Nayantara Sahgal: With Stars of Hope Still in her Eyes

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Nayantara Sahgal could have chosen a better path, less confrontational to her cousin in her political excesses, than the one she had in her sphere of activities. Everything was positive for her to be on the track, easily enjoying shades of a comfortable Nehruvian era. But she had chosen a rough path, less traveled, with a host of unsparing questions  to a relatively new society that has winged its way across the colony rule of England. The writing was her forte along with the indispensability of history and politics entwined.
Nayantara Sahgal is the second daughter of the three born to Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, the freedom fighter and first prime minister of India. Having taken birth in one of the most affluent families in India, the law of averages was either keeping afloat enjoying all the riches they inherited or going with the tide. But she took a third path of keeping her eyes open to the rough realities pulling the country back. She decided to write about women. Women defined by the times! She defined women’s identity in a complex family set up. Her focus was on the downtrodden wreathed in the miasma of society smokes.
Her childhood days had witnessed an unwholesome and oppressive rule over women. And she chose to stand in the way creating impediments to the unquestioned sweep-asides. Religion, caste and creed appear to be the biggest drawbacks in Indian society, even now. Imagine how worse it could have been a few decades ago. People in the lower level were destined to breathe the stench of the air prevailing, not knowing that there was another healthy and correct way around. Most of the bigwigs were not ready, risking their fortunes in order to fight against injustice.
Nayantara was a fiery critic of her favorite cousin, Indira Gandhi and fell out many a time with her unholy rackets. Politics was the air they breathed at home. Anything happened at some part of the country had its influence at home.
Nayantara Sahgal was one of the guests of the literary festival held at Chennai in January 2015.  Ritu Menon, the biographer and co-founder of her feminist press  was also with her at the festival stage, organized by The Hindu, a leading newspaper in India. The role of gender relations that entwined politics was the interesting component brought Ritu Menon to Nayantara Sahgal.
Nayantara commented about her association with Indira Gandhi, a former prime minister of India.
”We were so close knit a family and our childhood was interesting. I have totally turned into writing later and always an opposition to injustice. We fell out in the darkest days of her declaring Emergency in India. I still strongly feel that she went against the family wish and what we stood for. Indira did not tolerate opposition and never cared to analyze things in the proper way. I’ve no regrets whatsoever for what I stood for and wrote. I could have been less aggressive to her, closing my eyes towards reality. But I preferred to keep my eyes open. We may get counted in the process of conquering fear I think my idea is simple to speak up for the India we believe in what it ought to be!”
January 2015 was the time perturbed with the Perumal Murugan issue, in India. A literary work that has survived a few years peacefully became an emotional aversion all of a sudden for a few vested  and intolerant interests and the author a persona non grata. Perumal Murugan, a Tamilian professor, the author of Mathorubhagan (One Part Woman) crept back to his chrysalis declaring himself ‘dead as a writer!’ The authorities have banned the book, saving their skins. Nayantara was the first writer came forward publicly defending the writer’s liberty. Freedom to speak and write is facing the greatest challenges in India, despite being proclaimed ‘the biggest democracy in the world’. She called for a collective support from artistes and writers for their freedom of expression.
Nayantara Sahgal’s novel, ‘Rich Like Us’ won Sahitya Akademi Award in 1986. She has around ten novels to her credit and a few other books. Ritu Menon is the author of ‘Out of Line : A Literary and Political Biography of Nayantara Sahgal.
Nayantara even at the age of 88 is well concerned about the India in her dreams and responds befittingly to the issues we’re facing.
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Chetan Begets

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When he threw the ball back to her, he said, “Change your point shooter.”
Somehow he managed to put it across in correct English.

”What?” – She exclaimed and surveyed him top to bottom.
That was the moment he wished he had worn better clothes.

I salute that thought came from Chetan Bhagat, not because of any aesthetic excellence, but for a sharp shoot of thought in which a reader enjoys the same wave-length of a writer or even vice versa.

Chetan Bhagat is not one of my favourite Indo-Anglian writers. But I like him, and the writer in him who doesn’t claim anything. He knows he wouldn’t be strong enough to wrestle with the many stand outsize. There are umpteen writers in India who can draw and paint in warmer tones than Bhagat.

That makes me talks to him.

While talking to Karthik Kumar, at the Hindu Lit for Life in Chennai, Chetan Bhagat said, “I know that I’m not a good writer. I’m not in line with the many authors who fill your bookshelves. I do not want to be remembered for ever; I want to be forgotten!

That again makes me closer to him than any Titan who carries the false celestial sphere of languages and looks at all others scornfully. (Reminds me “A little disdain is not amiss; a little scorn is alluring” by William Congreve – The Way of the World)

Before the session started live, a video screen opened with a lady throwing several brickbats at the writer.
” I hate Chetan Bhagat. He’s trash. He’s not rich in words. He doesn’t know how to write in English.”

The concert hall of Lady Andal School was packed and thicker than the many sessions it had earlier. Not because of any box-office hits on the Three Idiots, Two States, Kai Poche. Not because of his latest book, The Half Girl-friend. It’s just Chetan Bhagat, who didn’t have anything to hide from us or claim over anything. It was a hearty talk. A talk from an ordinary human being who thinks he’s one among the millions who lives here.chetan

Bill, the Wood-whisperer

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Bill Le Blanc is an artist unsung. He is often spotted during casual morning or evening strolls somewhere in the Hamilton Beach Strip of the Confederation Park area. Most of the time, he is found engrossed chiseling wood to carve distinct images out of tree stumps.
I saw him first on a warm Sunday morning; sweat dripping across his eyebrows while he was chipping away the unwanted stuff stuck to the Roller Skater sitting in a Poplar stump that could only be seen with Bill’s inner eyes.
I walked down the road to greet a few more interesting characters in his wooden story. A Beaver – who took almost 50 hours to be conceived – dedicated to his lovely great granddaughter Nicole. Another one is a Turtle that also took the same sweat of his brow. The ‘Sirens of the Sea’ consists of four mermaids, took its shape from a Manitoba Maple Stump after 160 hours.
The Beaver is the first of a kind experiment for Bill and that gave way to the subsequent themes, restoring confidence.
Bill’s humility never prompts him to claim to be an artist and continues his free service to the City of Hamilton. The decades he had spent as a steel-worker did not help in tapping his buried creativity, but he soon realized how he would be spending his retirement years.
Bill never tires of explaining his unique hobby to the intrigued passers-by. In fact, he’s extremely happy to converse with them about his plans adding beauty to the nature. Only a true woodwork artist like him knows what sleeps in the stump to be resurrected later, even after the death of a tree.

Sirensofthe sea                                                                                                     Bill’s ‘Sirens of the Sea’

The Theory of Everything

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The story of Stephen Hawking and his struggles to find his own space in a world that is by and large cold to different thinking. His ideas about theoretical physics and cosmology take their wings over his friends and teachers. This is the story of steady and persistent beats of two hearts that do not want to surrender to challenges they faced.

James Marsh, the director, brilliantly brings out Stephen Hawking from Eddie Redmayne. Felicity Jones plays Jane Wilde.

eddyA must-see, to get prepared for this year’s array of recognition!

Soup’s on

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It’s not that I expect my son to answer me how the coriander powder looks like, amidst the one hundred and forty eight similar-looking-smelling small containers in the kitchen rack, but one of the three and a half walls would do so. I started believing in God like anyone who clutches at a straw when sinking. The guys at home are on hot-line to India, running a commentary as to what happens in the kitchen, only if I’m there holding some vegetables. Not even a benefit of doubt given to a poor neophyte entering the culinary pitch! The listeners are so happy to hear the screenplay, walking tall through the streets of Goa, arm in arm, beaming at all the extra salt or chilly falls in a Canadian kitchen.
Suja gave me a demonstration on various easy-to-make dishes before setting her foot into the homing instinct. She had shown me what all are the contents and where all those have been kept. Her vacation was for 6 weeks, and the longer it goes the more would I be besetting with difficulties, the situation foreshadowed me. The funniest thing is that all the powders kept in the containers had been changed in to a single colour, on their own volition, giving me a tough time when I took the rein. I smelled trouble ahead. My nose picked up fenugreek and cumin seed powder with same smell. I became color-blind in front of turmeric and chilly- powder. Why the cilantro and parsley are playing bopeep in double role with hardly any differences in their looks. Is it my reluctance in cooking crept into my nerves in the form of this phenomenon?
The dayspring of my activity, by the tender mercy of God, taught me a big lesson. It’s not that easy like we cook the books in the office. I was wondering how my wife used to use all the hotplates at the same time for making four different curries in addition to the tutorial guidance given to the next door monster and the intermittent phone calls coming in from her students. By the time I turned my tails from the humdrum and came out of the kitchen, I encountered a giggly young creature telephoning to his mom.
‘’Here is the wounded chief of the Third Punic War…. Talk to him.’’ He said.
‘’What’s up? Where are you now?’’
My wife, over the phone:’’ We just had an awesome sea-bath and now waiting for food at Taj Vivanta’s restaurant.’’
Oh God, they’re in Goa, taking long walks and tasting all the exotic food they can grab. Blessed souls! She’s enjoying with our daughter’s family.
The formidable prospect of making a maiden Sambar in my life gave me a sharp shock and it was not visible for her being at the other end of the phone in India. Thanks to the Sambar Masala Powder and its magic spell and smell turns any worn out rubber slippers into Sambar! Stepping up the initial smirk bloomed at her face my sister-in-law said to me that my Sambar deserves a top star. I know, it’s not that deep from her mind but just a thanksgiving for my dropping her to her office and picking up from there. It’s no different from her comment that I drive very well when I know that it’s possible only when there are no vehicles and signals on the road.
What I infer from the experience I’ve just had is a good cook invites others to eat and finds solace in his efforts in doing so. I remember having tasted a few dishes bland and insipid just because they do not have a flair for cooking but are forced to invite for dinners just to repay for the tastes they had at our place. Many of the items were tasted like warm card-kitchen2boards. But there were some tough species who ordered food from out well in advance and conveniently transferred all to their own utensils to show that those are all home made. A question or two could easily make the cat out of the bag in such cases.

To put it in a nutshell, it was just reifying a concept which had been believed to be impassable for me so long. Usually dilatory in work habits, I wonder how I got accustomed to this art that requires extreme patience and research.
In my childhood days there existed a misconception among the male highhandedness and children that only ladies cook. Or rather to say that it is their duty and theirs only to feed the rest of us in the family. Of course there were exceptions for men only when they prepare big feasts. That also was based on a ‘generally accepted belief ‘ that ladies are unable to handle ‘wholesale feasts’. If a male is found to be with his ‘daily cooking affair’ within no time he would have been notorious that he’s a good-for-nothing guy only to be fit for kitchen slots. Maybe because of that low-graded statusquo we never offered our helps to moms in their chores. Instead, we used to fight with her if food has not been provided on time or a bit less in taste. Looking back to those days is indeed painful as we never understood the sweat and toil she had gone though in bringing us up, especially in a time of no cooking gas or stove.
Come hell or high water, a day or two in a week henceforth would make my wife free from her toils by me as a dedication to her prodigious skills of cooking I had been enjoying all these years.

But I do really feel like I’m that unfortunate cat who happened to land on the proverbial hot tin roof, when in the kitchen, and walking a thin line in the dead of a summer!

What Sort Are You?

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Many a time, I felt that people I meet are invariably presumptuous in giving their opinions.

Do they really go to the core of it before giving out their versions?

Do you put up with presumptuous friends or say servants of that nature at home?

Is having ambitions farcical or presumptuous?

Do any of you have a same temperament or behavior that lacks restraint or modesty?

Well, if you don’t put across your opinion, will you be termed bashful?Image

Angel of Spell

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“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”                                  maya                                                                                                          Maya Angelou
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Goodbye lady! You had been celebrating womanhood when many of your friends were held up in a quandary. You encountered many defeats, but not got defeated. When you wrote your life and shared with us, you were blinking back your tears. The war you started never ends. You would certainly be able to watch from somewhere, someone carries your torch. Now, rest in peace!