What Should I Be Reading In South Indian Fiction?

Do you read books in written in Indian languages? If yes, then let’s be friends!

I’ve always been interested in reading regional Indian fiction in translation. First it was contemporary writing, then Indian fiction in English and now I am on the lookout for South Indian fiction. With The News Minute review, this obsession has also found validation.

What does contemporary writing in Andhra and Telegana look like? I have no foothold in Telugu fiction to even begin reading. I intend to remedy this by reading Gogu Shyamala.

For Malayalam reading I just go by instinct. I’ve read very little in Malayalam so I pick up books indiscriminately at the Mathrubhumi Pustaka Mela (book fest). Routinely, they suspect I’ll buy too many books and send a sales staff to follow me around. Must admit though that I’ve not read all the books I’ve bought.

Thanks to the Marriage Act of 1955 I have a minion who reads in Kannada tasked with introducing me to Kannada literature. My first brush with Kannada literature was when we visited Poornachandra Tejaswi‘s wife Rajeshwari at their beautiful home near Chikmagalur. Though we arrived unannounced, she was extremely nice to us, offering us tea and taking time out of her afternoon to chat with us.

For Tamil, I have a supplier in Chennai. She and I have had a live gtalk window to discuss this among other things since 2008. She introduced me to books by Ambai, Salma and Ashokamitran.

I have always read been based on recommendations by friends. Mainly because in college I didn’t have enough money to buy all the books I wanted. I used to read whatever was available in our hostel’s library that was a really pretty name for a shelf of books. Once I could afford books I had phases. If I liked a book, I would read another book by the same author and then another till I got bored. When time started slipping away and reading time had to be pulled out from a magician’s hat, I became very conscious of what I read.

Finally, today I have the time to read and the money to buy books but now, I have a new problem. With South Indian fiction, I have few pointers to lead me. I am basing my reading entirely on my intuition and the jacket. But I’d really appreciate any direction you could offer. Below are a few books that I plan to read this year.

What else do you think should I be reading? Let me know in comments below.

Talking about practice, perseverance and preparedness

Made my day #koat16

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Isn’t it incredible to imagine sunrises atop mountains, exalt at the graceful ease of a dancer or be amazed by someone’s weightloss journey? How often do we stop to think of the practice, perseverance and preparedness required to make it happen? Perseverence. A perfectly mundane sentiment. The art of putting one step in front of another, hour after painful hour, when no one is watching. Even on cold mornings or after bad days, mot Skipping practice. Planning ahead to bend schedules to accommodate meal, fitness or whatever needs to be done to achieve the goal.

I know a thing or two about another P- procrastination. As we speak, I am hatching plans to summit a mountain; this one is way out of my league. This article is a reminder of how badly I will regret being ill-prepared.

If only I’d been fit on the Kedarkantha trek. Standing at the summit, I would have marvelled the golden shimmer of the sun on the mountains. Instead, I was fishing for a spot to sit down. I would’ve clicked pictures, made a hundred memories. Instead, I sat on a rock eating an apple.

Swathi Chatrapathy from the Indiahikes team writes about her trek to the Kedarkantha summit and her regret of being unprepared for such physical exertion. Was her next trek, this time to Rupin Pass, better than the last one? To find out, read the story here:

https://indiahikes.com/regret-trek-kedarkantha-completing-rupin-pass/

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could FlyThe Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is the story of a daring hen and her dreams. She does not let her egg-laying colleagues or the other farm animals in society define what she can and cannot do. What I loved about the story is that one of her dreams is to be a mother. I love how that’s an acceptable dream to have. It’s not everyday that you see a hen whose entire existence is about swimming upstream. Rarer still, is for such a hen to have an ‘everyday dream’ to be a mother. Wherever I have read about this book, it’s been compared to Orwell’s Animal Farm. I dare say that this book has more soul. It’s more about her singular struggle in getting by everyday while still keeping her dream alive. I am sure this book will remind you of many such hens in your life, doing what they must to achieve their dreams–being a daughter, sister, mother, wife and colleague.

View all my reviews

Weekend Activity: Chocolate Brownie

Weekends have always been the time I heal from all the social interactions over the week. However, I never have interesting answers to the dreaded, “How was your weekend?”. In my endless charm, I always answer with “it’s over!”. So what do I do over the weekend?

Weekend Activity

You’ll mostly find me doing household chores or binge-watching Netflix. My afternoons however, are spent experimenting with recipes. This includes trying to make my own bread, making sauces, incorporating milkmaid into things etc. How much time I spend in the kitchen is directly proportional to how stressful my week was. I tend to cook my way out of stress. Even when many of my experiments don’t work, cooking gives me a sense of control that calms me down. Typically, I try out recipes once, twice, thrice till I get it right. I am currently obsessed with Chocolate Brownies from the Sorted Channel. I absolutely adore the four hosts. Here’s their video and the recipe. (Let me know if you think they are adorable and we’ll start a fan club!)

 

Chocolate Brownie Recipe | Sorted

I’ve tried it twice already. They are yum! The first time around I made a rookie mistake of not powdering the sugar. The second time around, I think I got the measurements wrong because the brownies just wouldn’t firm up. But it’s butter, chocolate and sugar- in any form it’s super super tasty.

The biggest issue I face is wrapping my head around measurements. I can never be certain if 2/3rds is what I think it is or if a cup is a US cup or some other cup. I am sure ’60g of flour in cups’ tops my google autocorrect. Nothing to worry though. The solution is on its way. I finally bought a kitchen scale. Now my life is going to be a cakewalk!

If you are like me and you love the science behind things, here’s Thomas Joseph from Kitchen Conundrums holding forth on the science behind the perfect brownie. Happy watching.

Welcome To The New Fictionhead.in

Hey there!

Fictionhead is getting real! If you’ve been to my blog before, you know how reluctant and lazy I have been about the whole writing thing. I am trying to change that. 2015 is the big three zero year for me. At least, I am trying to make it sound like a big deal so that I can push myself to write more, in a more organized manner.

Instagram is amazing, so fictionhead is now on it as fiction_head! Come on over and check it out! And if you like what you see, don’t forget to like it. I review books there. I’ve got 6 posts so far. It’s more fun than sitting down to write, it can be done on the go and brevity means hard work! Eventually, I do plan to supplement these with long form reviews on this blog!

fiction_head
Now on instagram as fiction_head

I’ve taken 5 big steps in the first 2 months of 2015:

1. I (it was T actually) organized ALL my writing on Evernote: This means stuff i’ve written in e-mail drafts, send as e-mail to friends, notes on Google Keep, files and folders on Google drive, notes on my diary app, notes saved/sent as text messages etc. It’s a huge success for scatterbrain me!

2. I entered a writing competition: I rarely do this sort of thing. The results are out in the next week or so. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me.

3. T bought me this domain: fictionhead.in He also moved my stuff here because he is the best!

4. I started my instagram account: fiction_head. I could use all your support here.

5. I started a twitter account too: _fictionhead. This is yet to take off. I haven’t found time to do this yet. It’s the next item to tick off my list 🙂

I hope this excitement lasts! If you’ve got tips on how to make this work (or not), leave me a comment!

Hope You Find Your Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was my promise. Long before we got together for real, I had promised to take him there–it was to be our first getaway. Time took a hike for weeks, months, years only to return as our first wedding anniversary. SL will forever be that familiar yet special place.

We were there in October 2014–the sea was raining kisses on the landscape. First impression–a cleaner Kerala. Being South Indian in colour my “Sinhalese ancestery” was a foregone conclusion. I had it easy, easier than him–Everyone seemed to know me but looked at him suspiciously! However, it did help that the mention of fish, string hoppers and appam makes me light up.

Travel for me is about spending a couple of laidback days, walking around without a jam packed schedule, immersing myself in new experiences– and figuring things out. What’s even better is that we have that in common.

I Recommend

  1. For a Buddhist OD, we took in the many representations of Buddha at the Gangaramaya buddhist temple in Colombo.
  2. For that staple anniversary romance, we strolled through Virahamahadevi Park with its ancient banyan trees and young lovers.
  3. To come off as artsy, we visited Gallery Cafe, eminent architect Geoffrey Bawa’s office turned into a European restaurant. I had my first taste of Squid ink risotto here!
  4. Colombo-Kandy expo train was a pleasant surprise with breathtaking views.
  5. Odel, is a shopper’s heaven especially for their accessories! I spent a lot of time in there.
  6. If you are interested, Kandy has the Relic of the Tooth of the Buddha—look up the time when the relic case is brought out twice a day before you plan a visit.
  7. We got a crash course in Sri Lankan dance forms at Kandy’s cultural centre which holds a cultural programme every evening at 5. Ask around, it’s along the lake.
  8. I am beach bum– I beach hopped around Mirissa where every bus stop is an amazing beach. If you are a beach bum, don’t miss Unawatuna beach.
  9. I fed a baby elephant; it’s adorable. Head to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage to hang out with elephants.
  10. We time travelled through the quaint streets of Galle. It’s romantic to watch the sun go home from this Portugese fort.

Do It Yourself

  1. We used Air BnB and stayed with Mr. Tennakoon’s family in Kandy. They were awesome and gave us a peep into local life.
  2. When flying in and out of Colombo, we stayed at Ozo Colombo and in Taj Airport hotel for convenience.
  3. We walked or took the bus or train everywhere. It’s first come first serve and not as crowded as India.
  4. For quick trips, we hailed down Tuk-tuks. They start at Rs 50 and add Rs 30 per km.
  5. We got ourselves a local sim (Airtel) from the airport. It’s good to have network on the go. Rates are cheaper than India.

Eat at Sight

  1. In Colombo try Pagoda Tea Room: It’s old world charm and service reminded me of our very own India coffee house.
  2. In Kandy try Kandy Muslim Hotel: They had fried sardines the size of my palm and yum Kothu porota that he wrote home about!
  3. Exotic for me is ordering meals in SL and getting a portion of lotus root sabji.
  4. Try Lamprais–it’s a rice dish with meat and assorted condiments wrapped in banana leaf and baked–amazing!
  5. As travel bites try Seeni Sambol Bun–it’s spicy stuffed bun and mostly mess-free! Wash it down with tetrapacks of Nestle Milo milk/Nescafe cold coffee! Yum!
  6. In Galle, if you are adventurous (not up-market), stop over for a quick bite at Buddhist Young Men’s Association.

Good to Know

  1. Even for spice lovers, Sri Lankan food can get extremely spicy. It is definitely spicier than Indian food.
  2. Galle is a romantic Portugese fort to walk around but very touristy. Everything within the fort is marked up.
  3. Car drivers are usually crazy, even by Indian standards. So keep your wits about you.
  4. Foreigners from Non-SAARC countries have to shell out up to 100% more for entry tickets to tourist attractions.
  5. When visiting Buddhist temples, avoid revealing tattoos, shorts and sleeveless or be prepared to cover up.

In the unplannable future, another trip to the Sri Lankan east coast is on the cards. Till then, this is my Sri Lanka for you. Hope you find yours.

Short As A Flash

Wrote out a wordy post. Deleted it. The point is to keep it short, they say. Been put off flash fiction by this Guardian article. B-)

But was inspired by Hemingway’s Six:

For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

My debut flash fiction effort:

I didn’t think we’d last forever. Now, we say, “I do”. Here on, every new day ought to be shorter than forever.

Please rate it: 1-10

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep By Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sun on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circling flight.

I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there; I did not die.

 

I don’t remember the first time I came across this poem. But it made me sit up and take notice. Then, that first time around, I remember saving it as drafts in my mailbox (an ancient and anti-tech savvy thing to do, I know!). I even remember sending it to friends or at least putting it down as a to-do. Interesting as this is, I am 200% sure, I googled it and lapped up it’s wiki. There was an interesting story, badly retold by me here: the poetess wrote it to console someone who had lost their someone. She wrote it randomly on some brown paper bag and that was it. She was never a poet and was “discovered” by one of those perky little people going around looking for origins. You should just google this for a more accurate version.

Anyway, since then, this poem has come back to me so many times, through so many different media that I am beginning to find it creepy. I need someone to know that I’ve seen this and that it keeps coming back to me, repeatedly. There, it’s out of my system!

That’s all, really.

I Propose A Glass Jar

Why do you think of being in a glass jar as being ‘confined’? Isn’t it the perfect space for the postmodern exhibitionist and of course the netizen. Imagine a glass jar where you live. A transparent universe where all your needs are met and all your little victories, like say, 25 push-ups in the morning are seen by all who care to watch. Wouldn’t that be perfect in a world where we put up 25 pictures of posing self by the hour?

My favourite feature would be a 3D simulation of a google search bar that appears whenever you need to find anything in your space. Imagine if you could Ctrl+F your hairband or keys or socks or even the 9th President of the United States. Best would be recipes though. Another app that is a close second is an intelligent sorter. It sorts your interests, preferences, chores, favourites etc by activity so that all the things you frequently use/do are always around and the things you rarely use are stored away, retrievable by thinking about them.

It could be your universe without violence or pollution or conflict or anything unpleasant. A perfect place to be, anaesthetised and air-conditioned. This isn’t too different from the tech-savvy secluded lives we live, confined to our seats, one click away from company. Why not choose a glass jar then?

Maybe We Have Time By Pablo Neruda Translated By Alastair Reid

Maybe we still have time

to be and to be just.
Yesterday, truth died
a most untimely death,
and although everyone knows it,
they all go on pretending.
No one has sent it flowers.
It’s dead now and no one weeps.

Maybe between grief and forgetting,
a little before the burial,
we will have the chance
of our death and our life
to go from street to street,
from sea to sea, from port to port,
from mountain to mountain,
and, above all, from man to man,
to find out if we killed it
or if other people did,
if it was our enemies
or our love that committed the crime,
because now truth is dead
and now we can be just.

Before, we had to battle
with weapons of doubtful caliber
and, wounding ourselves, we forgot
what we were fighting about.
We never knew whose it was,
the blood that shrouded us,
we made endless accusations,
endlessly we were accused.
They suffered, we suffered,
and when they at last won
and we also won,
truth was already dead
of violence or old age.
Now there is nothing to do.
We all lost the battle.

And so I think that maybe
at last we could be just
or at last we could simply be.
We have this final moment,
and then forever
for not being, for not coming back.