of tiny, self-sustaining provinces with their particular customs and traditions, to a larger landmass with an over-arching political identity. So, naturally, as the novel progresses, we notice how the characters begin to travel outside Navalgund, to Sangli, Dharwad, and ultimately to Bombay.

Read the complete Review in

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Happy to find such a beautiful home for these translations of Hindi poet Kedarnath Singh that my boss and mentor Ramu Ramanathan and I did in a whim, as an experiment, in HAKARA, a bi-lingual journal of creative expression, Edition 07: Boundary.
These are gypsies plucked from
all the cities of the world,
who seek their lost identities
amidst the dust of your city.
In people’s democracy,
there should be a long, unabated debate
on the question of grass.
Until that happens,
as a start, I declare
that in the next election
I shall vote
for grass
whether others do or not.
A banner of a blade of grass shall flutter
in that maidan always.
It’s a determination,
to grow
whenever, wherever.

Read the poems here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Since I couldn’t wait for my contributor’s copy, got a copy of the book, SIDE-EFFECTS OF LIVING, myself.
And what an assortment of life stories within the covers — at once heartbreaking and life-affirming…
And what an important documentation. Kudos to the editors Jhilmil Breckenridge and Namarita Kathait, and everyone involved.
A must read! Get your copies here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Reading PATNA BLUES by Abdullah Khan.

There’s something about this book, something soft, something tactile, as if you are listening to a friend telling you a story. And feelings, there are feelings… it makes you feel.
huī muddat ki 'ġhālib' mar gayā par yaad aatā hai
vo har ik baat par kahnā ki yuuñ hotā to kyā hotā

It’s been long since he’s gone, Ghalib, yet
memories linger of him asking often, what if

Ghalib has been dead for ages, yet remember
him asking often if there were any other ways

Sunday, March 17, 2019

I doled out five rules of writing poetry in 17 March 2019 edition of The Assam Tribune.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Popular Assamese short story writer and poet Partha Bijoy Dutta passed away in February 2019. He was young. I did not know him, but I noticed condolences flooding my timeline. Most of my friends also shared an Assamese poem Dutta wrote, perhaps soon before his passing. The poem moved me deeply in its calm acceptance of impending death, without resentment, without regret.

I had to attempt a poor translation of the poem. Here it is.

God’s Two Hands
By Partha Bijoy Dutta

Finally, I reached the sea shore, and standing
next to the moored boat, I looked at the sky.

Making me forget the world, the sea kept me innocent.
On the way, thorns made my feet bloody. Still,
I had the never-ending desire for the sea.

Spreading the two hands, God said, we have been busy,
fixing the chart of your stars, but just couldn’t do it.

The future doesn’t have a forecast. It arrives and
rip life into pieces. Is it easy to put together
all the pieces of a violently broken life?

I searched for God. Spread your two hands.
Pick me up. Unlike my expectation, there was no
lightning, no appearance of divine providence.

She came in silence. Holding up the x-ray plates in light,
she said, matter’s sensitive. I kept walking through the
severity of it. Spreading my hands, I kept calling God.

The sea found me when the life-support machine grabbed
hold of me. Multicoloured boats floated in a sea of hope.

Setting sails where do merchants go? The cheerful
nurse said, where do you go, it’s an ebbing life.

She entered the room in silence. She said
it looks like it’s possible. Are you ready?

God has spread the two hands. I’m not a sea.
I’m looking for a way to return.

Translated by Dibyajyoti Sarma

Monday, March 04, 2019

I’ve been meaning to share this news for a while now, for it’s a personal story for me at so many different levels.

One, I have known Alice Richman for the last 22 years, since I found her on a rainy afternoon on 24 June 1997, my first day at the University of Pune (I was actually looking for the hostel office). I was a lonely introvert and she felt like a kindred spirit. Since then, I have spend countless afternoons with her, reading (the garden, where the tomb is located, was next to my department). Later, I would invite my classmates and friends and introduce them to her. As Amit alleges, I too would make up stories about her short life and eventual death. My favourite was she falling in love with a local gardener, a handsome Maratha boy. The story ends with double suicide, and Alice haunting the campus searching for her lover (Kamal Amrohi’s ‘Mahal’ is my favourite film). Later, I even took a few friends to the park at midnight, to spot Alice’s ghost.

Two, the story features Amit Ranjan, who is smart and intelligent (and very difficult to please) and whom I am proud to call a friend. I am proud to have worked with him in his tremendous debut as a poet, in the collection, ‘Find Me Leonard Cohen, I’m Almost Thirty’. The book also contains half-a-poem about Alice (the other half is about another Australian, about whom Amit has written a fantastic book, to be out soon. Watch this space).

Three, I’ve always considered Pune to be my second home, and The Times of India, Pune, my extended family. Now, my friend goes there and gets a Page One Anchor! I couldn’t have been prouder. Ajoy, Renuka, Connie sir, whoever edited the story, salute!

Four, and the story has been written by someone who has been a colleague since my rookie days as a deskie, doing sports in ‘The Maharashtra Herald’, which I absolutely abhorred and she absolutely enjoyed. Thank you, again, Swati. Thank you for the memories.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Reading COUNTRY DRIVE by Sukrita Paul Kumar & Yasmin Ladha — a collection of 'duets in poetry', literally and figuratively, by two accomplished poets at the height of their powers, where diverse themes intersect in unexpected ways. As Francis Bacon said, this is definitely a book of chew and savour.
I KNOW YOU ARE HERE by Gayatri Majumdar @