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Anu Kumar
Monday , July 21, 2014

The Death of the Quiet Writer

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Scientists and most politically correct people hold one fact as irrefutable: more species have declined or are on the verge of extinction in our time than any other. Add to this however is a fact unknown or unacknowledged by many, that this decline includes the quiet writer. Now that is an oxymoron if ever there is one, especially in this day when one's existence albeit virtual is assured in the social media. But for most writers, such existence requires an adaptation, even a mutation which comes hard. A writer's world must essentially encompass great periods of solitude; a writer's self must be inherently attuned for it. This could of course entail isolation but not necessarily loneliness. It is a world crowded with certain species more than others, including other writers and readers with only so much time and attention, and so solitude threatens the quiet writer. For....

Thursday , June 12, 2014

The book seller who taught me to read

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When I was eleven, I wrote my first love letter to a man I had never met and who sold books. These letters were written for my mother, and it was one hot summer in Cuttack, Odisha's biggest city as it still is, and hot as only summers in the heart of India can get. My mother wanted to borrow romantic novels, she was a fast reader and could finish one in the course of an entire hot afternoon. While I wasn't allowed to read these novels, I volunteered to write the letter for her, just as I wrote my grandmother's letters in English to my faraway cousins. But the letter to Mr Sur was somewhat different from the ones I had always written. It was almost a love letter for I borrowed the style from one of my father's old books, How to Write Letters: for all occasions and....

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Lonely Russian Musician in Old Calcutta

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I thought it was time to return to the original theme of this blog, i.e., dislocation and the attempts to find one's centre in the midst of such moves. When you look at the life of a strange unusual musician turned linguist and theatre-director Gerasim Lebedev, you realize that dislocation is a comparatively modern word, too often used in consonance with displacement. In general, all through history, there have been wanderers, who if they were not travelling in groups, generally moved in relative isolation, perhaps aware of the dangers of this too. These included ascetics, bards and musicians and traditional healers. The wanderings of Gerasim Stephanovich Lebedev and his name is spelled in various ways was of a different kind altogether. He was born in the ancient Russian city of Yaroslavl, one of the oldest cities by the river Volga. In its buildings, one can catch a glimpse of....

Monday , November 25, 2013

Modi's misreading of history

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It is when the BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi makes a series of gaffes about recent Indian political history that really tells you how important and yet unimportant the subject is. Modi has so far addressed a series of rallies held across India, where the BJP has prided itself on the crowds who have attended and the money they have paid to attend this, even as the party has showed up the poorer contrast made by Rahul Gandhi's allies. His serious errors on history, on the other hand, have been dismissed as just 'slips of the tongue'. Consider these examples: in a speech that referred to Sardar Patel, India's first Home Minister, Modi said that despite the former's stature as one of the most senior leaders of the freedom struggle, his funeral was not attended by then Prime Minister Nehru. Modi's aim in this instance was to claim....

Monday , November 11, 2013

My father's Circles of Life

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All places have their stories, some remain unchanged. Some may be places you miss on a map but stop a while, you will find a different story lurking within. Look up Rayagada, a district in southwest Orissa, created only in 1992. Statistics will tell you of its largely adivasi population, and the mineral resources it is rich in, chiefly bauxite. As a district, it receives government attention chiefly for two reasons: that it is part of the 'red corridor' where Naxalites pose a grave security threat, and in large part related to this, Rayagada is one of India's 250 most backward districts. In the early 1960s, it was part of Koraput district, having once been part of the kingdom of Jeypore in the 18th century. The bauxite even at this time was largely unexplored and there wasn't anything like a Naxalite presence. It might have taken a person of....

Monday , October 28, 2013

How A Community Familiar with Dislocation Makes Old-New Identities for Itself

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My friend Gauraang on occasion does the vanishing act on weekends. Sometimes he will show us photos of his many travels, and this is how over a year or so ago, I found out about the Siddis living in districts of north Karnataka. Theirs is a name familiar in history, and as you delve deep, you learn again the different names they are known by, and almost as consequence of the part dislocation wrought by history, their many divergent histories. Alnavar in Karnataka's Dharwad district is a ten hour journey by train from Mumbai. It is then a bus ride to Dandeli, the wildlife sanctuary, also designated a tiger reserve only some years ago. It was dusty and hot, there was a red brick bus shelter, ringed by dusty brown trees. I know this from Gauraang's photos and like him, the people waiting with him, fascinated me too. Women....

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why Men with Snow in their Hair are the World's Handsomest

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A piece that begins with describing the first time you met or spoke to someone is of course in danger of becoming and being labelled a sentimental one. But I remember speaking to KR more because it was a fundamental re-orientation of how things, as I had thus far known them, were. Seeking appointments in those days when the cell phone was still a novelty, was quite a process, even an experience. As a management consultant, I had sort of learnt to intuit a person's importance from the layers of hierarchy you waded through. It wasn't so with calling up Krishna Raj. In my other life, years ago as a postgraduate student, his name was already familiar on the masthead of the Economic and Political Weekly. There they were, in bound volumes in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, where most of my classmates from university congregated after classes. We....

Friday , October 04, 2013

Similar Stories, a Century Apart

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Sometime ago a friend I have never met but is one of my best friends in the strange redefinitions the virtual world permits us wrote about a case that he had been preoccupied with. He is a human rights lawyer, fighting refugee cases and in some instances, he is not very successful. He remains a broken man thereafter, for some days his emails are short almost disconcerted in tone. His words appearing to waver like his mind. The people he represents are usually refugees from the developing world. They come in search of a better world seeking an end to discrimination or simply for happiness. He wrote me once about a woman from South Asia, who had journeyed to Canada at an advanced stage of pregnancy. It was an act of desperation and to many her very manner of fleeing seemed 'outlandish'. Most cases are confidential and he....

Tuesday , September 24, 2013

Moving with The Shadow Lines

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You get to the library by left-turning one too many times. I learnt that the hard way for the car's unpredictable GPS always led me some metres astray, and then in the US, a wrong turn can distressingly take you quite some distance. My memory proves more reliable; two left turns gets you off York Road into Padonia Road, and a last right leads you to the Cockeysville Public Library, one of the libraries that make up the Baltimore County's Public Library system. When I moved a few weeks ago, my search to feel at home, to look for the familiar, began here. So I went down the shelves in the library, following short orderly rows arranged in perfect alphabetic order; down rows marked GAD, GAI, till at long last with some impatience I came to GHO. And stopped to run my hand down the spines of books....


More about Anu Kumar

Anu's most recent novels are 'It Takes a Murder' and 'Inspector Angre and the Pizza Delivery Boy'. She recently moved once again and is hoping to find the many definitions of dislocation through this blog. Her website not always regularly updated but located securely in cyberspace is anukumar.org.



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