Sunday, October 25, 2015

Royal Bengal Tiger - Bring Back the Roar

Many of us were introduced to limericks with this verse:

There was a young lady of Riga,
Who rode with a smile on a tiger.
    They returned from the ride
    With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

Those of us who studied literature and even those of us who did not are probably familiar with William Blake's poem The Tyger:


Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?




Will H. Drake, logo and illustrations for Kipling's story "Tiger! Tiger!". St. Nicholas Magazine, February 1894. (Public Domain)
We find mentions of tiger all over arts and literature. Ruskin Bond's stories from the jungles are incomplete without a prowling tiger. Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book features a tiger Sher Khan as the ultimate villain with malice in its heart. Short Stories such as Mrs Packeltide's Tiger trivialize the killing of the magnificent beast to induce a little laughter.

Henri Rousseau's Tiger in a Tropical Storm (1891) {PD-India-photo-1958}
Tiger in a Tropical Storm, a painting by Henri Rousseau, got the artist his first brush with fame. He went on to produce several other paintings with tiger at their center.

Tiger is part of our folklore. Goddess Durga is often shown to be riding a tiger, a symbol of courage and strength.

In short, tigers are all around us, and so they have been for ages, evoking fear and awe. Graceful and perpetually nonchalant, these beautiful beasts are worshiped by many. However, we humans have a strange way of worshiping things. While we light incense sticks in front of a tiger idol, we do not care if the actual beast dies off.

It gives me the shivers when I think of how close we had come to losing all our tigers. I cannot imagine our jungles without their king, the beast with orange and black stripes and fire in its eyes. Dreadful and yet beautiful.

Many of us turn our face in disgust whenever National Geographic, Animal Planet, or Discovery play the footage of a tiger tearing apart its prey. We squirm with fear when we see the video of a mahout riding an elephant being attacked by a tigress that jumped out at him from the bushes. What we fail to see is that the tiger is just following its instincts. Just like any other living being, a tiger has to eat. And in the second example, the tigress who attacked the mahout was angry because she had lost her newborn cubs. You happened to be in her territory when she was in a foul mood. Too bad! It is time for the entire story to be revealed and for tigers to be redeemed.

They are not the terrible beasts that Kipling portrayed them as. Nor are they trophies, as Saki pictured them. They are our fellow earthlings, who have as much right as us to live here.

And it is not only for the sake of art or literature that we should save tigers, it is also for the sake of our planet and ourselves that we should be worrying about them. You probably learned the concept of a food chain in your primary classes, and would perhaps know that when a tiger hunts and eats a deer, it is not because a tiger is a mean, cruel villain who takes pleasure in inflicting pain upon hapless, weaker animals. It is because it too has to survive. And if it doesn't eat and perishes, you will be left with more deer than you can handle. These deer will then chomp away happily on the foliage, stripping forests of their green cover. And once that happens, we will all be roaming around with an oxygen mask strapped to our faces. Would you like this to happen? Moreover, imagine the earth full of just one type of creatures, us human beings. Will it be any good? Will it be as much fun? Will it be as beautiful? Definitely not. And that is why we need a new narrative.

Apart from what the government is doing, there is a lot that we, the common people, can do too.

1) People in creative fields can help develop a new narrative

A tiger is a magnificent creature, and its beauty doesn't only lie in its skin, its eyes, its claws, or its teeth. Its beauty lies in the way it prowls in the jungle, the way it ambushes its prey, the way it brings up its cubs. It is not a mean, stone-hearted animal. It is much more than just a beast that lives in the jungle. Some people like Raghav Chandra, author of Scent of a Game, have made an attempt to explore the issue of the tiger objectively. But sadly even in their story, we do not really get to understand tigers any better. Perhaps we need a Lion King like narrative for tigers. So go ahead. Paint a new picture. Write a new story. Sing a new song. Give the tiger its due.

2) Parents can inculcate curiosity and compassion in their children

Many parents make up stories to narrate to their kids. Many of those stories are Panchatantra-like where the tiger is often the bad guy. We need to change this perception of Good and Bad. Educate your kids about tigers as a species. One example of a message that you can give your kids through your stories could be "A tiger will kill you and eat you if it gets a chance, but it isn't really the tiger's fault because it is just being a tiger. You, like any other sensible animal, should try to stay out of its way." And besides teaching this to your children, it is also important that you understand this yourself. When the white tiger in Delhi zoo killed a man who had fallen into its enclosure and when Ranthambore's T-24 killed a forest guard, so many grown-up and so-called "sensible" people screamed all over the social media that game hunting of tigers should be allowed, that all tigers should be shot down. Can you think of a more irrational response? In no case should you promote such beliefs or discussions. In both the cases how is the tiger at fault? It is just following its natural instincts whereas we humans commit heinous crimes to satisfy our egos, lust, and greed. If the tiger deserves to be wiped out, we humans deserve much worse.

3) Align yourself to campaigns like Aircel's #AircelSaveOurTigers

Apart from the government, corporates like Aircel are doing a good job. Through its #AircelSaveOurTigers CSR initiative, Aircel provides vehicles and devices to the rescue teams that operate in case of human-animal conflict. They have also being reaching out to the masses through bloggers and school children. If possible, support them in their initiative. Write about them and their cause. Spread the word. Only then can the situation actually change.

4) Know and talk about the species that have already been lost to the world forever. And talk about the cause.

Dodos, Bali tiger, Asiatic Cheetah, Eastern Cougar have all become extinct. And we are losing species at an alarming rate now. The problem with extinction is that it is permanent. Once gone, these species cannot come back. Centuries that went into their evolution have gone waste. Isn't it sad? Read about these species and how and why they went extinct and you will be surprised to note that there is one common cause behind all these extinction - human activity. Without doubt we are more aware than our previous generations about the harsh reality of extinction. Then, do we really want to inflict the same fate on tigers? Will we be able to take the same pride in ourselves if we wipe out the animal that we love so much? Initiate this debate in your circles and keep it going. You never know, this might be the butterfly effect that will ultimately change the mindset of humans.





Let us put all our resources together and make this happen. Let us revive the tiger population. Let us learn to live with tigers and other animals. And let us do it now. Because, seriously, there's no other way, and no better time than now. 

About the Blogger:  

Vibha Malhotra is a writer, blogger, poet, editor, and translator, and the founder of Literature Studio. At present, apart from running Literature Studio and teaching creative writing to all age groups, Vibha works as a Consulting Editor with Dorling Kindersley (Penguin Random House), plus several online literary portals. Before  embracing writing as a career, Vibha worked as a software engineer for almost 10 years. She holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, UK, and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Delhi University. She is a nature lover and is passionate about wildlife and landscapes.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Literary event to look forward to - Readomania #TalkFest

For as long as I can remember, I have held this belief that while science and technology are the body of a society, arts and literature are its soul. No society can progress holistically if both the aspects of its being do not evolve in sync with each other. 

For the longest time, there was a lull as far as literature is concerned, or perhaps I was oblivious of what was happening in the society. But recently there has been a surge in literary activities. My organization Literature Studio is just one such organization trying to make a difference. There are many others. The good part is the peaceful co-existence. 

One prominent organization that is doing good work in this field is Readomania. The organization is run by the very dynamic and inspiring Dipankar, and is a literary brand with interests in e-library for fiction and poetry, publishing – digital and print, literary products and events. Readomania’s online avatar has a membership of 10000+ literary enthusiasts and boasts of a collection of 2000 e-publications that are freely available to readers. Their publication division is five books old with ten more in the pipeline in this financial year. The focus is on innovative ideas like a composite novel, a fiction-nonfiction combination apart from novels and anthologies on unique themes.

Readomania has now come up with an innovative concept called the #TalkFest, which is a new platform for talks, lectures, debates and discussions around the theme of literature and art. The objective of Readomania #TalkFest is to bring in new ideas and different perspectives on literature, art, reading and writing and in the process encourage interest in the subjects, in books and in reading. Readomania #TalkFest will be held in the first week of every alternate month starting from November at India Habitat Centre. 

This actually seems like just the platform we need. The profile of the first speaker is pretty impressive too. I think almost everyone knows Avirook Sen by now. His book Aarushi created an uproar recently, but that isn't all there is to Avirook. For those who were off vacationing on another planet, here is who Avirook Sen is:

***** 
Avirook Sen is an independent journalist based in Gurgaon. He has been a reporter and editor for 25 years, working in print, online and broadcast media.  Sen launched the Hindustan Times’ Mumbai edition as resident editor, edited Mid-Day, and was executive editor of the news channel NewsX. He has written on a wide range of subjects, from cricket to terrorism and, most recently, crime. His work has appeared in India Today, Hindustan Times, The Express Tribune (Pakistan), New Scientist, NDTV, DNA, Firstpost, Mumbai Mirror and a number of other prominent publications.

His first book, Looking for America (Harper Collins, 2010) was described by Vogue magazine as a ‘Kerouac-like’ travelogue, and enthusiastically reviewed. 

His bestselling second book, Aarushi, (Penguin, 2015) has reignited a national debate on the criminal justice system, on media ethics, and Indian middle class attitudes. The book has been described as ‘masterly’, ‘disturbing’, ‘meticulous’ and ‘explosive’. Ian Jack has said: “Few accounts of modern India can match its compelling story and unforgiving light - it matters to the here and now as few books do.  I found it unputdownable.”
*****
Well, Readomania has my attention now and I for sure will attend the #TalkFest. I bet you too are interested. If I am right, here is where you should RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/1482027965434633/.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tiger Tales from Ranthambore || Ustad (T-24) - The Tragic Hero


We visited Ranthambore in May 2014. Back then T-24, or Ustad, still roamed the jungle. Forest authorities were fiercely protective of the tiger even though he had already been blamed for the death of three people by then. "He is NOT a man-eater!" countered Mr. Yogendra Kumar Sahu (the Conservator of Forest & Field Director), when one of our fellow bloggers referred to T-24 as one. And from what we had heard from the people who work in the jungle, the safari guides and forest officers, everyone was in awe of this magnificent beast. "I saw T-24 today," someone who had chanced upon the tiger would proudly proclaim. The tone was that of pride and respect. There was no sign of any hatred or indifference anywhere. We felt reassured that tigers, including the ones that are more tigerly than the others, were safe in Ranthambore. During our entire trip, though we weren't fortunate enough to sight T-24, its presence loomed large on our breakfast discussions, our safaris, and our dreams.

And then in May 2015 came the news that Ustad had attacked and killed yet another forest guard barely 100 metres from the park entrance. After some initial reluctance, the magnificent tiger was moved to Sajjangarh Biological Park. Social media erupted in outrage. T-24 was being persecuted for its natural instincts, some cried, while others claimed that there was no solid proof to tie T-24 to the crime. It was easy to get swayed by all the sentimental rooting for the tiger. Fingers were pointed in all directions - towards the hotelier lobby for being the reason why the tiger was shifted out of the forest and at the forest authorities for carrying out the operation covertly. Some felt that the tiger was being victimised, while others felt that the decision to shift out the tiger was a prudent one and was carried out for the greater good of conservation.

I have so far found it difficult to take sides in this debate. While I would love to live my life knowing that T-24 is free in its natural habitat and its ferocious roars still echo through the jungles of Ranthambore, I cannot bring myself to doubt the intentions of the forest authorities, people I had the good fortune of meeting and talking to, people who so passionately defended T-24 against the stamp of a "man-eater", people who carried on with their duties fearlessly for years in full knowledge that a tiger who has been known to kill people might be lurking behind the bushes. I refuse to doubt compassionate people who seal routes in the jungle to shield a tigress with newborn cubs from prying tourist vehicles, a decision that some conservationists do not agree with. I cannot bring myself to question their dedication to the cause of Tiger Conservation.

I have, however, often wondered what caused the forest authorities to lose their faith in T-24, what shattered their confidence, what caused the forest guards to threaten to stop patrolling the sanctuary unless T-24 was removed. Before we start judging these people, we need to remember that this is the sanctuary where tigers have wonderfully bounced back, that now houses more than 60 tigers. But at the same time, we need to be informed that this sanctuary is perhaps the most lacking in discipline as far as tourist behaviour is concerned. Anyone who has been to Ranthambore would probably have witnessed how uncomfortably close tourist vehicles are allowed to get to the tigers. So while I do not doubt that the forest authorities only relocated T-24 to Sajjangarh Biological Park to protect it and rest of the tigers in the wildlife sanctuary, I do hope steps will be taken to rein in the uncontrolled tourist activities as well.     

The question of Tiger Conservation has to be larger than merely the number of tigers in the wild. It has to encompass the health of a tiger's habitat and the safety of wildlife and human population in zones where there are high chances of human-wildlife conflict. Tiger conservation has been brought into the mainstream thanks to the conscious, consistent efforts of organizations such as Sanctuary Asia and Aircel. However, the cause of conservation, though rooted in emotions, needs to be pursued with practicality, and if in the larger interest of tiger conservation, one tiger needs to be relocated to an enclosure, then we may just need to control the urge to unleash our injudicious outrage upon the forest officers who have dedicated their lives to the cause. It may be time to look at the larger picture for once. It may be time to trust the decision of those who have worked so hard to help revive the dwindling tiger populations. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Step back and make way. They are equal citizens of Earth.

"These creatures require our absence to survive, not our help. And if we could only step aside and trust in nature, life will find a way," says John Hammond, in The Lost World

He was talking about the dinosaurs, but this is sane advice for almost all conservation efforts today.

Last week, I had my friend Kathi over for lunch and we ended up talking about her house in Colorado. On her last visit, she was sitting by the window, writing. She looks up and sees a black bear looking at her through the window. Perhaps the bear was hungry or just curious. Kathi didn't have the opportunity to find out. She stood very still and the bear eventually just strolled away. None of them bothered the other. There was mutual respect, or so I would like to believe.

It was a thrilling episode, scary but one that she will remember for the rest of her life. I want to have such encounters too (but only the ones that do not end in me being eaten), while staying in the city. And considering that Mumbai boasts of the highest density of leopard population close to a city anywhere in the world, it doesn't seem like an impossible wish. A few years ago, human-animal conflict led to several people being attacked by the big cat near Mumbai, but for the past 3-4 years things have been peaceful. Do we dare hope that humans have learned to co-exist peacefully with the leopards? I do hope so. And we really do need to learn sooner than later.

A very long time ago, human beings were like other animals that have a mutualistic relationship with nature. We undertook risky hunts for food and other requirements, ate when hungry, helped maintain food chain, and when we died, we gave back to the environment. Our corpses were consumed by predators, scavengers, and a variety of other organisms as we decomposed. And whatever was left was gradually absorbed back into the earth. As far as fighting other animals were concerned, it was never a one-sided fight, unlike today. Each party stood to lose as much as the other and there was a natural justice in it all. In short, we were like other animals, and had to play by the rules of the game called Survival of the Fittest. We instinctively understood our place in the scheme of things and never challenged the supremacy of nature.

But as we evolved, our egos grew bigger and we started treating nature as our plaything. Our relationship with nature is easily parasitic now. First, by going on an obscene hunting spree and then by plundering resources like wood, fossil fuels, and minerals, we have selfishly taken much more than we could ever give back. We have pushed both flora and fauna, and nature itself up against the wall. And now when we have done an irreparable damage, we are finally developing a conscience. But hundreds of species have already been lost and many more are on their way. In fact as per a popular discussion now a days, Earth is at the brink of Sixth Mass Extinction and guess who is to blame for it - it is us humans, the species that claims to have the most highly evolved brains of all. Who needs a comet to come strike the Earth when we are busy doing this to ourselves:

Disclaimer: This is a public domain picture, and has been used as per the license.
But whether we are the biggest brains or the biggest morons is a topic of another long discussion, probably to be undertaken in another long blog post. The current concern is to identify some animals that absolutely need to be saved. While species like tigers, lions, and elephants have enough people rooting for them, there are some other species native to Indian subcontinent for whom we need to make more efforts. Some of them are:

Gharial: This quirky crocodilian is easy to identify because of its long, narrow snout. The adult male Gharial's have a Ghara (matka) shaped protrusion on the tip of their snouts. Fish and small crustaceans form the bulk of an adult Gharial's diet. And as a result, overfishing has negatively impacted Gharial population. At the last count, about 1200 gharials were found to be surviving in the wild in India and a very small percentage of these are adults. The populations are limited to three tributaries of Ganga: the Chambal and the Girva Rivers. (source: WWF Indian Gharials) Conservation efforts such as breeding of gharials in captivity and then releasing them into the wild haven't yielded encouraging results because of other factors that impact the population, such as inadequate food supply and low water levels. (source: The Gharial Recovery Program). So a more holistic program that also requires a gharial's preferred habitat to be maintained should be beneficial and efforts are currently on in this direction (refer: The Gharial Recovery Program). And this one of the main reasons why I would love to see more efforts being put into Gharial conservation - it would also result in conservation of rivers, local fish populations, and also lead to conservation of other endangered animals such as Ganges river dolphins and mahseer.
 
One-horned rhino: Found only in India and Nepal, the one-horned rhino was once almost pushed to extinction because of extensive hunting and poaching. Rhinos are killed for their horns, which are considered to be aphrodisiacs in some cultures, even though there is no such proof. Depletion of alluvial grasslands has also resulted in their population shrinking. By 1975, only about 600 were found surviving in wild. But since then, tireless conservation efforts have brought the numbers back to over 3,000, with about 90 per cent of the population restricted to Kaziranga National Park in Assam. (source: WWF Greater One-Horned Rhino) So even though the numbers are encouraging, this puts the population at risk of extensive damage in case of events like a forest fire or an epidemic. Moreover, most rhino sanctuaries have almost reached their capacity. Therefore, new populations need to be established to truly protect the rhinos.

Indian Wild Dog (Dhole): These social, pack hunters have not had it easy. Not only have they suffered because of prey depletion, they have often been accused of livestock hunting and persecuted. Poisoning of dholes is common in some areas where there is are huge instances of human-animal conflict. But these are brave creatures and have been known to kill tigers and leopards too.Today they survive in Central and Southern India and can also be found in Ladakh and North-East India. The species is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List, but such is the state of awareness that there are no dedicated efforts to save the species. Moreover, there is no reliable data about how many dholes exist in the wild in India, even though sightings aren't that rare. So you can probably see why this species is on my list.

And here is a fourth species. And if we think long-term about the conservation of this species, all other problems will probably get resolved:
By Paul Keller (http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulk/2061830697/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By our conservation, I do not mean proliferate at an astonishing rate. In fact that is the last thing we should do. So when people ask the British Prince George and Kate whether they are going to have a third child just weeks after their second child is born, I want to pull my hair out. Royal or otherwise, none of us (irrespective of geography, religion, social stature) need to have three kids. In fact having more than two should be made a criminal offense.

Because in order to go back to a population that is sustainable, we need to step back a little lot so that nature can take its course and restore the order. And while we do that, we need to conserve everything that forms our habitat - the trees in the cities, the forests, the jungles the hills, the rivers, the waterfalls, the oceans, and of course the flora and fauna. 

Though so far we have hardly put our brains to good use, here's something to take inspiration from - we are the only species so far who have not only thought about the conservation of other species but are actually taking steps to make a difference. Only us human beings. Well with the exception of this dog:


Imagine a world where you wake up to the sound of birds twittering in the trees, where butterflies flutter on flowers of various colours, where you have deer coming up to your house to feed on the grass, where everyone has enough to eat, where no baby elephant loses her mother to poachers, and where leopards, tigers, and lions rule the jungles. All these are interrelated, and we just need a little tweak to make it happen. It may take a long time but still imagine and it can one day be possible.

I am participating in the Save the Species contest for the book “Capturing Wildlife Moments in India” in association with Saevus Wildlife India,  read the reviews for the book ‘Capturing Wildlife Moments in India’ here.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Book Review: Yashodhara Lal's "There's Something About You"

There's Something About You is Yashodhara Lal's third book after Just Married, Please Excuse and Sorting Out Sid, and what we can definitely say about the author is that it is very difficult to typecast her work. In each book she's tried something new. While the first book is inspired by her own experiences of her marriage, the second book sets out on a different tangent altogether - Sorting Out Sid is told from the point of view of a male character and is essentially his coming-of-age story. This third book is again something she has never attempted before - it is a story of a woman in her late twenties with familiar concerns such as career, marriage, a negative body image, and such. Though There's Something About You is positioned as a romance novel, the male lead does not even make an entry for the first 9 chapters. And I find this very interesting because the author is able to draw us in so well that we almost don't miss the hero. 

In the very first chapter Trishna, Trish to everyone but her ailing father, is fired from the job she's lounged in for the past 7 years. She has no savings and her parents, especially her father who has Alzheimer's, are dependent on her. To add to her woes, when the going was easy, she had rented a sea-facing matchbox in Mumbai, and is stuck with it now. By some stroke of luck she chances upon a freelance opportunity to write a daily agony-aunt-like column for the same publication she was fired from and manages to make it an instant hit. And Sahil, a man with an unusual gift, manages to sneak past Trish's many defences and make a place for himself in her life as well as that of her parents.

And just when things have started looking up, they slide downhill. She has an altercation with her mother, and she also has a falling out with the only person she call a friend, Akanksha. And also by now, Trish has also started hating the restrictions that are imposed on the way she addresses queries in her column. Thoroughly disappointed and yet stubborn, Trish continues in her set ways until a horrific incident in their colony causes turmoil in everyone's lives. But as the dust settles, things start falling in place and Trish manages to solve the mystery behind what is bothering Akanksha's seven-year-old daughter and uncovers a painful secret about her own family. With everything out in the open, old wounds start to heal and Trish is now able to look at herself in a different light and she now plans to embark on a new career altogether.


Trish, the self-conscious, overweight, and sharp-tongued central character of the story, prefers to merge in the background with her ill-fitting, dull kurtas, but still has enough spunk to smartly give it back to the conceited editor of the publication she works for. The author has managed to get very close to real life here where our defences often end up making us successful, though not necessarily happy. Trish's parents, Akanksha, and even little Lisa, are well rounded, if you can overlook Zee, the editor, and Akshay, Trish's former boss, who are through and through evil, there are a lot of grey characters here. And this is one of the major strengths of the book. One character that fails to inspire though is unfortunately the male lead, Sahil. Quirky and weird in the beginning Sahil holds great promise, but he quickly settles into domesticity and refuses to develop any further.

Another flaw, in my opinion, is that Sahil's special gift enables some of the key mysteries of the story to surface without much effort on the part of Trish. Sahil hints at the mystery and urges Trish to follow through, which she does without too much of a difficulty. And when it isn't Sahil, divine intervention rescues in the form of a vision that all but reveals the mystery of Lisa's condition. It is all too easy, and as a result less rewarding. 


While the book does touch upon serious issues, such as caring for an Alzheimer's patient, problems that arise because of lack of communication in a family, the question of blatant materialism in professions that demand responsibility, impact of infidelity on a marriage, and, yes, suicide, it does not really dwell upon them. The focus of the story clearly is Trish and her struggles with herself. In the light of this, it does seem that the book tries to do too much in terms of issues it tries to address, but instead ends up doing too little, so as far as these issues are concerned, the book did not move me much.


Do I recommend the book? If you are looking for a book that is a light read, this book is perfect for you and you should go ahead and pick it up. But if you tend to be a more involved reader, this may be too light for you. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Raid the Bookstore : Quill and Canvas, South Point Mall, Gurgaon


Bookstores are a threatened lot. Not only are small bookstores suffering, even the larger chains are struggling to stay afloat. It isn't that people aren't buying books. It is just that online shops often offer better deals and many books are available as e-books. It makes buying books more affordable and convenient. I am in favor of e-books, especially because I am also passionate about nature, and e-books play a huge role in saving paper. But at the same time, I am a romantic when it comes to books and bookstores and I hate to see bookstores closing down and those that are braving it all, struggling to stay afloat. Running a bookstore in today's world requires passion and persistence. And individuals who invest in bookstores need to be applauded and deserve all our support.

Back to Bookstores is just one such attempt to extend our support to bookstores. This is a group of passionate book lovers, who cherish the times when visiting a bookstore to buy books was a norm and those who love the romance of walking through the aisles admiring book spines, covers, flipping through the random book that manages to catch their fancy. And out of discussions in the group, the concept of a "Raid" on a bookstore every month evolved.

Yesterday, we had the first such Raid, and the target was a bookstore plus art gallery called Quill and Canvas in South Point Mall, Gurgaon. Author Kathryn Brettell joined us for a bit to talk about her memoir The Olive Picker. We discussed about abuse, our inability to recognize certain types of abuse, about the challenges of writing a memoir, among other things. It was an interesting discussion.

And then Shobha took us around the bookstore and introduced us to some very evocative canvases of renowned artists and talked about the books she has chosen for her bookstore. Weather did manage to play spoilsport though and only a few people were able to make it to the event. Special thanks to Kathryn, her husband Peter, her friend Jane, Vineeta B Chaturvedi, Atanu Dey, Vikas Vijayovich Datta, and Dipankar Mukherjee for braving the heat and making it to the event. And a round of applause for Shobha Sengupta, the owner of Quill and Canvas, for playing the perfect host for the event.

If you are in the area, I strongly recommend a visit to Quill and Canvas, not only for its eclectic collection of book, but also for its fine collection of art, handpicked by Shobha.

We will soon be announcing our next raid. Join the group if you want to be a part of this insanity.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Day that Made the Journey Happier

My family (my father is the one with the gray shawl)
Ever since I started my creative writing venture, the journey has been full of ups and downs emotionally. It is like bringing up a baby. You are protective, proud, and worried for your venture, and things like one deal not working out or one not-so-positive feedback can make you feel like a complete failure. Above everything, there's this fear of letting down your venture. So, as I said earlier, it is a very emotional journey, but it was made even tougher by the fact that my father was never completely comfortable with me leaving my high-paying IT job and taking on a much tougher fight. Till recently, he would mention it every now and then, and would even go to the extent of circling some IT jobs in the Situation Vacant section of newspaper. I have been really close to him and have always felt that he is the person I love the most. So though I never admitted this to him, the fact that he wasn't really beside me in my fight, was distressing for me.

Recently he fell ill. Extremely ill. He suffered a seizure and was in the ICU for a few days. With God's grace, he recovered and was discharged from the hospital after a few days. Dark days were, however, not over yet. He suffered feinting spells and required support for even slightest of movements. I moved to my parents place for a couple of months to take care of him and to support my mother who was under a lot of stress. I continued the operations of Literature Studio from their place, and things were a little tough because I wasn't able to devote enough time to my work. I wasn't able to meet a couple of deadlines and some workshops didn't go as well as I would have liked. It seemed that along with my personal life, my professional life was also under a dark cloud. And even though I wasn't aware of it, my father was observing it all.

After nearly two months, all of us (my father, my mother, my sister, my uncle, my husband, and me) were sitting and chatting like we always do, when he suddenly said, "We need to help Vibha with Literature Studio." I couldn't believe my ears. This was the first time my father had talked about Literature Studio in a way that suggested that he believed it was here to stay. Needless to say, I was moved. With great effort I held back the tears in my eyes and started talking to him about my little venture. We talked about profit and loss, about the current status, about vision, and about various other things. We didn't arrive on any conclusion that day, but it was indeed the day that changed it all for me. It seemed that the slight doubt that I was carrying deep inside my heart vanished and I was full of positive energy and optimism about Literature Studio.

If I say that since that day things have all been bright and sunny throughout, it will be a lie. Running Literature Studio is still like bringing up a child, with all its highs and lows. But the task is much easier when I know that the person who matters the most in my life also believes in it, and in me. I am very grateful for that day when my father decided to place his trust in me. The journey has been much happier since then.

(The fabulous campaign by Housing.com inspired me to create this blog post)
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