Books Lite Blogs

Valli: An attempt to capture the pulse of the land

Before she started writing ‘Valli’, the author spoke to elders in the community and went into Adivasi settlements to understand their lives. As the story of Valli takes place in a Christian migrant village, the dialect of the Christian communities was used…writes Sukant Deepak

There is a certain quiet that underlines the whole novel. A rhythm that finds itself at peace with the enigmatic green all around. Even the violence has a precise sculpted beauty around it. When she writes about her land, Wayanad, it is with awe, and then — with gratitude.

Author Sheela Tomy’s delicate and ferocious glance in ‘Valli’ (HarperCollins India), her latest novel that recently hit the stands, comes from the fact that she grew up listening to the music of the forest and stories about the fight for the survival of her ancestors.

“The story of Valli begins on a February morning in 1970, on the day Comrade Varghese was shot dead, throwing light into the socio-political situation of the time. Major incidents in Valli take place in the 1970s, during the national emergency period and after the Naxal uprisings in Wayanad,” she tells.

The book, that received the Cherukad Award for Malayalam literature had been in her mind for more than a decade, with her father, a school teacher who used to tell her to write about the land, which has a distinct cultural history and geography, rich in myths and folklore. However, it was only after his departure that those stories took shape and became the book. She wrote the plot on three pages in her diary which was developed into ‘Valli’ in three years.

“In the attempt to capture the pulse of the land that made me who I am, I didn’t know where my characters were leading me to. The main characters are migrants from Thiruvithamkur who came to Wayanad. I wanted to show the transformation of my forest land over decades by man’s greed and the encroachments of the corporates, the real threats to the environment today. I wanted to show that the people of the land who once fought for valli (wages) are still fighting for vall (earth), their piece of land, and farmers are still on the brink of suicide. Narrating the story of four generations, their love, hope and resistance, it turned out to be a requiem for the forest. The forest became a main character unknowingly,” she says.

Interestingly, Tomy wrote this debut novel while she was (and still is) in the Middle East. Believing that distance worked for her, she says, “While writing ‘Valli’, I was a migrant in a desert land. I have felt the losses of my land so intensely that I started to write about it. Had it been written sitting in my homeland, the story and content could be the same, but the soul and song of Valli may have been different.”

Also a short-story writer and screenwriter, Tomy is more comfortable with the novel genre as it has a broader canvas and, “Writing short stories gives me much strain as I never get satisfied and keep on editing.”

Stressing that working with Jayasree Kalathil, who translated it from Malayalam into English was sheer pleasure, Tomy says it was her dream that someday the world would hear the untold stories of her forest village and was delighted when Jayasree came forward to translate it.

“I knew that a person who could conceive the music, rhythm and the politics of the land only could do justice to the story. I found Jayasree so involved in it and she was living with my characters the same way I did. I believe, was far beyond a literary re-creation. She was even rethinking the idea of the original text.”

Adding that translations pave way for the readers to new horizons, Tomy feels it is always interesting to hear stories from an unfamiliar land and by authors from different parts of the country.

“It is a world of versatility. My early readings had great influence from translations from Bengali literature. All languages have gems, but translators should be brilliant and skilful to do justice to the original text.”

While stories keep happening to/for her, Tomy says she is mostly “shy” to send them for publishing.

“The editing never ceases. I am never content. For a novel, it is a long but enjoyable process. Once I decide to write about a theme I live with it for months or years. I begin even without having all the characters or plot in mind. It develops gradually as I write.”

Before she started writing ‘Valli’, the author spoke to elders in the community and went into Adivasi settlements to understand their lives. As the story of Valli takes place in a Christian migrant village, the dialect of the Christian communities was used.

“I have employed many narrative devices — diary entries, letters, folk songs, Bible quotations, reinvented myths and popular film songs of the time — to reproduce the period effectively and to escape linear storytelling.”

“In fact, her second novel — ‘Aa Nadiyodu Peru Chodikkaruthu’ (Do not Ask the River Her Name) is set to be released later this month. It stands with people who are under siege and those who are forced to run away from their homeland. Background of the novel is the Middle East, particularly Jerusalem and Palestine,” she concludes.

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Arts & Culture Lite Blogs

Sankalp for Khadi: Unique platform exclusively for rural artists

Following the inaugural event, the programme introduced the Dharoharr Pradarshani, a special kiosk presenting the line of Dharoharr products made by rural artisans…reports Asian Lite News

“Dharoharr” by “Sankalp for Khadi” is a unique platform exclusively curated for the welfare of rural artists and artisans, across the country. In an endeavour to restore India’s Khadi power, a mega-event was held in the national captial.

15 classical musicians performed Live as part of the show’s outstanding opening act in association with partners of “Sankalp for Khadi”- Raahein ensemble by Dear Sunshine Foundation. The Azadi Power Walk, honouring well-known figures who have transcended stereotypes to make a difference in reviving, promoting, and spreading Khadi, came next. The occasion also presented the “Gandhi Smriti Chin” to honour numerous guests who made a “Sankalp for Khadi” promise to revitalise the fabric in the nation and make it the most beloved and cherished fabric of India.

Following the inaugural event, the programme introduced the Dharoharr Pradarshani, a special kiosk presenting the line of Dharoharr products made by rural artisans. The final act, Vrindavan Raas, came next (a specially curated, overwhelming performance by Iskcon).

Speaking on the occasion, Paridhi Sharma (Founder- Sankalp for Khadi) stated, “I am immensely glad to present Dharoharr to the country. The idea behind Dharoharr will pave new avenues for rural India to develop sustainable business opportunities and employment. And will re-introduce ‘Make in India’ products to the present generation, encouraging them to make rural crafts a part of their daily lifestyle.”

“Proud to be a part of this revolution. Dharoharr as an E-commerce platform will bridge the gap between rural craftsmen and buyers, presenting artists and artisans a sea of overwhelming opportunities to sustain their income and employment. It will strongly empower, protect & uplift India’s rural communities. I congratulate Paridhi Sharma for bringing Dharoharr to the fore,” said Ashwini Kumar Choubey- Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution of India.

Craftspeople and artists will be able to present their collections in a seamless and structured manner on Dharoharr for the purpose of sales. A wide range of individuals from many walks of life, including politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, diplomats, businesspeople, military officials, artisans, celebrities, and more were present at the event.

ALSO READ-Khadi launches footwear range, eyes global market

Arts & Culture Lite Blogs

Lalit Arpan Festival to mark 75 years of independence

This festival, which is run by the dance organisation Asavari and its volunteers, has so far included over 95 torchbearers for Indian traditional performing arts…reports Asian Lite News

Padmashri Guru Shovana Narayan, a master of Kathak, created the Lalit Arpan Festival, which features a feast of performances by the theme of this year’s Lalit Arpan Festival, which marks 75 years of independence from colonial control, explores the terms ‘azadi’ or ‘swatantra’ and the related concept of ‘swabhiman’ through performances of Kathak, Kathakali (stree-vesham), and traditional theatre.

This festival, which is run by the dance organisation Asavari and its volunteers, has so far included over 95 torchbearers for Indian traditional performing arts. Together with the India Habitat Center, the Festival has been planned.

August 10, 2022:

*’Roop-Vidroop’ by Padmashri Shovana Narayan re-enacting the true emotional and heart- rending saga of an acid attack survivor.

*’Kshaatra Baalaa’ stree-vesham style of the dance form by Prabal Gupta.

August 11, 2022:

*’Lallan Miss’, a hard-hitting play, based on transgender Rajkumari’s real-life story by Rama Pandey Natya Vidya Foundation.

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Arts & Culture Lite Blogs

‘It was a time when everyone was depressed, shamed and haunted’

Written in November 1947, it was the first major poem on the biggest tragedy that the sub-continent had witnessed and most writers, poets and artists stress that it is the most powerful one on the Partition — on both sides of the border…writes Sukant Deepak

It was the dead of the night in November 1947, and winter had decided to be at its vengeful worst. Travelling on a train from Delhi with her two small children wrapped in a red shawl, she looked at the shadows of the trees outside. They were like sentinels of sorrow. The darkness, the icy winds, the sound of the train moving on the tracks… and the first draft of ‘Aaj Aakhan Waris Shah Nu’ was born.

The famous dirge that immortalized poet Amrita Pritam is about the horrors of the partition of Punjab during the 1947 Partition of India. Addressed to the historic Punjabi poet Waris Shah, who had written the most popular version of the Punjabi love tragedy, ‘Heer Ranjha’, it appeals to him to arise from his grave, record Punjab’s tragedy and turn over a new page in Punjab’s history.

Written in November 1947, it was the first major poem on the biggest tragedy that the sub-continent had witnessed and most writers, poets and artists stress that it is the most powerful one on the Partition — on both sides of the border.

“It was a time when everyone was depressed, shamed and haunted. All you could hear was silence. It required a woman to write the first dirge on the tragedy. After all, what happened to women on both sides during the Partition was disgusting and criminal — humiliated, killed, raped and sold as prostitutes. Amrita came out to scream in that silence. Of course, many critics from our side of Punjab had a problem — ‘why was the poem addressed to Waris Shah and not Guru Nanak’. The leftists thought it should have been addressed to Lenin. Now, Waris Shah was the symbol of the composite culture of Punjab, she had to call upon him and nobody else,” says poet and critic Nirupama Dutt.

Adding that it enjoyed immediate following in the newly formed Pakistan too, with the poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz who read it inside his jail cell and coming out to discover people carrying it in their pockets and reciting it at tea stalls and other addas, she asserts, “Many good poems emerged later, but this one will always enjoy a special space. Also, it towers over all her other work.”

Theatre director Neelam Mansingh believes that poetry is like any other classical text — the catalyst may be a certain terrible event that gives birth to the poem, but it becomes something that travels through time. “When you see a massacre, brutalization of women, sexist or misogynist behaviour, one goes back and finds a thread. ‘Heer’ represents the essence of a Punjabi woman. She ceases to be a person but becomes an archetype. In that context, ‘Aaj Aakhan Waris Shah Nu’ is a poem that connects and resonates every time you read it. It never seems dated,” says this Padma Shri awardee.

“Herself a great poet of her times, she added another dimension of the female point of view of Waris Shah’s ‘Heer’ by underlining the fact that she has to pay the price of bloody ventures of the male ego. By connecting 1947 with Waris and then Heer, Amrita has immortalised the senseless sufferings of all of us. While celebrating the anniversary of the freedom of the country,it is important not to forget the slavery of our hatred, diplomatic immaturity and political selfishness,” says playwright and author Atamjit Singh, recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and Sahitya Akademi honours.

Believing that an artist– a poet, painter or filmmaker must talk and record the issues of her/his times, National award-winning Punjabi filmmaker Rajeev Kumar feels that whenever massacres, wars or any other tragedy strikes, the worst sufferers are women. “With this poem, she responds not just as an artist but also as a woman. Just like Paash wrote in the 1970s that ‘we are living in the era of Vietnam'(US intervention in Vietnam).’ It is the way that she has articulated the tragedy and brought forth the suffering of all sides that makes it special.”

Well-known critic Yograj Angrish, who has written over 10 books on Punjabi poetry and is the Vice chairman of Punjab Kala Parishad feels that some poems become evergreen and we tend to go back to them whenever history is repeated. “During the Khalistani movement, poet Surjit Patar wrote ‘At that time Waris Shah was divided, now it is Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s turn. Amrita was a poet of cultural tradition. When a crisis came, she looked and addressed a secular poet from her tradition. Remember, Waris Shah was a Muslim. If the madness in civilization ends, this poem will also vanish. But are we naive enough to believe that?”

Even as it remains of the most talked about poems on the Partition, poet Desraj Kali, who has written extensively on Dalit issues and was published and praised widely by Amrita Pritam in her magazine ‘Nagmani’ believes that this is the poet’s worst work. “Reading this poem, one feels she has no clue about Waris Shah’s works, especially Heer. Shah’s Heer is a revolutionary character, she didn’t cry or get emotional. No father in Punjab even now dares to name his daughter Heer. She is anti-establishment, anti-system — both politically and socially, for her tradition means nothing. I fail to understand why Punjabis from both sides are so obsessed with this work. Don’t they look within? Are they trying to say that all the killings were just in frenzy? Let us not forget many were calculated ones too.”

Poet Sudeep Sen feels that we all know what happened in 1947, but the poem is a humbling reminder of the past and a fervent cry to rise up and hold firm. “There are echoes here that one can relate to current-day politics – but a poem elicits much more, both at the level of history and emotion,” he concludes.

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Arts & Culture Lite Blogs

Symphony for Earth: Amala Earth brings first-ever curated exhibition 

You can browse an exclusive lineup of products that are good for you and the planet, ranging from responsible fashion to ethical beauty to joyful home decor…reports Asian Lite News

Amala Earth is a one-stop shop for all things earth-friendly, taking a step toward conscious living. Amala Earth intends to drive positive change with an array of environmentally conscious brands and products under its umbrella by bringing you its first-ever curated exhibition called the Symphony for Earth, where you can buy a variety of beauty, fashion, home, food, and wellness products.

The exhibition aims to intertwine mindfulness with purposeful consumption by skillfully curating homegrown brands with handcrafted, handwoven, and handmade products, with the goal of gradually introducing conscious options into our daily lives. The exhibition will feature 60 stalls with brands championing the art and practise of sustainability and conscious living, including Doodlage, Urvashi Kaur, Sui, Sirohi, Dressfolk, Soham Dave, Shades of India, Khara Kapas, Itr by Khyati Pande, Naushad Ali, and others.

The curated exhibition aims to bring together a diverse range of handcrafted offerings under one roof, with a key focus on raising awareness and sparking dialogue for a better tomorrow.

Daivik Moringa

The exhibition caters to all those who are already living or wish to begin their journey towards an earth-friendly lifestyle, whether you wish to indulge in artisanal delicacies or engage in some festive shopping. You can browse an exclusive lineup of products that are good for you and the planet, ranging from responsible fashion to ethical beauty to joyful home decor.

With its vegan offerings and holistic wellness products, the all-encompassing exhibition can also satisfy your health-meets-delicious cravings. With Rakhi just around the corner, now is the time to find a meaningful gift that has been thoughtfully curated and represents the love you share with your family.

Merraki Essential

Gunjan Poddar Jindal, founder Amala Earth, quoted, “I hold the word ‘transformation’ very close to my heart. I began my sustainable journey by introducing natural fabrics into my wardrobe and indulging in a vegetarian diet at home. Our choices define our lifestyle and we are a product of our learnings. That is why I built Amala Earth to be a platform where responsible choices are embraced. As a company, we believe in growing a community of like-minded people while working towards a sustainable tomorrow.”

Date: August 4

Venue: Hyatt Regency, New Delhi

Time: 11 a.m. onwards

ALSO READ-‘The earth stories’

Arab News Arts & Culture Lite Blogs

MENA attractions & destinations forum 2022 to be held in Sept

With several global heritage and religious sites, modern attractions, and leisure destinations, over 50 million tourists visit the region every year…reports Asian Lite News

To support countries in the MENA region rethinking their strategies and implementing new plans for reopening existing destinations and attractions in a safe and sustainable manner post the pandemic slowdown, MENA Attractions & Destinations Forum 2022 will be held on 28th and 29th September 2022 in Dubai, UAE to explore upcoming cultural and leisure projects and ways to drive growth for the tourism sector.

The interactive forum will host over 300 international and regional stakeholders from key sectors, including governments, tourism agencies and consultancies, hotel chains, park owners and operators, museums, culture and heritage site authorities, technology and solution providers, and investment institutions. With several global heritage and religious sites, modern attractions, and leisure destinations, over 50 million tourists visit the region every year.

The MENA region has received a growing inflow of tourists driving growth in attractions and destinations. However, some key challenges still hinder the region from capitalizing on the industry’s full potential, especially with the changing demographics, infrastructure, weather conditions, and technology developments.

The forum will also focus on developing and rebranding destinations that cater to a diverse population, current innovative family entertainment and edutainment that meets visitor requirement, converting heritage sites into new attractions to cater to different population segments and capitalizing on live entertainment to increase visitors.

Osama Khlawee, AVP Tourism Sites and Destination Development Leader, said, “Developing destinations entails planning defined areas to drive the evolution of vibrant destinations for tourists, ensuring compelling experiences, diversified tourism offerings, quality infrastructure, and services to attract people to live, work, and return to the destination. Taking full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities assuring proper management as well as marketing which are especially significant for destinations to attract fresh investments, develop value-added jobs, recruit new talent, and boost innovation.”

Richard Krent, Director for Development, Qiddiya, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia added, “Destination Development requires an intensity of creative artistry with a sense of joy that connects with its audience.”

Participants will learn about museums and heritage site developments in the MENA region, how to drive innovations in theme parks and water parks and get familiar with projects related to extreme sports and theme parks.

The jam-packed two-day agenda will feature a series of sessions by speakers from entities like the World Tourism Association, tourism ministries, cultural ministries and projects, Entertainment project developers and more who will be addressing key industry topics.

The session on modernising the region’s attractions and destinations will feature experts talking about expanding and upgrading existing facilities and sites to increase their capacity and attractiveness to tourists, how to convert temporary facilities into permanent entertainment zone and understand the role of travel agencies in driving attendance to the region’s destinations. Speakers will also talk about enhancing the visitor experience in the region’s destinations and the role of eco-tourism in sustainable development projects.

The two-day event is organised and promoted by GM Events, a Dubai-based multi-faceted event management company of international repute, having organized numerous successful forums and exhibitions for different industries across the MENA region.

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Arts & Culture Films Lite Blogs

India’s National Awards: A personal observation                     

There needs to be a complete overhaul of the awarding committee to start with and not just some civil servants who has no knowledge of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology…writes Dilip Roy

Since the time of its inception, it has been marred in controversy and favoritism. One only has to look at list of awardees of Bharat Ratna India’s highest award has gone to the politicians and it is said that Nehru awarded himself the Bharat Ratna. Now in my humble opinion politicians are there to serve the country and not to receive awards. The biggest mistake was made by awarding the Ratna to a young cricketer at the age of forty for scoring the highest   number of runs in “cricket” which is not even an international sport unlike football or tennis. There are also recipients of Padma Bhushan and even Padma Vibhushan awardees in the entertainment industry. 

There needs to be a complete overhaul of the awarding committee to start with and not just some civil servants who has no knowledge of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. I can site many examples where justice has not been delivered. Some politicians have been awarded posthumously which in my opinion is a complete charade. Awards should be given to a living person and not when they are dead it does not make any sense or has any value. No where else in the world it is done except India, this definitely needs to change.Following are the names in Arts and Science who deserved Bharat Ratna.

ARTS and Culture:

Alain Danielou was a French Indologist, intellectual, musicologist who met Tagore and after seeing his interest in Interest in Indian classical music, he made him the director of Tagore’s school of music at Shantiniketan after that  he joined the Banaras Hindu University where he mastered Sanskrit language, literature and Hindu philosophy. In 1949 he was appointed as a research professor at the University and the director of college of Indian music. His work on India’s classical literature and music has been recognized by none other than UNESCO.

BALASARASWATI who is regarded as the Doyen of Bharata Natyam on whom a documentary called BALA was made by the great Satyajit Ray speaks volumes.

Professor Dilip K. Chakrabarti a world renowned Archeologist who has done extensive field research and is the author of many books to his credit on India’s ancient architecture and published articles on the subject in various journals, needs no introduction.

D. K. Roy was Indian musician, musicologist, novelist and a poet besides Indian classical music he also learnt Western classical music and became proficient in French, German and Italian languages. His European admirer was the French Nobel laureate and philosopher Romain Rolland and in India his admirers included Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath Tagore. Sangeet Natak Akademi India’s National Academy for Performing Arts awarded him its highest honour for lifetime achievement the Akademi Fellowship. Roy’s devotional songs were rendered by Bharat Ratna awardee the famous singer M.S. Subbulakshmi.

Sitar maestro Vilayat Khan who hails from three genarations of musical family and received a praise from none other than Satyajit Ray that Vilayat Khan’s stature as a musician is far greater and higher than that of Ravi Shankar.

Science and Technology:

Homi Bhabha known as the “Father of Indian Nuclear programme.” He was nominated for Nobel prize in physics five times. The Atomic Research Centre in India is named after him.

Vikram Sarabhai Indian physicist and astronomer who initiated the space research and is regarded as the “Father of Indian Space program.”

S. N. Bose Indian mathematician and physicist he is best known for his work on quantum mechanics. Today Bose-Einstein statistics have become world famous and the class of particles that obey Bose statistics called BOSONS was named after S.N. Bose who was also nominated for Nobel prize in physics.

Narayana Murthy is regarded as “Father of Information Technology of India”

The above are the few names who should have received Bharat Ratna long time ago which brings me to my final concluding point as stated below.

The two prominent Parsees of India are Industrial giant Ratan Tata and Music virtuoso maestro Zubin Mehta these two individuals have received the highest accolades in the Western countries while India is still lagging behind and both have reached their prime age so it is about time they were given the Bharat Ratna. One is reminded of the incident in April 1992 when Satyajit Ray was being honoured by the American Academy with a special OSCAR for lifetime achievement a unit was dispatched to Calcutta where Ray was in hospital bed to save the face Govt. of India immediately announced the Bharat Ratna to Ray.

Dilip Roy is a Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society U.K. and an Arts researcher whose contributions have been acknowledged in the Biographies of Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray and Sir S.M. Tagore published in U. K. in the Nineties. Mr Roy has also exchanged letters with intellectuals such as Lindsay Anderson, Peter Brook and Satyajit Ray in the eighties.      

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Arts & Culture Lite Blogs

‘The earth stories’

We call the Earth a mother. Always giving, nurturing, and protecting. She goes through a million changes physically and emotionally… Shalu Juneja speaks with N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE

Despite our ignorant vices, the earth continues to provide and nurture mankind in the same way that a mother does. Shalu Juneja, has been an artist for over 13 years, her works focus on figurative and the abstract, they allude to the female form and the earth as the mother. Juneja is also the director and co-founder of Uno Lona Academy.

Her interest in these themes stems from her daily memories, experiences, and interactions, in which she questions the impact of words and actions on a mother, in the form of a female body, or on the earth as a whole.

Shalu speaks about her most recent art series, “The Earth Stories”, an observation of the chaos she finds within nature resulting in accidents within her works, which are a direct reference to the accidental experiences of real-life – good or bad.

What served as the impetus for your most recent art series, “The Earth Stories”?

Shalu: My practice is largely concerned with themes of womanhood, motherhood, and the continuous changes that we experience as humans over time. My interest in these themes is motivated by my memories, experiences, and interactions in daily life – questioning the impact of words and actions on a mother, in the form of a female body or the earth as a whole. The Earth Stories is an extension of these ideas where I, for the first time, break away from figurative representation to explore abstract forms and compositions.

Why is motherhood in particular a source of inspiration? There are so many incredible things to be inspired.

Shalu: We call the Earth a mother. Always giving, nurturing, and protecting. She goes through a million changes physically and emotionally. The Earth gives us in abundance and we take to that point of greediness as a result, the whole ecosystem stands disturbed. I wish to address that feature – especially the change – caused due to the constant abuse and greed that humanity has brought upon the Earth.

Could you give us a brief description of each of the four paintings in the series?

Shalu: All these paintings speak of changing topography that we experience through documented satellite imagery. This imagery captures changes over time and my paintings are an attempt to capture those changes while addressing humanity’s role in them. Just as we humans take certain actions that often harm the earth, I take actions in my painting that don’t necessarily harm my paintings, but metaphorically suggest the same aggression and violence that we often use against the earth.

In these works, you’ll find 2 different ways of working. One: where I attempt to directly represent the topography taking inspiration from satellite imagery and two: where I create a much more organic composition that is a result of action painting or mark making on paper or on canvas.

With your most recent collection, what message are you conveying to people?

Shalu: My works generally talk of changing patterns and textures around me, observed from the micro to the macro level. My process is based on such visual changes. Each time I make a mark, burn or add a layer to my canvas I speak of the transformation that occurs within nature in relation to humanity. So these works are perhaps an attempt to make us more conscious about our actions on Earth considering the grave dangers we now face because of climate change, war, waste, and more.

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Books Lite Blogs

Mind Master: Winning Lessons from a Champion’s Life

Reminiscing about his father, who in his early years “doubled up as my manager and had to deal with a youngster who was trying to break free and discover himself”, he writes that in his last years, the elder Anand’s Sunday afternoons were spent in the company of his grandson over ice cream scoops…writes Vishnu Makhijani

Cool as a cucumber: that’s five-times World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand. Cooped up in Germany due to the Coronavirus pandemic, he returned home via a Vande Bharat repatriation flight, coped with the loss of his father, learnt Hindi, had the satisfaction of launching the WestBridge Anand Chess Academy (WACA) to nurture India’s chess prodigies – and is chuffed at the stimulating aspect of mentoring.

“My approach towards the pandemic was not to fight the outlandish situation kicking and screaming, but to flow with the current without overthinking and making myself miserable. None of us could have been better or worse prepared for what we were up against,” Anand writes in the bonus chapter of his memoir, ‘Mind Master: Winning Lessons from a Champion’s Life’ with Susan Ninan (Hachette), that has been reissued as a paperback edition to mark the 44th Chess Olympiad that opened in Chennai on Thursday.

The Olympiad will see the participation of 343 teams from 187 countries, with 30 players from India matching their skills against the best in the world under Anand’s mentorship.

“When I look back at the worst days of the pandemic, I realise the learnings have been plenty. I’ve been forced to cope with the loss of a parent and that has drawn me closer to my family. When I peep into (son) Akhil’s room I see a child trying harder than the rest of us to accept the reality of online classes and his friends being turned into tiny picture panels on the screen…I catch the proud smile on his face when my achievements appear as questions in his school assignments,” Anand writes.

Reminiscing about his father, who in his early years “doubled up as my manager and had to deal with a youngster who was trying to break free and discover himself”, he writes that in his last years, the elder Anand’s Sunday afternoon’s were spent in the company of his grandson over ice cream scoops.

“Every Sunday, we would buy ice creams and take them over to my father’s house. He would enjoy Akhil greedily grab spoonfuls from all of us. They adored each other and it was special to watch that bond from a distance. My dad lived a full life and spent ten years of it watching Akhil grow up. But to me his final days will be inextricably linked with the circumstances the pandemic brought about, which didn’t allow us even one final visit before he left us. Though I rarely demonstrate it, the pain of his absence feels like a giant boulder bearing down on my chest,” Anand writes.

The pandemic, he writes, presented two options: mope about not knowing what lies ahead “or find an opportunity in the unexpected gift of time. We had all the time in the world, with no flights to catch and no office rush to beat. I asked myself what I always wanted to learn but had put off for later”.

“Turns out, the answer was Hindi. I had never found the time earlier to learn the language. In my years of living in Madrid, when I’d learnt Spanish by conversing with locals, I had never been embarrassed to make mistakes. With Hindi…well…it was different. My ignorance of the language meant I felt more lost in Delhi or Mumbai than I ever did perhaps even in Frankfurt (since I read, write and speak German reasonably fluently). I found it strange because I wasn’t supposed to feel this way in my own country. It formed the premise of my motivation to take up Hindi lessons. I defined it as being able to survive an Indian airport,” Anand writes.

Enter friend Anand Subramaniam, who lives in Chicago.

“He took the job upon himself and we began having regular classes over Skype once a week. Thereafter, it was him helping me with my Hindi and me fixing his chess,” Anand writes.

The WACA project dates back to 2019 when Anand had been invited by the Bengaluru-based investment firm WestBridge Capital to deliver a talk for their employees and the company’s co-founder Sandeep Singhal asked him if he’d be interested in a chess collaboration of some sort.

“One of the first thoughts that popped in my mind was the Botvinnik Chess School in Moscow,” the brainchild of a former World Champion that had helped raise a generation of players, famously Gary Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik and Anatoly Karpov, all of whom later became world champions,” Anand writes.

It was initially set to launch in April 2020, got pushed to December of that year due to the pandemic and was formally launched in 2021.

“It was an idea, if not a burning dream that I had always carried in my head. I know I would do it one day but had never got around to putting it together. The association with WestBridge for the academy was unplanned, almost serendipitous. I was chuffed at the stimulating prospect – to work with young minds, see the chess board through their eyes and gain a modern perspective on the game,” Anand writes.

Playing mentor, he states, “is slowly taking the place of a full calendar of tournaments marked for travel. The pandemic has taught us the art of substitution – being at home around family replaced spending time with friends socially, and my love for chess has taken a fresh turn. I wake up every day thinking how I can be a better teacher than I was in the previous class.”

“It has supplanted tense games and troublesome opponents that raced in my mind in earlier years. The unannounced pause has also lent us perspective to look closely at the things we’ve been chasing all our lives. To weigh whether they matter enough to be ranked ahead of other aspects that we’ve perhaps overlooked. The blinkers are finally off.

“The world as we know it no longer exists. The things we took for granted, thinking they’d last forever, have long disappeared. The only rule now is to be aware of changing realities, let go of rigid ideas, and find joy in the new and the unknown,” Anand concludes.

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Arts & Culture Lite Blogs

Delhi ready for second edition of Art week from August 24

DAW’s website and Instagram pages further provided resources to those interested in engaging in Delhi’s art world…reports Asian Lite News

The second edition of Delhi Art Week (DAW) will be held from August 24 to 31 in a hybrid avatar, not only will galleries and institutions showcase their programming physically in their own spaces, but DAW 2022 will also be online on the internationally recognized platform, Artsy.

This virtual presence of the week aims to provide the global audience with a sense of the diversity of Indian contemporary and modern art available in the Capital city. DAW exhibits will be virtually on view on Artsy till September 14.

The first edition, held from April 3-10, 2021, brought together, for the first time ever, a variety of art programs from 37 participating galleries and four institutions, including two museums.

DAW 2021 also organised the city into four distinct “art zones”, thereby providing easy access and navigation through the capital’s gallery and museum network.

DAW’s website and Instagram pages further provided resources to those interested in engaging in Delhi’s art world.

It was conceived of as a result of the dramatic changes brought about in the art world owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, one of which was the cancellation of many art fairs, and the identification by many galleries that working together rather than in isolation was the call of the times.

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