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Devapriya Roy
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The One with the Audacious Dream: Remembering Martin Luther King Jr

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On 28th August 1963, exactly fifty years ago, Revd. Martin Luther King, a black American clergyman and activist spoke of a strange and audacious dream. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he delivered his momentous "I Have a Dream" speech to a massive gathering of around 250,000 civil rights activists, calling for an end to racism. One might remember that in the year 1863, the "Emancipation Proclamation" had freed millions of slaves in America. Commemorating this, Dr King had begun his speech by saying that: "...one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material....

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The one with the publishing ghosts, sour grapes and an MBA-2

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By the time I returned home that fateful night when I would attempt the thing I had never done, a light drizzle had begun outside. Our street looks lovely in the rain at night, with shimmery yellow pools of light on the street and jungles of wires gleaming with fat water droplets. Not that I had any time to admire the view. Instead, there was I. Scrabbling in the study at that ungodly hour, my back to the window through which a sly rain-breeze drifted in, stone cold sober in spite of the many cocktails I had downed. The book would be out. And in all probability, Sink Without a Trace. All because I couldn't afford, among other key things, the super PR girls with blackberries and tailored suits. You've heard all the whining already. I move books around reckessly. Pull out the ones in front and leave....

Friday , July 05, 2013

The one with the publishing ghosts, sour grapes and an MBA-1

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As the publication date of my new book looms, I find my nerves becoming more and more screechy. The days are hot. It is cloudy in bursts but there is no rain. Altogether, it is weather suited to drive one nuts, especially if one is a person of uncertain means and carries perpetually the guilt of unmet deadlines. In any case, these are particularly difficult times for minor writers. (Not that I consider myself a writer. I wouldn't dare. I am a bibliomaniac, with a bit of a writing problem.) What with all these clever MBAs storming the scene and selling hundreds of thousands of copies - and yes, much as it burns a hole in my heart to say this out loud, it is true, they are selling hundreds of thousands of copies - one can no longer write books and remain happy enough in one's obscurity....

Saturday , July 28, 2012

The one with the affair in Gurgaon (and a conversation)

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Nora Ephron, in one of her columns - possibly in 'Esquire' though I can't be sure - had wondered about the exact time the word "adultery" became irrelevant - and politically incorrect - in America. I am not sure if metropolitan India is quite there yet, but Nirupama Subramanian's recent novel 'Intermission' is a layered novel that in some ways raises this rather sensitive question. Set in a gated community in Gurgaon - and Subramanian raises all the points that sociologists agonize over, with a keen eye and a quiet sense of humor - 'Intermission' is the story of forty-four year old Varun Sarin, a suave entrepreneur, a newly-returned Indian, resident of the seventh floor of Trafalgar Towers (incidentally, I chuckled at how Subramanian has chosen the name of the colony with spot-on irony that grand Gurgaon namkaran provides). Sarin's wife Gayatri, in my opinion one of the most finely-drawn....

Monday , July 09, 2012

The one where rains come to delhi: some notes on saawan, lover ants, and a song

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The rains have come to Delhi, on the heels of the month of saawan. Shravan or saawan is well-known as the season of mellow fulfillment in Bollywood, given that Bollywood lovers do not quite have to brave Gurgaon roads or Delhi traffic. Late afternoon on Friday, it darkened outside suddenly and the birds were caught in great confusion. Drawn to the balcony by their mad twittering and the insistent call of the peacocks, I saw the sky, roiling dark and grim, rumbling, and the wind racked with rain. I knew immediately this was it: the real thing, the royal Indian monsoon. The chatter of rain on the dry red earth was consistent once it began. As dusk deepened - I had to tell from my watch as it was completely overcast outside - and the rain stopped for a while, hundreds of ants began to hover in....

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The one where I make a case for P.A. Sangma

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These days, I am hoping for a miracle too. One that shall see P.A. Sangma take oath as the President of India. For one, the ridiculous enthusiasm that Bengalis left, right and centre (pun intended) are displaying in the matter itself offers a worthy reason for me to pray feverishly to my various goddesses that Sangma might win. If the honourable Pranab Mukherjee, in the course of his long distinguished career, did not ever insist that as a Bengali he ought to do a few things to benefit Bengal (which is just as well for a national leader I guess), I don't see why Bengal cannot follow the glorious example set by him in this regard. For another, I have always been a little in love with P.A. Sangma. The time when he was the Speaker of the Lok Sabha (between 1996 and 1998) and would try, in....

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The one with the mulfi

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As monsoon lashes against the Kerala coast, and rains creep up the sub-continent following their usual trail, I decide that I too in my fashion must address the Indian obsession with the mango. Clichéd it is, of course; bordering on oral fixation, true; but, well, cultures perhaps owe it to themselves somewhat to live up to their stereotypes, especially if said stereotypes were first generated-for and subsequently were seen-through-and-analyzed-as-thus-by goras. Ergo, the mango. Or rather, if we were to go with the flow, the magical mangoes from Dharamtallah, which played a critical role in pushing me from one side of the blogosphere (foodporn-viewing) to the other (foodporn-contributing or whatever). But long before these magical mangoes, came the train journeys to Howrah, at the end of the summer holidays. So that is where the story really begins. Every June, when Mummy would return to Calcutta from the glorious environs....

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The one with late reminiscences of summer

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Unfortunately, as one who is still working on a manuscript that was to have been completed and submitted last year (or was it the year before?), I cannot really complain about the heat in Delhi. If anything, it is forcing me to remain indoors, undistracted by the pleasures of gallivanting here or there and get my ass moving on what is, with ironical aptness, called "The Heat and Dust Project". The afternoons outside our tiny flat are filled with the solid quiet intense white heat that stands like a handsome asura, the guardian of the Delhi summer; the neighbourhood dogs rush about busily in the sun with a frenzy that is part sexual. There is a water booth for them where they mill around at lunchtime, bossing over the thirsty mynas who wait patiently in queue; and then, suddenly, they vanish. To sleep beneath the green benches, stretch....

Friday , March 16, 2012

The one where I dabble in divine secrets

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On a mild spring evening in a second-hand bookstore in Bangalore, I find a newish copy of the book. It is by Rebecca Wells, enticingly called Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood - and being one forever in awe of said kind of secrets and any kind of sisterhood, I buy it immediately. Over the next two days, I am gripped by the gorgeous world of Louisiana it brings to life, with a cast of eccentric, often heart-breaking, characters. And then there are the flavours of the crawfish etouffee and duck gumbo cooking, the subtle shifts of sunlight on the bayou, the songs and sounds of the black quarters at the edge of town, the clinks of tall glasses filled with iced lemonade as the rich heat oozes slowly from the cotton farmlands and fills the air with a sort of sorrow. There is that quality of ripeness,....

Tuesday , July 19, 2011

The one where an inspiring cookbook is found

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One day in the library I had an epiphany. It came in the form of a slim little yellow hardbound book that nobody had borrowed in a long time. It was called The Pedant in the Kitchen and was by Julian Barnes, half-mistakenly kept in the cookery section, though it really belonged in philosophy. Never mind that though. It was a little treat. In a fundamental way, this book comforted a deep sense of inadequacy in me - but more on that later. It is more important to explain at this point what I was doing in the cookery section of the library anyway. Long(ish) story. In the year 1973 my mother had made a tiny slice of history in her part of India; it is Jharkhand today, but in those days it was still a part of Bihar. She became one of the first girl....


More about Devapriya Roy

Devapriya Roy has degrees in English literature and performance studies from Presidency College, Calcutta, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and adds a languishing PhD (on the Natya Shastra if you must know) to her list of mustfinishes. Once upon a time she was the Keo Karpin girl. Her first novel 'The Vague Woman's Handbook' was published in 2011 and her second, 'The Weight Loss Club: Curious Experiments of Nancy Housing', is just out. At the moment she is working on 'The Heat and Dust Project', the story of an eccentric journey through India on an extreme budget, along with spouse Saurav Jha. After years of resisting, she has succumbed to the addictions of twitter and can be found @DevapriyaRoy.


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