Indra Sinha wins Commonwealth Writers Prize

Indian-origin writer Indra Sinha's book 'Animal's People', based on the Bhopal gas tragedy, has been adjudged this year's best book in Europe and South Asia by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Writers' Prize, an increasingly valued and sought after award for fiction, is presented annually by the Commonwealth Foundation.

The Prize aims to reward the best Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their works to a global audience, thereby increasing appreciation of and building understanding between cultures.

‘Animal’s People’ is about the people who became victim of the interests of the rich and powerful and suffered for no faults of their own. It is a portrayal of their inhuman life equivalent to animals they are leading after Bhopal gas tragedy took place and the negligence of the damages done by ‘Amrikan Kampany’ to Animal’s people.

Novel is a first person narrative. Animal narrates the story. He has been given this particular name because he is destined to crawl on his fours due to the bending of his spine thanks to the chemical catastrophe which took place at the time of his birth. The gas leak not only swallowed his parents but turned his life from human to animal. He says in the very opening of the novel, “I used to be human once”. Animal, a victim of the tragedy also has become a kind of celebrity of the town being approached by the journalists for their stories and pictures.

His life has been full of pain without parents and physically helpless.

There are other interesting characters, French nun Ma Franci, American doctor Elli, political activist Zafar and Nisha, the lady animal likes, journalist on the website, Indira Sinha.

A positive note runs parallel the string of pain and suffering in the life of people as they have learned to survive on their own with no redressal of the damages by the Kampany. They have fallen into the state of deterioration. Sinha has beautifully portrayed a journey of life of animal through which the aspirations, expectations, fears and superstitions of the people have been portrayed. There is growing hatred among the people for the things foreign.


Is the concept of freedom overrated?

As Kant says 'All preparations of reason, therefore..., are in reality directed to these three problems only God, the soul and freedom.' 'The ultimate intention of nature, in her wise provision was really, in the constitution of our reason directed to the moral interest only.' Well everyone has got their own ideas of freedom. Many believe that they are by far freer than any other. Freedom could only be measured in percentage. But the ultimate freedom is the freedom from the reason that tells you that you are free. Freedom from thought. Impossible. If you reason about freedom than you are no longer free.
Western world has the notion that being individualistic is a step towards ultimate freedom. But it’s only a notion! People suffer isolation, heartache and neurosis due to this notion. Is that what is real freedom?
Look at the eastern concept of freedom via spirituality. Following their path is not only a hardship but attaining it is rarity. Only a few attain a certain degree of freedom, which is comparatively higher than the normal. Even those who do this are on one level may be free from the worldly attachment but still be in pursuit of the intangible enlightenment, hence not free.
When thinking starts, no sooner does the reason follow. Whether it is to choose the path towards freedom or the reason to attain it. And when the planning starts the head is no longer free. Its just a migration from one state to another. How can one state of mid could be more free than the the other? It could be better but free? As every state of mind has its own restrictions, constraint and parameters.
And as long as there are restraints, constraints and parameters, there would be reason. When the mind is in the tentacles of reason its never free. As long as the life goes on the mind alters between one state to the other thinking it would be better than the last one. The reason prevails even in the best of these free states to defend its freedom.
In conclusion only death could be the ultimate freedom.

by Smita Singh


Quagmire of English Accents

One of the problems that I have encountered living in Britain is to comprehend the English accent. After settling down, the first problem was to deal with the phone calls in this accent. To my horror, I realised there is not one uniform accent but various accents- of Midland, of Yorkshire, of Scotland, of Wales, etc, etc… I was grappling with all of these, that I confronted a unique one- British Asian accent. It was very difficult initially to train my ears to understand it properly.
Then started the Big Brother with Shilpa Shetty and I identified absolutely the new one -Liverpoolian accent. To me, it rhymes and it is lyrical. Without understanding the sentences in the beginning, I enjoyed its swirls and tunes.
Whatever criticism Celebrity Big Brother might have invited, for me it was a programme to identify and pick up various accents-even the loudest Essex accent. I was happy to finally comprehend the puzzle of accents..
But my happiness only lasted until a friend's family with their five year old daughter visited me. She spoke only English and I was not able to understand her deep accented voice. I would take minutes before replying to her little queries. Suddenly I heard her saying to me- "I wan some wo..er". I looked at her blankly. To my embarrassment, she repeated- "I wan some wo..er." I was perplexed. Her mother intervened to explain that she wants some water.
The other day, when she visited, I was asking her parents what would they like to have- Tea, coffee or any cold drink? The little girl told me- "My pa wants no more tea". I looked at her parents with wonder in my eyes, and
turned to her father to confirm. He laughed and told me that his daughter is saying- "My pa wants normal tea."
It's a big hassle to deal with the little kid and the quagmire of her accent.
But living in Britain, has made me realise that it is difficult now a days to find people who speak Oxford English. One has to deal with hundreds of accents- all nationalities living here speak with their own accent, which is a mixture of their mother tongue and English- the sound, vowels, letters, words, all are mixed up.
Multiculturalism has wrapped up the language in its fold. I wonder which one I should pick up…

by Nandini


Nothing to hide

Nothing to hide, I’m an open book. As open as a book can be. Got to read between the lines. The lines only tell half the truth. Rest is in between. Just like my wife. I love her to death. She doesn’t understand. I understand its her attention seeking tendencies, but there’s limit to a man’s patience. Crib, nag, crib, nag is her game. So I shut her up, its not my fault. She made me do it.

Flash Fiction by Smita Singh

Tears in Chapatti

Come back home, Oh Darling!
Come back home...

It is the timewhen translucent dropsplays on the petals,
filling our garden,with fragrance of
rain sodden sand.

The wet dusks are the
reminder;return home...

Often your mother,
fills her chapatti
with her tears;
waiting for you to
join her for dinner.

Her eyes stuck on the darkness,
outside the door;
falling hail sometimes
creates a shadow.
Her misty eyes,
sees your reflection
in every tall silhouette,
crossing the road.
She raises her head to
catch your glimpse
but in vain.

Her chapatti by then
turns wet and cold.
She leaves the table
each night,
muttering to herself
"I have no appetite."

By then, the moon shows up
in our bedroom window,
some times bright, sometimes cloudy,
like your remembrance in our hearts.
The crickets begin nightly chirping,
their calling songs
Come back home darling...

Each night
your mother sees the same dream;
a reverie of welcome,
with melodies of rejoining.
You are standing at the doorstep,
ringing the bell repeatedly;
she wakes up each morning,
rushing to answer the bell,
muttering to herself,
"Oh, how could I not hear the bells?"

She opens the door,
her eyes twinkling brightly
to embrace you
but alas…

It's raining again,
the downpour washes the wishes,
your mother turns back,
leaving the door open.
Come back home
Oh darling…

by Nandini
Thanks for image taken from bp0.blogger.com


An angry BMW zoomed past spitting rainwater at the people standing at the bus stop. He was waiting, it seemed like ages for the bus to come, though in reality it had only been few minutes. The sky looked troubled with dark gloomy clouds thundering, roaring ready to plaster anyone to ground. There were many people at the bus stop but he was unaware of everyone around him. He could only see the clouds that looked ready to devour the whole world. A red and yellow serpent like number sixteen bus passed by. He felt as if he was standing in the middle of mayhem. He felt like putting his hands on his ears. His eyes were misty, so he blinked hard to clear his vision. Swirling clouds ready to engulf it in its embrace surrounded the town hall tower clock on the other side of the road. The thunder and lightening cracking down the tower, vengeful.

“Daddy, daddy”. He heard a little boy screaming in the middle of his reverie. His heartbeat started racing, he rubbed his eyes with his hands and wiped them on his trousers. The boy was standing right there in front of him in the middle of the busy traffic with a red ball in his hands, screaming daddy. He started running towards the boy blindly, ignoring the blaring horns and screeching brakes. He reached and scooped the boy up in his arms and ran towards the town hall. He embraced the boy hard and told him repeatedly,

“I’m hear, I’m here, everything is going to be alright.”

Suddenly a man tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Thank you very much”. He looked up with uncomprehending eyes. The man said, “For rescuing my boy, Thanks once again”. The man tried to get the boy from him but he would not let go, not now, never. He was supposed to take care of his son not to let him go. The boy started crying, "I want daddy", flaying his arms and legs in all directions. The man gently extracted the boy from him and went away taking the boy with him saying, “It’s alright sweetheart”.

He stood there immovable with both his arms hanging on the sides as if they were of no use any more.

by Smita Singh

Wailings of Love

Where are you
the star of purple nights?
My heart cries
for the axis of its being.
Eyes pour oceans,in search of the pearl,
breaths come and go
yet fails the living air.
Body becomes a machine,
devoid of love's burning lamp.
Each sigh is a call
to the one far away;
the one hiding behind satin veils.
Bells chime only
to rhyme his name,
leaves ruffle,
whisper in pain.
Fire is burning bright,
flames rise to lighten his path.
Love comes calling
riding on remembrance,
memories down the lane,
streets, cities, countries
I cross alone, alone,
in search of my beloved soul.
Where are you?
Come before I vanish,
perish as the vapour on wax.
Let me behold you
one last time,
before my eyes fail,
come before the last wailing
of my dying self!

-by Nandini

Art Rendezvous

Inspite of my phobia of claustrophobic atmosphere, when I entered the packed space in the national gallery, I suddenly found myself surrounded, just by beautiful paintings. Some paintings were so inspiring they made me put the pen to the paper.

One of them was Camille Pissarro's 'The Boulevard Montmartre at night.' (see the painting)
My scribbling:
I could see the city lights ahead of me calling me to be the part of the bright and shining festivity. The beautiful streetlight cuts the road sword-like in half. The bright yellow of the roadside stores are hiding the ominous tall grey buildings behind. The sky is so dark, it’s ready to gobble up all the colours and make it all grey. I feel apprehension running down my spine. I don’t want to be in this bright city. I’d rather be in the dark.
by Smita Singh/Users/smitarajesh/Desktop/favicon.ico

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