Monday, November 29, 2010

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams -- Nov 26, 2010

The next session, Poetry, will be held on Jan 7, 2011, same time, 5:30pm, same place, Cochin Yacht Club. The following session to read Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya will be on Friday Feb 4, 2011.  The novel selected for reading after that, some time in April, is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

 Talitha, Soma, KumKum, Minu, Indira, Priya, Bobby, and Amita discussing

A Streetcar Named Desire was the play that brought fame to Tennesse Williams; it also launched the Hollywood career of Marlon Brando. Packed in a slim volume is a tiger of a play in which fantasy, deception, love, sex, death, and raw emotions clash. It's a wonderful play to illustrate how a dramatist sets off characters against each other and illumines them brilliantly with the dialogue. The exchanges on the surface have undercurrents which the play's audience can sense. Brando, whom a critic termed a 'sexual terrorist', gave the performance of his life to enliven Tennessee Williams' play on screen, which the readers will view at the CYC on Dec 2 at 6:30 pm.

 Soma, Talitha, Amita, KumKum, Bobby, Priya, Indira, and Minu at the reading

The scenes between Blanche and Stanley are the most intense, as temptress and terrorist spar with each other. Just as alluring are the scenes where the two sisters, Stella and Blanche, converse and establish where each one stands in their search for love and security.

The women are laughing 'coz Joe has unbuttoned his shirt, as manly Stanley does

There was much enjoyment in the dialogue and real debate about the controversial elements: was there or was there not a rape? Does the play illustrate that nobody has a corner on duplicity, as TW said? What is the role of music and the carefully delineated props the stage directions mention? How real are Stella's and Stanley's love for each other?

For a comprehensive account of the reading click here:
Full account and record of session on Nov 26, 2010

or here below ...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Week Hay Festival in Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 12-14, 2010

The Kanakakunnu Palace is tranquil place, near the Napier Museum and the Zoo. Three rooms were used for parallel sessions with authors being interviewed first; then the audience could ask questions.

Vikram Seth recited a few unpublished poems; here's a Villanelle, which ends
I must, I simply must get out of bed
And press that reset button in my head.

KumKum was maha tickled on the second day of the festival, when seeing her alone and palely loitering, he asked, "Hi KumKum, where's Joe?"

 Vikram Seth signs in Malayalam too!

Peter Florence led Simon Schama through the alphabet, letting Schama expatiate. An example:
"T .... is for Tarantino. Such a bad boy and an amazing director. The sound track of 'Pulp Fiction' was incredible. Took up with my student, Mira Sorvino. How dare he!"

Tarun Tejpal (owner-editor of Tehelka weekly and novelist)  talked about his new novel "The Story of My Assassins". He contrasted the certainty of his stand in the sphere of journalism with the doubts he entertains when writing a novel (about the characters, how they behave, etc.). The professions of journalism and being a novelist, are both subversive; they are there to challenge the received opinion, and not merely to confirm everybody's prejudices.

A weapon they [the Congress Party] can't quite control,” said the interviewer, Shoma Chaudhury. Mani Shankar Aiyar (himself, a non-believer) felt that Dawkins' attack on religion involves him in contradictions because atheism too is a form of belief, and therefore, Dawkins' crying himself hoarse against belief in God, makes him exactly like a believer in one religion decrying the adherents of all other faiths.

Kashmiri journalist, Basharat Peer (centre), spoke about his book of factual, corroborated stories of the events in Kashmir in the past two decades, “Curfewed Night.” Kashmir is heavily militarised. What happens in Kashmir in the name of India is nothing for Indians to be proud of, he said. When someone from the audience suggested that Real-politk will dictate the solution in Kashmir, Mani Shankar Aiyar retorted, "Why are morality and justice not on the table as the basis of the solution?"

Michelle Paver is the author of a series of children’s books (six volumes called "Chronicles of Ancient Darkness") with a boy, Torak, as the hero. Paver said her stories are not fantasies, but a well-researched recreation of the human reality of hunter-gatherers 6,000 years ago. Here's a wonderful statement: "All writers are spirit walkers in a way. We have to inhabit our own characters."

Tishani Doshi spoke about her first novel, “The Pleasure Seekers.” A wonderfully playful and imaginative reconstruction of the history of a clan, it begins with a Gujju lad who goes to England and comes back with a phoren wife. As an aside, she mentioned that, in future, unless people regain the habit of writing letters, they will forgo the great pleasure of opening themselves (and becoming vulnerable) to another person and receiving moving expressions of things on a personal level. “Do you write to your lovers?”, the interviewer asked. “Yes,” came the swift reply 

  Malayalam poet O.N.V. Kurup, winner of the Jnanpith Award, recited a beautiful poem of environmentalism (“Bhoomikkoru charama geetham”) in which the Earth is described thus:
O mother Earth, / Most favourite bride of the blazing sun,/ You've lost your pristine bridal dress.”

 Gillian Clarke is the third national poet of Wales. The first one wrote in English and Welsh, but she writes in English alone, since she acquired Welsh only by study at a late age. But she has her poems translated into Welsh by her good friend and fellow poet, Menna Elfyn, who was also there, courtesy of the British Council. Auden said about Yeats ('In Memory of W.B. Yeats')
Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
What hurt you into poetry?” someone asked. The answer was:"Love, earthquakes, the denial of Welsh to me when a baby, the weight in the heart ...these things inspire poems."

Upinder Singh is a historian, author of numerous books, and professor of history in the University of Delhi. She is the PM's daughter and came to discuss the unwritten histories of the past that need to be written. She emphasised that history has to be narrated as a human history, in order that it may relate to us as human beings.

Nik Gowing of BBC has written a monograph, 'Skyful of Lies and Black Swans', which can be downloaded from the Web. He declared the new media (the Internet, the mobile phone, etc.) are extremely subversive. Governments and corporations have still not got it, and are in a mode of reacting too late, and defensively. But I say: in spite of the vaunted power of mobile phones and webcams they have made a contribution only on the margins of public efforts for change. The warmongers, the frauds, the authoritarian regimes, and those guilty of colossal pelf still go unpunished in the East, and in the West.

Debate: Resolved that Economic Growth occurs at the expense of Social Development.
Trickle-down doesn't work. Laissez-faire doesn't work. Dirigisme doesn't work. Tejpal said that in reports of hunger, India is at the bottom nearly, 67th in a list of 84 countries. We call ourselves an emerging power, 'Shining India', and all that, and we cannot feed our children! Tejpal had a startling observation: the irony of egalitarian sharing of  wealth in India is not that the backward tribal people of the central Indian forests in Chattisgarh (the scene of some of the 'Maoist' revolts) are going to the rich and saying 'please, we want some of your wealth', but that the very rich and the corporations they control are going to the tribal people and asking them to hand over the little land they possess, as well as their access to the forests for their livelihood, so that the ores of iron and aluminium lying underground may be appropriated by them. And the state is abetting the rich.
The motion was passed by a fair margin.

  The legendary Bob Geldof, visibly aged, spoke extempore about his commitment and love for the continent of Africa. He inveighed against the injustices perpetrated in Africa for centuries by white men, still continuing under some of their own rulers. He led the finalé of the festival with an open-air rock concert at the Nishagandhi amphitheatre, with the superstar Sting.

Leave a comment below if you want to know more about any of the events above, and others not discussed for lack of space. For the full programme of the event, please consult:
The Week Hay Festival Programme in Kerala 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The World According to Garp by John Irving — Oct1, 2010

The next session will be held on Nov 26, 2010, to read excerpts from the play, A Streetcar Named Desire (SND), by Tennessee Williams.

On Dec 2, 2010 (Thursday) a private viewing of the Marlon Brando - Vivien Leigh movie of SND will be screened at the Yacht Club at 6 pm.

The World According to Garp
The question of feminism and what it meant, gave rise to a steady stream of discussion, as that theme runs through the novel from beginning to end. Here are the 'feminists' in animated discussion —

Soma, Talitha, Amita, KumKum

Whether the quality of the writing elevates the novel to the first ranks of literature was another question that dogged the discussions. As happens in nearly all the sessions, lively arguments were put forward on several sides, but the readers were left to form their own judgments. John Irving's own opinion may be true, but it is probably tongue-in-cheek: "An artfully-disguised soap-opera."

Two visitors joined us for this session, Mr Thomas Manipadam and Mr Renjith Sanoo.

Soma, Talitha, Amita, KumKum, Manipadam, Bobby, Thommo, Sanoo

You may read a full account of this session by clicking here. Or by following the link below.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Poetry Session on Aug 13, 2010

 The next session of the KRG will be on Oct 1, 2010 to read The World According to Garp.

Summer vacations halved the attendance for the Poetry Session in August. A new intending member was introduced Ms. Minu Ittyipe, a journalist. The absence of so many readers, you might think, would have reduced the intensity of the discussion, but take a read of the full account linked below to find out what happened.

Minu, Talitha, Amita, Thommo

 The poets were diverse in nationality: English - 4, American - 1 , Indian-American - 1 , and Australian.- 1

The poems recited ranged from sonnets (Elizabethan and Italian), to blank verse and tercets; and even prose-poems, a category that did not exist before post-modernism. Religion, language identity, and assertion of women's place in the world, were the powerful themes advanced by the poetry recited. These subjects enlivened the discussion that ensued.

Priya, Talitha, Amita, Thommo

Here is a link to the full account and record of the session on Aug 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Moby Dick by Herman Melville, July 9, 2010

This was the much-awaited reading of Moby Dick.  The book is large, and the enchantment it holds for readers is deep. It takes time to traverse the voyage of Ishamel, which is as much mental as physical, through the 135 chapters; even a cheat sheet to reduce the words to half by judicious skipping did not enable everyone to finish the novel.

 Zakia reads about Stubb killing a whale as Soma & KumKum listen

Indira managed to persuade the British TV actor, Madhav Sharma, who was visiting for a family occasion, to come and read for us from Chapter 36, The Quarter-Deck; in a fiery conversation Ahab overmasters his crew and swears them to the maniacal objective of killing the White Whale. 

Amita, Thomo, Indira, and Madhav Sharma at the reading

Indira reading about the pacific whale nursery of thousands of congregating mother whales

The next novel will be chosen by Soma and Zakia and they will notify the others at the next reading on Aug 13, 2010.

Madhav Sharma, British TV actor, reads Chapter 36 of Moby Dick where Ahab beguiles the crew of The Pequod to pursue his personal vengeance on the White Whale

Forthcoming sessions are as follows:
Aug 13, 2010    Poetry
Sept 24,2010    John Irving, The World According to Garp
Here is a link to the full account and record of the session on July 9, 2010.

Madhav Sharma seated - KumKum, Thommo, Indira, Bobby, Amita, Zakia, Soma

Monday, June 14, 2010

Poetry Session on June 11, 2010

This was one of our longer poetry sessions. We read from Dylan Thomas, Walter Scott, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Yang Lian, Nissim Ezekiel, Kabir Das, John Crowe Ransom, Alun Lewis, and Rudyard Kipling. What was remarkable was that this was the first session of poetry in memory where no woman poet was given voice.

Zakia, KumKum, Talitha, and Soma

But the variety was not unusual: two Welshmen, a Scots, two Americans, two Indians, a Chinese poet, and one from England. This meeting has set a record for the number of readers: nine.

A good rule is to attempt no more than sixty or so lines of verse. Else with the discussion thrown in we will exceed the ten to twelve minutes that can be allotted to each reader.

Soma, Amita, Zakia,Talitha, KumKum, and Indira

Two of our men, Bobby and Thommo, had to leave for a meeting before the end, and that's why the group photo shows only the distaff side. Joe was behind the camera. 

Our next session will be on July 9, 2010 at the Yacht Club at 5:30 pm to read from Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Here is a link to the full account and record of the session on June 11, 2010.

Monday, May 24, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – May 21, 2010

KRG readers met once more at the Yacht Club library, this time to read Ernest Hemingway's famous novel of the Spanish Civil War. The attendance was 100% and the participation was very keen. Before the reading started Priya distributed complimentary cloth book covers, courtesy of a women's group in Mumbai called Passages, whose website is

We were all ranged board-room style for the first time, instead of sitting around a coffee table informally. Here is a picture of Indira reading Thurber's parody of Hemingway from a 1947 New Yorker issue:

And  a rare picture of Joe reading from the ardent love scene which inaugurated Hemingway's novel expression for the female orgasm:

The reading not only started in time, but it finished before time too. Wonderful, if we can keep this up and everyone observes a voluntary limit of about 1,000 words or so for the reading, and 5 mins for the discussion, or a total of 10 to 12 minutes.

Priya, Soma, Amita, Joe, Talitha, Bobby, Thommo, Zakia

Here is a link to the full account and record of the session on May 21, 2010.

The next sessions are as follows:
June 11, 2010    Poetry
July   9, 2010     Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Encounter with Sidin Vadukut, author of DORK, Apr 30, 2010

DC Books hosted a discussion with the author, Sidin Vadukut, of DORK, The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese. The novel describes the adventures of a Malayali in the big city as he climbs the corporate ladder and tries to fulfill his ambitions for money and romance. It is written in the plainspoken style of a young modern guy on the make in India. It takes the form of a diary of the main character, with the strange name of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese. It sets out life in the office as he goes to work in a management consulting company. By the end of the novel, he has become a sort of management guru, and is even interviewed by one of the business channels on TV.

Sidin Vadukut and Ms Anuja

Vadukut described what impelled him to write this novel while working as a journalist with the Hindustan Times in Delhi. He intends to develop the the adventures further in two sequels and hopes by the end Varghese will have made his way to the top, and found the love of his life. Along the way will be many botched projects and near-crashes.

 DC Books audience (KRG's KumKum & Pavithra in the first row)

For a fuller account, please click here.

Sidin Vadukut signs a copy of DORK for KumKum

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poetry Session on April 9, 2010

The KRG moved its meeting venue to the Yacht Club and enjoyed the air-conditioned ambience of their library to hold a most enjoyable session of poetry reading. Carol Ann Duffy, Rita Dove, T.S. Eliot, U.A Fanthorpe, Edgar Allan Poe, and Thomas Hardy were the poets recited. Eliot, Duffy and Poe have been featured before, Duffy twice.

Indira, Priya, Bobby, Thommo, Talitha, and KumKum

You can read a full account of the session here with all the interesting comments.

The next reading session will be on May 21, 2010 at the Yacht Club library at 5:30 pm to read Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré

The nine readers who contributed took immense pleasure in discussing the pros and cons of spying and the different types of spooks in this novel. The dedication to eliminating their rival agents, and traitors in their own midst, without ruth or compunction, was seen as a dominating characteristic of the spy trade, which persists to our day, long after the end of the Cold War era in which this novel is set. References from the dawn of history show spying to be as ancient a profession as prostitution.

Bobby, Pavithra, Priya, Amita, Talitha, KumKum, Indira, Joe

There was general admiration of the style in which the book is written. No fast cars or women, no eye-popping gadgets, and not a great deal of violence. It is more a battle of wits, and exploring the underlying philosophies of the two sides of the Cold War. Many readers admired the lean prose of John Le Carré, so well-adapted to the no-frills character of the protagonist, Alec Leamas. Here and there, a spring bud of elegant description breaks out of the otherwise unadorned style of the author.  A few weaknesses in the story line do not take away from the engrossing read this novel is.

Please find here the full account and record of the session on Mar 5, 2010.

The next session featuring Poetry will be held on April 9, 2010. The session after that to read For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway will be on Friday, May 21, 2010.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Poetry Session on Jan 21, 2010

We welcomed two new readers, Pavithra Poonacha and Soma Kanjilal, at the first session of the year. With ten participants there was a great deal of variety at this Poetry session. The poets ranged geographically as follows: USA - 1, UK - 4, Lebanon - 1, India - 2, Mexico - 1, Russia - 1. Their styles were all the way from Elizabethan tragedy and conceits to modern and post-modern twentieth century verse. Two of the poets were read in translation, from Spanish and Russian. The mood of the poems ranged from the ominous to the metaphysical, from the lyrical to the humourous, and everything in between, such as aphorisms and parables. Here is a picture of the session in progress -

L-R: Amita, Pavithra, Chengappa

A group picture after the event is shown below:

L-R: Thommo, Bobby, Amita, Chengappa, KumKum, Talitha, Soma, Penny    Kneeling: Pavithra, Priya

KumKum invited the readers and their spouses to her home, with dinner to follow. A corner of the prandial event is shown here:

The Complete Record of the Poetry Session on Jan 21, 2010 can be viewed by clicking on the link.

The next session will be on Friday, Feb 26, 2010 at 5:30pm in DC Books, Chittoor Road, to read the novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré.