‘A collection of academic essays’ would not define the two-volume book ‘Various Cultures Variant Readings’ in its entirety. There is much more love and memories ingrained on the pages of these hard-bound volumes. Published in honour of professor Jameela Begum, who retired as Director of the Centre for Canadian Studies functioning at the Institute of English, Kerala University, the book is a collection of articles on subjects that complement her academic interests including multiculturalism and writings of the Diaspora.
The festschrift has been compiled by the students and research scholars of professor Begum and contains 36 papers. The areas covered include cultural and critical discourse, theatre, issues relating to gender, caste, colour, eco-aesthetics, travel writing, liminality, postmodernism and so on.
“The essays illustrate a whole range of readings that represent diverse cultural experiences,’ says B Hariharan, one of the five editors of the collection. “The focus on different cultures and readings is very much in line with the academic preoccupation of Professor Begum,” he added.
The beautifully illustrated cover of the volumes, depicting a wilderness punctuated with green water bodies and dense thickets in bloom, is a foreword in itself. The open letter of Canadian poet Cyril Dabydeen, which precedes the essays, speaks of the warm of friendship. …Canada means much to Jameela as mush as India means much to me….’ he writes. He also mentions the critical book on him that professor Begum has authored. The letter is followed by tow poems of Dabydeen.
There are also other heartwarming pieces of writing that speak volumes
of a bonding that reaches beyond the precincts of academic interests.
Madhumathy R, an associate professor of English at NSS College and who has done her doctoral thesis on South African literature under the guidance of Professor Begum, has penned a poem titled, ‘The Story Behind a Ph D. ‘The guide threw an gauntlet/The scholar caught it midway/….Over fears and tears, chapters/Took shape….’ she writes, echoing the words of many a research scholar.
Contributors to the collection include Coral Ann Howells, professor of English and Canadian Literature at the University of Reading, England, who has authored extensively on contemporary Canadian women’s fiction in English; professor Daniel Shaube, a bibliotherapist of repute from Israel; professor Frank Birbalsingh, who specializes in Anglophone Caribbean literature at the York University in Toronto. The book is appended with a profile of Jameela Begum and notes on contributors. PP Ajayakumar, Achamma Alex, Vijayalekshmi G and Cherian John have co-edited the collection. The book was released at the farewell function organised in honour of Professor Begum at the Senate Hall on May 30.