Introduction to Reading Across India

The best library I have ever been to once stretched across the length and breadth of three rooms. The books in it shivered in huge wobbly heaps on the floor at a house almost next door. And my best friend lived there.

Her father, the late P. Govinda Pillai, was a writer and a voracious reader who filled his life with books, books and more books. It was only natural that the rooms of his house spill over with books of all shapes, sizes and genres. They jostled with the steady stream of visitors in the various rooms, listening with fluttering pages to political and cultural conversations as well as housekeeping woes. Tired of being gently pushed off tables and shelves by newer books, a multitude of weeklies and a dozen dailies, they finally climbed the steps to live upstairs, squeezing into spaces wherever they could. They huddled into corners, held onto ceilings, and at times simply hugged each other on the cold red floor. The wind and the sun peeped into the open balcony, guarded by a three-strip, faded bamboo curtain, yet they almost never hurt the books, except perhaps stroke them in broad yellow marks on their covers.

And it was to this haven that I made a weekly trip, to choose a few pieces of ecstacy in words. My odyssey into reading began here. Continue reading “Introduction to Reading Across India”

Romesh Gunesekera, Writer from Sri Lanka: An Interview

‘We are only what we remember, nothing more… all we have is the memory of what we have done or not done’: Mister Salgado to Triton in Romesh Gunesekera’s The Reef.

Twenty years of the writing life and seven books to show. Add at least a dozen nominations or awards over the globe. This is Romesh Gunesekera, born in Colombo, raised in Manila and resident in London. His writing is often spoken of by critics as reflecting the imaginative vision of a writer who explores ‘home’ through the migrant frame of memory.

Romesh’s first book, ‘Monkfish Moon’ (1992) was an anthology of short stories about ordinary people caught up in the politics and ethnical strife of Sri Lanka, and made him a finalist at the Commonwealth Writers’ Regional Prize 1993. His ‘Reef’ (1994) was a Booker and Guardian Fiction Prize 1994 Finalist, and the winner of the Premio Mondello Five Continents Asia Prize 1997, and Yorkshire Post First Work Prize 1995. His ‘Sandglass’ (1998), was awarded the inaugural BBC Asia Award for Achievement in Writing and Literature.

His latest, ‘Noon Tide Toll’, is an extraordinary portrait of post-war Sri Lanka in a series of connected short stories. The book is currently on the nominations list to The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2015.


Team ELJ (where I am a contributing editor) talked to Gunesekera on his writing, perceptions and his latest book in June 2014.
Continue reading “Romesh Gunesekera, Writer from Sri Lanka: An Interview”

Written with élan

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, which was on the Booker short list 2014, is a saga of Bengali upper middle-class life juxtaposed against the Naxal movement of the late 1960s. Sketched on a large tapestry and involving three generations of members of a joint family who live in a sprawling multi-storeyed bungalow in Bhowanipore, this is no diaspora take on life in 1960s-‘Calcutta’. The hard-bound volume of 500 pages revolves around a people who have no sahib -connect or English-proficiency; they think, thankfully, in the vernacular; and effectively so, which is to the author’s credit. Continue reading “Written with élan”

Shammi Kapoor, The Yahoo Man

When the Yahoo man of Indian celluloid, Shammi Kapoor, moved on to dance in the heavens, he left behind an unusual legacy. Shammi’s fascination for the internet was not known widely till the media, frantic for new Shammi snippets, caught on to the late superstar’s intense involvement with the World Wide Web. Shammi helped found the Internet Users Club of India way back in 1995.

In case you missed it all, here is a recap of the ‘Shammi and the Web’ tidbits going round.

Continue reading “Shammi Kapoor, The Yahoo Man”