Our host at INTACH, Meera Iyer spoke to us about a moving tribute to Girish Karnad at Rangashankara. Sixteen of his plays were featured and read in English, Kannada and Hindi. “We came back home with editions of most of his works,” she said. ” I was particularly impressed by Bali, the Sacrifice. Like many of his plays this is based on poetry and lore. The story is set in Hassan where Jainism was the dominant religion. A king converts to Jainism and this act changes the very way he views violence. Questions like whether the thought of violence is the same as violence and whether we should pick up the sword at all are asked. These questions about religion and violence are extremely pertinent. Another thing I liked was his strong female characters who did not apologize for their sexuality.” A rare sentiment, even today.
Apurba, our regular visitor, spoke about The Courtesan, the Mahatma and the Italian Brahmin: Tales from Indian History by Manu S. Pillai. The book is divided into three parts which covers the Raj before and after. More than chronology, Manu S. Pillai provides a pan Indian version of history with a broad focus on gender, caste and interesting characters from courtesans to Maharanis. You must watch the author’s interview where he goes into great depth about a colorful India, where men and women create a delightful tapestry rich with culture, polemical thought and change. “It’s an amazing book that features India’s immense diversity. I knew some of the stories but the rendition was so interesting that I finished the book in just about a week. The only thread I observed was of the Peshwas and a lot about casteism as well,” Apurba said.
An interesting feature about this book is that it is an illustrated non-fiction book, quite a rare phenomenon in India. You can check out the illustrator Priya Kuriyan’s interview here.
Apurba also read out a poem from Agha Shahid Ali’s The Country Without a Post Office
‘I will die, in autumn, in Kashmir,
and the shadowed routine of each vein
will almost be news, the blood censored,
for the Saffron Sun and the Times of Rain…’
More books in Part 5.