A Year in the Life of Mohini

Shree Ghatage (born 1957) moved to Canada in the nineteen-eighties; her first book, Awake When All the World is Asleep (1997) is a collection of short stories. Brahma’s Dream (first published in Canada in 2004) is an unusual coming-of-age story, because the heroine grows up in the shadow of a life-threatening disease. The novel raises philosophical questions about man’s fate, but at the same time gives a realistic picture of members of a Chitpavan Brahmin family living in Shivaji Park in suburban Bombay in the nineteen-forties.

Muted Voices from the Past

In a sultry evening in Delhi, here I am, reread-ing Mulk Raj Anand—from time to time kicking in the air to ward off aedes aegypti. For most of us Indians, the history of reading is in two parts. If you are not educated in a public school, you have to wait until you have learnt enough English to begin reading books in English, while you read—or you are read to—in your mother tongue at a very early age. This was the case in point for me. At a time when there were very few public schools, children of my generation from rural India spoke, read and dreamt in our mother tongues. That is why Mulk Raj Anand could enter my history of reading only belatedly – when I had picked up enough knowledge of the language he wrote in.

A Rich Harvest

For a reader uninitiated in the tradition of the short story in the Punjabi language Slice of Life offers a rich harvest of examples of writings from within this tradition. The stories selected, translated into English by Rana Nayar, are arranged in chronological order and range across the entire span of the twentieth century.

In his Introduction to this volume, Nayar provides a historical perspective on this range of stories, tracing not only the evolution of the short story tradition in modern Punjab but also its antecedents within the storytelling tradition in India as a whole.

Many Hues of Realism

It appears that the editors of this anthology of English translation—Bh. Krsihnamurti, a linguistics man and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hyderabad, and C. Vijayashree, Professor of English at Osmania University—did not have much of a choice. They have translated a Telugu anthology put together by Vakati Panduranga Rao and Vedagiri Rambabu after a three-day workshop in 1997. This was published in 2001. Krishnamurti and Vijayashree have presented thirty of the original sixty published in the Telugu collection. It is to be taken that the English editors agreed with the choice made by the Telugu editors. Of course, the final rap and commendation for the anthology in this English version squarely belong to Krishna-murti and Vijayashree.

New Thresholds

One of the main missions of Vaidehi, among the most compelling Kannada women writers of our times is the retrieval of the woman’s voice from the past. That suppressed past which gains a voice in the present, even while it continues to exist in more nuanced textures.

Alegalalli Antaranga is a compilation of Vaidehi’s short stories written over the last three decades. In the 80-odd short stories, spread into six collections, Vaidehi steers clear of jingoistic announcements of feminist positions, but presents the perspective of a woman as it affected her, from the politics of everyday life. Therefore, the stories mostly capture the woman’s real world, her real experiences, and the various aspects of self-fashioning, without taking overt, ideological stances.

Relocating the Modern Ethos

The modernist movement (navya) in Kannada literature was significant in many ways. The navya writers created an idiom which even to this day resonates with the many new twists that came into the “being” of a literary work. The idiom of the navya writers was multi-dimensional and accommodated varied experiences and diverse ideas. However, the divergences that emerged from the writings of the ‘navya’ poets, short story writers, novelists and playwrights did have an underlying element of commonality—of examining the existential state of the modern individual situated as she/he was in a modernizing community/nation with very strong traditional roots. The navya writers were deeply preoccupied with the multiple realities of individuals, communities and societies in transition. Hence, in them, tradition and modernity are juxtaposed as antithetical bases upon which individuals inevitably rest, and, more importantly confront their dualities, contradictions and paradoxes.

Untouchability and Humanity

Emergence of the dalit theatre is consid- ered as one of the prime aspects of the post-independence Marathi theatre. Marathi theatre which was centered around the middle-class sensibility till then, witnessed for the first time, the low-born, the underdogs of the society, giving vent to the unprecedented humiliation and persecution that they were subjected to, down the centuries. The leit-motif of dalit theatre was the attack on the caste system, its cunning. It sought to provoke fellow members to assert their identity. In a frenzy of profound hatred for the high-born, dalit theatre, more often than not, turned impulsive; consequently, arbitrary content, episodic structure and derogatory language came to be known as the main features of dalit theatre. However, considering the immediacy of the problem, such inarticulateness was but natural.

Biography of a City

Prarambh is a successful blend of history and fiction: a hi-story of the beginnings of Mumbai. The environment of the early 1800s is authentically depicted, the characters that are both real and fictional match quite well, and the story runs both as fact and fiction blended. The National Book Trust of India must be thanked and congratulated for bringing it out in English for the benefit of not only the non-Marathi Indian readers but also the international readers who will be able to get important insights into and information about the social-cultural-business renaissance that gave its initial shape to the internationally significant city, Mumbai.

Treatise on Urban Lives

Ever since the translation of indigenous literature, mainly into English, was initiated almost a decade ago, it has triggered off reams of publications, and gradually evolved into a specific genre. Obviously, this process has been a tremendous success as publishing houses of renown have made forays into this sphere, though often glossing over prominent credits to the key player, i.e. the translator. The National Book Trust deserves credit for this well packaged, composite book on Hindi translations which acknowledges the vital cog in this whole process i.e., the compiler and translator on the cover.

Portrait of a Family on Paper

A collage, a photo frame, a diary! No, none of these define the flavour of the book. The memoirs are spun and crafted in a beautiful Tea-Cozy, much to Shaukat Kaifi’s liking, keeping the incidents alive and warm. The title is suggestive of a collection of dates and events, people and places to construct and deconstruct a whole life. The following narrative offers a mirror image of her time, for the generations ahead. Acquiring a more autobiographical element, Shaukat begins from the beginning and tells her own story sequentially.

Negotiating the Rough Edges of Life

In an era dominated by prose and the prosaic, poetry is a saving grace. This is especially so, when—trudging through the turbulence of times—it is able to ‘sponge-in’ the world into words, soak them with the possibilities and probabilities of humane existence without being superficial, hysterical or partisan about it. This cognitive-aesthetic soaking in of life into words through poetry is, however, a hugely demanding and humbling task. Forever caught between the lure of spontaneous overflow and a need for discip-lining of emotions and intellect; reactive egoism and a self-effacing inclusive activism; a profu-sion of clichéd slogans and discourses and an emphathetic and organic chiselling of words, the poetic grace—a sum total of its aesthetics, ethics and thematic—at one level hinges on the quality of this balance.

Negotiating the Rough Edges of Life

In an era dominated by prose and the prosaic, poetry is a saving grace. This is especially so, when—trudging through the turbulence of times—it is able to ‘sponge-in’ the world into words, soak them with the possibilities and probabilities of humane existence without being superficial, hysterical or partisan about it. This cognitive-aesthetic soaking in of life into words through poetry is, however, a hugely demanding and humbling task.