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Sunday Long Reads: How Progressive Artists’ Group shaped Indian art, ‘Ek Jagah Apni’, book reviews, and more

Here are interesting reads of this week!

sh razaArtists (first from left) SH Raza, (second from left) FN Souza; (from right) Tyeb Mehta, MF Husain, Abbasi, KH Ara, VS Gaitonde (Credit: The Raza Foundation)

On the 75th anniversary of the Progressive Artists’ Group, remembering their seminal role in shaping Indian art

At his Gurugram home, artist Krishen Khanna recalls one of his earliest interactions with MF Husain in 1948. The latter had seen his work at an exhibition at the Bombay Art Society organised by SB Palsikar and wanted to invite him to exhibit alongside members of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) at their upcoming exhibition at the Bombay Art Society salon. A young artist himself, Husain was already making an impression within the art fraternity, as were the other founding members of the PAG — KH Ara, HA Gade, SH Raza, FN Souza and SK Bakre.

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How Ektara Collective’s latest feature, Ek Jagah Apni, champions the cause of transgenders and challenges our reactions to their way of life

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Still from Ek Jagah Apni (Photo: Ektara Collective)

FOR the first screening of Ek Jagah Apni in October at an auditorium in Bhopal, Muskaan was wary of bringing her family members. While Muskaan, 39, who essays the role of Roshni, one of the film’s protagonists, was thrilled to wear a sari and make-up for the screening, she was aware that her family would not be comfortable seeing her dressed as a woman. “My family still hasn’t accepted me as a transwoman. Many people, including my relatives, continue to question my choices. Irrespective of that, I was excited that through the film, people would see the story of our community,” she says.

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What the artificial caves of Pabhosha in Uttar Pradesh reveal about commerce and community

Pabhosa cave perched high on the hill (Photo credits: Satyendra Tiwari)

My profession has taken me to many places to enjoy the pleasure of discovering something new about old landscapes and places, not always with logical reasons and plans. An overwhelming desire to understand the archaeology of forests was the reason why I began my research on the Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh. Having spent two years in understanding the ancient cave shelters there, several of which were financed by traders and ministers who came from Kausambi, a question that came up constantly in my mind was: Would Kausambi residents have seen caves of this kind in their neighbourhood, of the kind that they decided to create in Bandhavgarh?

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First two volumes of ‘The Routledge Writer in Context’ series explores texts, contexts in translation of writers Krishna Sobti, Joginder Paul

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The ‘Routledge Writer in Context’ series on Indian writers is a very welcome and timely step in the publishing of Indian-language literature in translation. (Photos: Amazon.in)

How relevant is the context to a text and its writer? Understanding the circumstances that mould a writer is, perhaps, only a supplementary element in the process of literary appreciation, but it undeniably facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the writer and the text.

The Routledge Writer in Context series on Indian writers has originated from this perspective. Needless to say, it is a very welcome and timely step in the publishing of Indian-language literature in translation, for what it offers through the anthology, is a combination of the writer’s works and their critical appraisal. Although Indian language literatures, or bhasha works, are steadily being brought out of their regions through translations, the critical corpus in the bhashas is yet to be made accessible to readers in other languages. It is this lacuna that the Routledge series addresses very effectively; what makes these books invaluable to the researcher and the reader are the translations of critical works on the writers by critics in their languages.

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Sharat Sabharwal’s ‘India’s Pakistan Conundrum’ explores the nature of the state in Pakistan

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India’s Pakistan Conundrum: Managing a Complex Relationship; By Sharat Sabharwal
Routledge India; 228 pages; Rs 995 (Photo: Amazon.in)

The book under review, written by a scholar-diplomat, reflects on the nature of the state in Pakistan and explores intricately complex ties between India and Pakistan. As a practising diplomat, Sharat Sabharwal had literally grappled with several intractable problems between the two countries as he served in Pakistan as Deputy High Commissioner (1995-99) and High Commissioner (2009-13) of India. Sabharwal initially unravels the nature of Pakistan’s polity, society and economy before dealing with a wide range of bilateral issues in Indo-Pak ties, including border and water disputes, the status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), cross-border terrorism, hurdles in trade ties as also Pakistan’s external ties with the US, China and the Islamic world.

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Poet-diplomat Abhay K’s latest collection, Stray Poems, defies categorisation

Stray Poems by Abhay K; Paperwall Publishing; 106 pages; Rs 400 (Photo: Amazon.in)

Poet-diplomat Abhay K’s latest collection, Stray Poems, cannot be categorised into a single theme. There are poems that are descriptions of places, like the ancient Nalanda and the traveller Hiuen Tsang’s journey to it and its modern resurgence, as well as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan. Along with these, there are poems that are odes to all the planets and more “earthly” matters, such as work and even love.

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A deeply therapeutic novel, Janice Pariat’s Everything the Light Touches individualises ways of seeing

In each installment, Pariat shifts her writing to suit the vocabulary, geography, ethos and spirit of the historical placement of her characters. (Photo: Amazon.in)

During his expedition to Lapland in 1732, Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, writes about the uncertainty upon entering “a cave formed by nature”: Not everything the light touches can be seen. A little earlier, he jots down another keeper of a sentence: The starting point must be to marvel at all things, even the most commonplace. In essence, these simple sentences form the crux of Janice Pariat’s third and latest novel — Everything the Light Touches — that weaves together four stories from different geographies and timelines, bound by a love for the flora, a bone of curiosity and, at the centre of which is a growing concern about the erosion of nature itself.

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Let’s just stop calling soil “dirt”

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The soil lies at the heart of life (Photo credit: Ranjit Lal)

How many times have parents yelled at their kids, “Don’t track dirt all over the floors!” Or, “Go and change those soiled clothes immediately!” And then, hauled them off for a disinfectant-laced scrub so that they emerge squeaky clean and the very antithesis of childhood?

Dirt; mud, soil – well, they’re yuck, right?

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First published on: 04-12-2022 at 10:59 IST
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