Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jhumpa Lahiri - My inspiration

Nilanjana Sudeshna Lahiri ( Jhumpa Lahiri )

Years ago, this one photograph introduced me to the world of Pulitzer and writing. Time flew by, but this single picture lingered in my memory. I never ever thought in the wildest of my dreams that I could write. But I used to read then voraciously. The above appeared on the cover of Competition Success Review. But I took years to read her books. And now I am a huge fan of hers. I have read all of her works except the ' Lowland' which I will finish soon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Agni - C Radhakrishnan

One could well say at the outset that the all-pervading emotion of ‘Agni’ is violence. But as you proceed further, it is not violence alone that rules, but a strange interplay between love and violence. And this bizarre proportion could disturb the reader to the core.

‘Agni’ was originally written in Malayalam in 1963. But the political setting narrated could well fit into the current scenario also, thereby closing the gap of 51 years. Besides, it has been chronicled so vividly that it would not be a stupendous task for any reader, alien to Kerala, to feel the pulse of the state and the district where the story unfolds.

To begin with, the story is set in a village, Chamravattom in Malappuram district, which is also the author’s native place. When the story opens, Moosa, the village butcher has slaughtered his boy assistant and walked away. The severed head still lies there. While narrating the geography, politics and other associated elements which are required to set a backdrop, the author clearly explains that the place is not known for human sacrifices. Hence, when this murder occurs, one would wonder whether it is a case of human sacrifice. But it is not.

Moosa’s 17-year-old daughter Amina, who is lame, had been missing since the night before this fateful incident. Perhaps this might have irked Moosa and, unfortunately, his wrath might have fallen on the poor boy. People are frightened for they know that his fury is yet to subside. His daughter had eloped with her lover Sulaiman. The story has a few characters - Moosa, Amina, assistant boy, Mulla and Amina’s lover Sulaiman. The story revolves around them. But it is Moosa who takes the story forward.

If the reader tries to fathom the real emotion guiding Moosa, the protagonist, it is not going to be an easy task to reach any conclusion. For the book offers a lot of room to explore the undulating emotions which lie hidden in him. You could well take in the anger from an enemy but not from somebody whom you cannot segregate either as a friend or an enemy. Such is the case with Moosa. He would appear beastly. But the emotion he showers on his disabled daughter even after he discovers that she is pregnant out of wedlock would force the reader to think otherwise. But it would not take you too long to reverse the opinion.

Moosa is not totally devoid of love. But, strangely, he had taken a drastic step. The poor boy was forced to suffer a humiliating end for no reason of his own. The reader would be horrified to know that love has manifested itself in a strange and cruel way. For an English reader, who is not well-versed with the works of Radhakrishnan, this is a good introduction.

‘Agni’ was filmed in 1973. As part of the Indian Panorama of Feature Films, ‘Agni’ has been screened at major international film festivals including Mannheim, Istanbul, Moscow and Locarno.

C Radhakrishnan, the acclaimed man of letters, entered the literary scene when he won the novel contest conducted by the Mathrubhumi weekly at the age of 19. His novel ‘ Nizhalppadukal’ topped the 127 entries. Such a contest in novels was perhaps the first of its kind in the state. On many platforms, the author has said that if there were no such contests, there would not have been a writer called C Radhakrishnan.

Being a writer and film director in Malayalam, he has won accolades from various quarters. He was honoured by the Sahitya Akademi in 1989, for ‘Spandamapinikale Nandi’ and the Kerala Sahithya Akademi in 1962, for ‘Nizhalpadukal’. He won the Vayalar Award in 1990 for ‘Munpe Parakkunna Pakshikal’, and the Mahakavi G Award in 1993 for ‘Verpadukalude Viralppatukal’. His works have been translated into various Indian and foreign languages. He was also chosen for the Padmaprabha Puraskaram in 2007.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Decisive Battles and Strategic leaders by J P Alexander

Do we still have inspiring leaders to whom the nation can look up to? Can the country point out at least one leader who has a vision for the future? Do we have leaders who walk the talk? Perhaps these questions pricked the conscience of the civilian in J P Alexander. So he has come up with the book, Decisive Battles, Strategic Leaders.

“Amongst the many crises witnessed by the country, the dearth of leadership stands first in the list. Unfortunately, this crisis remains unattended,” says Alexander.

Written like a history text, it might not have the charm of a work of fiction, but it  definitely talks at length about the strategies followed by prominent leaders to win their respective battles. “Hence it would not be wrong to call this book a personality development guide to mould the younger generation of leaders,” says Alexander.

The book primarily contains the details of every significant battle in the world from 1857 to 2014. These include the battles of Arbela, Waterloo, Gettysburg, the fall of Singapore,  the battles in Vijaynagar,Bahmani kingdoms in 1560, the third battle of Panipat, or the first war of Indian independence, in 1861, and the Bangladesh war in 1971.

“All these wars are a treasure trove of strategies worth emulating,” he says.“Every war has its own strategy. When you meticulously analyse every battle in detail, the strategies become clear.”

The book even throws light on the emotions of a leader while preparing for a battle. “It is wrong to assume that leaders are without any fear,” says Alexander. “But how they channelise it, is the pertinent factor.” He quotes Napolean to prove it. “When drawing a plan of action, I magnify every danger, every disadvantage that can be conceived,” said Napolean. “My nervousness is painful though I conceal it from every one.”

For a civil engineer by profession, to have a liking for history and dates seems an unconventional passion. “I have travelled extensively and these destinations still excites me,” says Alexander. In fact, he has visited every battle site mentioned in the book, including the renowned Waterloo.

But it was the battle field of the Third battle of Panipat that has an emotional connect with him. “Firstly, I had lived in Panipat for many years,” he says. “I knew the descendants of many leaders who fought there. Besides, if the Marathas were not defeated by the Afghan King Ahmad Shah Abdali, they would have beaten the English and the history would have been different,” he says.

The Bangladesh war is yet another battle which Alexander is proud of. “93,000 Pakistanis were captured as prisoners, the largest number after the Second World War,” he says.

The book received plaudits from many included the late Madhukar Rao, former professor of Maharaja’s college, Ernakulam. “That meant a lot to me,” says Alexander.

Though a bibliography is there at the end of the book, the author says he cross-checked those books just to confirm the facts.

“The history and the related chronology is intact in my brain and I hardly needed a reference book,” says Alexander. “But you have to confirm every fact before it gets into print.”

Alexander’s sons and one of his students also helped him compile the graphics and maps. “As maps are copyrighted, I found it difficult to get the needed maps. Hence my children and a student of mine helped me with the maps suited for my purpose,” he says.

Alexander points out that the suggestions given by Lt General Thomas Mathew also helped.“I had stopped with 1971, but what about the current scenario?” Lt General asked. “Hence I wrote about the Indian Ocean and its strategic significance and how India should have a prominent role there.”

Alexander worked in the Marketing, Materials and Management Development departments of the Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Limited. He took nearly two years to complete the work. Justice V R Krishna Iyer will release the book on Sunday.