Invitation to Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party

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On Nov 21 (Saturday)

Beat the chill with an afternoon of warm conversations!

Join us in BYOB Party with your favourite book and bring your friends along too!


Read a book and craving to chitchat about it with someone? Have a favorite book that you think everyone would love, if only they knew about it? Want to see what others are reading and have interesting conversations beyond weather, traffic and real estate?

Then come to the BYOB party and talk away! Try to avoid a bestseller and if you have a copy, bring it along and read us a passage. All languages are welcome.

There will be refreshments and swag courtesy Worth A Read.


So, what really happens in a BYOB Party?

Everyone brings a book and talks about it. Conversations follow and they are good. So are the refreshments!

You can take a look at what happened in some of our earlier parties here:

Do I have to be there for the entire duration of four hours?

We aren’t closing doors or locking you in. But the party is best enjoyed if you are there for the entire duration and listen to people talk about a variety of books. Trust us, you won’t know how time flew.

Do I have to bring anything?

Nothing really. But if you have a copy of the book you want to talk about, you might want to bring it in. Other attendees might want to have a look, or you might want to read a paragraph from it.

I am an author. Can I bring a book written by me?

A good writer should be a voracious reader. It would be preferable if you brought a book you really like written by someone else.

Who are the organizers?

Worth a Read

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Shoot an e-mail to

Okay! I am ready to come. What do I do?

Just RSVP here and turn up on time!

Slang and the Yak @ the BYOB Party in September (Part 5)


“Neelima found a book that she thought I’d like,” said Srishti.

This is how you lose her is by Junot Diaz is the kind of book that Srishti would like as it doesn’t have pages and pages about the curtains. Plus Diaz makes his characters talk crass. ” Diaz’s characters have no filter and you cringe at the kind of slang he uses. For instance, the word nigger shows up repeatedly.”

The central theme is about a womanizer and relationships, in the context of Hispanic day to day struggles in the U.S. “It’s a bunch of short stories that are all connected in the end. “The first chapter was sappy.  But then it got interesting. Junot Diaz talks about many social issues like women who always have to work harder  and the idea of male privilege.”

I liked the way this story continued what Shyamala Rao talked about when she discussed her book Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand. In This is how you lose her , there are many sad immigrants’ tales in this book– the story of a useless teenager who doesn’t help his mom in any way, the story of a guy who leaves his family behind, and the awful living conditions of women in who live in small spaces, cramped together, saving for a better future.” This story is very different from the kind of immigrants Jhumpa Lahiri talks about. They are a more privileged class and they don’t face the kind of problems that Diaz talks about. Junot Diaz uses crass language to reflect the reality of the world inhabited by his characters,” Shyamala said.

“If you want crass writing from India, I suggest you read Upamanyu Chatterjee’s English August,” Arun said. “It’s the story of an IAS officer in a small town, whose life is a series of very ‘colorful’ vocabulary, if you get my point.”

Vaishali agreed, “It was impossible to enjoy the book the first time round, but I enjoyed reading it much later.”

The story of crass vocabulary reflecting dire circumstances relates to the theme of the book party we had in September. Some people like Sonya Sotomayor rise above their circumstances, some people never get out of the rut as in Junot Diaz’s book, some have no hope as we saw in the bleak book White Tiger, and some no longer understand what their parents and grandparents fought for. One such book was Pema and the Yak by Siofran O’ Donovan; the story of the displaced community is one filled with grief, hope and a kind of futility.

“What matters most is home, ” said Baara Al Mansour, the Syrian writer.

On that note, we wound up a long party (Read Parts  1, 23, and if you haven’t already) one of the best yet. The next time you read a book, why not discuss it
with a friend? You never know where books will lead you.

Dragons, Fish and White Tigers @ the BYOB Party in September (Part 4)

This is turning out to be one long book party!

earthseaIn my quest for the perfect fantasy novel, I chanced upon Ursula Le Guin’sEarthsea. She is a magician, I think. Fantasy writing is very challenging- the characters need to have magical qualities and achieve magical feats. Le Guin’s character Sparrowhawk’s rites of passage is a coming of age story of a boy who becomes a wizard. So he has all the qualities that a wizard needs except that he is ambitious and extremely human. Le Guin’s craft lies in how she makes words magical as well and she gives a premise for the entire world that she creates. It is not just a make-believe world- the logic of all magic lies in the True Speech, the basic words that give the one who utters them great power. I particularly enjoyed the Dragon of Pendor; what is a fantasy without dragons?

Jaya has been reading a couple of not-so fantasy novels, but novels that deal with the unreal all the same like the Game of Thrones series and the irresistible Harry Potter, though after reading Le Guin, it feels like you’ve been through all the sorcerer apprentice adventure stories created.”I don’t know if   Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy counts, but it was an other-wordly book!” said Jaya.

“No one beats Terri Pratchetts’s Discworld series,” Veena said, “If you want to explore the fantasy genre, start there.”

“And Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card if you want a dash of military sci-fi,” Abhaya said.

The_White_TigerDone with dragons, we moved to a much darker terrain of poverty in a book called The White Tiger that Anil, the software engineer, was reading. Since the book was a Booker winner, he thought he’d have a go with it. It was the first serious piece of literature that he had tackled and it wasn’t exactly the right choice. The White Tiger has many admirers and many detractors as well. Some criticized it for its rawness and treatment of extreme poverty. Some praised his effort to translate something so stark and bleak. It’s not that literature has never mentioned poverty- take Charles Dickens, but Dickens was an optimist and Adiga can not sugarcoat his voice.

There are parallels to Slumdog Millionaire. It isn’t a question of why India is depicted as poor, but how the depiction has been done in the first place.Phanishwar Nath Renu is a writer who tells reality as it is but he is an insider to the grim reality, so his voice is authentic,” Jaya said. “It’s not the depiction of unpleasantness that is jarring, it’s how it is depicted.”

“So a book like Em and the Big Hoom is a sad book but Jerry Pinto’s treatment is so touching, he changes your perception of the subject matter,” Arun said, “In fact, we interviewed many authors and to our surprise we found that most authors write without keeping an audience in mind.”

Baraa Al Manour, the Syrian writer, agreed,” If you think of what others want to hear, you will not write.There would be just one book, if we focused only on the reader.”

Dragons and white tigers later, Abhaya talked about his journey with Samanth Subramanium’s book called Following Fish. Being a fishitarian, the book was enlightening. “Subramanium  takes us along the edge of the peninsula in nine essays and explores not just fish as cuisine but fish as industry. He talks about the bar food in Kerala, the different kinds of cuisines in Mumbai and the very secretive angling community in Goa.”

What you eat says a lot, doesn’t it? What are you reading today?

Flying kites and the Language of Poetry @ the BYOB Party in September (Part 3)


Vaishali, who co-hosted the party with us, was in search of August, the Month of Winds(Translated from the Russian by Raissa Bobrova). It was a book that she read when she was young, the kind of story that makes an imprint on you, one so deep, that when she spoke of the blind boy in a serious story for children it was almost as though she were flying a kite of her imagination and the story though unavailable to her any longer as a physical copy was forever accessible in a single heart.

Language has a remarkable ability to transport one elsewhere, even in translation. Baraa Al Mansour, a Syrian writer of a book called Look Around You spoke about how Arabic is a language of emotion. “Once  when I was in China,” she said “I saw and beautiful girl and told her that she was beautiful like the moon. That was a little too much, I later understood.” Although she writes in English, her sentiment translates another language.

Shyamala, the wildlife artist, agreed that Arabic was more like French. “May Sarton, a French writer,  preferred to write poetry in French as poetry was too easy. The craft came to her in English”

Baraa expressed how translation could create a distance from true meaning, but even awkward literal translations worked better sometimes as it was closer home to the real thing.
My_Story_Kamala_DasAbhaya who is an ardent reader of Hindi poetry prefers raw untranslated mother tongue as far as poetry goes, “Nothing beats Braj Bhasha poetry,” he said bringing up the true Hindi speech which has ever since been diluted by multiple tongues. He found the case of Kamala Das intriguing. She wrote a great deal of  poetry in English and prose in Malayalam, her mother tongue, Malayalam, a language of southern India as well. The book that Abhaya was reading at the time was a translated version of her prose called My Story, a controversial book. “Perhaps she was able to say things in English poetry that she couldn’t express in Malayalam,” he mused.

“Well as they, you can speak French to your lover, English to an accountant and German to your horse,” Shyamala said. In terms of precision, there is no better language than German as the adage goes.

Cover of In one of the books I had got to the party How to Read a Book (by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren), there was a section about how to read poetry.  I’ve talked about this book earlier at the InstaScribe blog— it’s a mandatory read for readers of books, as so many times we read books in a hurry and words are lost on us.  Instead of reading becoming an exercise in futility, it is best if we pay attention when we are reading by using a highlighter or a pencil.

When you read a poem, it is best to read it aloud (even plays should be read, Abhaya added). What sounds like gobbledygook makes sense when you listen to the rhythm of the words. A poet wouldn’t necessarily want to make sense in a rational way, so she must be read and listened to with an open mind. Incidentally Shyamala mentioned a book by Adler which focused on how to listen. The book is called How to Speak How to Listen. The interesting thing about listening is how it can be an exercise in formulating your own response rather than paying attention to what the other person is saying.

Attentive listening reaps rewards. The post script to this party was that Nilesh dug up August, The Month of Winds, a book that Vaishali so much craved.

Have you had any happy book surprises you want to share?

Mentors and the Tragedy of the commons @ the BYOB Party in September (Part 2)

You can read Part 1 here. In this section, we steer away from epics in our conversation.

Shyamala Rao, a wildlife artist, talked about her journey reading an incredible book called Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand. This biography features  Sonia Sotomayor, the U.S. Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice and the third woman to serve the Court. Many of us in the group didn’t know that judges fought elections in the U.S as this is not the case in India.

Sotomayor’s story has some parallels with Leila Seth’s autobiography On Balance, a story of the making of a judge against various odds. However, the challenges are different.

Sonia“It’s hard for someone of Hispanic origin in the U.S  and no connections to reach the level Sotomayor reached,” Shyamala said. Sotomayor’s is a story of battling the odds. As a young girl of eight, she had juvenile diabetes. Since her mother was out most of the time trying to make ends meet, she had to sterilize her syringes on her own. In spite of her medical condition and her economic limitations, Sotomayor was no whiner. She observed her situation and assessed how she could move ahead.

“This is a rare quality,” Shyamala told us. Which adolescent understands how to fit in and uses observation as a tool not just to fit in, but to excel? As she was bright, Sotomayor was admitted to a posh school, the kind of place where a book like Alice in Wonderland was common fare, a book she hadn’t even heard about. Instead of cringing in shame, she decided to fill in the gaps in her knowledge. She decided to find mentors.

“We can only prepare kids for the world they will know,” Shyamala said as she stressed how important it is that children find mentors wherever they go; parents can’t be mentors in all fields.

Without mentorship, the student is most likely to be ignored right at the time when he needs peers, even in old boys’ club institutions like Ivy League School. But Sotomayor was resilient and for a Supreme Court Justice, she’s full of fun too, considering she got the other Justices to try their foot at salsa.

Arun who hosted the party along with Vaishali mused on the theme of growing up and finding mentors. He talked about his yearly excursions to bookshops as those books sustained him during the long vacatioin. He learnt English from his experience at convent schools and it was when he went to college that he was advised to stick with the English speaking group if he wanted to get ahead in life.

What gets you ahead in the U.S may not necessarily get you ahead in other parts of the world. Everyone seemed to agree that in India merit counted more than it did once, especially in IT companies. In any part of the world, how far you get ahead all comes down to how well you can play the game. “There may be a glass ceiling, but all glass ceilings disappear when people start demanding excellence.”

Excellence is again debatable. There is disgruntlement at the idea of merit being replaced by dynasty. “Yet there is no debating that if you grow up exposed to say film or politics or whatever else, you will end up being good at it, by virtue of swimming in the same ocean,” Jaya said. “Not all of us are fortunate. It will not serve as a reason not to try to succeed.”

Which is why mentoring makes sense.

Arun spoke about how important it is to network and be in the right place at the right if you want to make it in India. It is a contentious issue but being well-versed in your native language is not always enough.  There’s a huge disconnect between the English speaking and non-English speaking community, or what Veena, author of Beyond the Call of Duty, called the Pizza Hut vs Darshini culture in India.

“There was a pre-globalization period in India when people grew up the same and dressed pretty much alike. It was hard to make out who was richer than the other. There were just about three brands of cars.   We’ve adopted all the wrong things from the US. Competitons for post birthday return gifts. Beauty treatment for young kids.” Shyamala said.

“It was a culture shock,” said Arun who grew up in post independence India,” We were taught about sacrifice but today brands matter.”

“Not to mention what music are you listening to,” said Srishti.

games indians playSpeaking of mentors and role models, Veena talked about her co-writer Raghunathan’s book called  Games Indians Play. Raghunathan is an economist and he uses game theory and economics to understand for instance why Indians in general have a tendency to litter. Veena finds his criticism constructive, though some readers have expressed outrage at how he has painted Indians as privately smart(yes, they clean their own houses) and publicly dumb(they sometimes do litter outside their houses).

“This could be the tragedy of the commons,” Nilesh said. Poverty can aggravate the problem.

Veena disputes this, “Raghunathan didn’t sit on a pedestal and give his advice. He stated the facts and the bottom line is that we all need to be nice and care about our environment.”

Do we care enough to become mentors to the new generation? Look at where talking about books can lead you.

Epic Memories and Philosophical Ruminations @BYOB Party in September (Part 1)

This time we chose a different venue for the BYOB Party. We co-hosted this quaint book party with Reading Hour and it took as an hour to get to the venue- a quiet house filled with the warmth of book loving souls Vaishali and Arun Khandekar.

indian-philosophy-volume-1-400x400-imad8zmdnhyxq4vuNilesh Trivedi has a penchant for challenging books in a previous BYOB Party. He found Indian Philosophy by S.Radhakrishnan quite riveting. Though the book is written in English for western readers, it is a starting point for a seeker of knowledge when it comes to such an inaccessible subject like philosophy. While Bertrand Russell and Will Durant have succeeded in making the  polarities of Western philosophies far more accessible, S. Radhakrishnan has veered away from the mystical and provided a serious analysis of Indian philosophy, of which there are several parts.

The German philosopher Schopenhauer’s dictum of never reading commentaries was a strong motivator for Nilesh to chose this book. Summaries may seem appalling to a fiction lover like Vaishali (how can you read a summary of a fiction?) but reading summaries is one way of tackling the mountainous number of non-fiction books out there.

As is the case with book parties, one reader is magically connected to the next by an invisible thread called taste. Arun Khandekar spoke at great length about his experiences reading the philosophical works of Swami Vivekanada and Ramakrishna Paramahmsa.

“It is strange how Vivekananda uttered such difficult truths in his time. He believed in the agency of the mind and finding things out on your own.”  Arun believes that this freedom of thought and expression seems to be a thing of the past.

The Great Indian Novel“In fact The Great Indian Novel  written by Shashi Tharoor and published in the 90’s interprets the Mahabharata in a way that can not be envisioned being done now.”

Arun told us how Tharoor eloquently clothed epic characters in contemporary light, reflecting the Indian public’s fascination with this story.  Abhaya confessed to his addiction of the Mahabharata series that he watched on YouTube several times over and Arun spoke of the pre-internet, pre-TV days when he relied heavily on Amar Chitra Katha to feed his Mahabharata compulsions.

“In hindsight, in post independence India, it was stories like Harishchandra that got more leeway and now we see a renewed interest in the epics,” Arun mused.

Even if you did not know the nitty-gritty of the epic, the rivalry between the righteous Pandavas and the tainted Kauravas have lodged themselves in the Indian psyche.

“There is a Shakuni in every household,” Veena Prasad, a writer, summed it up nicely.

DuryodhanaThe mythical theme continued in Veena’s description of her co-writer Raghunathan’s book called Duryodhana, a book she confessed to reading in one sitting. “It’s a book from the villain’s point of view. Only here, the villain questions the reader. He speaks from the other side and his monologues are a social commentary on hypocrisies and double standards that existed in Hastinapur.”

The defining line from the book Veena cites is when Duryodhana says, “I had evil thoughts, and so have they”. The story of the Mahabharata never runs dry, does it?

More coming up…in 2,3,4, and 5….

Invitation to Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party

BYOB Party Invite

It’s that time again for book-lovers and book-loving aspirants to meet  and party— bookish style. Bring a book you really like and talk about it. Food and drink is on the house! We have wonderful co-hosts this time in Vaishali and Arun from Reading Hour.



So, what really happens in a BYOB Party?

Everyone brings a book and talks about it. Conversations follow and they are good. So are the refreshments!

You can take a look at what happened in some of our earlier parties here:

Do I have to be there for the entire duration of four hours?

We aren’t closing doors or locking you in. But the party is best enjoyed if you are there for the entire duration and listen to people talk about a variety of books. Trust us, you won’t know how time flew.

Do I have to bring anything?

Nothing really. But if you have a copy of the book you want to talk about, you might want to bring it in. Other attendees might want to have a look, or you might want to read a paragraph from it.

I am an author. Can I bring a book written by me?

A good writer should be a voracious reader. It would be preferable if you brought a book you really like written by someone else,

Who are the organizers?

Worth a Read and Reading Hour.

Where is the party?

177-B, Classic Orchards Layout Phase 1
Bannerghatta Road, Behind Meenakshi Temple, Bangalore – 560076

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Shoot an e-mail to

Okay! I am ready to come. What do I do?

Just RSVP here and turn up on time!

Turing, History and Philosophy @ the BYOB Party in June (Part 3)

Towards the end of the BYOB Party (read Part 1 and 2 if you haven’t already), things started getting very serious indeed, what with mathematics, history and philosophy on the cards.
An outline of philosophy

Nilesh Trivedi, an engineer specializing in web and mobile software, got An Outline of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, which he highly recommends for its topical approach. “Although there has been a lot of path breaking development in cognitive sciences, this book is a good starting point. It can get dry in parts, but Russell is the clearest thinker who put his thoughts on paper, and a courageous writer too.”

It must have been the idea of Russell, but suddenly the BYOB party was a buzz with a flurry of mathematics and its personification- Alan Turing. Incidentally, Turing was also a pioneer in the field of Theoretical Biology, Aditya Sengupta, the biologist, reminded us.

India- a history

Sameer Shisodia, Founder and CEO at Linger Leisure, was bowled over by the extremely fast paced history book called India – A History by John Keay. “It doesn’t feel like a history one bit,” he said. Abhaya incidentally picked up a Keay novel called To Cherish and Conserve: The Early Years of Archaeological Survey of India.  John Keay brought them to the conclusion that history was more like putting pieces of a puzzle together. “There’s a lot of guesswork when it comes to creating history. You could be off by a thousand years, but that’s the beauty of it,” said Sameer.

There’s no verity in the past- the maps are mostly untrue. Even Kings had no exact approach about where their empires ended. There was genereal consensus about how history lessons in school never sparked this kind of excitement. “Who cares what year King so and so was born?” asked Nilesh.


Maybe a book called Guns, Germs and Steel is what every history hater should read,  Abhaya said. Like Napolean’s Buttons that Sudharsan Narayanan talked about, this book too deals with how certain factors changed the course of events. “Environmental determinism takes away a lot of the blame of what happened in the name of colonialism, even then this book is charmingly written.”

The younger particiapants talked about other media– R. Sundararajan talked about a 26 episode documentary series called ‘The World at War’  based on the Second World War.


Srishti talked about a graphic novel called MAUS by Art Spiegelman. Only an illustrator can make sense out of the incomprehensible and Spiegelman does this by turning the Jews into Mice and the Nazis into cats. Conversation went around to what the ordinary German made of the entire scenario. “In all likelihood, war is not what people want; they just want a good harvest and a safe place for their babies,” Jaya said as she reflected on the war strewn atmosphere of G.R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. “The highlight of  MAUS for me was when an African American faced racism by the same Jew who suffered in the Holocaust,” Srishti said. Spiegelman says so much in this book, it is worth a read.

It was not just books in English that were part of the conversation. Abhaya talked about a Hindi book calledAapki Bunti by Mannu Bhandari, acclaimed writer and wife of the famous Hindi writer Rajendra Yadav. It’s about the kind of impact a divorce could have on a child. “There are so many menaingful books in Hindi but the question really is where do we find them?” Shalini asked.

A few book stores were mentioned, but strangely enough there are not too many venues to buy Indian Language books from. A lot has to do with the mentality of publishers and the complete absence of marketing. Support from publishers is rare and except for a few instances of authors who are enterprising enough to promote their books on media like Whatsapp, there seems to be no vision. The general consensus is that people  want to read books in all languages; however readers are also the problem.  Here’s an instance of reader apathy that was shared. A writer once put up a chapter of his book on his blog. He was congratulated by his readers but all of them wanted a free copy. That’s the plight of the author, and so the publishing industry suffers as does the writer.

On the whole, the BYOB Party was a thought provoking exercise and it’s something  that should be hosted in more and more places so that the love of books and cake and conversation overtakes everything else in the world!

Join us the next time…

Buttons and Robots @ the BYOB Party in June (Part 2)

In the first session of the BYOB Party, we had talked about myth and its role in Indian writing, not just in the past but more so now when there is so much room for retelling and reinterpretation.

Post myth, the world turns into a very pragmatic place.

Manish  Mittal, who works in the finance sector, had read a very different kind of book. All fairy tales were fractured at the The Art of Thinking Clearlymention of the book that he had picked up when he was in Berlin. The Art of Thinking Clearly is a massively popular book in a practical country like ours. I had tried reading it but it was a book that saddened me as synchronicity was redefined as delusion. It worked for Manish. “Many of us hold on to irrational decisions for the simple reason that we made those decisions. It’s best to stop before it is too late.”

Being pragmatic is a good thing but sometimes ignorance is bliss. “One good advice in this book is to stop reading the paper,” Abhaya said. “Or stop watching Goswami,” someone added ironically, referring to the angry iconic newreader on TV Channel Times Now.

Shraddha U, a layout engineer with KarMic, talked about Good Omens– there’s a whiff of the weird and the humourous again when Terry Pratchett teams up with guess who? Neil Gaiman. It’s a humorous twist of the Apocalypse. Looks like contemporary writing is about fracturing the norm and literature is seen as a threat by some, mainly because of the subversive trait that reversing plot is.

Napolean's ButtonsSudharsan Narayanan, who works as Partnerships Head at Vantage Circle, has read the entire Discworld series, “Pratchett writes science fiction in ways that no one else does.” He had got a very different kind of book called Napolean’s Buttons: How Seventeen Molecules Changed History— a book for all lovers of interesting trivia. Take the case of tin. It is said that the tin buttons that fell off of coats during the Russian winter may have just cost Napolean the war. Not to forget the spice economy that changed the course of history. “These are the kinds of books that I love,” said Sudharsan, “Like Bryson’s books- have you read Home and A Short History of Nearly Everything?”

em-and-the-big-hoomShruti Garodia, a Content Writer, plunged into author Jerry Pinto’s world.  Em and the Big Hoom is a book that has received much appreciation and is an autobiographical story of building a life when your mother is mentally ill.  Shruti has attended Pinto’s workshops and is a fan of his engaging writing style. “The amazing thing about the book is that it takes a dark subject and fills it with triumph. The book could be very depressing, with its mention of medicine and disease, but you don’t get bogged down by it all.”

Shalini Nahata is the founder of Baltendu Educations and also does reading parties for children. She recommended a book something-happened-on-the-way-to-heaven-700x700-imae2ttnzjejczgfedited by Sudha Murthy called Something Happened on the Way to Heaven. “Many people shared their stories for a contest run by Penguin,” said Shalini, “Sudha Murthy handpicked the stories from thousands of entries. You should read this book as all the stories are about loving life, very uplifting.”

The highlight of the party was when Shalini’s son, Arhaan, read out his favorite book and as it is with children, when they say favorite, they mean it. Arhaan knows Ricky Ricotta’s Giant Robot by Dav Pilkey and he knows it verbatim.

giant robot

More BYOB Party conversations coming up in Part 3.

Myths and Fractured Fairytales @ the BYOB Party in June (Part 1)

At Worth A Read, we love books and what better way to celebrate than chat about books? The book scene in India is robust and bursting at the seams with possibilities and books are now a huge part of the Great Indian Conversation.

The idea behind the Bring Your Own Book(BYOB) party is to get people from various walks of life to talk about their favorite books. While last time round, we had a variety of books on various topics as diverse as shipping containers and historical fiction, this time we had a few binding threads. One was myth.

We’ve been talking about myth a great deal lately. The problem with myth is that it is prone to reinterpretation and is thereby  misunderstood. Aditi  Kulothungan, a children’s book specialist and a book marketing expert from Book Sense, believes that what is most important is that myths are taken in context, “There was magic in the lives of those people that is absent to day. This is the Kali Yuga! We have our god men, but I’m afraid the magic stops there.”

The word myth is a magic spell though- the discussion veered to Devdutt Pattanaik’s Business Sutras and Irawati Karwe’s yuganta-cYuganta. Aditya Sengupta, a biologist, who spoke about science the last time round was armed with his favorite epic interpretation. “The Mahabharata is one of those epics that you can’t really call heroic. Unlike the Ramayana, the characters are grey; no character is truly impeccable. In Yuganta, Irawati Karve treats the epic in a very non-religious way. She was a sociologist in Pune and the first edition of the book came out in the 1950s. Her daughter translated it in the 1960s but I must tell you that some of her observations would be unthinkable today. Most of the retellings that you hear about are from her observations- it is surprising how much of a  bedrock she is to Indian mythological retelling and how little acknowledgement she is given.”

sita-s-sister-400x400-imaefcmzkgctvhuxThere are many retellings indeed- Karna’s Wife and Sita’s Sister by Kavita Kane were mentioned by software engineer Kanica Jindal.  These were similar to a book that Jaya talked about called Mahabharati- which is a Hindi retelling of Draupadi’s point of view. Now Draupadi is a representative of polyandry in a society. Though she was wedded to the five Panadava brothers because they had to share whatever they received as per their mother’s dictum, her heart was only with one man, Arjuna. “Incidentally Karwe talks about how Arjuna was more in love with himself, and the man who truly loved Draupadi was Bhima,” said Sengupta. This is in a nutshell the story of the acclaimed Malayalam classic Randammoozham by M.T. Vasudevan Nair.

Fairy tales did not fall far behind during the discussion. While once fairy tales summoned names like Grimm’s and Hans Sleeper-spindle-coverChristian Anderson, today the word fairy tale translates into Neil Gaiman. Aditi was spellbound by the twisted fairytale of Snow White meets Sleeping Beauty in the The Sleeper and the Spindle, and the characteristic metal ink illustrations by Chris Riddell. If you really want to start with Gaiman and you don’t know where to begin, Aditi advises to start with Corraline, of course the entire Sandman Series.

Fractured fairytales make interesting conversation. In a way the fairy tales started out as dark, I’m guessing they were scary tactics to get unruly kids to behave. Now fairy tales have been sanitized and you don’t want your children to be exposed to the horrid wolf or child molester in Little Red Riding Hood or the terrifying Baba Yaga of Russian folklore.  But reversing the story entirely by making the three little pigs evil and the wolf good or throwing the truth at the kids the way Lan Smith does in The Stinky Cheese Man is outright hilarious. Some fractured tales reviewed here.

Shruti Garodia, a content writer, had an interesting take on how to tell your children stories if you didn’t want to frighten them. “You could contextualize the stories and customize it depending on how old they are. So as they grow older, you keep twisting the tale. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are books that have dark echoes to them and they seemed so much more different when I read them when I was older.”

“I remember how upsetting the real version of the Little Match Girl was,” said Aditi,” but that’s the story I would want to share with my children. Children should know the truth as they are exposed to so much.”

And that’s the kind of story kids want to listen today. “Imagine a book like The Fault in our Stars. We have two dying protagonists,” said Aditi. There are many more where that came from- Dorothy must Die, Love Letters to the Dead, The Perks of being a Wallflower (which did you like-the movie or the book?)

Sick lit is the in-thing now, especially for the younger generation, while myth has floored older folk. Have you been reading anything on these lines this week? Tell us about it.