Frontline Posts

Jaya’s newsletter – 1

( As of this week I will be publishing a weekly newsletter on publishing and book news — international and local across languages. So if there is anything that you would like to alert me to please write: jayabhattacharjirose1 at gmail dot com )

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October is always a very busy month for publishers since the Frankfurt Book Fair is held — the mecca of publishing. So many announcements and deals are made.
  • cinestateWill Evans, Founder, Deep Vellum Publishing announced the launch of Cinestate, a cross-media company. Cinestate is looking to acquire rights to stories for literary translation and also to works that will appeal to a mass audience in multiple media, including print, digital, audiobooks, and film. ( http://bit.ly/2eTEkkX )
  • Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO, HarperCollins India wrote a guest editorial for Publishing Perspectives: “A call to protect freedom of expression and copyright in India” ( http://bit.ly/2dYV0tM) In a landmark judgement on 16 September 2016 Justice Endlaw of the Delhi High Court ruled on the “DU photocopy case”. It is being watched worldwide as a siginificant case study of copyright laws and its interpretation of “educational use” since it is argued that it will impact all forms of reproduction. The judgement and related resource material have been uploaded on SpicyIP, a blog on intellectual property (IP) and innovation law and policy, managed by IP exerts and lawyers. (http://bit.ly/2eTGotj )
The week gone by has been very exciting. Full of news.
  • karthikaIndian trade publishing is abuzz with the resignation of Karthika VK, Publisher, Harper Collins India. She had been at the post for more than a decade. (http://bit.ly/2dYM1ZF )
  • Significant appointments: Dharini Bhaskar, Publisher, Simon & Schuster India and Naveen Choudhary, Head of Marketing – Global Academic Business for India.
  • Prajwal Parajuly, has been appointed to the jury of the 2017 International Dylan Thomas Prize. dylan-prize(http://bit.ly/2eKypzU )
  • Internationally there is grief at the sudden demise of legendary literary agent, Carole Blake, Blake & Friedmann Agency. ( http://bit.ly/2dKymad) .
FBF is significant too since around this time there are innumerable literary prizes announced. Some notable announcements are:
  • The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.( http://bit.ly/2f9n3sX ) Bob Dylan is yet to acknowledge the award. (http://bit.ly/2dYQvzq). If he chooses to reject it as Jean Paul-Sartre (1964) the Nobel committee will continue to recognise him as the awardee.
  • paul-beattyThe Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2016 ( £50,000) was awarded to Paul Beatty for his satirical novel The Sellout. ( http://bit.ly/2dGYDWG) It is the first time an American has won. Also indie publishers Oneworld have created history for having won the award in two consecutive years. Last year their author Marlon James won. Only Faber has won this award previously back-to-back in the eighties for Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988) and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989). The morning after the award was announced Oneworld placed an order for 170k more copies of The Sellout of which 10,000 are being reserved for India. It is being distributed by PanMacmillan India. ( http://bit.ly/2eI1tdy )
  • The Nigeria Prize for Literature ( $100,000) was awarded to novelist Abubakar Adam Ibrahim abubakar-ibrahimfor Season of Crimson BlossomsThe Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature. ( https://www.facebook.com/nigeriaprizeforliterature/posts/1244773285544573 )
  • thien-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x724Madeleine Thien wins 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction (http://bit.ly/2ePd2xE)
  • A new literary prize for a non-existent book has been announced. ( http://bit.ly/2exG0DW )The winner of the Nine Dots Prize, announced Friday, will be awarded $100,000 (£82,000). The new award hopes to inspire innovative thinking about social science issues and is open to all authors, regardless of whether they have been published or not, from around the globe. The winner of the Nine Dots Prize will be announced in May 2017 and their book will be published in May 2018.The $100,000 prize is funded by the Kadas Prize Foundation, an English charity that seeks to stimulate research around the social sciences.

Book launches: On 25 October 2016 the annual Roli Books exhibition was inaugurated at Bikaner House, New Delhi. (26 Oct – 9 Nov 2016) It is on the Mewar Ramayana, the finest surviving illustrated manuscript. The book was launched by Jerry Losty and Sumedha Verma. Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books spent more than five years putting together this splendid book. mewar-ramayana

Jaya recommends: This list is based on the books I have acquired recently.
  • James Gleick Time Travel ( Harper)
  • Kio Stark When Strangers Meet ( TED, Simon and Schuster)
  • Kit de Waal My Name is Leon ( Viking, an imprint of Penguin)
  • (Eds.) Tutun Mukherjee and Niladri R. Chatterjee Nari Bhav: Androgyny and Female Impersonation in India ( Niyogi Books)
  • Vikas Khanna Essence of Seasoning ( Easy-to-make recipes that border on fusion cuisine.)
The following books are for children and would make excellent Diwali gifts too! amir-khusrau-puffin-india
  • Ankit Chadha Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles ( A stunning edition by Puffin India)
  • Juhi Sinha Festival Storybook ( Four stories on festivals, Scholastic India)
  • The Big Book of India Festival Puzzles ( Scholastic India)
Extras: 
  • “Algorithms could save book publishing but ruin novels” ( Wired, 16 Sept 2016,  http://bit.ly/2eTDFRZ)
  • A wonderful profile of literary translator and editor, Words without Borders, Susan Harris: http://bit.ly/2f9PSFO
  • “Flag hoisting in Chinnoor” A translation of the Tamil short story Chinnooril Kodiyetram written in 1968 by Saarvaagan, republished in Frontline, 28 Oct 2016. Translated by Subashree Krishnaswamy ( http://bit.ly/2eTw85o )
  • “The House of Fergiani: a Libyan publishing family’s commitment to literature and the liberating power of books” On Darf Publishers ( The National, 15 Oct 2015, http://bit.ly/2dOg9DA )

27 Oct 2016 

Habib Tanvir: Memoir, translated from Urdu by Mahmood Farooqui

Habib Tanvir: Memoir, translated from Urdu by Mahmood Farooqui

Habib Tanvir
He had little time for the polished spic-and-span, design-heavy theatre that was being produced in the capitals of the country. Long before Jerzy Grotowski or Peter Brook came along there was Brecht, emphasizing the primacy of the actor on the stage and Habib Tanvir’s theatre was all about his actors. They were-are, rather- amazing actors. Completely at home at Raipur or Delhi or Edinburgh. They are intensely physical and mobile on stage, athletic, even acrobatic, and tremendous singers withal. Their comic timing is not easily surpassed by any group of actors in India, yet they can transform into great tragedians within minutes. They speak Chhatisgarhi which is not always understood verbatim but they will speak it with elan, regardless of which corner of the world they find themselves in.

(Extract from p. xlvii Habib Tanvir Memoirs )

Habib Tanvir began writing his memoir when he was past eighty in 2006. Despite being fluent in English, he chose to write in Urdu. He had planned a three volume memoir called Matmaili Chadariya (Dusty Sheet), but he was unable to complete it. He died in 2009. The Memoir published dwells upon his childhood in Raipur, then Central Provinces and now Chattisgarh; his trip to England to gain training in theatre (1955) and his discovery of the Brechtian style of theatre. All though prior to his departure he had already written and directed Agra Bazaar ( 1954) where he had used the locals from Okhla in the play. He returned (after having abandoned his training) to India and established Naya Theatre, and continued to be closely linked to it for more than fifty years. Now it is managed by his daughter, Nageena. He won many awards and was even nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1972. His plays were powerful, with a Chattisgarhi folk element, till then unheard of, became his signature. Also an influence of Brecht and his upbringing in Raipur.

The memoirs have now been translated into English by Mahmood Farooqui. He has also written a detailed and a fabulous introduction that details the theatre movement in India, documents the seminal influences on Habib Tanvir and his plays, the politics and of course the Chattisgarhi kind of performance. The essay that Mahmood Farooqui writes is formidable in the amount of knowledge and information it packs in about the different forms of theatre, singing, folk theatre etc. Given how dense the essay is with information, it does not seem so to be so since he wears his knowledge lightly. (Thank heavens for scholars like him!) I suspect that being one of the key performers of Dastangoi has helped polish and refine the skills that he learnt as a historian. There is something that seeps through the text of being a performer and a practitioner at the same time. Love it!

I find reading memoirs a revelatory exercise. Not necessarily about the life being unveiled or the people the author met, but its always an insight into what the person chooses to reveal. Habib Tanvir does not write about theatre / IPTA as much as you would have wanted/expected him to. His freewheeling and surprisingly chronological account of his life is charming. ( A trait not necessarily associated with women memoirists, who tend to meander.) With such ease he pulls you into his life, introduce a multitude of characters without making your head spin. Given that he began writing these memoirs at the age of 81+, it is surprising at the amount of detail he has retained. He is a good storyteller with a phenomenal memory. I have been discussing this book with my friend and noted theatre actor Sudhanva Deshpande. ( He knew Habib Tanvir well and made a short documentary on him too.) Sudhanva prefers to call the memoir a “confession”. Whereas I have been reveling in the marvelous storytelling and evoking a time in Indian history that has disappeared forever. Reading the memoirs also resounded on a personal note for me. Suddenly my mother-in-law’s penchant for breaking into song and dance, singing folk songs and rattling off in Chattisgarhi made so much sense. It was obviously part of the social fabric. She too grew up in Raipur in the 1930s and 40s. A period that is dwelt upon in detail in the book.

This is book that I would heartily recommend. Read it for the period in Indian history that is not always told in history books. Read it for the experience of reading a memoir of a noted performer. Even the act of writing this memoir, is a performance. (He makes the “characters” come alive by recalling tiny details about dress, their deportment, emotions etc.) Read it for the translation. A work of art, this is.
Habib Tanvir, IHC, 28 May 2013
Habib Tanvir – Memoirs will be released in New Delhi on May 28. At the launch (which is by invitation), Tanvir’s daughter is expected to sing some of the songs that lent her father’s theatre – Naya Theatre. It is to be followed the day after by a performance (open for all) at May Day Cafe.

Jan Natya Manch

Some links about Habib Tanvir:

A film on YouTube Gaon Ke Naon Theatre Mor Naon Habib (English) by Sanjay Maharishi / Sudhanva Deshpande. India
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4mmm846o24

Sudhanva Deshpande’s obituary for Habib Tanvir ( 3 July 2009) http://www.hindu.com/fline/fl2613/stories/20090703261310900.htm . I am also looking forward to reading his forthcoming review of the book in Caravan.

Habib Tanvir: Memoirs Translated from the Urdu with an introduction by Mahmood Farooqui. Penguin/ Viking New Delhi, 2013. Hb. pp.348 Rs. 599

Walking with the Lions: Tales from a Diplomatic Past, K. Natwar Singh

Walking with the Lions: Tales from a Diplomatic Past, K. Natwar Singh

Yesterday the Hindu carried an extract from diplomat and retired politician K Natwar Singh’s latest publication on his meeting former UK prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. ( www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/thatcher-chandraswami-and-i/article4595546.ece ). It is a delight to read. Natwar Singh is a good storyteller. The book Walking with the Lions: Tales from a Diplomatic Past, has been published by HarperCollins India. I am looking forward to reading more from this book. (I hope it will live up to its expectation of being a good book.)

Natwar Singh has been writing for many years about his meetings with literary giants, in India and abroad. For instance this book ( Profiles and Letters by K. Natwar Singh; published by Sterling Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi, 1997) excerpt published in the Frontline in 1997 ( http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl1425/14250850.htm ) is about his having met E. M. Forster and R. K. Narayan. Natwar Singh has written often about his meetings with writers, publishers etc, many of whom he was fortunate to meet on his travels and postings. So I am pleased that publishers have begun to anthologise Mr Natwar Singh’s writings.

K. Natwar Singh Walking with the Lions: Tales from a diplomatic past HarperCollins India Original. Pb. pp. 224. Rs. 299

A wonderful tribute to Mr Kurien, Amul (The Hindu, 10 Sept 2012)

A wonderful tribute to Mr Kurien, Amul (The Hindu, 10 Sept 2012)

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article3878213.ece?homepage=true

OPINION » OP-ED

September 10, 2012
The man who revolutionised white

PARVATHI MENON
SHARE · COMMENT (22) · PRINT · T+

UTTERLY BUTTERLY: If India is the largest producer of milk in the world today, it has Verghese Kurien to thank. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
Amul’s success came from a combination of its founder’s socialist vision and his passion for technology

“What do you know about pasteurisation,” an interviewer asked the young man who had applied for a Government of India fellowship for a Masters in Engineering abroad. “Something to do with milk?” was the uncertain reply. The year was 1946. In his biography From Anand: The story of Verghese Kurien, M.V. Kamath recounts the story of how the youngster was selected to do a Masters in dairy engineering by a government committee that was impervious to his pleas that he be allowed to specialise in metallurgy instead.

As it turned out, Michigan State University did not have dairy engineering, and Verghese Kurien was able to do metallurgy and Physics. But when he came back to India in 1948, it was to a small and unknown village in Gujarat called Anand that he was sent, to work out his two-year bond at the Government creamery on a salary of Rs.600 per month. Hating his job, he waited impatiently for his fetters to loosen. That did not happen. What it did was that V. Kurien, by the conjunction of politics, nationalism and professional challenge, decided to stay on. He would transform rural India.

Verghese Kurien, who became a legend in his lifetime for building a cooperative movement that transformed the lives of poor farmers while making India self-reliant in milk production, died on Sunday in Nadiad at the age of 90. He was in hospital, suffering from a series of problems associated with old age.

Born on November 26, 1921 in Kozhikode, Kerala, Verghese Kurien studied at Madras University for a Bachelor of Science in 1940, a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours) from Madras University (1943), and was a graduate of the Tata Iron and Steel Company Technical Institute, Jamshedpur (1946). He took a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Distinction) from Michigan State University (1948) and then went for specialised training in dairying at the National Dairy Research Institute, Bangalore. He had 17 honorary doctorates from universities in India and abroad. At the time of his death he was Chancellor, University of Allahabad (since April 17, 2006), Member, Board of Trustees, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Memorial Trust, New Delhi (since 1986), and Member, Advisory Committee, South Asian Network on Fermented Foods — SAN FOODS (since 2004).

He was Founder Chairman of the National Dairy Development Board (1965-1998), the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd, Anand (1983-2006), the National Cooperative Dairy Federation of India Limited (1986-1993), (1995-2000), and (2003-2006), and the Board of Governors, Institute of Rural Management, Anand (1979-2006), amongst several other posts he held in his working life.

Bitter critic

He was the recipient of several distinguished Indian and international awards. To give a short selection of them: nationally, the Padmashri (1965); Padmabhushan (1966); Krishi Ratna (1986); and the Padma Vibhushan (1999). Outside India, it was the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1963); the “Wateler Peace Prize” Award of the Carnegie Foundation for the year 1986; the World Food Prize award for the year 1989; the “International Person of the year” by the World Dairy Expo, Wisconsin, U.S. (1993), the “Ordre du Merite Agricole” by the Government of France (in March 1997); and the Regional Award 2000 from the Asian Productivity Organization, Japan.

Till his death, he was a bitter critic of the policies of liberalisation in India, which he believed opened India to unfair competition from multinational companies. He laid out his objections to liberalisation as early as 1995 in a detailed and wide-ranging interview he gave this correspondent for Frontline.

“With liberalisation and globalisation, it seems to me, India’s national boundaries have ceased to exist,” he told Frontline. “I am sorry, I do not think it is a good thing, because if you have opened up this market under such terms, what it implies is that other countries can put their products into our markets. Are you aware that all those advanced countries subsidise their exports? Subsidies are as high as 65 per cent. Now if you have globalised, and the others are subsidising their exports, to what position have you exposed the Indian dairy industry? You have declared dairy products under OGL (Open General Licence). You have in fact created a situation where our dairy industry can be killed. This is unfair competition.”

Speaking about Amul, the successful cooperative he founded, he explained the rationale behind Operation Flood – the strategy that made India self-reliant in milk production — and why it succeeded. He summarised it as follows: “Over the last 20 years India’s milk production has tripled; it has increased from 20 million tonnes per annum to 60 million tonnes per annum. What is the value of one tonne of milk? At Rs.6 a litre, the value of the increased production of milk is Rs.2,400 crore. An additional Rs.2,400 crore goes yearly into the villages and this has been achieved in 20 years, thanks to Operation Flood I, II and III. The total investment was Rs.2,000 crore, and that was not from the state exchequer. The input-output ratio is staggering. The money also goes to those who own one or two buffaloes — the small farmer, the marginal farmer, the landless labourer. Dairying has become the largest rural employment scheme in this country. And the government has had very little to do with it, even though we are a government institution.”

When presented with the criticism that the cooperative movement could not replicate the successes of the Anand model in other parts of India, Mr. Kurien agreed but was unfazed by it, contesting it soundly. “Is the democratic form of government successful in all parts of India? But the solution to the problems of democracy is more democracy. There can be no democracy in India unless you erect a plurality of democratic structures to underpin democracy, like the village cooperative which is a people’s institution.”

If in 2012, India is the largest producer of milk in the world, contributing six per cent to the national GDP and 26 per cent to the agricultural GDP, it is Verghese Kurien, with his socialist vision and technology-led approach, who made it possible.

He is survived by his wife Molly Kurien, his daughter Nirmala, and grandson, Siddharth.

parvathi.menon@thehindu.co.in