Namah Tulsi Kalyani…

The AttaGalatta -Bangalore Lit Fest, Book Prize 2017 has announced the short list.

THE FICTION SHORT LIST

Anees Salim for This Small Town Sea
Penguin Random House

Arundhati Roy for The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Penguin Random House

S.L Bhyrappa for Saakshi
Niyogi

K.R Meera for The Poison of Love
Penguin Random House

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Tulsi epitomises the blindness of passion. The sort that we typically associate with the gopikas of Vrindavan. Such obsessive love sees only the idol of worship: breathing him in, dreaming of him always, worshipping him with body, mind and soul.

The loved one is soon bored of such a love. He gets it from every single woman he courts. He loves a hunt and a chase. He values the woman who holds herself back, and taunts him with her haughtiness. Ah, that means she is covetable. If others too covet her affection, that makes her all the more invaluable a prize!

Tulsi is bereft of the tricks of love. She has been invited into love by a Player-God!

What happens when such a love is thwarted and treated with disdain and complacency? What happens when you desecrate what is sacred? And tell her that the  actual pursuit is of another woman, who is ‘ extra ordinary’, and ‘ not like her.’

Is it a tale which rings true only in the precincts of myth? Or do we see such on a regular scale?

The story of the worshipped  – both male and female-who use their powers of attraction for ticking off a virtual ‘ I got her/him  crawling on the knees list’, and then ticking another ‘ Now I am bored with her/him for overwhelming me list’ is playing around us all the time.

You occasionally draw blood with such games. It happens when what was once love, curdles into something frighteningly deadly.

The basil , Tulsi being its cognate, happens to be one herb which would never rot or stink when it dries up. Instead, it remains fragrant, and slowly fritters away, bit by bit.

There is something divine about Tulsi. And her love.

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The Master Wit

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The DSC awards for South Asian Literature has announced its long list. My friend K.R.Meera’s book- The Poison of Love- is in the long list of 13 books selected by an eminent jury. I am thrilled that her  amazing talent as a writer has yet again been recognised.( I have lost count of the number of awards she has already won:) I am also happy that my role as a translator has been recognised.

My job takes me to very traumatising places at times. Like a place of suicide. A severed head  and torso- lifeless-of what once was a very brilliant young man. When you stand looking at the gory remains of a human body, you realise yet again the futility of ego. The way death beckons with a loving smile. Love can be poisonous. It can tempt people into twisted ways of paying back. I have experienced it in my own life. Is it love at all?  Isn’t that sort of love rather evil?

Perhaps as Gibran’s Prophet explained: ‘.. For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst.Verily when good  is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves and when it thirsts, it drinks even of dead waters…’

I see the ripples of love turned poisonous in both the lifeless body now firmly etched in my memory and in Meera’s iconic novella. Tulsi epitomises the peculiar way women can sometimes love. Men too, for that matter. The theme is universal and yet so enlivened by traditional montages and nuances. The human mind is the greatest mystery ever created by The Lord.

I think the Lord has a taste for black humour at times.He has taught me once again that He is the master wit of them all.

**

 

 

 

Rites of Growth

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I have heard different people speaking about ‘why they write.’

Some of them write to make the world a more equitable place, some because they see stories all the time and cannot help telling them, some to get  their agonies assuaged, some due to a sense of dutifulness….the reasons are as varied as the types of human beings around us. And that is  quite a lot.

I have been  harshly told not to write ( Only ‘bad’ women write- do you know how men look at them? Do you? Do you?),asked mockingly why I bothered to write ‘if you were going to be published by such low key publishers’ (What is the use of writing something if nobody reads it, eh?), asked if I had the talent enough to write something at all ( She thinks she is a great writer, I do not think so. ), whether I should not be spending that time doing something more worthwhile ( Women have a lot of stuff to do, right?),laughed at for not attempting a novel ( You are not capable of that, are you really?), etc etc…

At my age, I don’t give a damn anymore.

So let me tell you a story. Of how I ended up meeting one of the most brilliant women that I have ever seen. We had dinner together in a nice restaurant  and both  she and my younger daughter fell sick afterwards! The paneer, ( yes, made of milk remnants) had  been bad, and they got infected.  The rest of us, who had  shunned that dish and indulged in other delicacies hadn’t been affected.

I took a week off from work. And  in that one week of looking after a recuperating child, I  ended up translating my friend’s  taut and stunning novella- full of imageries of milk turning  bad in time, symbolising love turning malicious.  When the effect of the poisoned paneer had finally left them both, I gave my friend the first draft. Serendipity had turned a milky white mysterious angel. She loved it and then promptly asked me to ‘ sit and polish it as hard as you can.’

The fact that I was a novice in the publishing industry helped me to ignore the naysayers early on. I am a career bureaucrat, and I deal with high temperamental personalities every day of my life. Well, that  learned immunity to unsolicited negativity, helped with the less than positive comments about my translation, as it was shown around  initially.

‘Burn with the script as a writer.Improve it with sweat and blood!’ She should have been a military commander; my friend. I do not know if I burnt anything in the process, but I have always enjoyed a challenge.

That  translated novel has now been released.  If I look back, it all started with the milk turning sour…

So, why do  you write?

Because…come let us write another one.

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Yesterday, someone gifted me six Hindi classics. Four books of Harishankar Parsayi and two of Premchand.

My little girl pointed out that she had already studied a short story of Premchand: Eidgaah. Her Amma was going to ‘study’ it only now!

‘Amma, please ask me if you do not understand it, ok?’

I smiled readily. With utmost pleasure, my darling.

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