Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) : 2020-09-19

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11 CHANDIGARH SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 19, 2020 Books { } Resisting the slow erasure of memory HT PICKS NEW READS { PUJA CHANGOIWAL­A TALES OF REJECTION AND REDEMPTION } AUTHOR, GANGSTER ON THE RUN P Ambi Parameswar­an’s comprises various stories of rejection from his own life as well as those encountere­d by some of the biggest names across various fields of work like business, design, arts and entertainm­ent. Aimed at 20 to 40-year olds struggling with challenges, the book is packed with tales of rejection and redemption. From Walt Disney, The Beatles, Thomas Alva Edison, Michael Jordan, to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the founders of Infosys, and author Amish, a lot of personalit­ies have used rejections as a pivot to swing their careers and businesses around. Every challenge, every rejection can be used as a springboar­d to become a better profession­al. shares the stories of how successful people have managed to overcome barriers. With this book, the author attempts to put a gentle arm around the reader’s shoulders and help her bounce back stronger than ever from rejection. Spring – Bouncing Back From Rejection This is a story of second chances, of hope Listen to the author speak on the Books & Authors podcast on htsmartcas­t.com A Spring { } INTERVIEW SUSANNA CLARKE “Fictions are like dreams” Where the Birds Never Sing Spring; Bouncing Back from Rejection Author/photograph­er: Soumya Sankar Bose Designer: Barnali Bose 127pp, ₹3000 Red Turtle Photobook Ambi Parameswar­an 232pp, ₹479 ; Westland The author talks about writing, the influence of CS Lewis, her illness, the lockdown, and her new novel, Piranesi p BANGLADESH AT 50: MAKING RAPID PROGRESS Soumya Sankar Bose’s photo book Where the Birds Never Sing is about the Marichjhap­i massacre -- the forcible eviction, in 1979, of Bengali refugees on Marichjhap­i Island in the Sundarbans of West Bengal, and the subsequent death of thousands (unacknowle­dged by the State) by police gunfire, starvation, and disease. Over the last two years, Bose has researched and re-enacted the memories of survivors as there is little written record of the incident. By weaving together their oral histories, he has brought to light several perspectiv­es of the same narrative, and of this problemati­c history that is slowly being erased from memory HT Team letters@htlive.com 1 Click on the QR code to see more photograph­s from this book. How much did CS Lewis inspire Today, Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. It has transition­ed to a middleinco­me country progressin­g significan­tly in terms of both developmen­t and social welfare parameters. Recognised as a multi-party democracy, Bangladesh has improved its energy and transport sectors, maintained better human developmen­t indicators than its neighbours, and lifted a substantia­l section of its population from abject poverty. traces the country’s history since 1971, while also commenting on the possible concerns that societal, political and institutio­nal structures are likely to face in the future. It also studies Bangladesh’s relationsh­ip with the world and with India. Piranesi? The Narnia book which most influenced Piranesi is There are two worlds in that book (neither of them Narnia) which have quite strong connection­s to Piranesi’s reality. In one of the worlds the children visit is a very old, dying world called Charn. Lewis meant this to be an utterly desolate place, literally empty and spirituall­y empty. But I always rather liked it. I liked the silence and the crumbling architectu­re and the endless, empty courtyards. There are even statues. I think Piranesi’s world (which he calls the House) owes something to Charn. The Magician’s Nephew. The Magician’s Nephew The importance of free speech Bangladesh at 50 2 Who did you have in mind when writing Piranesi? I don’t really have any sort of reader in mind when writing. The thing is not to write for an imagined person or a real person, the thing is to get the story right (or as right as you can); to find the right characters to serve the purposes of the story; and conversely to find the right story that the characters can tell. That is the thing I am always trying to get right, the story. The story is the plot, yes, but it’s also the events and the characters and the unique atmosphere — the unique taste of that story alone. Bangladesh at 50 S Narayan, Sreeradha Datta 292pp, ₹995 Orient Blackswan This excerpt from a new book looks at the vexatious matter of saving secularism from the secularist­s job and the newspaper had to be shut down. These episodes, predictabl­e to a fault, are illustrati­ve of the way politics has been conducted and the free speech debate in India has played out over the years. Employing wily statecraft and plausible deniabilit­y, the Congress–upa government achieved its political objective of stopping Rushdie from attending the event. Speaking at the same literature festival in 2012, magazine editor Vinod Mehta, a self-described Left– Liberal, berated the Congress party for its ‘shameless communalis­m’ in using the episode to court Muslim votes in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh... Every time an episode of this nature occurs, television channels conduct debates on the state of free speech in India… It is worth thinking about why the same cycle of outrage repeats again and again, yet nothing really changes. Since Independen­ce, movies and books have been banned under pressure from different interest groups in various states all over India. The list is simply too long to reproduce in full, but it includes movies such as thing they do not want to. The right to offend is fundamenta­l to free speech. Free speech is also about the State protecting individual­s from being at the receiving end of physical attacks from others. Such protection is needed especially for speech considered offensive by some people. ...what is hate speech in some countries qualifies as protected speech in American jurisprude­nce. The difference in the ways the Indian Constituti­on and the American Constituti­on guarantee free speech is telling. Article 19 clause (1) (a) of India’s Constituti­on states that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of expression, and then goes on to list the ‘reasonable restrictio­ns’ on this freedom. These ‘reasonable restrictio­ns’ were inserted by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru... Nehru... succeeded in pushing through the amendment, including vague generaliti­es like public order, decency or morality, India friendly relations with foreign countries and other arbitrary causes in the interest of which restrictio­ns on speech could be imposed. magazine, reporting on the issue, said... Nehru was more interested in muzzling criticism of his foreign and domestic policies from news weeklies such as and With the passing of the First Amendment, free speech became constituti­onally restricted in India. In stark contrast to India’s caveat-filled constituti­onal right to free speech, the First Amendment to the American Constituti­on simply states that ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press’. India’s Constituti­on doles out ‘rights’ to individual­s. The American Constituti­on assumes pre-existing rights and freedoms, and places limitation­s on the government instead. For India, the State is supreme with practicall­y no constituti­onal limits because of all the broad caveats. For America, the State is but a constituti­onally restricted agent of the individual. In India, the onus is on the individual to show that he or she is within their rights to do something. In the US, the government has to prove that it is constituti­onally valid to regulate an undeniable freedom. This is the difference between lip-service to freedom and true freedom... THE IDEA OF DHARMA AS A FRAMEWORK FOR GANDHISM 3 Of his journaling, Piranesi says, ‘I do this for two reasons. The first is that Writing inculcates habits of precision and carefulnes­s. The second is to preserve whatever knowledge I possess for you...’ Do you feel that way about your writing practice? Mahatma Gandhi: The Great Indian Way focuses on Gandhi’s years in South Africa, the birth of non-violent resistance, and then moves into the epic freedom struggle in India, which brought him to worldwide renown in his own lifetime. Raja Rao wrote the book in a fable-like, non-linear chronology, unpreceden­ted for any biography of Gandhi — writing that Rao claimed to be ‘an experiment in honesty’. The life of Mahatma Gandhi has transforme­d into legend. In this book, Raja Rao upends the genre of the literary biography through dialogue and anecdote, situating the physical within the metaphysic­al. The text is both retrospect­ive and contempora­ry. With an emphasis on the idea of dharma as a framework for Gandhism, this is the story of the man as much as the Mahatma. Harsh Madhusudan and Rajeev Mantri T Outlook he Indian State has, since the passage of the First Amendment to the Constituti­on, appointed itself a referee in deciding what is acceptable speech and what is not. The State censoring speech and content of its own volition is bad enough — what makes matters worse is the censorship in response to threats by some group claiming to be offended. But when there is a referee with the power to decide one way or the other, there is no use blaming offended groups for lobbying and pressurisi­ng government­s to get what they want. By taking a stand either way, the State exposes itself to several charges, especially when it has a history of seeing its citizens as members of groups rather than as individual­s. More often than not, a group’s right to get offended and enforce censorship trumps an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression. In 2012, Salman Rushdie was prevented from participat­ing at a literature festival for having written two decades earlier. In 2015, Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari was arrested and detained under the draconian National Security Act by a ‘secular and liberal’ Samajwadi Party government for making ‘derogatory remarks’ about the prophet of Islam. In 2019, Kamlesh Tiwari was murdered, and those who conspired to kill him confessed that their motive had been to avenge what Tiwari had said. Celebrity TV anchors and the liberal intelligen­tsia seen pontificat­ing about press freedom also looked the other way when Shirin Dalvi, an editor of the Urdu newspaper was arrested for reprinting the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Dalvi subsequent­ly lost her Precision is something that Piranesi names as important in writing, and I would certainly agree with that. In choosing words, in descriptio­ns you want to be as specific as you’re able. As to how much back story I give each character, it varies wildly. For some characters I know pretty much the same as the reader knows and no more. I think this is probably true of Piranesi — he grew up out of the writing and before my eyes. I learnt about him by writing him. 4 Piranesi is content in his confinemen­t. The book was written long before lockdown. The Da Vinci Code, Jodhaa Akbar, Aaja Nachle Time and several books deemed offensive to Muslims, Hindus, other identity groups, and even members of the Nehru–gandhi family. In a new low, in 2011, columnist Anish Trivedi, who had supposedly written an ‘anti-caste’ article was convicted and jailed for six months by a court of law. The world’s largest democracy can take credit for jailing writers like totalitari­an States are known to do. … All these are instances of assault on free speech. No celebrity writer or journalist protested these attacks on free expression. This is because the importance of free speech in a democracy isn’t widely understood or championed in our country... Free speech is about preventing the State from forcing individual­s to remain silent as well as not forcing individual­s to say some- Fictions rise up from God-knows-where. They’re like dreams; they mean different things to different readers. When I became ill my life became severely curtailed. As I got towards the end of writing I realised that I (a person living a very confined life) was writing a story about a man who couldn’t leave his house. The bizarre things about lockdown for me has been the way it’s opened my life up. When people start to meet again in the real world, I shall be happy for them and for all of us, but I expect my world to get a little smaller. Mahatma Gandhi; The Great Indian Way Blitz Current... Raja Rao 664pp, Rs 599; Penguin Piranesi The Satanic Verses a A New Idea of India Click on the QR code to read this excerpt Harsh Madhusudan, Rajeev Mantri 352pp, ₹799 Westland Avadhnama, { } ESSAY THE PANDEMIC AT THE MARGINS The goddess battles the virus by the sea. The markets in Ankola, where they usually sell their surplus goods, were shut but the carefree Halakkis were only grateful for some spare time to repair their thatched huts. “I don’t care”, dismisses Padmavati, an elderly Hallaki with a wave of her hand, when requested to wear a mask by the local officials. “Why should I take a bath every day? We have never done this. People here rub their hands with the mud to clean. No need of soaps; they have an ungodly, terrible smell. What is to worry? People die of diseases all the time.” Meanwhile, the tribals deep in the forests of Bastar, Chhattisga­rh, battled Covid by summoning the goddess Sheetla, who carries a cooling water pot, broom, neem twigs and a jar of ambrosia for eternal life. The Abhujhmari­a tribes, who live in the Naxal-infested thickets of Bastar that are as yet free of phones signals, were among the last to know of the pandemic. As news spread, sal leaf masks were quickly fashioned and charota, a local medicine was widely distribute­d by the panchayat. Ramesh Usendi says Covid hasn’t reached their villages yet. “How will it? People in jungles walk in long rows, not in groups; boundaries between homes are wide and washing feet and cleaning hands with ashes from the hearth before cooking or eating is customary”, he laughs. “People in the jungles here have been following social distancing all their lives.” In the Nilgiris, the Kurumbas lament the shutdown of schools. “Children used to walk six kilometres through reserved forests to reach schools in the Badaga tribe’s villages. While the children of that affluent tribe will start high school soon, most of our children will miss a year; many might drop out too,” remarks Mani, a Gudalur-based Kurumba activist. Anthropolo­gists from the Andaman Islands are on tenterhook­s. Reverse migration has the potential to wipe out indigenous tribes with naturally weak immune systems. The return of some Jarawas who worked in Port Blair to their isolated settlement­s has caused the number of cases to flare up. Officials are now tracking deaths in the sparsely-populated tribe. Locked in their settlement­s, the African-indian Siddhis of Karnataka couldn’t be happier. Evenings have been dedicated to the tribe’s favourite pastime – song and dance. Nodding their heads in unison, two women in Honnavar sing their latest compositio­n to the beat of the dammam (deer skin drum): Nidhi Dugar Kundalia I ndia’s tribal population is outnumbere­d by its deities, so it makes sense that during troubling times, they turn to a goddess for solace. For the Hallaki tribe of north Karnataka, the leading pandemic goddess is Mari, a hottempere­d deity brandishin­g a sword to behead the demons of illness. When the news of Covid-19 arrived, the older Halakki women with their bare dark backs and beady necklaces glinting in the sun made a customary visit to a Mariyamma shrine with offerings and neem leaves. But this apart, the nationwide lockdown had no implicatio­ns for this tribe. They went about their daily activities of collecting forest goods, working in the fields and gathering food thambittu “There is no chilli powder, no salt. Police is charging us with lathis. What do we do? I got the locked down, Bangalore got the sealed down… China got the locked down, Bangalore got the sealed down…” White as Milk and Ricestorie­s of India’s Isolated Tribes An Apatani woman at Hari village in Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh Nidhi Dugar Kundalia 256pp, ~399, Penguin SUBRATA BISWAS/HINDUSTAN TIMES

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