Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A forum for established and budding writers

This is the link of the journal

Blogs and electronic journals have come to the aid of writers who want to write their heart out and widen their horizons. But what if you get a platform to showcase your writing, alongside renowned writers from all parts of the globe. This is exactly what the writing forum of Sacred Heart College, Thevara, Kochi has come up with. Their online journal, ‘Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts’, launched in the first week of February, has contributions by acclaimed writers like K Satchidanandan, Sudip Sen, Haneef Qureshi, and Meena Alexander, apart from the writings of students.

Jose Varghese, Chief Editor, and a faculty with the Department of English, said that the idea to start such a journal came from the blog which the college already has: ‘Heart - Bytes’ (

“The blog was started a year ago with the intention to develop the writing skills of students,” says Varghese. “There are many students who are serious about writing. We believe that the journal would give an impetus to their skills.”

According to Varghese, though they started the blog little did they know that it would soon gain international participation. However, it was the writing contest on the blog which led to the creation of the online journal. “Our blog has hosted many creative writing contests and, surprisingly, we started getting many international submissions,” he said. “Hence we thought of getting the contributions of well-known writers.”

One of the salient highlights of the journal is that the student writers are getting an good opportunity to interact with the prominent writers directly “which is a positive sign,” said Varghese.

The journal features the 12 best works by students. “So far, the works have been assessed by the faculty of the English Department,” said Varghese. “But now we are planning to send these works to prominent writers for assessing it. We are hoping to get a positive response. Some of our students are even sending their works for review.”

Student Editor Mariam Henna, whose two works, ‘Caged Dreams’ and ‘True Abode’, were published in the journal said that it helped garner reviews from authors. “The support given by writers Prathap Kammath and Alan Summers, a Haiku writer, were of immense help,” she said. The writing forum of Sacred Heart’s College, Thevara is also planning to start an online course in creative writing.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reliving the saga of Ahalya Devi - Usha Nangiar

For Usha Nangiar, controversies always take a back seat when it comes to art. The front line exponent of Nangiar Koothu has performed in the Kochi- Muziris biennale twice and with other two performances remaining, Usha says that she has a memorable experience performing in the biennale. Primarily for the reason that her performance could attract a lot of people irrespective of the technical intricacies involved in the particular art form and secondly, she performed for the first time, the known but less explored character of Ramayana, ‘Ahalya Devi’.

Speaking about the controversies surrounding the biennale, she says, “I was aware of it but my thoughts hardly linger on it. And I think this is the first time a biennale has ever incorporated traditional art forms under its ambit which should be appreciated.”

For biennale, she first performed in Mathilakam and later at Changampuzha park where she says that a packed audience saw her performance.“In Mathilakam, people are not much aware of Nangiarkoothu, but yet they enjoyed throughout the performance. It might be because of the myth associated with the place. There is a reference that Ilankovadikal wrote Chilappathikaram there. But in Changampuzha park, I felt altogether a different experience  while performing ‘Ahalyamokshma Nangiarkoothu’. It is much more personal. The tempo of my emotions at that point of time was at its zenith. I felt as though lady-luck was constantly smiling at me on that day,” says a jubilant Usha.

She says that she is greatly thankful for whoever who have actually suggested this particular theme.  Though there were initial apprehensions about it, later it was proved that all anxieties were for naught.
“It opened an arena which I have never explored before. Since I did not have sufficient reference material to know more about the character, I relied completely on Ramayana.

Immersed in deep thought, Usha Nangiar says that Ahalya, the wife of celibate sage Gauthama was living the life of an obedient wife until the amorous eyes of Indra fell on her.Her life turns topsy- turvy when Indra deceives her by approaching her in the guise of her husband. Discovering the truth, sage Gauthama not only curse her but also turns her into a stone. “I want to portray the emotions and angst of a woman who is trapped in a stone,” she says.

Usha says that though inside a stone, Ahalya is aware of the world around her. Seasons change, hunger, thirst, scorching sun, parching cold engulfs her. But she could not do anything to help herself. Her travails slowly become a silent but strong prayer of utter faith.“Her redeemer Rama feels the divinity of the place when he reaches where Ahalya lies as a stone. When he knows the truth, the great lord bows before her and says she is redeemed. Till that portion, she is addressed as Ahalya but then as ‘Ahalya Devi’ which says that she commands respect,” says Usha. 

She points out that throughout the whole performance, there are four special points which presents the mental-scape of Ahalya. I believe that I could portray the mental angst of Ahalya Devi and above all, it was a day when everything fell into places,” she says.

Usha Nangiar says that the character of Ahalya Devi assumes significance as hers is a life that has overcome all the hurdles with her sheer perseverance and sacrifice.“Now-a-days, we believe in extremes. If we can’t take anymore, we cull out that portion from our life mercilessly or else we suffer tremendously. But we tend to forget that there lies a midway. Hence the life of Ahalya Devi is of paramount significance in this scenario,” she says with a satisfied smile.

Friday, March 15, 2013

OFF record with Kumar Sahani, world acclaimed film maker

 Till this day, I was just  uploading those articles which were published in the New Indian Express where I work. And I think that a personal touch would be lacking if I merely upload it. Hence I thought of writing those special experiences I had while writing those articles. I would like to start with Kumar Sahani, whom I interviewed at the start of my career. If you haven't read my article on him, you can read it here

Of course, I have heard about him - World famous film maker,  friend of legend late M F Hussain. I met him when I started off my journalism career. He came to Kochi ( where I live ) to inaugurate a seminar in a university. For a budding journalist like me, it was an opportunity which seldom knocked - interviewing the renowned film maker. So when my boss mentioned his name,  I jumped to have a one to one conversation with him.

I still remember, it was noon when the organisors came to fetch us, reporters to interview him. Apart from me, there were other two, one from a regional news paper and other from another English newspaper.

Clad in white Kurta and off white pants, the great film maker showed no starry tantrums. He was a simple and an elegant man. He inquired the names of our organisations and he was to quick to recognize when I said I was from Indian Express which put me at ease.

To interview somebody you should have a back ground knowledge.Though I did my home work, it was not too easy. His films were not easily accessible. I also googled for more information but his movies were beyond my comprehension.

As I was an electronic journalism student, I had seen Ritwik Ghatak's movie ' Meghataktara' who was Shahani's contemporary. That knowledge came handy. Because of it, I could feel the pulse of that era.

With scant information and full of respect for such a legendary figure, I decided I would rather keep myself away from delving deep into his work but ask about his personal experiences about life. That worked. We had a wonderful conversation and I could feel the rapport he felt for me than my other companions. It was confirmed when he said to some of the organisors  of the event that he was quite impressed with the girl who came from Indian Express.

But I still doubt whether I could write everything I felt while I was interviewing him. I hope you might have read the blog post. Hope you would give me ample suggestions about my writing.

On a mission to preserve integrity of RTI Act- Shailesh Gandhi

When Shailesh Gandhi, the only Right to Information (RTI) activist to have served as the Central Information Commissioner, assumed office, it definitely looked like a long row to hoe. But in no time he made a headway with his RTI activism.

Though he has retired from service, after four years with the Central Information Commission, his voice is as intense as before. Gandhi was here to inaugurate a seminar titled ‘Challenges of RTI’ held on Monday.Gandhi feels that many political and judicial decisions are diluting the purpose of the RTI.

The Supreme Court had judged that the Information Commissions must function as a two-person bench, with one judicial member, with a strong legal background, required to be part of the bench. Gandhi feels that the judgment made by the apex court is incorrect, as the requirement puts the hearings on hold for many days. “Out of all the RTI applications that we receive, less than two per cent need legal explanations. Therefore, a judicial representative is not a necessity,” he said. Gandhi said that he had filed a review petition against the judgment made by Justice Swatanter Kumar.

“Lawyer Prashant Bhooshan appeared for me in the apex court. Any move which could kill the purpose of the RTI should not be encouraged.”  Gandhi told Express that he has launched a crusade against the forces that try to dilute the RTI. “The Supreme Court and the High Courts are issuing stays on many of the orders made by the Information Commission without even considering the details. This trend should be discouraged. I appreciate every opportunity to spread awareness on RTI.”

An IITian, Gandhi’s focus shifted to the RTI when he was in his fifties. “The political scenario was much better then. But it was changing for the worse and I wanted to do something substantial for the society. I felt that the RTI is a remedy,” he said. Gandhi thinks that the RTI faces challenges from three domains - the government, state information commissions and judiciary. “Information is power. It can change the equations of power. So these challenges should be dealt with. I am ready to fight for the sanctity of the act,” Gandhi said.
When Paramita Satpathy explains her poem ‘A sari’, it is indeed the resonance of the contemporary traumatic world. The poem says, “Though we keep on talking about a woman’s morality, her respectability is ruthlessly quelled in this unjust world. The five- yard sari is considered a symbol of respectability. But when I felt it more of a suffocation, I shred it into pieces. I gave the torn pieces to a rag picker, a rape victim, a dowry harassment victim who is struggling for her life in a hospital and a slumpy bar maid.” The renowned Odiya poet, author and social activist was in the city to inaugurate the G Smaraka Jnanapeeda Puraskara Prabhashana Parambara, held at Maharaja’s College.

The poet feels that the situation is such that women could no longer tolerate the hard cruelty meted out to them. “That’s why India witnessed such a huge commotion and protest of massive scale post the Delhi rape incident,” she says. Satpathy says that though the world has progressed, the erosion of humanitarian values has always put a spoke in our country’s wheel.

When Satpathy began her conversation, there was no airs of a high level bureaucrat. Besides being an influential voice in the Odiya literary fraternity, she is currently working in Bhubaneswar as the Commissioner of Income Tax. Though she has not encountered any challenging experience in her profession, she still feels that unlike her male counterparts, the path for women is hardly ever rosy whatever be the profession.

“There are times when you really have to push the envelope to get things done.” But Satpathy adds that as a writer she had to confront many hurdles. “Criticism was showered upon me when I wrote about the relation existed between Draupathy and Sree Krishna. Every relationship cannot be defined. But I took the criticism in my stride,” she says.

Expressing elation over the celebrity status given to writers in Kerala, Satpathy says that the writers of Odisha are not such a privileged lot. “Unlike Kerala, the writers of my state are not in an influential position in society. Besides, writing is also not as much rewarding as it is here. But we are taking painstaking efforts to raise an intense voice,” says she.

Till date, to her credit, there are seven collections of short stories and one novel in Odiya. ‘Door Ke Pahad’, a collection in Hindi and ‘Intimate Pretence’, a collection in English are widely discussed and brought her much acclaim. Most of her stories had addressed the recurring problems of the middle class of Odisha. The poet is known for her sensitive portrayal of the plights of modern woman with utmost perfection. Paramita Satpathy has received the Odisha Sahitya Academy Award and has re-presented Odiya literature at Bejing International Book Fair as a member of the Sahitya Akademi delegation in 2010.

me with the writer