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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Sunday Long Reads: Aparna Sen interview, Amitava Kumar opinion, books, and more

Here are this week's must-read pieces!


Updated: November 2, 2021 3:35:57 pm
"The idea came to me about a decade ago," the director said. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

You called winning the Kim Jiseok Award for The Rapist, at the recent Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), special.

Many years ago, when Donald Ritchie was the chairman, I was one of the jurors for this festival. At that time, I had met Kim Jiseok (the late South Korean co-founder of BIFF), who worked very hard to promote Asian movies. That’s why this award has a special significance for me. I am very happy for my team whose hard work has been recognised. In India, the movie will most likely release on an OTT platform after doing the festival rounds.

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The lies we tell ourselves

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Courtesy Sameer Kulavoor Sameer Kulavoor’s painting Mob, 2019 (Courtesy Sameer Kulavoor)

A man is being beaten. He is on the ground and, in an effort to survive, he has covered his head with his hands. One of the men attacking him has raised his foot — it is aimed at the head of the man, who is being beaten by sticks and rods. We do not know whether the man will live. Will we learn his name from the newspapers the next day? More likely, we’ll learn it from a viral video.

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There’s a Mexican proverb, ‘They tried to bury me, but didn’t know that I’m a seed.’ It captures the dignity of the human spirit. (Source: Getty Images)

Trauma has become a buzzword in the area of mental health. Podcasts are being churned out, books are being published, international conferences have erudite panellists educating the world on how trauma is at the root of all problems. Now, why would I have a problem with it? Surely, a more trauma-informed world would be a better world, won’t it? Maybe not, and let me explain why.

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How nature unpacks her bounty

Ranjit lal, sunday eye Chrysalis to butterfly (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Vloggers nowadays, all over the world, seem to be consumed by YouTube videos on “unboxing”. They order some gadget online and spend a loving 90 minutes opening the box, taking out the parts one by one — and recording it on smartphones. At the end, they are surrounded by a pile of bulletproof-moulded plastic, enough bubble-wrap and Thermocol to fill a dumpster, and smug smiles on their faces.

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‘The British had a political and imperial incentive in casting the maharajahs as fools’: Manu S Pillai

Manu S Pillai, Manu S Pillai book, Historian Manu S Pillai’s new book False Allies, Indian maharajahs, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express, indian express news Pillai (Photo: SatyajeetV Patil)

The world of the Indian maharajahs has long been laden with colonial stereotypes of silken robes, frivolity and decadence. Set up by the British Raj, this image of the Indian princes was an important element required to cement colonial rule in India. After Independence, the makers of modern India, too, largely followed the British perception of the princes. Historian Manu S Pillai’s new book, False Allies, seeks to counter this image and examine the erstwhile age of Indian royalty as one of political sophistication.

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Arundhathi Subramaniam seeks out women who represent the minority in India’s spiritual lineage in her latest book Women Who Wear Only Themselves

Women Who Wear Only Themselves book cover Women Who Wear Only Themselves: Conversations with Four Travellers on Sacred Journeys by Arundhathi Subramaniam, Speaking Tiger, 176 pages; Rs 499

Arundhathi Subramaniam’s words linger. As a poet, an author, a seeker and a disciple, one of her greatest talents is language, through which she is in constant dialogue with herself, her guru, and the rest of us. Reading about her progress, her questions and her epiphanies, the words feel effortless and resonant. So, it is not surprising that a sentence she wrote 10 years ago has become the title of her latest book. In her introduction to Pilgrim’s India, a 2011 anthology about different people’s experiences with pilgrimage, she posits that “…sacred journeys – those disruptive excursions – are for those who want to cross thresholds.”

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‘With every story I’m telling, I’m moving closer to my subject material, but I cannot claim to ever become my subject material’: Devashish Makhija

Oonga, novel Oonga, debut novel Oonga, the story of Oonga, Devashish Makhija debut novel, books, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express news Writer Devashish Makhija (Photo: Bhumika Dube)

In early 2010, a social worker in Odisha told filmmaker Devashish Makhija about taking her Adivasi friends to a theatre to watch an Odia dub of James Cameron’s film Avatar, released the previous year. They clapped and hooted — until the end; disappointed because their stories almost never have happy endings. This story stayed with filmmaker Makhija, who, having read about the “Naxalite-mining development-tribal conflict” for years, went to Odisha — the south Odisha belt (Malkangiri, Koraput, Niyamgiri, etc.) for over a month — to experience first-hand the lives of the Adivasis. South Korean steel-maker Posco was yet to face resistance from Odisha’s indigenous communities, the Dongria Kondh tribe of Niyamgiri hills were yet to push back Vedanta, Arundhati Roy was yet to publish her essay Walking with the Comrades. What Makhija saw was “they (Adivasis) live in a 24×7 state of dread. They don’t know where they’re going, what they’re going to wake up to tomorrow, what belongs to them, what belongs to the State, whether they belong to the State. There were villages that were not sure that India had achieved independence, that they now belong to a country called India,” he says.

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A translation of Dhurbajyoti Borah’s Kalantarar trilogy brings to life a contemporary classic set in the strife-torn Northeast of the Nineties

Elegy for the East book cover Elegy for the East: A Story of Blood and Broken Dreams, by Dhrubajyoti Borah, Niyogi Books, 380 pages, Rs 595

Dhrubajyoti Borah’s Kalantarar trilogy is an unforgettable book for readers in Assam. And so, the translation of its first book can offer some new insights and critical possibilities, which otherwise might not be known to those who haven’t read the Assamese original. First published in 1997, Borah’s trilogy (of which the second is Tejor Andhar [Darkness of Blood] and the third Arth [Meaning]) is a realisation of the many perils and paradoxes of freedom. His characters seek freedom, both deeper and internal, and their shattered hopes of rebellion add to the overall melancholic tone of the book. A prolific Assamese writer for over three decades, Borah was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2009 for his novel, Katha Ratnakar.

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Home is where the art is: Scaria’s brass installation Home In/Out (2021) (Courtesy: Gigi Scaria)

The idea of home has been at the centre of discussions and debates in a constantly changing perspective introduced by the pandemic. Many of us had come back home, never to return to the places we used to work. Many were stranded, as if stuck in limbo, never imagining that their stay would be extended for so long. Many of us felt the frustration of being back to unwelcoming homes and imposed stays. Many heaved a sigh of relief to have a home to return to and enjoy its comfort — always impossible owing to our tight work schedules and constant travel earlier.

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