Monday, 20 October 2014

More Indian than you think

I have always been a proud Indian. The pride was reinforced right from childhood when I studied in Kendriya Vidyalaya and on various occasions, we were reminded of our proud heritage. As for example the four houses in the school were named after heroes Ashoka,Tagore, Shivaji and Raman. Those days I used to day dream that India will regain its position among the comity of nations. By the time we were in college however, a little bit of disappointment and disillusionment had set in. I had even written a poem in Hindi recalling all the glories of the past and then asking “but how long will it take to bounce back?- The black beard is turning white…” Yet, in the heart of hearts there was this feeling that India will be back where it belongs, right at the top!

Since then, it has taken more than three decades for the sleeping giant to awaken.. yet awakened it has and how! As an economics student I had heard the lament so many times right through college that the population of India is its greatest stumbling block. Yet today the same population is seen as a strength Many countries view her as  an important market and are evincing more and more interest in India.Earlier also there was interest in India as a spiritual country. Now, the interest is for many more diverse reasons. The software professionals of India have made a mark world wide and recently a proud Prime minister Modi announced to the world of how the Indian scientists  successfully launched the Mangalyan to Mars at a cost that is less than that of a Hollywood movie on space travel.
In the game of cricket, India was for many years considered a light weight. both in terms of players' achievement as also in terms of the clout of BCCI (Board for control of cricket in India) at the level of ICC (International cricket council). In both areas there is a complete turnaround with the cash rich BCCI having a big say today  in ICC.Even when there was a general contempt for the song & dance routine of Indian commercial cinema, it has thrived over the years with a steady increase in interest in Indian movies. As for example Tamil Superstar  Rajanikant's films are very popular in Japan  and east Asia as are Hindi movies, particularly Shahrukh Khan's today in Europe & America..For all you know its influence could be seen in foreign films in future. Just as there is a craze among foreign cricket players to be part of the IPL (Indian premier League), more and more foreign actors are expressing their wish to be part of Bollywood.
With the globe having shrunk over the years, in the sense of nations having more & more exposure to each other, Asian food whether it is Chinese, Indian or Thai have gained popularity. Therefore the biriyani, kebab or idli, dosa have its fans all over the world,. The difference in the approach  to India and Indians is clearly visible. This is partly because of higher expectations Indians have from  themselves and also from others as a customer or consumer. In October 2011 when I went to Alabama in the US to attend our company's (Hyundai) global HRD conference, our team of three flew Lufthansa both ways. while we enjoyed the quiet efficiency of the airline and the staff, I personally missed our Indian food. Hence it was thrilling to see the recent Ad of the airline wherein a grandson tells his grand dad that they had boarded the wrong flight since tempting, sumptuous Indian  fare was being served! How i wished that this had happened in October 2011!
Historically, India was believed to be a very prosperous nation. Many travelers and invaders came in search of her.Other countries were discovered while in her pursuit.Not only in terms of wealth was she famous but also for culture and learning. The ancient universities of Nalanda and Thakshasila had many foreign students studying in them. 
Today,  the changing trend world wide tend to suggest that Indians and India are  inching towards the place they rightly belong. Yes, the world is becoming more Indian than you think!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

One Year for Mourning- Book Review

I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the 7th Guntur International poetry festival in September and reciting my poems before an august audience of eminent poets. Soon after the inauguration, we had a book release ceremony wherein the latest books of some of the writers were released. That is how I became aware and was introduced to the book under review, "One year for mourning" by Ketaki Datta published by Partridge publishing. This is the author's second novel. She is an accomplished poet & short story writer.
The novel starts in a hospital with the protagonist's mother, Tapati fighting cancer. Mithi, the protagonist goes down the memory lane and all the characters associated with her mother's and her own life are brought alive before the readers. The life circumstances & deep innermost thoughts of the characters are all captured in the novel with a lot of detailing. So you have the story of a very talented sitar player,Tapati who does not pursue music big time in order to be home maker for her doctor husband and two children. Readers also get a peep in to the lives of her friend Rani, a doctor's wife who is frustrated that her husband cannot give her a child and gets involved with the sitar teacher. Her colourful past, the rejection & later acceptance by the husband on the condition that she give up her child (put in an orphanage) all provide for dramatic moments and interesting reading.

The lives- happiness, trials & tribulations of many other characters including that of the protagonist, her neighbour Sreejitha and her father are well etched out in the novel which gives the readers a feel of the Bengali culture and their way of life throughout the narrative. Being a poet, the author has included many beautiful lines of poetry, spontaneously merging in to the plot of the novel. Her literary background finds expression in the discussions on Rabindranath Tagore & Shakespeare. The novel has all the ingredients to ensure the attention of the readers- romance & love, passion & sex, boredom, pain in its various forms, family ties & obligations etc.
With her background of English literature, the author has enriched the novel with some sublime descriptions: To quote just a sample

" The tunes seemed to have wings on which they floated over the ripples of the river, the soothing breeze around and got wafted far off to spiral up to the mid sky, I felt"

"Days were calm. The sultriness of long sunny afternoons got washed off in the drizzle at night. Quite refreshing it was. In this hick town, days were divided into hot afternoons and mysterious rainy nights. My father used to take us to the river bed almost every Sunday to get a touch of the soothing breeze that would get transformed in to a heavy downpour by night. I was writing poems, taking a peek at my notes on Macbeth and Hard times and again the sadness infused by mom's sitar notes was laying it's spell on me."

Some of the aspects of the novel that distracts the free flow of the narrative are use of words like "My mother" or "my father" number of times when it is clear from the context as to who is being referred to. Just the word "mother" or "father" would have been sufficient. The same can be said of use of the term "hick town" number of times instead of simply stating the name of the town, Hridayapur. The words 'forty winks' is used too many times, some times as a substitute for the word 'sleep ' although the former is meant to be used for a nap. In a novel format simpler words could have been preferred in place of 'loquacious', 'soliloquizing' 'vapid' and similar words requiring a dictionary nearby. Ketaki Datta, however is an amazing story teller with a lot of promise and one can expect even better creations from her pen in future.

Over all it is a fast paced novel that moves through various seasons of spring, summer, autumn. winter and spring once  again, after "One year of mourning" with an interesting  last line climax.

Ps:  The book can be procured from and