“If I were a Devadasi.”

It is time to get transported into one of the most fascinating milieus and yet another brood of the notorious caste system – the Devadasis. We could have easily been talking about the age of romanticism where women dedicated themselves to deities and temples. As resonates through The Ivory Throne : “their lives committed in service of god, dancing and singing and preserving high culture in great Hindu temples of the land.” To add to the romance, imagine a vivid picture of the great shrine of Mahakala in Ujjain, which resounded with the sound of the ankle bells of dancing girls: The Meghadutam by Kalidasa.

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There are times when while looking at a painting one is seduced into a different time and era. I often picture my silhouette in Kolkata of the 30s : a swarm of people moving at the speed of light, sometimes even passing through my silhouette yet the silhouette is held by the spirit of the times as if the latter were a painting. Let us float into the age of romanticism and call my perchance finding of ‘The Ivory Throne, Chronicles of the House of Travancore,’ a book by Manu S. Pillai, serendipity.

It was during the Bangalore literature Festival that I first heard of Bara. This book of U.R. AnanthaMurthy was discussed by a panel moderated by Chandan Gowda. Chandan Gowda indeed has translated this super short novella into English from Kannada. I had no idea what Bara was about during the panel discussion but what got me interested in it was the mention of a string of thoughts as experienced by the protagonist, an IAS officer of a drought stricken district.

Countries have habits. Our country has a habit of either believing too strongly in somebody or not believing a word of the person. Whether a person is truthful is a thing to be analyzed only much later when someone else who can have a greater command on our belief system appears on the scene. Many nations have a national habit of believing only their own. Other nations have the habit of believing anything that is imported. Few countries can maintain a balance between the two and analyze.

I like to look at a book as though it was formed like the universe (with all the conjectures) and grew and nurtured on the world around it. However, a book is incumbent to live up to this perspective.

Grapes of Wrath is such a book. It starts from the dust bowl Oklahoma and moves to California, tracing the trajectory of becoming and unbecoming of migrants, a family seen from close quarters by the author and the graph it scales. While it is the essential storyline of the book, Grapes of Wrath has been able to capture life as it is. I can conclude the book with this imagery: concentric circles, where, in the outermost circle lies nature, in the middle is the Manself (a word coined by the author to denote man and his desires) and within their lap lie the Joads (the family).

While browsing through the books on my bookshelf last night, ‘The Quran’ published by the Salaam Centre, Bangalore landed in my hands. I believe that each book that we buy or read gets a memory shot tagged to it. When we come back to pick those books again in distant future, we invariably travel time. Same happened with this book. I had to travel only a year back – 2015, Bangalore Book Festival at Palace Grounds. One incredible experience that I had thought of penning down and for some reason, completely forgot; it has come to this day that I write about it.

Haven’t we all wished to rewrite the fate of a certain fictional character because we thought they deserved better? Haven’t we all wanted to know what were our favourite characters thinking during the toughest of their times ?  While some of us create an alternate destiny  and let them live happily ever after in our heads, there also a few of us who write a fan fiction as an ode to our favourite characters. But then there are others who feel strongly about them that they can go on to write a full-fledged novel based on those emotions. 

It sings the glory of unsung heroes and paints the struggles of their lives. It makes you fall in love with those fallen stars and tells you why some deserved more than being forgiven. The book tells you how football has been an instrument of change bringing about a revolution in the political landscape of many of these countries and how footballers were not only sports icons but also champions of nationalist movements.

Bangalore got its own Poetry Festival this year. Considering the fact that the city has a strong and vibrant poetry community that thrives in the bookstores, cafes, and parks; a poetry festival was in fact due and perhaps should have even come earlier than now. The festival was liked by most of the attendants. I must most sincerely thank the organizers for such a Herculean effort.

There is one more thing that must be spoken about. A book was specially commissioned to be unveiled at the festival. Po’try was released as an anthology of poems that were shortlisted from the entries that were received in response to the poetry contest conducted as part of the festival. The entries were supposed to be in English, Hindi, or Kannada and required the number of lines to be more than 25.