Write India Campaign S2: Live your Writing Dreams

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Do you love characters like Draupadi from the Palace of Illusions or Anupama from Mahashweta, who fight against all odds and earn their status in the society?  Does your descriptive narration flow like river waters and take you on mesmerising travels to the hills, valleys and forests? Or do you have a pen of wits that would make your readers compliment your writing with laughable accolades? If you do, gear up your thoughts, open your laptops, start typing and submit your stories for the next Write India Campaign.

There are stories inside each one of us. Some find apt ways to express it. Others can express it naturally, but do not get suitable guidance to put it forward to the whole world. The online platform of The Times of India , which is, www.timesofindia.com has undertaken a unique campaign in order to give thousands of budding writers a voice , a guide, a platform and most importantly suitable mentorship under ten leading authors of contemporary times.

India, as a country , has always been full of stories and legends. However, in modern times , the art of storytelling keeps evolving with fresh ideas waiting to be explored and expressed to the world in the form of stories. There are thousands out there, who have a knack for churning out great fictional pieces. But due to lack of opportunities, their voices are often restricted to the boundaries of their homes, schools or colleges.

The Times of India has always served the Nation as a Social sentinel, delivering news depending on its appropriate urgency. But with the Write India Campaign, it has also taken up the role of a facilitator, which provides a well-known stage to the budding and amateur writers to come forward and express their passion for writing in front of a wider audience.

Write India Campaign Poster Photo Courtesy: Times of India

The Write India Campaign would continue for a good ten months until 2018. Each month would put forward, an Author of the Month who would provide a passage to the writers around which they would have to weave their original short fictions. The ten authors for this season are: Anand Neelakantan, Sir Jeffrey Archer, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, Twinkle Khanna, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Shobhaa De, Manu Joseph, Namita Gokhale and Nikita Singh.

The team from Write India would shortlist some of the best entries for each of the authors and present it to them. They would further select the winners amongst them. Each of the winners would get an opportunity to fulfil their dreams by getting their work published in the form of a book. What more, they would also be invited for a workshop conducted by these eminent authors where they can nurture their skills further.

The Campaign has already garnered momentum among the budding writers. Many have submitted their pieces for Anand Neelakantan, Ruskin Bond and Sir Jeffrey Archer. While the winners for Neelakantan can be viewed here ; there is much anticipation for the winners of the other two writers to release soon. Moreover, do not miss keeping an eye out for the Author of the Month of October and his/her passage to the writers.  I would further add that this is the Second Campaign run by the Write India Team. Their first campaign held earlier had seen thirty-six successful authors being published in November 2016. If you are a budding writer, then this is an opportunity that must not be missed. For more details and to register yourself as a contributor do visit www.toi.in/writeindia .

Image Courtesy: The Times of India

Darkness There But Something More

What had I just experienced? Was it a mere hallucination? An illusion or just a figment of my fertile imagination? – Page 133, Darkness There But Something More. . . An individual is groomed to be self-sufficient and confident from a very young age. But there are times, when the bridges of confidence rustle under the burden of the unknown and an individual is surrounded by the clouds of self-doubt.  The esoteric is a mysterious realm, that is ever researched on and always spoken about; but only those who have felt it closely can be one step closer to the truth of this omnipresent enigma.

Darkness There But Something More, is an anthology of thirty stories written by thirty different authors and co-edited by Lopamudra Banerjee and Dr Santosh Bakaya. It deals with the territory of the unknown and the unseen through thirty short stories. Being a collection of stories, I would of course have my favourites to choose from. Hence, I would list down my favourite stories.

#books #coffee #biscuits #bookstagramindia #bookstagram #books

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The White Man’s Bungalow by Dr Sunil Sharma

The undead often make old houses and garden their home. This in turn earns the place the commonly used epithet, haunted house. This story speaks about one such house engulfed in stories and rumours from every perspective possible. It is only when a Journalist enters the house in the pretext of researching it for a story, do the readers find out the ultimate truth.

Two things attracted me the most towards this story- the description of the ‘haunted house’ and the fact that a Journalist uncovers the truth. Being a trained journalist myself, I do wonder at times, if some story somewhere would give me an opportunity for an otherworldly encounter, as well. Sadly, I don’t see that happening too soon!

The Last Trick by Shabir Ahmed Mir

A magician wants to practice a newly configured trick. However, he faces one issue. Thus, he wakes up his next room neighbour in the hotel and rehearses for his latest show. Looks pretty normal right? It is only the story that you have to read to find out what went wrong and where.

The story begins with a beautiful quotation by Christopher Priest from The Prestige. Apart from the story itself, that quote won my heart. Also, this short story had been awarded the First Prize at the Ghost Story Contest hosted by Learning and Creativity E-zine.

The Peepal Tree by Ramendra Kumar

A group of young girls are celebrating a friend’s birthday party. Things go wrong when animosities between girls are expressed through dire consequences.

The Peepal Tree deals with an important social subject- bullying. No one can fathom when and how can pent-up anger within the victim, transform into such deadly vengeance. Supernatural or not supernatural, bullying is definitely a subject that one needs to pay attention to and seek professional help if need be. I would also mention that this story had earned a Special Mention in the Ghost Story Contest by the Learning and Creativity E-zine.

#newbook #bookstagramindia #bookstagram #bookishfeatures #bookdefotos New review coming up on www.subhadrikasen.com

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All Out and Over by Cathy Sydlo Wilkes

All Out and Over is a story which is narrated by a marmoset depicting the plight of many circus animals and their afterlife.

What I liked the most was that, not every ghost story needs to be scary with visions of blood dripping fanged vampires and crooked nosed witches. Some can be heart-warming as well. This is one such story, where trapped creatures narrate their story and cross over to their ultimate destination.

The Reunion by Sarmita Dey (Ghosh)  

A tale of love lost so suddenly; and yet patiently awaiting a chance to meet the lost love in some other realm, in some other life, is rarely written by an author.

Not all love stories end well. But the most important lesson of life is to let go. There are things beyond our control, and in those times, one should submit to His will.

But for a crisper editing, the book would have been devoid of flaws. Nevertheless, Darkness There But Something More is a read that I would recommend if you like to read about the esoteric. It is definitely the kind of light reads that you would want to carry with yourself to your vacations. It is available for online purchase through Flipkart and Amazon.

A Candid Chat with Lopamudra Banerjee

Lopamudra Banerjee, is a Writer, Poet, and Translator, currently based in Dallas, USA. Her prolific writings include a range of books to her credits. She is the co-editor of two anthologies, ‘Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas’, published by Readomania in collaboration with Incredible Women of India and ‘Darkness There But Something More’, a collection of 30 ghost stories published by Blue Pencil, where she is a resident editor now. Thwarted Escape, her debut narrative non-fiction work, has received Honorary Mention at the Los Angeles Book Festival 2017 and has also been First Place Category Winner at the Journey Awards 2014 hosted by Chanticleer Reviews and Media LLC, USA. Her recently released books, ‘Let the Night Sing’, a poetry collection and ‘The Broken Home and Other Stories‘ have already received much critical acclaim. She has received the International Reuel Award 2016 for her English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novella ‘Nastanirh’ (‘The Broken Home’) instituted by The Significant League, a renowned literature group on Facebook and she is also the recipient of the International Reuel Award for poetry 2017. Apart from books, Lopamudra has got many of her works published in numerous literary journals.

It was my privilege to be able to take her interview, when we got connected on her recent trip to Kolkata, India. This interview was electronically conducted via mail.

1.What draws you towards poetry?

Poetry has been my home and my shelter and my refuge from the banalities of the outside world ever since I can remember. Blame it on my mother who had first sown in me the seeds of reading and appreciating Rabindranath Tagore or my English classes during my college days and beyond which introduced me to a vast and magnanimous world of the English romantic, Victorian and modern poets, I have woken up, drenched in their sweat, their rhythm and their cadence. Later when I started writing poems myself in various life situations and when that gained momentum gradually, I also realised that poetry can be the ultimate form of attaining my own personal catharsis. It can be the lens through which I not only perceive the world around, but also dissent about its vast periphery of subjects, unabashedly, without any inhibitions. So, in a word, poetry is the essence of my heart which I cannot escape, and also the weapon with which I try to fight in my own small way against indiscrimination or atrocities or discrepancies of any kind which I see around me, and poetry makes me accomplish small but significant wins in a way no other literary form will probably make me accomplish.

 2. Which poets, authors or books have fortified you as a writer?

That is really a difficult question as there are a huge gamut of poets, authors, books and even songs and their lyrics which keep inspiring me, fortifying me, strengthening me in their own inexplicable ways from time to time. While some days I might gain inner strength as a writer from Maya Angelou’s “I Know When The Caged Bird Sings”, some days it is the intricacies of the mythological narrative of “Palace of Illusions” by Chitra B. Divakaruni which makes me put on my thinking caps. Some days, a song of Bob Dylan or Tagore or “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman might make me delve into my quintessential inward journey; some days, short stories by Maupassant or O Henry or even essays by E. B. White or Annie Dillard might nurture me with their haunting, long-lasting and emotionally impactful narratives. It is such a vast, boundless ocean out there and a lifetime is not enough to explore it. What I have mentioned here and also, what I have explored till now might be just a mug of water from that boundless ocean. I would always remain thirsty for more.

 3. How has writing changed your life?

Oh yes, in countless and inexplicable ways! Writing poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction has, first and foremost, taught me to respect solitude and to celebrate the little, minute nuances of human life in words, embedded in those blissful moments of solitude. Writing poetry, especially, has endowed me with rhythmic compositions that are born out of sweet nothings; out of raw, naked emotions while embracing the language of longing. As writers and artists, we might be thousand times poorer than other professionals, but on the other hand, thousand times richer when it comes to the manifestation of our longings, our expression of feelings that we give birth to, in the garb of an aesthetically refined literary form. It is equally true for all artistes—writers, painters, musicians, singers et al.

Lopamudra with Let the Night Sing
Photo Courtesy: Lopamudra Banerjee

4. Tell us something about your latest book. What are some of the themes you have touched upon?

In 2017, I have come up with two books of mine as of now, launched almost back to back. My debut poetry collection ‘Let The Night Sing’ (Global Fraternity of Poets, India) is a collection of 70 poems, most of them born as lunar musings in the wee hours of the night. The poems are the manifestations of a restless child woman and also a restless sojourner who celebrates the splinters and shards, the broken pieces of life in its continuum in this meticulous assortment of musings. Divided into five short volumes, through the poems I have attempted to trace my various trajectories starting from my girlhood and puberty to being a woman and grasping my own inner world as well as the world outside which has been a vital part of my womanly being and consciousness.

The second book of mine, ‘The Broken Home And Other Stories’ (Authorspress, India), released in Delhi Litexperia in August 2017, is my English translation of eight selected works of fiction by Bengal’s illustrious Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, including two novellas, ‘The Broken Home’ and ‘Laboratory’ and six short stories where women are the nucleus of the fictional narratives. All these eight works of fiction by Tagore are deep, enthralling sagas where women have been scripted in an inimitable, powerful aura. As a translator, I have tried my best to portray the essence of their complex emotional world, originally depicted by Tagore. In this context, let me add that I have received the International Reuel prize (category: translation) for ‘The Broken Home’ in summer 2016, when it had made its first appearance in Amazon Kindle, a year before its appearance in paperback.

Apart from that, I have co-edited with Dr. Santosh Bakaya an anthology of 30 spellbinding ghost stories, ‘Darkness There but Something More’, which also has a story of mine in the collection. It has been released in July and evoking very good response from the readers. The dark and esoteric has always fascinated me to no ends and thus, this book has been a dream project for me ever since its inception. Let us see where all these diverse books lead me to, but for me, the journey is more important than the destination, if any.

5. How do you deal with criticisms?

I have always welcomed constructive criticism in any form whatsoever, regarding my writing. As writers and creative artists, we keep evolving in our craft and it is the critics who value and appreciate our craft as well as see through our loopholes to help us evolve into better, more consummate writers. So their comments, if made in good sense and with due respect to our craft, is always much sought after. On the other hand, each negative criticism I have endured in my life till now has stoked the fire in me deeper and more vigorously, so I am thankful to all of them in a way. More than a decade back, when I went to Delhi to learn about the publishing industry and make a place there, I had been told by a cousin brother that I do not have the makings of a writer at all. Today, after so many years, I AM a part of the publishing world in my own small way and my literary journey has gained momentum in the most unthinkable of ways. Had I not faced criticism and rejection during those days, I do not think I would have striven to push my boundaries and emerge stronger as I have done in all these years. So I am thankful to the criticisms and the bouts of rejections too, which has made me what I am today.

6. Do the reviews that you get from your audience, affect your writing in any way?

No, I wouldn’t say that the reviews I get from my audience/readers distract me, or affect my writing in any way, because as a writer, I feel it is my job or responsibility to pour my thoughts and feelings on paper and serve the cause of literature in my own humble way, no matter what the reviews/feedback might be. Having said that, I must also say that there have been many detailed, insightful reviews of my books, ‘Thwarted Escape’ (my memoir, published by Authorspress, 2016), and ‘Let The Night Sing’, my debut poetry collection praising my poetic craft and my narrative style which has brought a wide smile on my face and filled me with inspiration and gratitude. On the other hand, if I come across a negative review of any of my books ever, I will try to grasp the essence of the reviewer’s words as much as I can and see if working on those would help me in becoming a better writer.

7. How would you describe the market for poetry in India? Do you think it is suffering a setback considering the sheer number of fictions being released in comparison to poetry books?

Let me tell you here that no matter how many works of fiction are released and read all over the world, poetry as a superior art form will always have its niche readers. Had it not been true, there would be no Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley or Byron, or no Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Kamala Das, or no Walt Whitman or Pablo Neruda. Poets in all ages and eras, for that matter, have survived and even thrived in their own peripheries amid the ruling estate of fiction and the best ones among them have carved names for themselves and are read and remembered even after ages. So poetry will always have a long shelf life and sustain itself as an art form as long as there are readers who swear by the sheer artistry and captivating nuances of languages expressed in the genre.

Lopamudra with Thwarted Escape
Photo Courtesy: Lopamudra Banerjee

8. In the age of Social Media, how would you see it connecting you with your readers?

In today’s age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, the world at large is a small village and every miniscule voice is being given a platform and sharing words, pictures and creative outpourings in a pace that was unthinkable some years back. When I started writing poetry as a mere teenager, I wrote in complete isolation, with no media to express. It was like that for many years before the virtual world and the Internet came in my way and changed the way I look at things forever. Now due to the internet, there is a surge of creative energy, and voices dispersed all over the globe are converging and coalescing. There is a greater virtual-turned-real community, where vibrant Poetry groups all over India are doing substantial work. In Mumbai, I know of a woman empowerment group which employs poetry, as a vehicle of protest. In Dallas, Texas, which is my home now in USA, there are various poetry groups with diverse demographics which are both physical platforms to share poetry and dissent in big public spaces and also strong virtual spaces in Facebook and Instagram where poets from all over the state and the nation share their works. So the possibility of connecting with more readers with the passage of time is immense and will continue to expand our horizons as more forums open up in the days to come.

9. If you had a chance to talk to a dead poet, who would it be and what would you tell him/her?

It has to be Sylvia Plath, the mad and melancholy poetess because I see so much of myself in her, sometimes. I would like to ask her why she went away so soon and let her know how much she invades my mental space. I would definitely read out a couple of poems from my poetry collection ‘Let The Night Sing’ to let her know how much I was influenced by her raw vulnerability as well as the surreal, alliterative rhymes in her poetry.

 10. When can we expect your next book?

As I am writing the answers to this interview, I am also checking the final PDF version of an anthology of women poets: ‘Cloudburst: The Womanly Deluge’ to be published very soon by The Poetry Society of India, which I am co-editing with Dr. Santosh Bakaya, another prolific author, academician and poet. It will be an assortment of verses penned by 28 women poets of the Indian origin, including myself.

As for my own book of fiction, I am working on my upcoming book ‘Of Frailties And Old Flames’, which will be a collection of short stories on love, betrayal, promises, old ties and all the virtues and vices of human relationships, with women at the core of the narratives. I am taking some time to finish and fine-tune the manuscript and will then submit for publication.

11. Any message for your readers. . . . . .

Be yourself and express yourself freely, without any inhibitions in your art. That is the only single factor that will let you push your boundaries and justify your work at the end of the day, no matter what others have to say about what you create. If it comes from your heart, it will touch other hearts too.

Lopamudra’s book are available in paperback . They can be purchased online through the following links:

Defiant Dream: Snapdeal, Flipkart , Amazon 

Thwarted Escape: Flipkart, Amazon 

Darkness There, But Something More: Flipkart, Amazon ,

The Broken Home: Amazon

I would soon be back with  the reviews of some of her books in subsequent posts.

One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan

Set against the rural background of the South, One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan,  describes the societal stigma attached to couples who fail to produce a child after years of marriage. Having a child, in the Indian tradition is the primordial aim of marriage. From the Vedas and Upanishads to other religious scriptures, all stress on the significance of a child, for pleasing one’s ancestor and to take the lineage forward. But unfortunately, many are not easily blessed with this boon.

Society often attach ridiculous humiliations to these couples, especially to the woman, resulting into a strained husband wife relationship. Many a times, the man even considers settling for a second marriage due to the doomed infertility of the first. Also, one must not forget the numerous notes that leave one’s pockets in order to please a little less than the supposedly thirty three crore Gods and Goddesses of the Indian mythology. One Part Woman highlights how society , especially the gossip girls of the society treat a barren woman. They usually compete against one another trying to pull down the morale of a woman who has been unsuccessful in bearing a child. The continuous bullying, insults, tantrums and being the centre of attention in public gathering and social events, change the personalities of such women making them impatient, outspoken, restless and even rude at times.

#booktime #booklover #bookandtea #onepartwoman #bookishdreams #bookishfeatures #bookdefotos

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The storyline of One Part Woman follows the relationship of Kali and Ponna, a couple married for over twelve years. A couple deeply in love with each other. A couple unable to conceive for the last decade despite trying all measures. Nevertheless, they have stood by each other and fought against all odds, never doubting or leaving one another. But things take an impactful turn when news reaches them of a last possible way to conceive.

If you are to read the blurb for the book, you would be thoroughly excited to read between the pages as it implies of a relationship test the couple must go through to produce an heir. However, once you start reading the book, you would find about three-fourths of it consumed by the social stigma imposed on the couple and the little intricacies of their relationship which are narrated through flashback episodes. The most anticipated part of the tale begins and ends within the last few chapters, giving less space for the readers to ponder on it. In fact, for those who would want to read the book solely based on this reason are bound to feel somewhat disappointed as the most anticipated portion of the story comes and goes at lightning speed. Further, though many writers prefer open-ended conclusions to their stories, somehow the readers would have anticipated a concrete conclusion to One Part Woman. The million dollar question of whether the couple is blessed with a child or not, gets lost in the maze of incidents that take place towards the end of this novel.

Nevertheless, the portrayal of a social cause is well highlighted by the author. The peer pressure thrust upon a childless couple often pushes them to make severe decisions. Thus, it is food for thought for the society, as it reflects the repercussions of societal pressure on the physical and mental strength of two otherwise perfect human beings.

One Part Woman is available at your nearest bookstores. Further, you can also purchase it online through Flipkart, Amazon or Snapdeal.

Revolutionary ARQ Technology Hits the Market for Financial Investment Planning

Often I have heard about stocks, shares, demats and the like from the gentlemen of my family; but I have never understood their true meanings or their importance until I started consciously gathering knowledge about them. All I was familiar with was the investment of gold which was supposedly to have yielded better results in my future. I would often wonder who guides the elders and how do they go about taking their decisions. In fact, I have seen people waiting in long queues in order to consult a stock advisor or their local opinion leaders before entering into any form of investment. However, I did wonder, that in this digitally developing and productive age, where manual tasks are being overtaken by artificial intelligence, how long would these long queues last? And I have definitely got an answer to my long standing question.Angel Broking, one of the top stock brokers of the Nation, has come up with its latest path –breaking technology called the ARQ.

The ARQ in simple terms is a hyper intelligent investment tool which would guide the user to an investment plan with assured returns. Interestingly, ARQ is a unique amalgamation of nature’s principles and scientific technology fused into an ultra-intelligent guidance tool. Prior to its release in the market, it has been tested thoroughly and the results have shown it to outperform any other applications built to serve a similar purpose. The services of the ARQ can be availed by the customers of Angel Broking through the Angel Broking App.

Digging deeper into the concept of the hyper intelligence of this engine, the ARQ analyses the mutual funds and stock market in a pattern that would almost predict the future. Usually, investment planning is undertaken keeping in mind the past track record of the market; but the ARQ does just the opposite. This unconventional technology of looking into the future has indeed proved to be a boon for the success of this technology. Moreover, the investment strategies would differ according to the unique demands of each individual user. The engine has been designed to interact with the customers asking for some general and specific data regarding their investment plans and assets at hand. After analysing these with its futuristic technology can it tailor make its prediction for the user. In fact, you do not have to wait for a very long time to get the feedback. The ARQ is equipped with instant analysis and feedback technology, through which it would help you foresee your future with investments in no time.

Assured Returns with ARQ
Photo Courtesy: Angel Broking

Angel Broking, one of the best stock broker companies of all times have incorporated all the qualities that one must possess while taking such financial decisions; but unfortunately is rather difficult for humans to showcase them. I have personally noticed that human behaviour is quite impulsive when it comes to taking complicated and instant decisions. Somehow, in the wake of taking better decisions they tend to take their decisions impulsively. It is by nature of man, that they tend to be a little laid back and take their own time in analysing the issue. More often than not, they tend to zone out from their focus while trying to analyse. As a result, their decisions are usually masked by emotions -in many cases with that of the better halves-and quite spontaneous. As opposed to this, the ARQ is a highly disciplined program which verifies all collected data through expert knowledge, mathematical intelligence and market trends before producing instant guidance. Further, people often have very biased views towards their investment policies. This can happen due to past experiences, word of mouth discussions, misleading mannerisms of shrewd guides and the like. But the ARQ is focused and being a program showing traces of high intelligence does not give a chance to emotions to cloud its capabilities.

Angel Broking has always helped in providing the best stock market recommendations and now with its latest ARQ technology, it is slowly proceeding towards fulfilling the company’s vision of a ‘Digital Revolution’. The ARQ technology has been successful in bridging the vacuum between ‘what is ‘and ‘what can be ‘without considering ‘what was’. The company has been one of the leading stalwarts in providing wealth management services, investment guidance and leadership to some of the best stock broker companies. But just as digital technology is slowly taking over our daily life; Angel Broking has found an excellent way of incorporating scientific principles in the planning of a financial market.

The aim of this company has always been to provide ‘Real Value for Money’ which it would do for all its customers, more so through its latest ARQ technology, by making it the personal investment guides for each one of them. What more, your personal investment guide would never leave your side and can fit just perfectly into your pocket. To know more about this technology and application do visit their official website at www.angelbroking.com .

Feature Image Courtesy: Angel Broking

Cantilevered Tales: A Review

A power -hungry politico; and a quest to save a home with several unique people and their adventures. This is the best way I could sum up Cantilevered Tales by Jayant Kripalani.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a cantilever bridge is defined as a ‘bridge made of two cantilevers projecting from piers and joined by girders.’ Had I not come across the book and seen the beautiful cover, at a city bookstore, I would not have bothered myself about the Howrah Bridge and its make. For me, it has always remained and will remain as an ideal symbol for the City of Joy. It is the humongous and majestic structure which has been a silent witness to everything that Calcutta and Kolkata has been through, since its inception. Just like the ebb and flow of the Ganges which flows beneath it, it has seen the change of power and authority, liberalism slowly making its way in to the minds of the people, the natural destruction to the city and the beautiful celebrations of every festival. It is the epitome of romance for lovebirds who manage to steal a few intimate moments away from the eyes of the self -proclaimed sentinels of  society.

Just as the bridge is witness to numerous stories daily; similarly, the protagonist of Cantilevered Tales, Khokhon Lahiri, stands witness to numerous tales of people surrounding him- people whose intentions, motives, interests and love are joined by the ever charming cantilever bridge. The book consists of twenty-six chapters that are unique narrations on their own and are yet connected to each other through a broader storyline.

The characters written about in the Cantilevered Tales make sure that they are relatable to someone who has been a child of this city for long. The protagonist is surrounded by lovable, witty and strong characters; each having an exceptional upbringing or background story. As the story progresses their life, habits, relation with the narrator and personalities are unveiled to the readers.

The story has some interesting themes. Two such themes which really caught my attention are the importance of upbringing and the need to fight for one’s right. Upbringing is an important part of every person’s life. Being deprived of a proper upbringing can lead to various psychological issues in a human being which can later turn against the individual making him/her a social outcast. Often in such situations you do not understand whether to pity them or hate them. Further, the need to fight for one’s rights is very important. One should never leave the path of justice and truth. There are times when the future might look bleak and the road might seem to have come to a dead end; but that is when your faith on justice and truth needs to be strengthened even further to guide you through the darkest days. The characters also display a certain comic sense. This often reminds us that we are usually always surrounded by one or two such ‘specimens’. But, most of the time, they are the ones we turn to in times of need and they always stay by our side.

So, if you are in for some light reading this season, with comic moments, and an want to venture on to an unthinkable path to save what is yours; then grab your coffee/tea , get a comfy setting and dig deep into Cantilevered Tales. It is available in most bookstores near you and can be ordered online through Amazon. Happy Reading!

Let the Night Sing: A Whirlpool of Art and Emotions

Should I walk through this maze of reluctance?
Should I paint my hands and feet in mud,
Learning to fall in bones, sphincter and grace?
The water whispers seductively.
Between us, a zebra-crossing of blood and blossoming,
Of sacrilege and promiscuity.

– Lopamudra Banerjee

Poetry is both an art and science of expressing oneself. Poetry is like the gentle breeze which blows past your face; making you experience moments of relief, on a hot summer’s noon. Poetry is the like the beautiful calm on the sea or the light ripples that are formed when that calmness is disturbed. Poetry is that one overarching form of expression, which has the power to express anything in this world. Hence, US-based Poet, Writer, Translator and Editor, Lopamudra Banerjee uses Poetry to express herself in her latest book of poems – Let the Night Sing which was launched at The Doodle Room, Kolkata last month.

The book launch was organised and initiated by PR, Events Manager ,Poet and Artist, Sufia Khatoon. The book launch saw an amalgamation of art forms and literature throughout the evening. The event opened with the inauguration of a painting and poetry exhibition based on the theme Let the Night Sing which was followed by a panel discussion, the panellists to which were welcomed by Lopamudra.

‘Womanhood and its exploration in Contemporary Indian English Poetry’ was the theme for the panel discussion. The eminent panellists were Dr Sanjukta Dasgupta, (Professor, Department of English, University of Calcutta), Dr Santosh Bakaya, (Academician, Poet and Author of ‘Ballad of Bapu’ and ‘Flights from My Terrace’) and Lopamudra Banerjee. The topic was initiated and moderated by Sufia. The panellists briefed the audience on the effect of poetry in contemporary life- the influence it has on the choices that we make.

After finally unveiling the book, it was impossible that in a poetic atmosphere, there would be no reading from the book. Thus, Lopamudra, Sufia and Dr Bakaya read out from the newly launched book which was synchronised with beautiful melodies by the musicians.

A Musical Performance in Progress
Photo Courtesy: Sufia Khatoon

The evening then progressed onto an art and poetry exhibition presented by the Rhythms Divine Poetry Group. Musicians Pavlu Banerjee, Kolkata Music Dairy band, Akash DasGupta and Sahil Sarkar enthralled the audience with their mesmerizing music and made sure that everyone joined in. This was followed by a performance poetry which was presented by poets Sufia Khatoon, Amit Shankar Saha, Anindita Bose, Subhajit Sanyal, Aiman Abdullah, Arjun, Tanya Sengupta, and Aparajita Dutta on the theme Let the Night Sing.

Lopamudra Banerjee
Photo Courtesy: Sufia Khatoon

Let the Night Sing is a collection of 70 poems which highlights on the theme – a journey to womanhood. Its stunning book cover has been designed by Sufia Khatoon. The poems are in a continuous linkage with each other; each one taking the poet one step closer to experiencing womanhood. It is a unique blend of experiences celebrating sometimes a child woman and at times a woman trying to put her life back together from its broken pieces. These myriad hues of life put together in a few pages evoke an emotional journey in the reader’s mind- a journey that every reader willingly undertakes through the poets thoughts and verses.

The evening was a memorable one with a blend of poetry, discussions, music, performances and art. The event saw not only the launching of Let the Night Sing but the evening actually sang and progressed into a beautiful night. One that would be etched in everyone’s memories for a long time. Whenever one would pick up a copy of the book, one would praise it for being the whirlpool of artistic influences at the same place, on one July evening in Kolkata.

 

Before We Visit The Goddess

Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni  spans through the lives of three generations depicting their personalities, actions, decisions and mistakes. The narrative shifts from the naive yet determined village girl Sabitri; to her daughter Bela who takes impulsive decisions blinded by the love of her life; to her daughter Tara, who after witnessing strained relationships between her parents sets out to discover the world on her own. Set across a timeline of around ten decades across continents and three generations, Divakaruni highlights how with changing time, every relationship changes in an individual’s life. Simple emotions and societal acceptance grows by accepting newer terms and making the society liberal in its own way.

Sabitri comes to Kolkata from a small village in order to pursue her education. She was funded by one of the wealthiest ladies of the town. However, she enters the scope of forbidden love for which she is vanquished and left all alone to settle down in a new life. Bela, on the other hand had bigger dreams. But in the process of achieving them, dreams became bigger than relationships to her. Thus, Bela reflects on the compromises that an individual makes in order to put their foot forward for an imagined utopian destiny. Tara is brought up in the United States, thus instilling in her an unwavering ability to carve out her own life; learning from her mistakes and moving forward with it.

Before We Visit The Goddess explore three very different relationships that exist between a mother and a daughter. While a mother dies awaiting the return of her daughter; another regrets decisions taken years ago and laments the strained relationship with her daughter.  The three leading ladies have an immense sense of loss of relationships in their lives. However, each one tries to cope up with it in their own way. Thus, Divakaruni tries to fit in the idea of changing relationships with time and a sense of loneliness through her beautifully worded novel, Before We Visit the Goddess.

Personally, I would like to add that though this is a good novel on its own; considering her past works like ‘The Palace of Illusions’ or even ‘One Amazing Thing’, this is not her best novel. The abrupt jumps between years and a shift between the first person narratives through each chapter at times confuse the reader. There are instances when, as a reader I would have liked to know a little more about a character but no further details are provided about him or her. Few lines now and then talk of hidden truths, but they are not expressed very clearly for the reader. Lastly, the novel ends on an open-ended note. As a reader, probably I would expect a definite end. Open ended sequences do work well for some novels, but however for this one I found it as a mismatch.

Nevertheless, I would recommend you all to read the book once as a stand-alone book and to not compare it with any of her previous literary works. Before We Visit The Goddess is available on Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and at your nearest bookstores.

If you have not read it yet, grab your copy now!

Segregation to Inclusion: The Way Forward

We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion Max de Pree Society, of late has divided itself into various communities. One such community is what the layman calls the community of the specially-abled which is often subjected to segregation rather than inclusion in mainstream society. However, every individual in this world is differently abled than the other; hence the idea of distinction holds no value whatsoever. But the stereotypes and myths garnered by the society over a period of time has actually lead to an attitudinal problem in the minds of the people. Two of the most important sectors to focus in this regard are early development including parenting and schooling; and employment opportunities. The Transcendent Knowledge Society (TKS)  presided over by Amrita Roy Chowdhury has been working relentlessly in trying to do away with the imaginary barrier created between the ‘normal’ and the ‘specially-abled’ through their work which includes running an integrated school, parental counselling and support groups, vocational workshops and regular awareness seminars and conferences.

 

On the 12th of August TKS along with the support of the Lions Club of Calcutta Roshni ,Julian Day New mission, Down Syndrome Federation of India (DSFI), Keystone Institute India and National Trust organised a seminar on Segregation to Inclusion. It was an interactive discussion on the Rights and spheres of included life for people with disabilities. The seminar opened a platform for a plethora of discussions regarding the specially-abled individuals which included topics on parenting, inclusion in family, integrated schools, and discrimination in schools during admission as well as employment. It saw an array of eminent speakers including Dr Monidipa Banerjee Senior  Consultant Paediatrician; Dr Rekha Ramachandran, Chairperson, DSFI;  Mr Aditya Tiwari, youngest single-father in India ;  Betsy Neuville, Director of The Keystone Institute; and a discussion by self-advocates, Priya , Diya, Pritha and Saptarsha.

The worth of acceptance. . . .

Dr Banerjee started her speech by drawing an analogy between landing in Holland on an Italy—bound flight to having been blessed with a child with special needs. Just as a new destination becomes acceptable and enjoyable after the first few unsettling days; similarly parenting children with special needs becomes equally desirable and fun after the first few days. However, the essence of such parenting lies in acceptance of the situation and letting go of the expectations. Parenting is not a rat race to compete in creating customized children to its perfection. It is instead a journey, one which needs to be enjoyed in every stage and cherished forever. No statement, comment or saying is ever more than the smile on the face of a child.

The value of health. . . . .

Dr Ramachandran focused on few relevant facts which have so found a home in the attitude of certain parents that it restricts their liberal thinking and jeopardizes the scope of giving their children a chance to pursue their alternate paths. It is often the fear of societal pressure that ends up being more prominent than better parenting. In fact, through word of mouth and nowadays the internet, parents gather excessive knowledge which at times can be dangerous. Moreover, teachers and students in school have a number of inhibitions regarding those needing special care. That is primarily because they are not trained or aware enough to handle the situation. This is a lack on the part of schools in giving training to their staff for creating an integrated learning platform. She also touched upon the ‘attitudinal issue’ often displayed by schools who are on the lookout for ‘high level functional performers ‘ to carry their legacy forward. Dr Ramachandran pointed out a very important factor which is almost forgotten and that is the accompanying health issues that the children face. They need to be regularly monitored health wise so that they may lead a better life.

Focussing on employments she stressed on how in Kerala more than three thousand children are made to work in the temples and how in Jaipur most of the Dholak boys are individuals who need special care. But they have made a mark for themselves through their talents and vocations. She rounded up by focussing on support groups for not only parents but also siblings so that problems can be openly discussed and solutions found to deal with certain situations.

Breaking barriers. . . . . .

Aditya Tiwari has become a role model in contemporary India having been courageous enough to fight for the adoption of a child with Down syndrome and compelling the Court to amend its adoption laws. His journey with his son was inspiring for every individual present in the conference. At the end of his speech, his valour and courage was given a standing ovation by the audience.

Meaning of inclusion. . . . .

Betsy Neuville focused on the idea of Inclusion. According to her, ‘This is not a campaign, not a scheme, but a vision.’ This vision cannot be achieved overnight but would definitely be achieved overtime through openly talking about it and accepting it. She spoke about the Stages of Inclusion and discussed the importance of role model or imitation. Children often pick up behavioural patterns from their models and elders. She stressed on the idea of RE-SPECT. One should not only respect them but also re-spect themselves to change their perceptions about the society to make it more inclusive. Betsy too ideated on the need to create social groups as well as taking a risk with the children. The essence of her speech would be to not jump to the conclusion that special children need special assistance; rather to rethink it as special children need a typical environment with a little modification.

My dreams, my aspirations. . . . . . .

One of the great moments for the children and young adults was to be appreciated for their service in the canteen and providing refreshments at the conference through their first entrepreneurial venture Sip and Bite. They were handed out their first pay-cheque at the conference in the presence of all the dignitaries. This boosted their morals and gave them encouragement. They also got their second order from the Lions Club of Calcutta Roshni. If you want to hire their services for your functions or events please drop a mail at chaitali.gami@yahoo.in

Few other self-advocates shared their dreams with the audience. Priya is an assistant teacher and wants to join as a dance teacher later on. Diya wants to pursue Hotel Management as her career. Saptarshi has found his knack in baking and is one of the members of Sip and Bite. Pritha loves to work and opined for being given more work to showcase their abilities.

My biggest takeaway from this conference was meeting some wonderful people. Two things which would always be with me was the fact that the children are not special. The parents are. They were chosen to take care of some of the most beautiful souls in this world. Further, there is a need to change the I and the Eye. Changing the I would mean to change one’s mind set and attitude and changing the eye refers to changing their perception.  I wold personally sum up my feelings through this quote by Theodore Melfi which says, ‘You have a responsibility to make inclusion a daily thought, so we can get rid of the word ‘inclusion.’

Korean Storyteller Spreads Love in City of Joy

Storytelling is very special for me. Having grown up listening to stories by my grandmother, I instantly felt connected to Seung Ah Kim who established Arirang Storytelling in the memory of her grandmother. Seung is on a very special mission- to spread the Korean Culture throughout the world through Korean traditional stories.

She is the first Korean Storyteller to have been bestowed with The Parent- Child Mother Goose Certification. Having visited places like Italy, Greece, Malaysia, USA; she is currently in Kolkata, as part of her K- Culture Storytelling tour. She has been conducting various storytelling sessions and I was privileged to attend her session ‘Stories and Fingerplays from Old Korea’ at The Orange Door. She is being hosted by Priyanka Chatterjee of Wild Strawberry. Priyanka Di, whom I know personally for quite some time is a storyteller of international repute having delivered sessions in not only Kolkata and India but also in places like South Africa and Malaysia. I am thankful to her for giving me this opportunity to conduct Seung’s interview.

Here are the excerpts. . . . .

  1. How did storytelling come to you? Why did you want to become a storyteller?

It’s Destiny! In 2007, I went to Toronto to study TYC course called Teaching Young Children because I was an English teacher and my interest was always in doing research about storytelling. One day I found that there is a storytelling festival. It was the last day and the last programme. I got the ticket and I attended the show. I cried throughout the programme and I decided to become a storyteller because I thought it is very needed for adults. Since I became an adult nobody told me stories, but I thought maybe adults need to be loved and to be talked. That’s it. This is for adults! So I started as a storyteller for adults.

  1. How important do you think is storytelling for a child?

For a child, we observe so many things, by listening to stories. For example, when I was a child, I read a lot of books and my grandmother told me a lot of stories from all over the world. That’s the way I can travel to each country. So I learned a lot from the stories. But you know a child cannot go anywhere without their parents. But through stories they can go anywhere. So, that’s why for children it is very important to explore the world and also explore some experiences which they cannot do it by themselves.

  1. Tell us something about your K-Culture Storytelling Tour.

I learned a lot from telling stories to people. This is one of the popular ways to introduce Korean culture. Also for myself I learned a lot from my culture. It gives me confidence, identity and empowerment. Once you know about your culture, then you can feel proud of your culture and also of yourself. So, that’s why I realized that this is the thing I can share with the people in the world. Nowadays because of K -Club and K- Drama people would like to learn more about Korean Culture, especially traditional culture. That’s why, I thought, if I establish K -storytelling centre in Seoul, it would be nice for everybody who wants to learn more about Korean Culture. That was kind of my dream and how I can make my dream come true. So that’s why I started to think if I tell stories, Korean stories to one million people. If they donate one dollar each, then I get one million dollars. So I can donate the money to establish K-storytelling centre. Then I made a one year plan that I would travel all around the world to show Korean culture and stories.

  1. What made you come up with the idea of storytelling as a platform for parent and child bonding?

One of the reasons I established my company Arirang Storytelling is in the memory of my grandmother.  As a child I couldn’t communicate with my mother, because my mother was so busy. She had to take care of her husband, who is a businessman and also she had to take care of three children and her mother-in-law, who was my grandmother. I missed so many things with my mother but luckily I had my grandmother. So my grandmother told me a lot of stories. Since she passed away I realized that it’s a great heritage for me to keep. But if I keep it to myself, I am not a good person. So, I decided to share it with more people. Just imagine if you are a millionaire and if you just want to keep the money only by yourself, it’s not fair. So it’s time for me to share my heritage, my treasure with the people.

Stills from the Session at The Orange Door
  1. Please share some memorable experiences that you had on your tour.

Oh yes, already I had so many memories especially in America. I met my Facebook friends face to face. They were so happy to see me and then I didn’t have any chance to tell Korean folktale to them. But just seeing me in Korean traditional costume they were so happy. So I find it a good way to share my culture wearing Korean traditional costume.  I thought wearing Korean traditional costume and telling Korean stories is the way I can make people happier.

Then in Taiwan, I participated in a show with my Taiwanese storyteller friend and a little girl came to me and talked to me in Mandarin. I couldn’t understand what she said. Then her mother translated.  The girl had said , “When are you coming back?”. I was so touched.

Another girl, she gave me a box of sweets. The last day I had to pack to go back to Korea. We realised that the box is too big. The wife of my storyteller friend in Taiwan, she said “Okay let’s take out the sweets, outside of the box and then you can just keep it inside your bag. So let’s throw away the box. “This happened in the airport. The people in the airport said that your bag is too heavy so we started to sort things out again. And then suddenly she came back and said, “Seung Ah look at this”. She, you know, tore off the box and then there was a picture done by the girl. She drew me. You know it was very touching. Then I realized that even though children look as if they don’t pay any attention but they remember everything. So it’s a great moment.

  1. Who is your favourite storyteller?

My grandmother. Also, nature. Nature tells me a lot of stories. It gives me a lot of inspiration.

  1. What advice would you give to budding storytellers?

I think if you follow your heart, you can be a good storyteller. I mean, I realised it is very difficult for us to follow our hearts because we think too much. So, that’s the simple rule for me to follow. So sometimes people you know cannot understand what you are doing. But if you truly follow your heart maybe among them even if one person is touched by your story, touched by your love, then that is enough.

Seung Ah will be performing on the 5th of August at Gyan Manch, Kolkata from 10 – 11 am and 11:30 – 12:30 pm. If you want to catch her in action, then do get in touch with Priyanka Chatterjee to get your tickets as soon as possible.