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Anita Desai on Being An Outsider

Celebrated writer Anita Desai spoke with Joshua Barnes of Sampsonia Way about how she became a writer, her writing process, and what it’s meant to be an “exile” from her homeland while writing about it. Indeed, writing as a daily practice is inundated with multiple requests to engage and interact with fellow writers and readers in a way not known before, mainly because of the fluidity of communications available through the Internet. She also explains that in spite of our increased connectivity, we are nonetheless drawn to the mode of exile because of its impact upon both our ancestors and our present:

I’m interested in people who live in a kind of exile; it may not be political exile, but in some sense it’s exile from the rest of society. It may have something to do with my upbringing and my parents. My mother, having been German, lived most of her life in India and never felt able to return to Germany . . . But on a superficial level, by uprooting yourself, you experience the world from many different angles. On another level, it leaves you as an outsider for good. You’re always an observer rather than the participant, and that’s a big difference.

To read more of this interview, click here.

Akhil Sharma Mulls on “A Mistake”

Writer Akhil Sharma has an excerpt from his forthcoming novel Family Life entitled “A Mistake” featured in the latest edition of The New Yorker. It is filled with the kind of engrossing details that first-generation immigrants from any nation will recognize, from the wonderment at all the conveniences to confusion at all the seeming sameness. Endless adjustments, to school, to work, to home, and to the comforts of a post-industrial nation both delight and frustrate the narrator as he details his first few years as an Indian in America. An ordinary red shag carpet in a one-bedroom apartment in Queens, NY becomes a thing of luxury, conjuring feelings of “stepping onto a painting.” The stories in Family Life are based in part on Sharma’s real-life experiences and loved ones, and here he reflects upon his deliberate choice to dwell in fiction instead of memoir:

I think one can be more honest in fiction than in a memoir. For me, memoir, because it claims to be factually true, restricts my ability to use dialogue, since I remember only a few things that were said. It also hampers my ability to collapse time, because collapsing time takes events out of context. And I wanted to focus on only certain aspects of the experience; in a memoir, I would have felt obligated to include things, such as boredom, that don’t interest me artistically but were an important part of the experience.

To read more of Sharma’s story, click here. For more about Sharma’s experiences while writing his novel, click here.

Cyrus Mistry awarded the 2014 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature

Cyrus Mistry (younger brother of Rohinton Mistry) wins the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature for his novel Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer, a love story set in the Bombay amongst a community of Parsi corpse bearers. Below is an excerpt of the beginning:

“‘Oi, Elchi, you bloody drunkard! Still lolling in bed?’

There was no sound more revolting or hateful to the ears than that voice which plucked me rudely from my garden of dreams.

I was under the bower of the giant banyan with Seppy. Of all our numerous hideouts in the forest, this was her favorite. But in that instant, when Buchia’s hideous falsetto impinged on my consciousness, she was gone.”

read more here

an interview with Cyrus Mistry

Desi, South Asians and the Rest of Them: A Talk

When:

Thursday, January 16, 6.30-8.30 pm

Columbia University Graduate Journalism School, Student Lounge Room

2950 Broadway, @ 116th St & Broadway, New York, NY

What:

South Asian Journalists Association, New York Chapter

presents “Desis, South Asians and the Rest of Them”

a talk by Kanak Mani Dixit, senior Nepali journalist

and moderated by Beena Sarwar, senior Pakistani journalist

Who:

Kanak Mani  Dixit

Kanak Mani Dixit is a journalist and civil rights activist based in Kathmandu, and editor of the Himal Southasian regional review magazine. He holds degrees in Law (Delhi University), International Relations and Journalism (both from Columbia University). Through the pages of Himal, Dixit has been part of the quest to define the Southasian space and identity. Beyond English- and Nepali-language journalism, he is involved with documentary festivals, spinal injury care, archiving, human rights, public transport and architectural preservation. Dixit is translator of BP Koirala’s Atmabrittanta and writer of stories for children. Having contributed to several Southasian anthologies, he is also author of the political commentaries, Dekheko Muluk (‘The Country I See’) and Peace Politics of Nepal.

 

Beena Sarwar

Beena Sarwar is a journalist, artist and documentary filmmaker working in the areas of media, gender, peace and human rights issues. She has extensive experience in television and print media in Pakistan and abroad, including editorially with Himal South Asian since its inception. She holds a MA in Television Documentary from Goldsmiths College, University of London and has an undergraduate degree in Studio Art & English Literature (Brown University). She has been a Nieman Fellow, a Research Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance, all three at Harvard University. She is the Jang Group’s Editor, Aman ki Asha, a peace initiative between the Jang Group of Newspapers, Pakistan and The Times of India. She has contributed to several South Asian and Indo-Pak anthologies and compilations. She blogs at Journeys to Democracy www.beenasarwar.wordpress.com. Twitter: @beenasarwar

Haunted Embers and Flames

In Feroz Rather’s short story “The Last Candle,” the reader is plunged knee-deep into effusive prose from a narrator-protagonist who may or may not be dying. A meditation on the past and present of Kashmir, “The Last Candle” is also a powerful testament to the stories we tell to sustain our selves in the midst of unmitigated acts of violence. Framed by the darkened bedroom of an unnamed present, we step back into a pristine valley of schooldays, scalding hot stoves, and morning rituals bound to be broken up by everyday terrorism. Soldiers ransack a shop in broad daylight, beating a suspect and leaving spectators in a weary panic. Any saving grace from these regular horrors must be found in the pages of past glories, and in epics yet to be fulfilled:

We stood looking into each other’s eyes, suspended in an ether of delicious unease. Then she lowered her gaze. The tips of the leaves crackled and began to catch fire near our feet. She ran back to the house and emerged with a book: Habbah’s Love Songs for Yusuf. I spread open both my hands. She placed it on them. On homemade paper, the songs were written in a flowing calligraphic flourish with a reed pen. The book, as I learnt decades later, was compiled by her great-grandfather a year before he was killed in the last half of the nineteenth century while leaving a mutiny against begaer, against the disgrace and misery of forced labour, against the soldiers of the despotic Dogra king.

You can read the rest of Rather’s story here.