Jun 062017
 

Special Issue 

Library and Information Science

Vol. 8, Issue VII (May 2017)

Contents

Sr.No.

Author

Title of the Paper

Pg.No.

PDF

01 Adinath Gopinath Darandale SWOT Analysis of National Digital Library of India 01-09 PDF
02 Dr. Amita S. Pradhan Scaling the Job Satisfaction of Central Library Staff of Sinhgad Technical Education Society (STES), Pune 10-20 PDF
03 Dr. Ganesh D. Kulkarni Collection Development in Institute of Hotel Management Library in Aurangabad: A Study 21-31 PDF
04 Kiran Dhondiram Guldagad Usage of Internet by College Students: A Survey 32-43 PDF
05 Dr. Meenal Oak Job Satisfaction of Library Professionals: A Study of Arts, Science and Commerce Colleges (NAAC A Grade) in Pune City 44-56 PDF
06 Dr. Rajendra M. Marwade Access of Electronic Information Resources among Selected Academic College Libraries: An Evaluative Study 57-70 PDF
07 Rajesh Balasaheb Agavane Special Libraries: An Overview 71-79 PDF
08 Ramakant Amar Navghare Digital India Power to Empower: An Initiative of Government of India 80-86 PDF
09 Rupali V. Oak Application of Cloud Computing in Libraries 87-96 PDF
10 Dr. D. T. Satpute Bibliometrics Analysis of Open Access Electronic Journals in Library and Information Science 97-107 PDF
11 Shahaji Shankar Waghmode SMS Alerts Service in Sonubhau Baswant College Library: A Best Practice 108-116 PDF
12 Dr. Shantashree Sengupta Apathy of Present Age Library & Information Science Education and Professionals 117-124 PDF
13 Subrata Biswas Content Analysis of the General Degree College Websites and Libraries Affiliated to University of Kalyani, Nadia and West Bengal: A Study 125-134 PDF
14 Dr.Veena M.Kamble Digital Preservation of Rare Book: Special Study of Flora of Marathwada 135-148 PDF
15 Vrushali Borkar Awareness, Acceptance, Observations and Competency towards E-books Among University Library Staff: A Survey 149-159 PDF
16 Md. Yeosuf Akhter & Subrata Biswas Analysis of Universities Website and Library Content in West Bengal: A Study 160-168 PDF

 

Mar 022015
 

 

tcije

The Poet as a Critic: Vishwanath Bite in Conversation with Nandini Sahu

 

Dr. Vishwanath Bite
Assistant Professor in English
Government of Maharashtra's
Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari (E),
Mumbai, 60. Maharashtra, India.

 

Dr. Nandini Sahu (1973) is a major voice in contemporary Indian English literature, widely published in India, U.S.A, U.K., Africa and Pakistan. She is a double gold medalist in English literature and also the award winner of All India Poetry Contest, the Shiksha Ratna Purashkarand Bouddha Creative Writers’ Award. She is the author/editor of eleven books titled  The Other Voice(a poetry collection), Recollection as Redemption, Post-Modernist Delegation to English Language Teaching, The Silence(a poetry collection),The Post-Colonial Space: Writing the Self and the Nation, Silver Poems on My Lips(a poetry collection), Folklore and the Alternative Modernities (Vol.I), Folklore and the Alternative Modernities (Vol. II), Sukamaa and Other Poems, (a poetry collection), Suvarnarekhaand Sita (A Poem, ) published from New Delhi. Presently, she is an Associate Professor of English in Indira Gandhi National Open University [IGNOU], New Delhi. Dr. Sahu has designed academic programmes/courses on Folklore and Culture Studies, Children’s Literature and American Literature for IGNOU. Her areas of research interest cover Indian Literature, New Literatures, Folklore and Culture Studies, American Literature, Children’s Literature and Critical Theory. She is the Chief Editor/Founder Editor of Interdisciplinary Journal of Literature and Language (IJLL), a bi-annual peer-reviewed journal in English.

Dr. Sahu speaks for the marginal in her writings, but importantly, for her subaltern(ity) is neither simply a classy  term for the oppressed; nor is it a rhetorical trope for abstract critical theorising. KaviNandini’s (that’s an identity she cherishes!!!) poetic ethos is a committed act of voicing for the unjustly muted and often un-understood sections under the trajectory of social stratification. The poetic self of Nandini revels in celebrating the elemental that is embedded in a rural, tribal, poverty stricken Odishan landscape that ties the people to their moorings. She brings it out through a series of native images that become in essence pan-Indian. There is in Nandini the deep-rooted bearing of an eco-feminist who draws her female characters in the closest approximation to nature (mother earth). Her elegant lines are tuned in a lucid cadence where the small and marginal occupies the central prominence. There is an indomitable gusto in Nandini’s lines which engages a sensitive reader in rediscovering his/her native within. She is therefore an Indian poet who very simply holds up a psychological mirror for her reader. On a greater canvas, the poetry of Nandini makes us delve both emotionally and intellectually into a veritable image gallery that ranges from the sensuous to the abstract; the tangible to the oblique. Her USP in this is the honesty of articulation. Her subtle, elusive and thought provoking writings transport us to a corridor of the mind between the outer world and the thinking, creative self. There is, on reading her poetry, the feeling that the poet is expressing what we have only often felt. This makes Nandini the chronicler of our unstated minds!

In an exclusive interview with Dr.Sahu, Dr.Viswanath Bite chats with her about her concept of poetry on the occasion of the launch of the fifth anniversary issue of The Criterion, which he edits.

nandini

Will you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school and anything in between) .

Dr. Bite, first of all I must congratulate you for your outstanding contribution to Indian literature through The Criterion, and in your personal capacity as a poet and critic. And thank you for making me a part of the fifth anniversary issue of The Criterion.

About my formative years as a poet/creative writer,as I reminisce, my creative zeal found first expressions when I would have been around 7. This was when I penned my earliest poems on the natural landscape and people surrounding me. During my school and college days, I was a self motivated and dedicated student, as also a social worker in my own tiny ways, speaking for the less fortunate and the deprived. Hailing of parents who were both teachers and sensitive humans, I took to teaching the children of slums and kids of their domestic helps in the evenings after finishing my classes. The study of literature in English was a natural career option for me, so I did my Honours in English from a private college as a non-collegiate candidate, though that never came in the way of my topping all colleges under Berhampur University. I went on to do the Masters in English literature from Berhampur University and was the gold medallist once again. The same year I registered for Ph.D in English under Late Professor Niranjan Mohanty from VisvaBharati, Santiniketan, on Indian English poetry, completed my PhD at the earliest. In the meantime, I taught for a few years at the local college in my home town, and then at Biju Patnaik University of Technology, Odisha. I fondly remember that even as a teacher of literature at a technical university, I became a favourite of my students, giving hard core engineers to be, a feel of the subtleties of the humanities. My critical publications and poetry volumes went hand in hand with my teaching jobs, along with fond mothering of my only child, Parth. I joined the School of Humanities, Indira Gandhi National Open University, which stands for the democratization of education, and emancipation of the masses through such education, in January 2006.

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?

I grew up reading rather gender-sensitive books. I was born and brought up in a middle class family in rural India which helped to shape both my early insecurities and the feelings of privilege as a woman. Initially, the readers and the critics were reluctant to believe that a woman coming from such rural background with no godfather/mother on her side can build up a niche for herself on her own! But slowly and steadily, it happened. Women’s writings have interested me since my early youth. I grew up reading Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Juliana Berners, Mary Sidney Herbert, Isabella Whitney, Aemilia Lanyer, Elizabeth Cary, Mary Wroth, Anne Bradstreet, Jane Lead, Katherine Philips, Mary Rowlandson, AphraBehn, Lady Mary Chudleigh, Anne Killigrew, Delarivier Manley, Mary Asteel, Eliza Haywood, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Charlotte Smith, Frances Burney, Phillis Wheatley, Mary Robinson, Helen Maria Williams, Maria Edgeworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, Jane Austen, Rebecca Cox Jackson, Mary Shelley, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Berrett Browning, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Harriet Jacobs, Bronte sisters, George Eliot, Florence Nightingale, Emily Dickinson, Christiana Rossetti, Louisa May Alcott, Alice James, Kate Chopin, Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, Elizabeth Bowen, Elizabeth Bishop, Mary McCarthy, Margaret Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nadine Gordimer, Densie Levertov, Patricia Beer, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood, Linda Hogan, Rita Dove, Cathy Song. Among Indian women writers, I have extensively read Toru Dutt, Sarojini Naidu, Ashapurna Devi,Mahasweta Devi, Kamala Das, Bharati Mukherjee, Prativa Ray, Anita Desai, and recently, Arundhati Ray and Jhumpa Lahiri. Theoretically, I have read enough of Sandra M Gilbert, Susan Gubar and Simone de Beauvoir. This helped me in framing a fair idea of women’s literature and shaping up my own literature.

Gabrial Garcia Marquez, Herman Hesse, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Salman Rushdie, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Rabindranath Tagore and Amitav Ghosh are among the writers who have influenced me a lot. Currently I am reading mythology and Indian folklore.

What inspires you to write poetry?

Poetry comes to me as apersistent mode of manifestation of the innate self.On restrainedreflection, I’d say itsprings from the compulsion or even the impulse to express the innermost awareness, and as a self in unity with my environment and my backgrounds. I embrace all things, material and non-material, sentient and inorganic in it. My inspiration comes from the affairs that keep on happening in the world around me, the boundless monographs of Nature, both mortal and cosmic, and the different filaments of thought and sentiments that all these awaken in me.

As for influences, my reading of classical literature hasmolded me– the admiration that I have forcohorts of eternal literary thought, values, mythoi and their depiction – both in Eastern and Western literatures. In Odisha, my home state, the unswervinginspirations have been of poets/writers like Jayanta Mahapatra, Manoj Das, Bibhu Padhi and my teacher and guide, the late Professor Niranjan Mohanty, from Santiniketan. In addition, there are many contemporary Indian English poets and writers, with whom I have regular rewarding interactions and contemplations on poetry.

What advice do you have for aspiring poets?

My advice would be, be a student of literature forever. Classical literature and literary classics can nurture a writer wonderfully. Nothing substitutes reading. Next, a poet should understand poetic diction before taking up the pen.

Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

Well, I realized that I shall be nothing but a writer as early as I was seven years old! My father was my inspiration since the beginning; in fact I am what I am because of him. He used to say, “You are different!”He always wanted me to be a writer and a professor of English, seeing the kind of stuff I was able to write at a tender age. His sad demise in January this year has left a vacuum in me.Compulsive/ inspirational writing came to me since 1995 when I was recognized by poets like Jayanta Mahapatra, Bibhu Padhi and Late Prof. Niranjan Mohanty. At that point I got critical attention from literary journals and newspapers  like KavyaBharati, Indian Literature, Scoria, The Quest, New Quest, Poetcrit, The Asian Age and many more, which was quite motivating for a young poet of twenty! By then I knew that creating was something I absolutely had to do.

Do the Internet and social media contribute to the well-being of poetry?

I don’t think that Internet and social media contribute anything much to poetry, because poetry is an intellectual and literary pursuit. Most young poets/writers spend a lot of time on social networking sites to publicize their writings rather than focusing on qualitative reading and writing. Of course there are some e-journals like Muse India, The Criterion, Syndic Literary Journal, Confluence, The Missing Slate, Induswomanwriting.com, Postcolonial Text, learningandcreativity.com, Poets International, Creative Saplings and many such who are providing a good platform for poets to go international through the Internet.

What do most poorly-written poems have in common?

All poorly written poems have just one thing in common—they die a natural death the moment they are born.

What do most well-written poems have in common?

The commonality of all good poems is–they have a universal approach. And they are timeless.

Why is it such a difficult market for poets right now?

Yes, there are lots of difficulties for poets today to publish, but I believe good poetry finds its way. There are publishers who are ready to take up the challenge. In an age of global consumerism, poetry is still written, volumes published and sold is definitely a welcome fact. Poetry has a calming effect on the human heart.Theexquisiteness of poetry is the magnificence of veracity, ever restoring itself, being forever pertinent. Because poetry has the capacity to address human thought, passions and social movements.

What aspects of your poetry reader in general and Research scholars in particular must discover and explore?

Gender sensitivity and an ecofeministic approach to poetry/literature thereof—these are the two things that I want my readers to explore in my writings. The two standard stereotypes of women in Indian literature as well as media are the figures of the mother and the adoring lover. In addition to these characters, there are two other typecasts – those of the refined city girl and the less sophisticated rural woman. The two are often compared in a straitjacketed manner to exaggerate the conflict between avant-gardism and orthodoxy. The urban woman is shown or commonly perceived as totally detached from life in the country or from kinsfolks who are not city dwellers. Even in our movies and television programs, two extreme kinds of women—the goddess and the demoness—are represented; the real women, the women like us who have their only too human pains and pleasures are mostly missing! This is a lopsided and simplistic representation of the feminine gender.

If there’s something in Derrida that I fully appreciate, it’s his violation of polarizations in order to accentuate and accept those metamorphoses that are there in each one of us. In response to this thought, I discover many women rethinking their feminism after a certain age, like I am doing at this stage. People amend, circumstances change. Being a strong woman is to be meaningfully flexible. Perhaps we desired the exciting positions at the beginning until such time as we could find our own solidarity as women.

Motherhood is power. But I have always seen mothers as being more defenseless, at least in our society. Yet, I guess that having a son alters your view of all men as antagonists. In an ideal man-woman relationship, dichotomies perhaps should not actually function. It’s only if a power-game is played that consciousness about who’s the subject or object comes out. At a certain level of communication, these kinds of dichotomies collapse. I wonder if all clashes should breakdown in order to multiply the opportunities of women! I discover that the poetics of radicalism is pushed to the boundaries of the ivory tower of academia. I don’t alarm myself much as a feminist with critics and intellectuals as far as my poetry is concerned, even if I delight in reading them at times. I centre on my personae and leave them up to others to decide what they want to examine. As far as my literature is concerned, my poems speak of a female solidarity, authority, individuality and woman’s fight at a distinct level for persistence as well as on the shared level of touching patriarchal coercion. Catastrophe in one phase of women’s existence does not reduce them to adversity. It is their capacity to live life organically according to their own terms, without the shelter provided by men, (which sadly often become an ego booster for the male) that defines them as tough units in any intimidating male world. Their courage, resilience and fortitude in the struggle against all odds make them independent women, fighters and survivors against tyranny, patriarchal or social.  When I write, the substance goes beyond just about everything else in my life. For the time that I am shaping a character, all other concerns become immaterial. Once I finish, I come back to actuality and deal with other worries. My feminine anxiety is not the kind of extreme like Sylvia Plath’s or Emily Dickinson’s, the one that puts one’s head into an oven or something, leaving bread and milk for children. I am a post-modernist and not a modernist because I don’t identify with melancholy. I guess while writing I am redefining knowledge from the past. It’s not a restoration of past experience but a novel creation. Critics have viewed that my recent poetry collection, Sukamaa and Other Poems, is a personal narrative, which, in fact, it is not. I use certain rudiments from life around and counterfeit my opinions to theorize a work of literature in the contemporary situation. Can you salvage the past ? You can recreate it and belong to a tradition, but you can’t reclaim it. True, you antagonize the past in order to travel new distances. We all look for our past to understand and judge ourselves, but in creative writing you can’t just sit at the roots; you have to perceive the unabridged diagram―the diverse aspects that have come to formulate a character. I think that we women mostly start at nothingness, in all our new roles, be it as daughter, wife or mother. The past demarcated us as beings that we never were. We become aliens at each juncture. Simone de Beauvoir would say, we became “other” to the society and to ourselves. Anyway, my idea of feminism is not about protecting women, but of empowering them so much so that protection is not required in their lives.

Again I feel gender study is incomplete without Masculinity Study.Talking about men may appear to be a simple and linear task because we assume that man/masculinity/patriarchy is the standard and everything which needs to be said about men has already been said. Such a prejudice rests on the largely discussed feminist structure that men are sufficiently represented in our literary theories. In the 1960s and 70s, since the publication of Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics (1970), scholars have made feminism, feminist issues, the role of women in literature and society as the point of attention, thus, consigning men to a one-dimensional paradigm. This is prone to view them in a mode as the heads of family and state who exercise power of patriarchy. Thus men have been just subjected to be seen as individuals with power, and we are kind of a priori sure about this vital relationship between gender and power. This is the principle of feminist social inquiry. But this leans towards an oversimplification of the position of men in the social hierarchic order. Masculinity Studies problematizes this reductionist explanation. I guess Masculinity Studies is a kind of re-thinking of feminist criticism as it observes the social production of and changes in ‘masculinities.’

After 1970, feminism evolved into feminisms, it was no narrower but diverse, taking up the questions of race, class and sexuality. Gender Studies emerged as a branch of Women’s Studies, propagating the idea that sex and gender are not the same. Rather gender binary (man/woman) is a social concept, while sex (male/female) is a biological concept. Gender is inaccurately demarcated and historically flexible; thus the connection between gender and sexuality is complex. Gender Studies takes up diverse subjects like the study of man /woman/lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/transvestite/intersex.The result was, Masculinity Studies emerged during the 1970s inclined by Men’s Liberation movements. Masculinities talked of the positions of men in a gender hierarchical order. During this period, male activists felt that masculinity was facing a ‘crisis’ and a new awareness should be created; they were supported by psychoanalysts and sociologists who motivated them to take up the challenges of middle-class masculinity. They planned personal-growth groups through which men could express their sufferings, challenges as men, without having to be worried about their positions. In the academia, researchers tried to recognise the stresses of young men to encounter the accepted standards of masculinity. The argument was that men, and not only women, are marginalised due to the stereotypical gender conventions. The second wave of Masculinity Studies came into being succeeding Third Wave Feminism during the late 1980s. Now Masculinity Studies focused on marginal and minority men and was interested in class, ethnicity and sexual identity of men. Masculinity Studies viewed masculinity as a social construction defining its ideological functions. By the 1990s, Masculinity Studies talked of the problems of men and their association with patriarchal authority–a subject that had till now seemed obvious and therefore gone unchallenged. R.W. Connell’s revolutionary text, Masculinities (1995), claims that there are many masculinities based on common and cultural contests, each related to the points of power. Contemporary Masculinity Studies concerns issues as the discordance of the “Classic Man” with the tests of modernism, the debate over the “New Man”, the issues of masculinity in relation to the issues such as class, race, culture and people. Masculinity Studies seeks to re-think old paradigms of feminist thinking vis-à-vis individuality, victimization and the hierarchies of power. In the process, Masculinity Studies exposes the gaps and conventions in feminist theories with regard to the feminists’ ideas of men and masculinity. Masculinity Studies or Men’s Studies is neither a rejoinder to, nor negation of feminism. Rather it owes to feminism an intellectual obligation. In fact, Masculinity Studies would not have happened without feminism and its search for patriarchal power and freedom. Men’s Studies scholars pool resources with feminists and question the society which considers men and women merely as gendered entities.

I believe writers have a sensible way of addressing a people. The limitations of the society might change from time to time. But good literature goes beyond that subjective cause, a mature writer maintains a healthy writer-community relationship. By tradition, men create and women recreate. But a writer without gender bias is able to do both. Men have been barred from all women’s movements; very few male students take up a course on feminism or feminist theory. This is not a healthy practice and it is essential for the feminists to brush up their approaches and ensure the presence of men in humanist missions rather than narrowing down their ideas as feminist or ‘mennist’. Feminism is after all a significant feature of humanism and condemnation of one gender is of course not going to make the circle complete and successful.

Gender Equality – that is the spirit of my writings. I try to sensitize the society about solidarity. 

How would you describe uniqueness of each of your poetry collections?

I have revealed an independent mind of my own, right from my maiden collection of poems The Other Voice in 2004. The poems in this volume flash images of alienation and existential absurdity, interfusing classical art with my personal as well as social consciousness. In most of the poems,the personae seems to rejoice at the beauty of creation: sometimes ecstatic about being a woman, at other times disturbing the slumber of society on sensitive issues like mental slavery of the human, subjugation of women. Whenever time is ripe, a brainchild, a poem is born from my pen's tongue, setting a living, breathing world that adds fiery fresh flood of poems to the world of Muse. The Silence is my second collection of poems where I have taken care to include poems dealing with the secret chambers of the human heart, which is not so silent afterall! These poems reveal a complex and rich treasure of emotions. As a sensitive poet, I have poured out my concerns, fears and ecstasies through these poems, attempting to trace the contours of the social, philosophical and spiritual environment I inhabit.

In my third poetry collection, Silver Poems on My Lips, published in 2009, Ipour out poetry that oozes from the secret chambers of the heart, though I know well that in an age of material pleasures perhaps it is difficult for the heart to fit in. Thus, an insecurity and reservation moves megreatly in my expedition through life. My moorings however rotate around a belief in human values. Love and poetry are my therapy to live, breathe and sing. Yes I have a mellifluous voice to boot as well, though we are given to understand that it is an extremely private articulation!

In my fourth poetry collection, Sukamaa and Other Poems (2013),Sukamaa is my folklore and the poem is an outcome of my concern for the ‘other’ – the rural, poor tribal woman Sukamaa who is evenly poised between oblivion, nostalgia and an ever hovering presence that impels me to retrace her contours. Thus, my fourth poetry collection Sukamaa and Other Poems is a tribute to the marginal.  Most poems in this volume are the utterance of a revolutionary zeal to straighten out the record between the less and the more fortunate – thereby to set up an inclusive standpoint within the matrix of a complex identity politics.

Sita (A Poem) is my maiden foray into the long narrative genre, published in 2014; its subject takes off from our epic traditions and takes the discourse much further. The poet-thinker-ecofeminist in mehas designed this magnum opus which has always been shaping itself in my subconscious, the writing act of what promises to be a whole new take on the Indian epic has come about when I am convinced that my thoughts have readily found utterance. Sita is, in no way, a retelling of The Ramayana. It is penned rather as a poetic memoir of the heroine of the epic, Sita, told in the first person narrative. It carries my convictions and is the result of an organic fusion of my roving mind.

My edited anthology of women poets Suvarnarekha (2014) is named after the river flowing from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal in India. The origin of the river is River Saraswati, which borrows its name from Goddess Saraswati, the fountain of all wisdom. Suvarnarekha is like a woman—life-giving, eternally-flowing, nourishing, a source of ecstasy and beauty, an epitome of mysticism and sustenance. This anthology validates a new dimension to our approach to women’s poetry in English in India.

How do you see the Literary Scene in India? Is it progressing or retrogressing?

Indian literature today is no more at crossroads. It seems to know at the moment which road to take. This is clear from both its tone and tenor. It is bold and tentative at the same time. As a result, it is avant-garde, not that it intends thereby to deny any established literary norms or order. It is revolutionary in the contented belief that no such order exists or ever existed or is ever necessary. Indian literature is liberal, flexible and ever evolving.

How will you judge the body of contemporary Indian English Poetry?

As late as 1937, Yeats reminded Indian writers that “No man can think or write with music and vigour except in his mother tongue” and called “Indo-Anglian” poetry “a blind alley, lived with curio shops, leading nowhere.” But hundreds of successful, powerful Indian English poets have proved Yeats false. As Daruwalla feels, “for a poet, language has to be used as a sort of acetylene torch with which heat tempts to break barriers. This can only be done if he changes, recreates, transmutes.”And for Kamala Das, “The language one employs is not important. What is important is the thought contained by the words.” And there is no doubt that Indian English poetry contains thought, philosophy, tradition and memory more than any other region.

What is the role of the Central Sahitya Akademi in popularizing the Indian English Literature?

Central Sahitya Akademi is organizing some good programmes to encourage writers and give them a platform to showcase their talents. Recently they invited me and a couple of women poets to a programme called Narichetana. It was wonderful and interactive. I read and discussed my recent poetry collection Sita (A Poem) in the programme, which was very well taken by the erudite audience. Also, their journal Indian Literature is a lasting contribution to Indian literature.

Thank you Dr. Nandini for the engaging and very informative conversation.

 

Mar 022015
 

 

tcije

Vishwanath Bite in Conversation with Utpal Datta

Dr. Vishwanath Bite
Assistant Professor in English
Government of Maharashtra's
Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari (E),
Mumbai, 60. Maharashtra, India.
 

Utpal Datta is a National Film Award-winning film critic, long associated with Bismoi, an entertainment Assamese magazine, Rangghar- cultural monthly and Roopkar-Cultural Monthly and later joins the All India Radio Guwahati, where his book 24 Frames (2008), an anthology of articles on Indian cinema, was released as a radio program.

For few years he represented Assam as a special correspondent to Cinema India International. At present he is working with All India Radio at Guwahati station, the public service broadcaster of India, in the capacity of Programme Executive. He has served AIR stations like Dibrugarh, Nagaon, Williamnagar, Haflong and Guwahati. He is married to Namrata Datta, a writer and research fellow and both of them stay at Guwahati with their daughter Ragamala. He has directed one Impressionistic Short Film By-Lane2 based on works of Noted Assamese Film Journalist PABITRA KUMAR DEKA. The film has been selected for several Film Festivals and for Indian Panorama 2013. His second film is THROUGH TRUST AND FEAR based on philosophy of an eminent Assamese writer NIRUPAMA BARGOHAIN. This film was produced by Mihir Goswami. After this film he made another film – BORGEET – Eti Dhrupadi Ratna based on Borgeet of Assam.

Published books – original work

1. His first published book was Ami Kene Aacho, a short-length play written for environmental theatre. The theme of the play was youth unrest set in a small-town environment. 2. Then he tried to explore a new ground for his writing with a travelogue Aparupa Andaman, which first appeared in one of the leading Assamese journals PRANTIK and later came in a book form and was marked as an instant hit. 3. Then he came with his novel Naishajatri based on day and night life of working women of Guwahati. That book was also a hit for his unique writing style and contemporary theme. In this book he used style from film, radio play and journalistic prose to find out his own way of expression. 4. Mozartor Swaralipi is his only detective novel, later adapted to radio play and TV serial in Assamese and Hindi languages. 5. Though he is primarily known as a film critic and his first book on film writings came vary late. His first book on film study is Chalachitra, an anthology of articles written on various aspects of film of the State and the country. The book was published by one major publisher of the state, Lawyer's book stall. 6. Ki Naam Ei Premar – a novel, based on a real-life love story 7. Maramar Neha – Novel written in a format of letter, translated into Bodo Language also
8. Cine-Quiz – an descriptive quiz book on film

Published books – edited

1. Chalachtra Katha – Film study, Ist Assamese book on film
2. Ekhan Swasa Mukhare – poems of Nabakata Baruah 3. Nabakanta Baruar Uapnyash Samagra – Novels of Nabakata Baruah
4. Satikar Srestha Premar Galpa – Selected Assamese love stories of 20th Century
5. Soi Dasakar Gadya – selected prose of Bhabedra Nath Saikia
6. Sampadakar Kothlait – Bhabendra Nath Saikia's satirical writings
7. Nobel Bota Bijoyi Lekhakar Galpa – translated stories from Nobel Laureates
8. Amar Chinaki Tassaduk – Anthology of articles written on Assamese Actor – Director Tassaduk Usuf.
9. Anirban – Screenplay by Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia
10. Kalasandhya – Screenplay by Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia
11. Agnisnan – Screenplay by Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia
12. Kolahal – Screenplay by Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia
13. Abartan – Screenplay by Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia
14. Itihash – Screenplay by Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia
15. Sandhyarag – Screenplay by Bhabendra Nath Saikia
16. Ganje Fariste – selected writings by SADAT HASAN MANTOO
17. CHALACHITRA – Samoi-Samaj-Nandanttwa Essays on Film

Published books – translated

1. Tuglak and Nagamandala – two plays by Girish Karnad, Tuglak was staged by Seagull group under Bhagirathi's direction.
2. Matra Ata Sparshatei Barashun Diya Megh translation of K Satchidanandan's selected poems.

Other works

1.     Original Play – Godmother, based on women in politics – staged by Hengool Theatre

2.     Adopted play – Kanchan – based on sexual harassment on women in office, staged by Hengool for two continuous years, one of the major play in touring professional theatre of Assam

3.     Translated play – Ayn Rand's Night of 16 January – staged by Aikatan, Guwahati Dooradarshan telecasted this play to observe world theatre day.

Awards

·         RAPA Award for Radio Production (along with Prabal Sarma on AIDS ORPHANS)

·         Special Jury Mention for writing in Cinema at the National Film Awards

·         Moonlight Media Award for Cultural Journalism

·         Jyotirupa Media Award for Film Criticism

·         Laadli Media Award for Radio Production

Utpal

Will you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school and anything in between)

I have passed my childhood and youth in a sleepy small town called NALBARI (Assam). I did my graduation from Nalbari College. Later I joined Cotton College of Guwahati to peruse Post Graduation degree.

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?

Books are my closest friend since the day I could remember. We had a personal library as my grandfather was an avid reader and he has tremendous respect to books. My father was also a writer and translator. Virtually my growing years were passed mostly in company of books. I had no specific choice, I loved all printed words, even today I feel myself as a child while I touch a new book. Right now I am reading few Assamese books, a collection of Hindi poems by Biswanath Prasad Tiwari and few English books. The English books on my study table are – 1. Uneasy Neighbours by Ram Madhav, 2. The Politics of Hindi Cinema in the new millennium by M K Raghabendra, 3. On the wings of Music by Shantanu Moitra

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

I have so many favorite authors in four languages I read. And there are several other authors whom I read in translation also. The list of favourite authors is endless. Yet, my bed-side book is Chanakya’s Arthshastra. And to speak about the impact, all books I read are parts of my growing process as a reader and that reader controls me, shows the path, inspires and provides power to think independently while I try write something. 

What do you do when you are not writing?

I read, I chat with friends, I watch film, I drive, I go for photography, I quarrel with my daughter and above all I do some household works to help my wife (though I can hardly satisfy her).

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Especially Playwrights.

How can I? I am still learning.

Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

I remember, while I was a student of lower class, I found few books where my father’s name was printed in the cover page as the author. That inspired me to see my name in print.  So, while I was a school student, I used to send sketches to the children page of a Daily News paper. One fine day I have discovered my name in that said page along with my drawing. It was a moment of success and achievement. Later I tried my hand in  camera started sending photographs to some news-paper and magazines. My first photograph was published in ASOM BANI, the leading Assamese weekly of that time while I was at class IX. In my college days I used to send my writings for AIR and those were accepted. AIR has offered a good amount of money to the talkers which a great force of motivation. I also wrote for some govt publications and earned a good amount of money. I opened up a bank account to deposit my earnings and later I purchased my first Flash Gun from that gathered money.

Do the Internet and social media contribute to the well-being of Literature?

Yes, I feel internet and social media had helped the writers to get touched with a large number of readers. I meet several important authors and translators via social media and I have translated some of poems and other writings into Assamese. I do not know whether those translations have any importance in perspective of Assamese  literature or not, but I found those interactions very stimulating. 

Which aspects of your writing reader in General and Research scholars in particular must discover and explore?

I do not have a huge numbers of readers of my writings. Sometimes I used to meet someone who has gone through some of my writings. One day one stylish model said – Sir, I read some of your novels and criticisms, you write for the up-market, I love this. Some readers also inform me that they like my content, language and style. What else I can ask for? I wrote only few research papers and I was informed that some people liked my interpretation and observation.

How would you describe uniqueness of each of your Plays?

I cant say, but I tried to construct may plays violating all prevailing structural patterns. I always concentrate on the sub-text, imagery and multi-layered structure. My first play “Ami Kene Aso” (How we are passing our days) was written for a small theatre group. My first concentration was on its production cost- how to minimize it. So I had to depend on its verbal beauty. I relied mostly on dialogues. My second play was a full length drama, written for a professional theatre group. The theme was based on politics of power. The opening point was based on a real political killing of my district. It was written in the pace of a thriller, scenes were constructed like a film screenplay and dialogues were written like a radio play. It was an experiment and audience made the drama a superhit of that year. My 3rd play was based on a novel by Anuradha Sharma Puzari. The theme was sexual harassment in office. I took the theme and re-construct the story according to my need, the need of the production company. It was produced as a low budget production but was a hit and was being staged for two years continuously. This play is considered now as a ‘cult-play’ because of its content and narrative. After 12 years I wrote another play based on the same novel. This time the play was planned as stage adaptation of the novel. A non-professional group staged play and made it a success.

How to you see the role of Translations in Modern Indian Theatre?

Modern Indian Theatre is growing with translation (translated plays). The theatre groups are facing problem of good plays and they solve the problem with translated and adopted plays, plays from regional languages or also from non-Indian languages too.

Are there any new Indian Playwrights that have grasped your interest? 

Recently I have watched a Hindi play, title ‘Koi Baat Chale’, written by Ramji Bali and I found the narrative is unpredictable and grasping. But is it always tough to find a script with great philosophical depth..

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing? What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

This is an era of computer and internet. I feel in this era, eBook will occupy the lion’s share of printed books. But personally I am not comfortable in reading eBooks.

How will you judge the body of Contemporary Indian Writing in English?

Contemporary Indian Writing in English is controlled by book publishers. Good promotion makes a book ‘hit’ like a Bollywood Masala film. We hardly found any thought provoking element in modern Indian English writings. Of course, this comment is confined with fiction only.

What projects are you working on at the present? And what do your plans for future projects include?

At this moment I am translating an anthology of poems by Dr Ratan Bhattacharya. It is in final stage. I have three books in my hand for review. Besides that I am adopting one of my novels into radio play and working on a screenplay for my next short film. I am also planning a coffee-table book with my photograph.

At the end I wish to say that reading, writing, translation, photography, film-making – all are worship of beauty and humanity. I cannot find any differences among those. I love and practice all those as one as a whole. 

 

Mar 022015
 

 

tcije

Vishwanath Bite in Conversation with K. Satchidanandan

 

Dr. Vishwanath Bite
Assistant Professor in English
Government of Maharashtra's
Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari (E),
Mumbai, 60. Maharashtra, India.

K.Satchidanandan is a poet of national and international repute writing in Malayalam. He has a doctorate in post-Structuralist poetics and was Professor of English at Christ College, University of Calicut, Kerala, editor of Indian Literature, the journal of the Sahitya Akademi(The National Academy of Letters) and later the Chief Executive of the Akademi. He then worked as a Language Policy Consultant for the Govt of India and has also been associated with Katha, Delhi. He edits the SAARC journal Beyond Borders in English, the poetry quarterly Kerala Kavita in Malayalam and the South Asian Library of Literature. He retired from Indira Gandhi National Open University in 2011. He is also on the Project Advissory Board of Indian Literature Abroad, a Govt. of India Initiative.

He has 21 collections of poetry in Malayalam besides 16 collections of world poetry in translation and 23 collections of critical essays and interviews besides four collections of essays in English. He has edited several anthologies of poetry and prose in Malayalam, English and Hindi. He has 27 collections of his poems in translation in 17 languages, including five collections in English, six in Hindi and one each in Arabic, German, French and Italian besides all the major Indian languages. He has won 21 awards for his literary contribution including Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad Award,( Kolkata) Gangadhar Meher Award( Orissa), Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award (4 times), Kumaran Asan Award ( Chennai),Bapureddy National Award ( Hyderabad) Kerala Varma Award, Ulloor Award, P. Kunhiraman Nair Award, Odakkuzhal Award, Vayalar Award,Padmaprabha Award ( Kerala) Beharain Keraleeya Samajam Award, Oman Cultural Centre Award, Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan Award, (Kuwait), NTR National Award (Andhra Pradesh), Kusumagraj National Award (Maharashtra) etc. besides Sahityasree from the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Delhi, Senior Fellowship from the Department of Culture, Government of India, Sreekant Verma Fellowship from the Government of Madhya Pradesh and the K.K.Birla Fellowship for Comparative Literature. Many of his books of poetry and criticism have been textbooks in Universities.He won the Sahity Akademi award in 2012. A film on him, Summer Rain was released in 2007.

Satchidanandan has represented India in several international literary events like the international literary festivals in Sarajevo, Berlin, Montreal, Beijing, Moscow, Ivry-sur Seine, Jaipur, Delhi, Montreal , Hay Festival-Trivandrum and Kovalam and book fairs at Delhi, Lahore, Kolkata, Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt, Leipzeg, London, Paris and Moscow besides having readings and talks at Bonn, Rome, Verona, Ravenna, Leiden, NewYork, St.Petersburg, Damascus, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Sharjah, Singapore etc. besides most of the cities in India. Satchidanandan has been honoured with Knighthood of the Order of Merit by the Government of Italy, with the Dante Medal by the Dante Institute, Ravenna and the India-Poland Friendship Medal by the Government of Poland. He has also been an activist for secularism, environment and human rights.

Satchidanandan

Will you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school and anything in between)

I was born in a lower middle class family in village in central Kerala. My childhood was not extraordinary. I studied in common government schools with Malayalam as the medium. I was interested in languages from the very beginning. We had two libraries in our village. My early reading was done in those well-stocked libraries. It included besides the great works of literature in Malayalam, translations of Tagore, Saratchandra, Tarashankar Banerjee, Manik Banerjee, Bimal Mitra,Yashpal, Krishan Chandar, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and many others. I also read abridgements of Western classics in Malayalam as well as English. In the colleges I attended my reading took new directions. I read the major English poets and novelists besides works from around the world. My first poem was published in a manuscript magazine published by the village library when I was 13. Since then I have been writing poetry though I began to take myself seriously only when I was a post-graduate student and began to publish in reputed magazines.

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?

I have already spoken about the books I was reading in school and college. I read on an average 150  books an year, besides referring to many others. I red two or three books at the same time, like now I am reading Amir Or's collection of poems Dialogos, Akil Bilgrami's (ed) Demoratic Culture and Githa Hariharan'sAlmost Home.

What inspires you to write poetry?

The initial spark could come from anywhere, an incident, a character, a thought, a experience, a word, even another  poem, 

Who are some of your favorite poets?

Rainer Maria Rilke, Garcia Lorca,  Cesar Vallejo, Fernando Pessoa, Paul Celan, Wislawa Szymborska, George Herbert

What advice do you have for aspiring poets?

Be honest. Do not fake emotions. Avoid cliches like plague. Make it new.

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

While a post graduate student. When I wrote my nightmarish poem on Vietnam. Then I realised I needed to express myself and my medium was poetry.

Do the Internet and social media contribute to the well-being of poetry?

They can be used to publish/ publicise good poetry as well as bad poetry, like any other medium. They give us freedom, and that freedom comes with alot of responsibility as there is no one to stop you r even criticise you- your friends are likely to exaggerate the quality of what you write, so you have to be very careful and self-critical.

What do most poorly-written poems have in common?

Cliches

What do most well-written poems have in common?

Freshness and  surprise of both imagination and  language.

Why is it such a difficult market for poets right now?

Good poets never had a market ; they propagated their own poetry as it happened with Kabir  or had patrons as had Ghalib. And a good poet also does not worry about market. He/ she looks for the genuine reader rather than a crowd of  consumers.

Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?

It keeps changing with each new poet I discover and each new poem I write. Poetry is beyond definition: one can only say it expresses something no other genre of literature or art can express in the same way.

What aspects of your poetry reader in general and Research scholars in particular must discover and explore?

It is upto them to choose. There have been several M Phil and P D theses on my poetry and many books of studies too- they have looked at my concept of love, women, politics, language,  my symbols and images, my concept of  poetry itself.

How would you describe uniqueness of each of your poetry collections?

I try to move a step ahead and keep trying new forms and articulating new aspects of human experience. I do not always succeed.

Are there any new poets that have grasped your interest? 

George Szirtes, Nikolai Mazdirov,  Amir Or, Vivek Narayanan, Latheesh Mohan from different languages. 

How do you see the Literary Scene in India? Is it progressing or retrogressing?

There is no liner progress in literature. Always there are good works and bad works.  That is happening still. Numerically there has been a growth as literacy has increased, this has little to do with quality.But, yes, there are new writers and movements that keep our writing vibrant.

How will you judge the body of Contemporary Indian Writing in English in general and Indian English Poetry in particular?

A lot of is just junk. But there are writers like Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie,  Jhumpa lahiri, Anees Saleem, Jeet Thayil, Rahul Bhattacharya, a lot of others. In poetry we have Arundhati Subrahmanyam, Vivek Narayanan, Jeet Thayil, Robin S Ngangom besides of course the senior poets like Adil Jussawalla, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Jayanta Mahapatra and others.

What is the role of the Central Sahitya Akademi in popularizing the Indian English Literature?

The Akademi has recognised english as one of the 24  India. It has a scheme to publish the first collections besides translations. It gives awards for creative writing in English, translation, young writing and children's writing every year.

 

Mar 022015
 

 

tcije

Vishwanath Bite in Conversation with Mahesh Dattani

 

Dr. Vishwanath Bite
Assistant Professor in English
Government of Maharashtra's
Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari (E),
Mumbai, 60. Maharashtra, India.

 

Described as 'one of India's best and most serious contemporary playwrights writing in English' by Alexander Viets in the International Herald Tribune, Mahesh Dattani is the first playwright in English to be awarded the Sahitya Akademi award. Born on August 7, 1958, Mahesh Dattani received his early education at Baldwin's High School and then went on to join St. Joseph's College of Fine Arts and Sciences, Bangalore

Prior to his stint with the world of theater Mahesh used to work as a copywriter in an advertising firm. He has also worked with his father in the family business. In 1984 he founded his playgroup 'Playpen' and in 1986 he wrote his first play ' Where There's A Will'. Since then he has written many plays such as Tara,Night Queen, Final Solutions and Dance Like A Man. All the plays of Mahesh Dattani are based on the social issues. Apart from theater Mahesh Dattani is also active in the field of film making. His films have been appreciated all over the world. One of his film 'Dance Like A Man' has won the award for the best picture in English awarded by the National Panorama. 

Mahesh

You are the leading voice of Modern Indian Theatre; almost all Universities prescribed your plays for undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Yet, all academic discussion is limited to text rather than stage. How do you feel about it?

I feel that this kind of study, where the play text is studied only as words on a page, is incomplete even from a literary perspective. A play is written with the intent of having it performed. The spoken word is only one aspect of the language of a play. Very often a play contains strong images, sounds, physical action and symbolism that come alive on stage once it is created in time and space. As a playwright, you are in a way, dimensioning a story. Offering gravity and levity, depth and perspective, tone and rhythm, cross-currents and under-currents – all these must be a part of any pedagogic study of drama.  Drama is a temporal-spatial medium the same as dance. So studying a play in the classroom is almost as complicated as studying a dance form without actually having experienced it through a dance performance. Even if the intent is to study it as a work of literature (as in the case of Shakespeare), one can only fully appreciate the writer’s craft when one understands why the work is constructed the way it is. For instance, one can appreciate the mastery over words and the depth of philosophy in Macbeth’s monologue “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”. But you can only feel the bhava of that brilliant monologue through the performance, where an embittered Macbeth, who has just heard the tragic news of the death of his wife, must now reflect upon his own life.

Modern Indian Theatre is locked in cities these days. Few centers like Mumbai, Delhi, Banglore, Chennai and Kolkata produce large number of plays. Earlier ‘Drama’ was accessible to mass audience. What do you think can be done to take drama back to mass audience beyond elite audience?

That is a sad reflection of the status of drama in our society. That only a privileged few can take to drama and that too as an indulgence. Traditions such as Ramlila, Raasleela and folk forms depended on the tradition of learning from ones father. Today, the children of such artistes, understandably, want to venture forth and seek their future in more lucrative professions. To me that is the real loss. The Tawaif culture, because of the stigma attached to the artistes who had the courage to practice their art against all social odds, is now completely buried and waiting to be forgotten. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised during a recent visit to Begusarai in Bihar that the theatre tradition is very much alive. Farmers gather to perform stage adaptations of famous literary works. Similarly places in Manipur, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh have thriving non-urban theatre activity which is deeply rooted in the region’s socio-political identity. Perhaps, it is not a question of taking urban theatre to the masses, but of acknowledging and supporting a healthy artistic growth within various communities. Our Shaws and Shakespeares will come from rural India and not from the cities. There is a wealth of talent and life experience waiting to find expression through theatre and other means!

Fragmented characters, broken dialogues, a rejection of the notions of "High" and "Low" art, the freedom of form, illogical and without plot or necessary conflict are some of the major characteristics of postmodern theatre. Do you see Modern Indian Theatre is slowly moving that way? Or Rich tradition of conventional theatre is more dominant than that of western postmodern theatre?

It is hard to say what is predominant in our theatre. This idea of postmodern theatre is a very city based idea. Being an urban playwright myself, I am very conscious of making statements based on my own limited perspective of Indian theatre. The more I see, the less I know. I have never been one for theorizing anyway! But yes, I would definitely like to reject any modernist concept of so called high art and low art. In fact, art itself is an overused word. Yet, I don’t see myself as postmodernist as I can appreciate the beauty of traditional art forms.

If we look back to the History of Indian Theatre, it started and went on doing musical theatre. “Natyageet’ is almost disappeared from Modern Indian Theatre. What do you think is the reason behind it?

I strongly believe that if we want a mass movement in theatre today in our country, we must go back to Natya sangeet theatre. The aesthetics of musical drama are in our blood. Bollywood exploits that craving for a cocktail of dance, drama and music. Perhaps the reason for the decline of musical theatre, a rich and popular tradition especially in Gujarati, Bengali and Marathi theatre, is not loss of mass appeal but the fact that drama troupes have less and less time at their disposal for training and rehearsing. The company theatres had full fledgedtaleem masters, dance and music maestros who would train the actors holistically. Many of them remained with the company till their death. Today time is of essence and the meter starts ticking once you begin rehearsals. In fact, I would love to see a revival of musical drama.

You are the only playwright who interacts a lot through social media. Is it about knowing more of people and their thought process in general and Understanding society around in particular.  Do you find your characters in them?

Yes! By nature I am very reserved and like to keep my space private. However, social media has helped me discover a more social side in me. I must say it has been very beneficial in helping me empathize more with people and provides grist to my creative mill.

You have been conducting workshops for playwrights and actors since you were in Bangalore and it still is going on in Mumbai. What according to you is the most difficult part of teaching ‘writing for theatre’?

I think writing for the theatre is a very very demanding craft. The most difficult thing to ‘teach’ is the awareness that plays are written and re-written. With every new draft you get closer to making it a performance script. Also, many students find it hard to go deeper into their characters’ worlds and truly marry their imagination with their sense of reality. That too is a reflection of our times where depth is sacrificed for width. 

Mar 022015
 

 

tcije

Vishwanath Bite in Conversation with Kavery Nambisan

Dr. Vishwanath Bite
Assistant Professor in English
Government of Maharashtra's
Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari (E),
Mumbai, 60. Maharashtra, India.
 

Kavery Nambisan is a novelist from India. Kavery Nambisan was born in Palangala village in south Kodagu, India, in a politician's family. Her father, C.M. Poonacha, was at one time a Union railway minister. She spent her early years in Madikeri. She studied medicine in St. John's Medical College, Bangalore from 1965 and then studied surgery at the University of Liverpool, England, where she obtained the FRCS qualification. She worked as a surgeon in various parts of rural India before moving to Lonavala to start a free medical centre for migrant labourers. Her published Books include:

Once Upon a Forest, Children's Book Trust, India, 1986. (As Kavery Bhatt.)

Kitty Kite, Children's Book Trust, India, 1987. (As Kavery Bhatt.)

The Truth (almost) About Bharat, Penguin India, 1991. (As Kavery Bhatt.)

The Scent of Pepper, Penguin India, 1996.

Mango-coloured fish, Penguin India, 1998.

On Wings of Butterflies, Penguin India, 2002.

The Hills of Angheri, Penguin, 2005.

The Story that Must Not Be Told, Penguin, 2010.

KaveryNambisan

Will you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school and anything in between)

 I was born in my mother’s home in Palangala, a small village in Kodagu district, Karnataka. I studied in a local, Kannada-medium  school until I was eleven. Later in Delhi and Bangalore when my father moved, on work.

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?

Obviously, my early reading was all in Kannada, a language I love. I read our mythologies, children’s magazines like the Chandamama and a few translated works like stories from Arabian Nights. I was always precocious as a reader and read adult books when I could get them.

In Delhi, once I had learnt English, many doors were opened through the school library. At home, there was no one who read much, I think so I read whatever my father had. I remember reading a biography of General Montgomery and another of General Thimmaiah who was well-known to my parents. I read Pasternak’s Dr Zivago and Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, some of Pearl Buck and a collection of salacious short stories. And in school, Dickens, Enid Blyton, comic books. Sadly, I lost touch with my Kannada literature for a long while.

Right now I am reading several books. Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh, Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Kipling’s Kim – they are eternal favourites that I like to read often. My husband recently found an excellent book of short stories, On Doctoring, published in the ‘90’s. It is a treasure to savour slowly.

I read all types of books, particularly good-quality thrillers and humour. I like the classics from any part of the world.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

 Favourite authors! There are too many of them. Kipling, Robert Graves and George Orwell are up there as some of the best writers in the English language. There is much to learn from them and from the best poets, from Shakespeare, from good playwrights like Girish Karnad and Tendulkar. I am strongly influenced by my rural background and my language base in Kannada, even though I don’t write in Kannada. The reason of course is that English has become the language in which I can express myself best. Also, it has a stretchable vocabulary that I can exploit to say what I want to.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Being a surgeon, I don’t have much spare time to speak of. I do house-work, some basic cooking (not very good!), I read and go for long walks. But my best form of leisure is to sit around doing nothing; or have an intimate conversation with a friend over tea-coffee. Nothing to beat that.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

 I’m hesitant to offer advice because every writer, like myself, has a lot of learn. But my way is to write honestly and clearly, without being self-conscious; to read widely, with a critical eye and when you discover good writers, see how they do it; learn to read your own work like a reader and editor and revise as many times as required. If you are serious about being a writer, you need to be persistent and stubborn, have a good measure of humility and humour.

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

I don’t know of any such epiphany. I always loved words, stories and the way language can be used. Now I know that doctoring and writing are the two things I am passionate about.

Do the Internet and social media contribute to the well-being of Literature?

 I’m hardly the person to comment. I use internet for emails only and the computer to write. I’m not savvy with the internet, smart phones etc and have no particular desire to improve my skills. However, I may be forced to do so and then I will do it, with some reluctance.

Which aspects of your writing reader in general and Research scholars in particular must discover and explore?

 I wouldn’t be so presumptious as to advise either.

Tell me about A Town Like Ours

A Town Like Ours speaks in the voice of Rajakumari, an aging prostitute. But it is actually the voice of an era gone by, of a village which has be transformed into a town. The story is stiched in an old-fashioned way of story-telling, bit by bit, scene by scene, with a villager’s eye and ear for the changes that have happened, the destruction it has wrought. The lives of the four protagonists in the story are interwoven into that of the village. You have to listen to this novel as you read in order to get the true flavour of it.

Are there any new writers and poets that have grasped your interest? 

There are many. I like the work of Hilary Mantel, Jonathan Franzen and Mohammed Hanif. I’m always on the lookout for good writing and if I pick up a mediocre book, I rarely finish it.

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing? What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

 I’m a writer and will write no matter what the mode of printing is. I am not at all comfortable in the new, breathless, glitzy world of quick-sell and it is difficult enough to keep my sanity when I am surrounded by it. But luckily we live in rural Karnataka and so I can hide for as long as I wish. And write the way I want. But it would be foolish to shut my eyes to reality and ignore the developments. I wait and I watch. And hope that Art survives.

How do you see the Literary Scene in India? Is it progressing or retrogressing?

There are many unhealthy trends, as you can see. In a publicity-driven world, writers too are asking for ‘celebrity status’ and killing themselves, literally, by rushing around ‘net-working’. You need to promote yourself a little bit maybe but not the way it is now. I believe that in the end, merit will survive.

How will you judge the body of Contemporary Indian Writing in English?

 It is still trying to get there. Honestly, I don’t think we have done anything to be proud of, we haven’t produced great writers.

What is the role of the Central Sahitya Akademi in popularizing the Indian English Literature?

It plays a very significant role in taking literature to various parts of the country and in giving regional language writers the credit due to them. There is some wonderful writing going on in many languages and thanks to good translations, we are able to read them. Sahitya Akademi should always aim to work towards sustaining merit. Which I hope is what it is doing.

What projects are you working on at the present? And What do your plans for future projects include?

 I am writing a non-fiction book on health care in India. I am also thinking of my next novel. 

Mar 022015
 

 

tcije

Vishwanath Bite in Conversation with Chitra Banerjee-Divakaruni

 

Dr. Vishwanath Bite
Assistant Professor in English
Government of Maharashtra's
Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari (E),
Mumbai, 60. Maharashtra, India.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning and bestselling author, poet, activist and teacher of writing. Her work has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, the O.Henry Prize Stories and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. Her books have been translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Bengali, Russian and Japanese, and many of them have been used for campus-wide and city-wide reads. Several of her works have been made into films and plays.She lives in Houston with her husband Murthy and has two sons, Anand and Abhay, who are in college.

Born in Kolkata, India, she came to the United States for her graduate studies, receiving a Master’s degree in English from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, which has begun to appear in her writing.

Divakaruni teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the University of Houston, where she is the Betty and Gene McDavid Professor of Creative Writing. She serves on the Advisory board of Maitri in the San Francisco Bay Area and Daya in Houston. Both are organizations that help South Asian or South Asian American women who find themselves in abusive or domestic violence situations. She served on the board of Pratham, an organization that helps educate underprivileged children in India, for many years and is currently on their emeritus board.

Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies by filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges (an English film) and Suhasini Mani Ratnam (a Tamil TV serial) respectively. A short story, "The Word Love," from her collection Arranged Marriage, was made into a bilingual short film in Bengali and English, titled Ammar Ma. All the flims have won awards.

chitra+blue+close

Will you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school and anything in between)

I grew up in a traditional middle class family in Bengal. I went to Loreto and to Presidency College, where I studied literature.

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?

 I read a lot of British literature when in college. Since coming to America, I have read more American literature, especially multicultural. I love reading Bengali novels, too.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

I have been influenced by other Indian/ Indian American writers as well as multicultural writers. Women have had a special impact on me. Writers such as Amitv Ghosh, Bharati Mukherjee, Anita Desai, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Bankim Chandra, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Suchitra Bhattacharya, Maxine Hong Kingston, Margaret Atwood, Cristina Garcia and Toni Morrison have influenced me.

What do you do when you are not writing?

 I like reading, watching movies, playing scrabble and chess, going for long walks, spending time with family and working out in the gym.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

 Keep at it, don’t give up. Getting published sometimes takes a lot of effort and time. Meanwhile read widely, develop a regular writing habit, revise carefully, and if possible join a writers group so that you have good people giving you feedback.

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

Some years after I immigrated to the US. I wanted to chronicle the immigrant stories of women as best as I could. Arranged Marriage, my first collection, came out of that.

Do the Internet and social media contribute to the well-being of Literature?

They can if used wisely. The internet is a two-edged sword.

Which aspects of your writing readers in general and Research scholars in particular must discover and explore?

Some areas are: my use of mythology, my analysis of changing women’s roles, American life, immigrant life, multigenerational family relationships.

Tell me about Oleander Girl

Oleander Girl is at once an adventure tale and a mythic quest in search of self. There is a secret at the heart of the book. But it’s also a novel about the changes occurring in India, and the clashes between traditional lifestyles and the global lifestyle. It moves between India and America, portraying the post Godhra conflicts in India and the post 9/11 problems in America.

Do you believe that all your novels are buildingsroman? i found most of your protagonist’s journey towards perfection.

Not all of them are bildingsromans. But Oleander Girl certainly is–it's korobi's hero's journey. May be Sister of My Heart also.

How would you differentiate Indian Readers with Western readers especially in terms of reception of the books

Good readers are surprisingly similar, no matter what country they come from. They are sensitive to the nuances of characterization and irony. The knowledge base is a bit different, and sometimes what they like best about the book is different. For instance, US readers love the India parts of my novel best. Indian readers love details of immigrant life.

What is the reason behind your choice of mythical women characters?

From an early age I am fascinated by myth, fairy tale and folktale. They are resonant & timeless.

I found juxtaposition of culture in majority of your novels. if i am not wrong human being is always curious about the counter cultures. as you said Indian readers are fond of immigrant life and European are fond of Indian way of living, how would you balance both the cultures in your novel, especially when you are dealing with mythical character.

That is the challenge in the mythical novel. Another challenge: how to create a sense of that ancient magical world and yet make it timeless and contemporary, full of issues of importance to today's reader.

To what extent are your women characters autobiographical?

Not really autobiographical at all. Their lives are far more exciting than mine!

Are there any new Indian writers and poets that have grasped your interest? 

So many. I recently read a novel by Sandip Roy, Don’t Let Him Know. It is, among many things, about the gay experience.

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing? What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

I am fine with whatever allows a reader to access books easily. I see us moving more to e books—I have started reading them more and more. I like the fact that they conserve trees.

How do you see the Literary Scene in India? Is it progressing or retrogressing?

Exciting lit scene in India! So many new writers. I was at the Jaipur festival some time back and was amazed at the large and enthusiastic crowds.

What is the role of the Central Sahitya Akademi in popularizing the Indian English Literature?

I think they have made many people aware of books they would not otherwise have known about. They are doing important work

What projects are you working on at the present? And What do your plans for future projects include?

I am working on a collection of linked stories (a novel in stories) about 3 generations of a family of women. Next is a novel based on the Ramayana, from the perspectives of women. 

What is your recent proud achievement?

Recently I was included by the Economic Times in their list of 20 most influential global Indian Women. That was very exciting!

Mar 022015
 

 

tcije

Vishwanath Bite in conversation with Arundhathi Subramaniam

 

Dr. Vishwanath Bite
Assistant Professor in English
Government of Maharashtra's
Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari (E),
Mumbai, 60. Maharashtra, India.

 

Arundhathi is the author of four books of poetry, most recently When God is a Traveller (HarperCollins India, New Delhi, 2014  and Bloodaxe Books, Newcastle, 2014). Her prose works include the bestselling biography of a contemporary mystic (Sadhguru: More Than a Life, Penguin) and a book on the Buddha (The Book of Buddha, Penguin, reprinted several times). As editor, she has worked on a Penguin anthology of essays on sacred journeys in the country (Pilgrim’s India),  co-edited a Penguin anthology of contemporary Indian love poems in English (Confronting Love) and edited an anthology of post-Independence poetry for Sahitya Akademi (Another Country).  
 She has received the Raza Award for Poetry (2009), as well as the Charles Wallace Fellowship (for a 3-month writing residency at the University of Stirling) in 2003; the Visiting Arts Fellowship for a poetry tour of the UK (organized by the Poetry Society) in 2006; and the Homi Bhabha Fellowship in 2012. Her recent book, When God is a Traveller (Bloodaxe Books, 2014), is a Poetry Book Society Choice shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Arundhathi has worked at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, for several years, leading a discussion-based inter-arts forum named Chauraha. She has also been Head of Indian Classical Dance at the NCPA. She has written on literature, classical dance, theatre and culture for various newspapers (including The Times of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express, among others) since 1989. She has also been columnist on culture and literature for Time Out, Mumbai, The Indian Express and New Woman.

Arundhathi

Will you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school and anything in between)

I was born in Mumbai (Bombay at the time), which is also the city I grew up in. It’s the city that I consider to be mine, although I now spend long spells of time away from it. It’s an exasperating city. I have deeply ambivalent feelings about it. There’s much to dislike, but the affection for it is also real.

I studied at the JB Petit High School in south Bombay. It was a progressive school, run by a dynamic and visionary principal. But I was always uncomfortable with the standardization that the institution of a school, by definition, seems to entail. And although I was a reasonably good student, I spent a good deal of my time, longing to be elsewhere. (My poem, ‘Side-gate’, is precisely about that kind of daydream of escape that I often engaged in, but never had the nerve to execute!)

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?

I was omnivorous as a reader from the start. But I was always excited about poetry. My taste in poetry was varied and has continued to be that way. In my adolescent and early adult years, it ranged from Wallace Stevens to Basho, Rilke to Margaret Atwood, Neruda to Arun Kolatkar, TS Eliot to Denise Levertov. A very eclectic menu! Some of the old favourites remain by my bedside table, or within arm’s reach – Neruda and Kolatkar, for instance. But for some years now, I also find myself reading a lot of AK Ramanujan and John Burnside.

The other passion that has remained constant is Eastern philosophy and spiritual literature. Initially, my tastes were more philosophical; later they veered unabashedly towards mystical literature. For years on end, I read no novels whatsoever (except for some British crime fiction writers), and immersed myself in literature related to the mystics – from Ramana Maharishi to Meister Eckhart, from the Buddha to Ramakrishna Paramahansa, and many between and beyond.

Other than poetry and spiritual literature, I retain an abiding love of the 19th century women novelists – Austen, George Eliot, the Bronte sisters. For lighter reading, I enjoy crime fiction, preferably interwar British novels, authored by women writers, with a body in the library thrown in for good measure! It’s wonderful comfort literature.

What inspires you to write poetry?

If the question is why I am drawn to poetry, the answer is several reasons. 1. It’s the shortest and most direct route to the self that I know. 2. It’s the art of the murmur. It reminds me of the sorcery of the hushed voice. 3. It allows me to inhabit a moment more fully than I would otherwise. 4. It is truly a dark art – its economy and compression can leave one chemically altered and enduringly transformed. 5. It’s a form that allows for self-revelation and self-composition at the same time. 6. It is the realm of metaphor – that magic archaeology that leads one to places one never imagined. 7. Above all, it embraces silences more than any verbal art I know. It compels me, as a reader and as a writer, to make my peace with pauses, with blank spaces, with gaps, with commas, with hyphens, with uncertainties.

If the question is about how a poem begins, I’d say an image is usually the starting point. Or else, there’s a strong emotional charge that demands to be expressed. Sometimes, in a moment of relative quiet, a line appears that demands to be followed to its end. Once I write a draft, I usually put away the poem for days, sometimes months. When I return to it – and it’s usually a carefully arranged accident – I read it afresh. That freshness of reading is vital. If the poem still holds, I know I can trust it. That’s when the process of reworking and revising begins. If it doesn’t hold, I know it can be put away without too much personal regret.

Who are some of your favorite poets?

I’ve answered this earlier, and they are too many to name. But currently, I’m reading a lot of the Bhakti poets (having worked on an anthology of Bhakti poetry called Eating God, published a couple of months ago by Penguin.). So, at present, my favourites are Nammalvar (translated by AK Ramanujan), Tukaram (translated by Dilip Chitre), and Annamacharya (translated by V Narayana Rao and David Shulman).

What advice do you have for aspiring poets?

For one, make sure you read as well as write. Far too many young people write poems, but make no effort to read anyone else! It’s a strange and unfortunate situation. Go out there and buy books of poetry. If you expect to be read, make sure you read others as well. Besides, if you truly enjoy poetry, how can you not read it?

Secondly, don’t be in a hurry to publish. Take your time writing, rewriting, reading — and above all, listening. A good poet is a good listener above all. Marinate in the art, and gradually the timbre of your own individual voice begins to emerge. It can take decades, but when it does begin to happen, it can be so heady and rewarding that it’s worth the wait.

Thirdly, don’t write poems because you want to make money or get famous. It won’t happen. Poetry is a low-key art, a quiet art. And its relative invisibility, I’m learning to understand, is its strength.

And finally, I’d say a writing group can help hone one’s understanding of form and craft tremendously. Consider starting or joining one. The crucial ingredient is to find a group that is supportive but not uncritical. And make sure you keep the focus on hands-on workshop critique, not on self-congratulation!

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

I think I knew I wanted to be around words – listen to them, utter them, play with them, string them into patterns — even as a child. But the urge for self-expression took on another urgency as an adolescent. It took me many years after that to see that poems can emerge not just from the urge to splatter myself on the page, but also from the ability to listen deeply. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I really do think that when we’re lucky, poetry is just an inspired eavesdropping on the self.

Do the Internet and social media contribute to the well-being of poetry?

I guess they do. I still prefer the older technology – books. But that’s a generational preference, I suppose.

I don’t spend too much time on the social media. But I must add that I’ve been editor of the India domain of the Poetry International Web since its inception in 2004, and feel grateful and humbled by the incredible variety of Indian poets in various languages whose work I’ve been fortunate enough to read and present. In addition, the Poetry International has awakened me to contemporary voices from places as varied as Israel, Zimbabwe, Ukraine and China – all because it promotes quality English translations of international poetry. It’s a tremendous resource for anyone interested in poetry.

What do most poorly-written poems have in common?

What a good question! I suppose I’d say, first and foremost, a lack of precision. Poetry, for all its celebration of ambiguity and paradox, is a highly precise art. This may sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t. It takes great exactitude to arrive at a line that has texture, and multiple shades of meaning.

The other thing that makes for indifferent poetry is a lack of intensity. A good poem must scorch the page. You may have a certain verbal facility but when there’s no voltage, you end up with just a tepid poem.

Then there are tonally flat statement poems that are more prosy and journalistic than anything else. For me, a poem is a verbal utterance that dances – it should have the ability to leap from one point to the other without joining the dots. It is emphatically not plodding, terrestrial language. There should also be an element of danger about it – the sense that you are in the presence of language on the verge of taking off from the page to some unknown destination.

What do most well-written poems have in common?

Precision and passion. Honesty and dexterity. The capacity to lead one into places of illumination and mystery at the same time.  

Why is it such a difficult market for poets right now?

It has been for quite a while. And I used to grumble a great deal about it. But I’ve actually begun to see that this state of marginality has its advantages. It gives you the freedom to take your time over your work, to experiment, to extend yourself, without worrying about external variables like marketing, sales and the like.

Why don’t people read poems as much as novels? Multiple reasons, I suppose. Above all, I think people are daunted by poetry. They believe it’s a formidable, difficult art. Then there’s the perception (fostered by generations of schoolteachers) that you’ve ‘understood’ a poem only if you can ‘paraphrase’ it. In other words, we’ve been encouraged to believe that a poem is only about its meaning. We haven’t been urged to see it as a complex compound of form and content, of sound and semantics.   

Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?

Yes, I suppose I saw it more as self-expression in the past. And now, more as an act of attunement, of alignment, of listening, as I said earlier. What has stayed the same, however, is a love of language and its resources. What has also stayed the same is a love of the image, rhythm and tone – all ingredients I consider vital in poetry.

What aspects of your poetry reader in general and Research scholars in particular must discover and explore?

I think an attentive ‘deep focus’ exploration rather than a set of premeditated conclusions is what I wish for more of. I also wish academics and serious readers would focus not just on the ‘what’ but on the ‘how’ of poetry, not just on sociology but on the more sensuous aspects of the poems. I’d be interested in readers taking the cues from the poems themselves — looking for recurrent images; mapping changes of direction from one book to another; exploring the ways in which certain themes are treated; for instance, following certain preoccupations, such as the existential journey, or gender, or love, or the city, and exploring how the treatment changes within and between books.

How would you describe uniqueness of each of your poetry collections?

Looking back, I think the first book, On Cleaning Bookshelves (Allied Publishers, 2001), was a stylistically varied volume because the poems in it happened over a period of ten years. It was an exuberant volume, and I’m still fond of it. It contained many of the themes that have remained abiding preoccupations – relationships, cities, gender, the spiritual quest. The second book, Where I Live (Allied Publishers, 2005), was more cohesive in some ways. All the poems returned time and again to the theme of belonging — or not belonging — on various levels, ranging from the personal and geographical to the political and spiritual. The third book, Where I Live: New and Selected Poems (2009, Bloodaxe Books) compiled the first two volumes with new work. In the new work, there was a fascination with places of convergence between the sacred and the sensual, the erotic and the existential. In the new collection, When God is a Traveller (HarperCollins, India and Bloodaxe Books, UK), the dominant preoccupation is journeys as a source of dislocation and discovery, ancient human pilgrimages from innocence to experience. There is also a need to engage with certain mythic archetypes (such as Shakuntala or Muruga) and draw nourishment from their explosive transformative potential.      

Are there any new poets that have grasped your interest?

In India, there are several fine young poets writing today, many of them women. Recently, I’ve been reading the work of Karthika Nair, Mona Zote, Anindita Sengupta and Anupama Raju, and find them strong and interesting in different ways and for different reasons.

How do you see the Literary Scene in India? Is it progressing or retrogressing?

I find many remarkably accomplished voices at poetry workshops that I periodically conduct. There are also many more volumes of poetry that seem to be in the offing, which means that even the publishing scene has improved. In addition to HarperCollins, which is a large publishing house, there are smaller and very determined initiatives, like Poetrywala, Pratilipi, Copper Coin, Brown Critique and Sampark that are doing a fine job.

How will you judge the body of Contemporary Indian Writing in English in general and Indian English Poetry in particular?

That’s a large question, and I’m not sure how to answer it. What I will say is that I believe that the best of Indian poetry in English today is on par with the best of Anglophone Indian fiction.

 

Mar 022015
 

 

tcije

Vishwanath Bite in Conversation with Anupama Chandrasekhar

Dr. Vishwanath Bite
Assistant Professor in English
Government of Maharashtra's
Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari (E),
Mumbai, 60. Maharashtra, India.

 

Anupama Chandrasekhar is an Indian playwright born and based in Chennai. Her plays have been staged at leading venues in India, Europe, Canada and the US. She was formerly a journalist with the Hindu Business Line.

Her play Free Outgoing, directed by Indhu Rubasingham premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2007. It was revived at the Royal Court’s main theatre in Summer 2008 and travelled to the Traverse Theatre for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the same year.

Anupama was a runner up for the Evening Standard Theatre Award’s Charles Wintour Prize for Most Promising Playwright in 2008. She was also shortlisted for the John Whiting Award  and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize  for Free Outgoing. She is the first Indian to be nominated to any of these awards. The play has also been staged by the Nightwood Theatre in Toronto.

Her next play, Disconnect, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, also premiered at the Royal Court Theatre. Disconnect has been translated and staged in German and Czech languages and had its American and West Coast premieres in 2013 at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater and the San Jose Repertory Theatre respectively.

Her play for children, The Snow Queen, an Indian adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story, written under commission to the Unicorn Theatre in London, opened for Christmas in December 2011. The play, directed by Rosamunde Hutt, was a tremendous box office success. A remount of the production, produced by the Trestle Theatre, UK, opened the Chennai Metroplus Theatre Festival in 2012 and has toured several cities in India and the UK.

Her other plays include Acid, originally produced by QTP, Mumbai and later by the Madras Players in 2007 (which she directed), and Closer Apart, produced by Theatre Nisha – Chennai.

Anupama

Will you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school and anything in between) .

Born and brought up mostly in Chennai. I’ve three masters degrees (in Strategic Studies – from Madras University, English Literature – From Stella Maris College, Chennai and Journalism –from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) which I accumulated primarily because I was unhappy working in a 9 to 5 job (as editor in a private firm and later a journalist in a big national daily). Until theatre, I was pretty much dissatisfied with myself and studying seemed like a productive way to not work!

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?

I was a voracious reader as a child. By the time I was 11, I’d glommed all Enid Blytons, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drews available then. By my 12th year, I’d finished reading every single Agatha Christie and Perry Mason. My teen years were spent reading classics. If I were a teen today, I doubt I’d even graduate to reading classics – the number of young adult books available today is simply mind-boggling. In hind sight, the dearth of good young adult material then (1980s) was a blessing in disguise because I fell in love with good literature.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

In the 80s, a TV series that I was thoroughly smitten with was Yes, Minister. My father found a transcript of the complete TV series at Chennai’s Higginbothams and I think I was hooked to dialogic form since then. I devoured Shaw and the few plays that my lending library accidentally possessed. Then, in BA, I was introduced to Indian playwrights like Karnad and Dattani – and I was hooked to contemporary drama.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I read.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Especially Playwrights.

Read, read, read. Plays, non-fiction, fiction, screenplays.  Anything and everything. Study your craft, study your peers, study the masters.  Understand how a play can be different in different spaces. And write, write, write.

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

At my first playwriting workshop, conducted by the fabulous Mahesh Dattani, I discovered for the first time that I loved to tell a story simply through what is said and what is unsaid. Previously I had begun many short stories but I’d run out of steam very quickly. But not so, when writing a play. I discovered I had the stamina for it. Writing plays made me happy. I continue to write plays because it makes me happy.  

Do the Internet and social media contribute to the well-being of Literature?

The internet and the social media certainly have an important role in propagation of books, stories, poetry and plays. Online book reviews and Goodreads have definitely widened my reading horizons. I’ve often bought books on a Facebook recommendation of a friend. I now know when a new book by Gaiman or Murakami comes out. But I must also confess, as a writer, the net can be a huge and addictive distraction cluttering up one’s brain with a whole lot of information one can do without. Like a chain smoker, I’ve tried to quit the Net – or atleast facebook — cold turkey, but it’s next to impossible these days. In a day or two, I sneak back to facebook to see what my friends are reading and thinking.

Which aspects of your writing reader in general and Research scholars in particular must discover and explore?

Ah. It’s upto them to discover and explore.

How would you describe uniqueness of each of your Plays?

Each play is a response to an incident, a happening, a trend in society that angered me or upset or worried me. I suppose, thematically, all my plays are very different from each other, but one would also perhaps find strands of feminism in all. In addition, I like to work with form. I believe that the only way I can stay fresh as a playwright is if I try something new with dramatic structure and form in every play.

How to you see the role of Translations in Modern Indian Theatre?

The only way theatre can survive is through translation. Few plays rarely have a life beyond a handful of shows. Translations would ensure more new audiences and a longer life for the plays.

Are there any new Indian Playwrights that have grasped your interest? 

Many. Abhishek Majumdar, Neel Chaudhuri, Swar Thounaojam, Ram Ganesh Kamatham to name a few.

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing? What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

Ebooks is the way of the future, like it or not. They’re more easily accessible than conventional books.

How do you see the Literary Scene in India? Is it progressing or retrogressing?

I’ve no clue about the literary scene in general but the theatre scene is certainly progressing – in pockets. There are definitely more playwrights doing interesting, original work in some cities. I think Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai are the cities that are seeing most traction in new theatre work.

How will you judge the body of Contemporary Indian Writing in English?

My job and duty is to write. I’ll let the critics and academics judge.

What projects are you working on at the present? And What do your plans for future projects include?

I’m working on a project for the Tricycle theatre, UK. I’m also working as a dramaturg on a devised piece being directed by Aruna Ganesh Ram of Visual Respiration. I hope to work on two more brand new plays in the next few months and a couple of screenplays.

 

Mar 022015
 

 

tcije

Vishwanath Bite in Conversation with Anita Nair

 

Dr. Vishwanath Bite
Assistant Professor in English
Government of Maharashtra's
Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari (E),
Mumbai, 60. Maharashtra, India.

 

Anita Nair is a prolific Indian Writer in English, who has been writing novels, short stories, poems, essays, children’s stories, plays, travelogues and editing works since 1997. She is best known for her novels titled The Better Man and Ladies Coupe.

Anita Nair was born at Mundakottakurissi, near Shornur in Kerala. Her works of fiction have been translated into 21 languages. She studied in Chennai before moving back to Kerala, where she obtained a BA in English Literature. She worked as the creative director of an advertising agency in Bangalore. It was at this time in 1997 that she wrote her first book, a collection of short stories titled Satyr of the Subway. The book earned her appreciation and she also won her a fellowship from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts.

In 2002, Nair brought out a collection of poems titled Malabar Mind, and in 2003, she brought out Where the Rain is Born – Writings about Kerala which she had edited. Anita Nair´s second novel Ladies Coupé (2001) was an instant hit and is remembered and widely read even today.

Anita

Will you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school and anything in between)

I was born at Shoranur, a little railway town in Kerala. However Mundakottakurissi is my ancestral village and I have very strong roots there. My family now lives there and I spend a part of the year there as well

I was fortunate to be part of a family where I was greatly loved and cherished. I did pretty much everything that girls of my generation in the western hemisphere was doing at that point of time. With one small difference. While I had all the freedom to do what I want, I was expected to also remember that as a girl and a woman, I would have to fulfil my womanly duties or it would reflect on the family and how I had been brought up.  I remember one story my grandmother used to keep telling me when I was growing up–there was this girl who had got married and was sent back to her parents because she didn't know how to cook! It was a cautionary tale that suggested – put down that book you are reading and come help out in the kitchen – but I don't ever remember her telling me the importance of things like knowing how to change a light bulb, for instance. This very same grandmother was a strong woman otherwise. A perfect role model. She was married at twelve as was the custom those days and went to live with her husband when she was fifteen. By the time she was twenty six she had taken on the reins of running the family. My grandfather worked in the railways and was away mostly. It was she who brought all six children up, made sure they had a well rounded childhood and education and built a colony of houses and looked after the agricultural lands, the farming etc. She was capable, practical, artistic and fun.

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?

I was indiscriminate in my choice of books. So I read anything and everything I could lay my hands on. As of now, I am reading Ben Okri’s

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

I believe that every book I have read has influenced me. Either I learnt how to or how not to. It is a process that continues.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I sing [ I am studying Carnatic music]; I swim; I go to the movies; I cook… 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write. And write from your heart rather than emulate a successful or even a writer you are particularly influenced by

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

When I was twenty five, I suddenly found myself out of a job. The advertising company I worked for was taken over by another group and the all the previous employees were made to feel so uncomfortable that most of us left…. My uncle who lives in New York invited me to go stay with him and so I went to Manhattan. Most people when they travel have an agenda; they are either tourists or are there on business or visiting family…. I was doing nothing. All I did was walk through Manhattan and later travel through the length of the USA, searching for god knows what but when I came back to India, my mind was formed about what I wanted to do. It took a while but when I was about twenty seven, those months of introspection revisited me and one day I began writing. I wrote the first three paragraphs of Satyr of Subway and I knew for sure that I had finally stumbled upon a voice. It was unique because it was mine and I sensed that this is what I would always do and write. That my writing would be character driven and story oriented….and yet it would need to derive itself from an abstract. My writing would seek to give abstract concepts a tangible and perceptible form.

Do the Internet and social media contribute to the well-being of Literature?

I think it helps makes books and writers popular

Which aspects of your writing reader in general and Research scholars in particular must discover and explore?

I wouldn’t know. All I do know is that research scholars have been studying my work from very different perspectives – feminism, caste, family dynamics, etc

Tell me about Idris: Keeper of the Light

It is a historical fiction set in medieval Kerala and is different from all my previous books. The year is 1659. Idris, a Somali trader, is in Malabar to attend the Zamorin’s Mamangam festivities. Everywhere he goes, his jewelled eye evokes a sense of wonder and incredulity. Then, by a strange twist of fate, Idris meets his nine-year-old son, Kandavar, born of a mysterious midnight tryst in this very land. Anxious to remain close to him for as long as possible, he joins the Nair household headed by Kandavar’s uncle, and is charged with a crucial task: of distracting the boy from his dream of becoming a Chaver, a warrior whose sole ambition is to assassinate the Zamorin, in a tradition whose beginnings have been lost in time.In an attempt to stave off the inevitable, Idris embarks with his son on a voyage that takes them from Malabar to Ceylon, and from Thoothukudi to the diamond mines of Golkonda, where he meets the queenly Thilothamma, as solitary a being as he is. Will the mines reward him? Will he find the strength to leave his new-found love and journey back to his son’s land – and to an uncertain future? You will have to read the novel to find out what happened next… But let me tell you that along with the story line packed with adventure and passion, Idris: Keeper of the Light is full of fascinating insights into life in the seventeenth century. 

Are there any new Indian writers and poets that have grasped your interest? 

Not yet.

How do you see the Literary Scene in India? Is it progressing or retrogressing?

I don’t think it has progressed as it should have.

How will you judge the body of Contemporary Indian Writing in English?

Its exciting however it is also patchy as one sees a spectrum of brilliant to absolute rubbish

What projects are you working on at the present? And What do your plans for future projects include?

I am working on the second novel in the Inspector Gowda series. I am also working a book of stories for children and am compiling a new volume of poetry. I have also set up a writing academy and this is my most exciting non-literary project as I hope to be able to help writers find their true voice.  Sometimes this is the first hurdle for a writer- to know where their true forte lies. The academy is called Anita’s Attic and began in January 2015. I don’t work with more than twelve writers at a time and this will be over a period of 3months which would enable me to provide mentorship on a one to one basis over a sustained period.