Posts made in May, 2014

An Interesting Lesson in the History of Punjab || A Review of Khushwant Singh’s ‘Maharaja in Denims’

I had heard about the book Maharaja in Denims by Khushwant Singh much before I actually got down to reading it. The title is catchy, but nothing prepares you for what lies inside those innocuous looking covers. The book starts right in the middle of love-making between Hari and Gaitri, and it is obvious that things are headed downhill between them right from the time Hari ecstatically cries out “I’m coming, Lily.” A fuming Gaitri gathers her clothes and storms out, all this while hurling choicest of Punjabi abuses at Hari, who himself is as shocked by this mysterious turn of events as Gaitri and the readers. “Lily”, one of the names that keep flashing in Hari’s mind, is his connection to his more illustrious past life – none other than that of the “Lion of Punjab” Maharaja Ranjit Singh. As the novel progresses, Hari meets Suzanne, the girl with whom he would eventually fall in love, and the flashes from his past life keep getting more frequent, clearer, and sinister. Suzanne, who is a psychology student, takes Hari through sessions of past life regression, thinking that it would cure him of  his extraordinary predicament. But these sessions end up revealing much more than either of them had bargained for. The story slowly graduates from merely enjoying the antics of a rich, spoilt punjabi brat, to a serious investigation of Punjab’s past, present, and even the future. Nothing will prepare you for the unexpected end. I will keep it to myself and leave it up to you to find out. I can only say one thing – it feels like a hard punch in the stomach. It can only be attributed to the brilliance of Khushwant Singh’s writing that the story effortlessly moves back and forth in time, interweaving several abominable historical events with the present. The depth of the narrative and the revelations show that the author has put in considerable research, and that the story is the result of years of hard work. But despite this, the book is an easy read. So much so that you won’t realize what  you have got yourself into until you are so deep in it that you cannot turn back....

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Literature Studio Summer Scholarship 2014 || And the winner is…

After several rounds of discussion, our jury has decided to award the Literature Studio Summer Scholarship 2014 to not one, but two young writers. Here are the winners: Shreeya Sharma (100% scholarship) Shreya Pothula (50% scholarship) ****** 14-year-old Shreeya Sharma who loves writing short stories and, according to her mother Amrita, has ” an active imagination and an unmistakable knack for writing stories”. Amrita feels that Literature Studio’s short story course will “her overcome her inhibitions and help her find her voice.” And we have no doubts that she will one day be a great writer. The writing sample she sent shows an imagination that goes beyond the world she is familiar with. The fact that she attempted the daunting genre of historical fiction is an undeniable indication of where she is headed as a writer. Congratulations Shreeya! Our jury has decided to award you a 100 % scholarship for the course. ****** Another brilliant young writer who impressed our jury is 13-year-old Shreya Pothula, who was able to expertly use humor while narrating the story about a deadly adventure, a task that several experienced writers find difficult. Her mother, Sapna, feels that this scholarship would ” open a new world of expression for her.” Even though the scholarship was originally intended for one young writer, our jury decided to make an exception in this case  and award a 50% scholarship to Shreya as well. Congratulations Shreya, we are sure you will make the most of this opportunity. ****** The faculty at Literature Studio is looking forward to starting work with the two writers. All the best and congratulations once again to the two winners. Brilliant work indeed!...

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Reminiscing Gurudeb…|| A review of ‘Kabuliwala’ by Antara Moitra

We conclude the extended celebrations of Gurudeb Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday with this touching tribute by our Guest Writer  Antara Moitra, while she fondly recalls her visit to Jorasanko and reviews her favorite short story Kabuliwala. ***** Sometime ago when I visited Kolkata, I realized that though I am a huge Tagore fan I am yet to visit Jorasanko – the Nobel laureate’s birthplace. So I decided to set the ball rolling. All I needed to do was a bit of planning. After a quick research on the available modes of transport in Kolkata, I was convinced that the best way to reach this destination was by tram. I took the tram from BBD Bag (central Kolkata) to Jorasanko (a neighbourhood in north Kolkata). The tram passes through the narrow lanes in north Kolkata, imparting a glimpse of the old town, and was the perfect way to enjoy my first tram ride. It took me around 20 minutes to reach the Jorasanko Thakur Bari – the house where Tagore was born and spent most of his formative years. Once inside, I was struck by the size and architecture of the impressive building. With huge courtyards, long corridors and windows with Venetian blinds, the place looked spectacular. When you get to enter Tagore’s room, you are bound to think of the sights, sounds and the natural surroundings that would have influenced him to produce such remarkable treasure trove of poems, novels, short stories, dance dramas, and much more. And the irony is that he loathed formal education – after a brief stint at several schools he refused to attend schools! He found them boring. He wanted to inculcate freedom of education in the educational system. He was against sitting inside a “closed” classroom and stressed on freedom of imagination. He felt that one’s relation with his cultural and natural environment was crucial, and goes a long way in imparting confidence in life. This legendary maestro’s birthday, which falls on May 7, is celebrated worldwide with a rendition of his songs, poems and dance dramas. This year I pay tribute to my favourite author with views on one of his short stories – Kabuliwala. The heart-warming tale is based on the strong bonds between a father and a daughter. The story revolves around the tall, tough, turbaned kabuliwala (Rahman) from Afghanistan, the vendor who had come to Kolkata to earn a living, and five-year-old Mini. The two meet when one morning Mini notices the kabuliwala passing down the street and calls him home. Mini, who is initially shy, soon overcomes her fear of this huge man and in no time they become the best of friends. The kabuliwala, who has a daughter back home in Afghanistan, sees reflections of her in Mini and showers his affection by bribing her with raisins and almonds. Written in 1892 the story focuses on an extraordinary situation, and might have been unlikely in the normal day-to-day lives of families living in Kolkata during that period. So it is not surprising when Mini’s mother imagines the Afghan to be a kidnapper and is apprehensive of their daily encounters. Respectfully addressed as Gurudeb, Tagore was a genius when it came to expressing the nuances of how people act or feel in different situations. In Kabuliwala Tagore’s craft is reflected in the way he weaves the emotions between two unusual friends who shared jokes and seemed to have their own little secrets! As you reach the end of the story, you are left with a heavy heart and can’t help but feel for this man – a father who loves...

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Happy Birthday Rabindranath Tagore||A review of his novel “The Home and The World” by Meenakshi Kashyap

On this day in the year 1861, God’s own gift to world literature, the prodigious writer Rabindranath Tagore was born. The beloved “Gurudeb” made India proud with his timeless tales. To celebrate this day, Literature Studio had called for entries for reviews of Gurudeb’s literary works. However, we hadn’t anticipated the tremendous response the call would evoke. So instead of publishing just one review, we will be publishing the best three starting today. Here is the first review in the series: The Home and the World (Ghaire Bair) is an autobiographical novel, which was originally written in Bengali and published in 1916 by the legendary writer of 20th century, Rabindranath Tagore. He is a great intellectual, philosopher, eminent poet, and writer. He is the first non-European Nobel Prize winner for his famous collection of poems, Gitanjali. The Home and the World is a psychological novel and reflects upon the deeper meaning of life through a portrayal of the struggles of three distinct individuals. The backdrop of this novel is Swadeshi Movement, which played an important role in the independence of India. Tagore illustrates how the freedom movement was perceived differently by different people. The story revolves around Nikhil, Bimla (his wife), and Sandip who was invited into their house. Nikhil comes from kulin house and his family expected him to marry a beautiful girl. But he chooses Bimla, poor as compared to Nikhil’s family, and unattractive. Bimla considers that it is her luck that she is married into such a rich family. She is completely devoted to her husband and follows Indian traditions and customs. She is confined to her inner world of domesticity. Nikhil is a liberal husband who doesn’t object to his wife wearing western clothes. He invites her to attend social political meetings in order to provide her some exposure into the outside world so that she can find her individuality. He encourages her to go out of Zenana, a private domain inhabited by traditional Indian woman. Sandip is a patriot, skilled orator, is aggressive and has strong determined persona. He wants to achieve his targets at any cost. He gives references from Bhagavad Gita to support his arguments. Bimla is impressed when she, for the first time, hears Sandip’s speech. She feels a natural attraction towards Sandip, driven by an unknown force she comes closer to him. She starts spending time with Sandip and her sister in law, Bara Rani, criticizes her for this. Bara Rani is calculative and demanding and constantly keeps an eye on Bimla’s actions. Amulya is a follower of Sandip and a surrogate son of Bimla. Sandip needs money for running the movement. He persuades Bimla to steal from her own house. She is so entangled and lost in the waves of emotions that she is not able to gauge what she is doing. Eventually she realizes that she is not only stealing her husband’s money, she is also robbing her ‘own nation’. Throughout the novel she is in a dilemma about what perspective of life she should choose. Subconsciously, she is constantly drawing comparisons between her husband and her lover. Nikhil, Bimla, and Sandip narrate their own stories and the reader gets a chance to see their worlds through their own eyes and perceptions. Tagore shows conflicts between the Western culture and Indian tradition, duty and emotions, passive and active, and internal and external. Although, Nikhil encourages Bimla to see the outside world but she ends up looking through the eyes of Sandip. She does not realize when she starts developing an interest in Sandip. There is a complete change...

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