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

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.

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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.

Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust Presents Cultural Cocktail

Cultural Cocktail, the latest venture supported by the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust is to be held on the 17th of June in Showshaa Hall, New Delhi. As the name suggests it is a very youth oriented programme involving a mix or cocktail of literature and performing arts. The concept of Cultural Cocktail entails the adaptations of traditional literature into various forms of performing arts and showcasing them to an audience. From, theatre, classical dance, contemporary western dance to a short film on the life and works of Kunwar Viyogi are what has been encapsulated by the organizers in the programme. The show has been curated by Ayushman Jamwal, author of Chameleon Lights; and is conceptualized with the help of young International artists whose roots go back to the city of Jammu.

The artists who would be mesmerizing the audiences with their performance include Sanchita Abhrol, Anmol Jamwal and Aarushi Thakur Rana. She is the disciple of Kathak Maestro, Padma Shri, Guru Shovana Narayan and has recently founded Rasadance in Australia which is known for its unique storytelling-through-classical dance performances. Sanchita along with Ayushman Jamwal as the narrator and renowned musicians and singers like Madhav Prasad, Vinay Prasanna , Salim Kumar and others would be performing ‘Ghar: Prem Ki Gaagar’. Anmol is in the field of performing arts as a jazz dancer for over six years. He started his training at the age of eleven with the Danceworx Performing Arts and has now joined them full- time. He has also become a sensation in Youtube through his contemporary and funky dance performances. He, along with his co-dancers would be performing ‘Taboo’.  Aarushi Thakur Rana, as a young theatre director has adapted William Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ in Hindi and would be presenting thus in the Cultural Cocktail.

Poster of Cultural Cocktail
Photo Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

Cultural Cocktail would also introduce the Prem Jamwal Youth Art Innovation Award in the memory of Kunwar Viyogi’s wife, Prem Jamwal. This award is bestowed on a youth who has shown remarkable innovation in the field of performing arts. The first recipient of this award is Aarushi Thakur Rana for having adapted, directed and staged William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ at the Kunwar Viyogi Utsav in 2016.

One of the main attractions of the events facilitated by the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust is that they are youth oriented in nature. The members strongly believe that empowering the youth of today is the best way to secure the future . As the youth are the future of the country, they can be the sole saviors of dying languages such as the Dogri language. If they start thinking, performing, adapting, translating and reviving the language then Dogri as well as many such regional languages can be saved from the verge of extinction in the future.

The Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust established on the 4th of September 2016, commemorates the works of Dogri writer, Late Group Captain Randhir Singh, also known as Kunwar Viyogi. Kunwar Viyogi’s deep interest in the field of literature, despite being an Air Force Officer; made him the only known Officer to have been conferred with the Sahitya Akademi Award for his most coveted works of all times called Ghar. He is known to have brought out almost six hundred sonnets in this regional language earning him the epithet of ‘The Father of Dogri Sonnets.’ Moreover his involvement in the 1965 and 1971 wars have left a profound impact on his writings, especially Ghar . Having remained the General Secretary of Dogri Sanstha in Jammu, he felt deeply for the revival of this regional language and thus, the Trust carries on his legacy forward by promoting artists in the field of Dogri language.

The Trust provides a platform to all those from the fields of performing arts and literature to come forward and showcase their talents. In fact, it has initiated scholarships for candidates studying Masters in Dogri and those who pursue research on Dogri writers and poets, especially Kunwar Viyogi ji. Further, the Trust is known to help in generating employment for people working in the field of this regional language. The Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust upholds the two prominent ideals of education and innovation; and thus promotes literature and performing arts which have major innovating elements in it.

A few lines from Kunwar Viyogi’s Ghar
Photo Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

Cultural Cocktail is the stepping stone event that would take place under the aegis of the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust as part of their five-city Save the Language Campaign Tour. Save the language is a campaign that promotes the revival of regional languages like Dogri and facilitates the incorporation of these languages in daily use or through performing arts so that the language and the identities of people associated with this language do not fade forever. A major reason for all the local languages to die is because people particularly the youth have stopped identifying themselves with it. Local languages or our mother-tongue are an ideal part of a person’s identity. Losing a language is equivalent to losing an identity forever. Thus, to save the identities of the people and to encourage the youth to relate to their local languages and dialects, Save the Language campaign holds a lot of relevance in contemporary times especially among the youth. Languages can be saved with the conscious effort of the family and society; educational institutions and clubs, groups, literary groups and fests and the like. When all these forces come together, only then can an individual realize the importance of their local languages and try to save it from joining the almost 7000 languages which are on the verge being wiped out.

Thus, the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust has embarked upon a challenging yet much-needed task of making the youth conscious of the need to Save their Languages and guide them, inspire them and provide them a platform to do so. Cultural Cocktail which is about to take place on the 17th June, 2017 is the base of this campaign which will go on with further innovations and inclusions throughout its five city tour campaign. Kolkata Bloggers is proud to be associated with this event as its Social Media Partners. The tickets to this programme can be booked here.

The Gutter Princess by Mini Gautam

The extra-ordinary story of a reluctant sex-worker is beautifully portrayed through the writings of Mini Gautam . The narrator is a young girl from the lower middle-class background . She traces her life which she embraced unwillingly due to her impoverished childhood.  The Gutter Princess highlights the brutal truth of those living on the other side of the poverty line. It depicts how they un-enthusiastically sacrifice themselves to make ends meet. The dearth of work and lack of proper education forces the lower class to take up work which they may not often approve of but becomes a quick way to find solutions to all their miseries.

Throughout the narration I could relate to the social evils inflicted upon women in contemporary world. From a drunkard husband beating and abusing his wife and children , to a paedophilic father who could stoop down no more than lusting after his own daughter; all these and many more find mention in The Gutter Princess.

Further, the book also explores human psychology through its pages. A person is most vulnerable during childhood and his/her surroundings shapes up his/her personality for the years to come. In that delicate phase if a child stands witness to domestic violence, sexual assaults, rape and discrimination based on gender; there is a stark difference in the personality of the child as compared to those children who have a normal upbringing. Their personality often emerges to be stoic , bold, unloved yet determined to meet their goals- much like that of the protagonist of The Gutter Princess.

To conclude I would say that the novel is just not a poignant tale of the life of a sex-worker, but also a ray of hope to many who have traversed similar paths. Society may demean a person but a winner is one who fights against all odds and gives it back on the face of the so- called modern, contemporary and liberal society.

The Gutter Princess can be purchased in your nearby bookstore or it can be ordered online via Flipkart, Amazon or Snapdeal.

Kohinoor: by William Dalrymple & Anita Anand

Source: indianexpress.com Author William Dalrymple and Anita Anand with book Kohinoor at JW Marriott in Chandigarh. Photo by Jasbir Malhi

“ If a strong man were to throw four stones, one each to the cardinal points, North, South, East and West, and a fifth stone vertically and if the space between were to be filled with Gold and precious stones, they would not equal in value the Kohinoor.“

 Dalrymple and Anand  in their latest, traces the history of the much respected yet feared Diamond of the world- The ‘Kohinoor’ – which means The Mountain of Light. Interestingly, the story of this infamous diamond usually begins and ends in two lines – the diamond once adorned the Peacock Throne during the Mughal Sultanate and now is a part of the exhibit of The Tower of London. But the story of this diamond is way more than just these two stages.

Kohinoor traces the history of this diamond which exchanged hands several times, saw the rise and fall of empires, travelled across boundaries, and was a symbol of sovereignty and power for not only the men who owned it, but also the women of the vast empires.

No one for sure can state the origin of the diamond. But it is speculated to have originated in the Deccan; though no evidences have been found to support the theory. From the Deccan it moved on to the Mughal Sultanate – appearing and disappearing throughout history till it finally adorned the Peacock Throne. Thereafter, it crossed borders to Iran, Afghanistan and Lahore before finally reaching London, where it still rests today.

Interestingly, throughout its journey, it has been rather carelessly handled. Shah Zaman had, slipped the Kohinoor into a crack in the wall of his cell. Further, the Kohinoor was found with a mullah who in his ignorance was using it as a paper weight for his official purpose. Another interesting observation has been revealed about this treasure. “Somehow a belief had taken root that women could wear it with impunity but that it would destroy any man who dared.” Every man who had ever come in close contact or possessed the diamond either lost it, died under tragic circumstances, was assassinated or went raving mad ; in fact, even the ship transporting it to England fell victim to the deadly cholera. However, women, time and again have adorned it on their crown and have been subjected to great luck.

To conclude it can be said that clouds of speculation and controversy would surround the Kohinoor but it has come a long way standing the test of time. If you are a history student or take keen interest in history, then this is one book you cannot miss. Its simple yet powerful language would leave a deep impact on the readers. Dalrymple has done extensive research on the Kohinoor and brought out such details of its past which would otherwise remained lost in piles of Urdu, Persian and English records.

I, personally took an interest because last October I got the opportunity to see the Kohinoor at The Tower of London. Of course, photography is not allowed inside the Crown Jewel Chambers which now houses this infamous diamond.

Kohinoor is available in all the leading bookstores and can be purchased online at JuggernautAmazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal as well.