Posts made in March, 2014

Toeing the Boundaries || A Review of Veena Nagpal’s “The Uncommon Memories of Zeenat Qureishi”

A book about communal harmony can never be easy to write – not only because of its obvious vulnerability to controversies, but also because so much has already been written by literary geniuses that one would think it would be difficult to come up with a new approach. However, the complexities of relationships between various religious communities in contemporary context are very different from those that existed at the time of Partition, the era that was tackled by the likes of  Intizar Husain and Manto. In her book The Uncommon Memories of Zeenat Qureishi, author Veena Nagpal bravely sets out to explore the complexities as they exist today, even though the book itself is set in the early 1990s. The novel, though based on some historical events, doesn’t claim to be historical fiction and takes liberties with some aspects of history. The novel revolves around Zeenat Qureishi, a sensitive 20 year old who lives in London with her father and a 70 year old grandmother. Traumatized by London Tube Bombings, a phobic Zeenat who is plagued by mysterious recurring nightmares, visits India in an effort to escape her private demons. However, that is not what destiny has ordained. She finds herself irresistibly drawn to Ajay Mehra, their neighbour whose family has been accused of butchering Zeenat’s Great-Uncle, Great Aunt, and their six-year-old daughter Zainab in the post-partition riots. Their relationship flourishes despite the growing animosity between the two families, until it too falls prey to the communal tensions following the demolishing of Babri Masjid.  With her heart constantly torn between what she believes she has seen and what her instincts tell her to be true, she is pushed over the edge and the painful memories from her several past lives explode  around her and channel themselves out to the world through the national television. All viewers interpret these memories in different ways and what follows is a spurt of heated discussions, riots, and, in some cases, introspection. The book ends with a final act of supreme sacrifice that leads to the Ultimate Peace. Though the underlying message isn’t new, the method used to convey is far less pretentious and much more direct. The novel, though long, is an easy read, and the author chooses to refrain from using unnecessarily complex language – a wise decision considering the inherent complexity of the subject. With multifaceted characters that often display very human contradictions, the novel tells an intriguing tale and at places keeps the readers at the edge of their seats.  Though it succumbs to cliches at places, such as while depicting the forces of good and evil, the story subtly explores the gradual demise of reason and logical thinking during the times of communal unrest, and the resultant lack of trust. The story manages to put forward the viewpoints of both Hindus and Muslims without succumbing to biases, held together by the voices of sanity that manifest themselves through three characters who would rather believe in the basic goodness of human beings. Though peace reigns towards the end of the novel, one is left wondering whether the loss of countless innocent lives over meaningless religious egos can ever be justified and whether those souls can ever get justice....

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Poets and their Poetry || Happy World Poetry Day 2014

Poetry is the language of the soul, and each soul is unique, as is its muse. Therefore each poem is unique. If you are a poet, take pride in this. And congratulate yourself, especially today – for today is the World Poetry Day. On the occasion, Literature Studio is celebrating too. Here are some poems by poets hailing from different parts of India. Do take your time to read each poem and appreciate the individuality, for each poem is a different experience altogether.   *****   The Woodcutter by Manu Das   The last swing was without finality made, The log cleaved in two, in open halves fell apart, To the sudden stillness of unswung blade, As shadows grew, and men of labour began to depart. He leaned gently upon his axe, though, For all I could see he was straight and taut, Chest bare, heaving as it would before work unfinished, steady and slow, Not from weary winding down of breath and thought. I gave his day’s work a spiteful glance, Leaves that trembled and spoke to high winds, Seemed not to be leaves, lying still on the trunks fallen stance, No more to sway, or break falling rain, above the cuckoo’s wings. He gave me a forceful look, clear and, Unafraid of his disposition, drawing words to parry, “The wood within was sick, you must understand, There was no more life in it, no more strength to carry, The weight of this bark, in the coming rains.” I lent ear, then nodded, in quiet resign, “I have seen it as a sapling, young and eager, to grow. Its bough was straight, but then curved in design, All the better, to stand with time, then did I wager.” “Some start straight” said he in gruff return, “and bend with time, some start bent, And are straightened, by wind and sun, in turn, In the end I do what I must, before the day is spent.” He laid his palm, cracked and rough, Upon his axe, smooth in hilt, And went his way, having said enough, For the stars were out, and the porch light lit. I nudged the jagged stump, to see if it gave way, The root held its own, I shook my head, would it have stood if I had my say? Could I have stopped the wood cutters axe, had I known…   About Manu Das: There is poetry created for its own sake, and that created as a means to face one’s life. In the latter, the spectrum ranges from sheer escapism to a conscious effort at drawing from experiences, however small, to create verse and derive a clarity of thought to forge ahead. In truth, I think the best of poems, or any creative effort, are combinations of both, in various degrees. I am a surgeon by profession, but I love poetry. It liberates us and in so doing imparts a gentle wisdom to reduce our fallibilities and persevere on the road to better things.   *****   रड़क by Rohit Sharma   होता है मिलन बारिश का पत्तों से मगर, रह जाती है रड़क कुछ दिल में बारिश के भी, पत्तों के भी ! बुझाती प्यास कुछ पत्तों के बदन की कुछ पिघल गए नरमाहट से इसकी, बरसता बेधड़क है हर बरस है जाता कहाँ नीर इसका ? प्यासी है मिट्टी भी रह जाती है रड़क कुछ दिल में बारिश के भी, ज़मीन के भी ! हुआ पानी क्यों नहीं मीठा समुन्दर की कड़वाहट का, ना गिला था बादलों से कोई था बरसा रिमझिम पानी भी रह जाती है रड़क कुछ दिल...

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The Indomitable Khushwant Singh || His Tryst with Death

Khushwant Singh died today, on 20 March 2014. He was 99. Writing until just a few weeks before his death, and reading till the very end, the fearless Sikh had lived a full life, which by all standards is much more than a dream run any writer can hope for. As a writer and a satirist, he earned the highest accolades as well as biting criticism, but incorrigible as he was – you could love him, you could hate him, but you could never hope to change him. Courageous and candid, he made friends just as easily as he parted ways with them. He followed his heart everywhere and stood true to his beliefs – unfazed, unbending, and unyielding – irrespective of the cost. He was as much in command of his life as he was of his death, meeting both with the same irreverence – a true sign of someone who has never made compromises with his true self. He will not only be remembered for his illustrious writing career, his several critically acclaimed books, and his unrelenting humour, but also for his flair of landing into controversies, not that he would ever mind it. Rest in peace Mr Khushwant Singh! We may not have agreed with everything you wrote, but you made a huge mark on the world of literature while you lived, and now in your death, you have left a void that can’t be filled easily…...

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Announcing the first “Writing Saturday” || Five Questions about the Recurring Event

Literature Studio announces the much-awaited “Writing Saturdays”. (For more details about Writing Saturdays refer to the Five Questions section below) The first Writing Saturday will be held in Noida on 29 March, 2014 , the last Saturday of March. The theme this month will be “Shades of Horror”.  We will read some excerpts from fiction works published across the world, do some writing exercises, share our works, and discuss the problems we face while writing horror. If you are interested in participating, send your brief profile along with a few words about why you want to attend this particular Writing Saturday to by 15 March 2014, EOD. —————————————————————————– Five Questions about Writing Saturdays Q: What are Writing Saturdays?  A: On the last Saturday of every month, Literature Studio will be organizing an informal get-together of writers. These  Saturdays will henceforth be known as “Writing Saturdays”. Q: What will be the theme? A: It will be different every time, but one thing is for sure — it will always be related to writing. We will announce the theme at the beginning of each month, so that you can decide whether you want to participate or not.  Q: What will be the agenda? A: We will hold discussions, readings, conduct exercises, share works and problems, and indulge in other “writerly” stuff, such as drinking coffee. All activities will revolve around the theme. The idea is to thrash the theme left, right, and center, and learn as much about it as possible. Q: What does one have to do to attend and will one have to pay anything?  A: As the seats will be limited, we will only be able to invite a handful of writers. We want to make sure we don’t miss those who are interested in the theme and will benefit from the session. We will call for applications at the beginning of each month, along with the theme. If you wish to attend a Writing Saturday, you will need to send a brief profile of yourself and the reason why you want to attend this particular Writing Saturday to If your profile is selected, you will be informed via email at least 10 days before the event. Regarding the charges, at least the first few sections will be free of charge. Later, if we feel that we need to invest more, we may charge a small fee from the participants. Q:  Where and at what time will the Writing Saturday be held? And how long will one session be? A: We will announce the general area and time along with the theme at the beginning of each month. The exact address and time will be sent to the selected participants along with the invitation. One session will be around 3 hours long. If you have any other questions about Writing Saturdays, please leave a comment on this post or write to us at  ...

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