Beyond the Scent of Sorrow - A book review

Sweta Srivastava Vikram has once again proven that poetry that touches your heart is not necessarily love drenched. Beyond the Scent of Sorrow is a ground breaking collection of Sweta Srivastava Vikram's latest poetry collection that delves deep into the psyche and the challenges faced by women all over the world.

The very first poem in the part 1 of the collection hammers down the harsh reality softened only by the sweet muslin lyrical flow of words.
"the same eucalyptus trees that bled rivers
until oil grew wings and flowed with fragrance.
The flowers sang a eulogy
as the rain muted the pains - the birth of paper."

The struggle of a working woman is beautifully described in these line below:
"But something burns a river - my silence
and your abandoned conversations with honesty
because I am a person with gentle feet
and no cigar to perk up your ego"

The part 2 of the collection is completely different than part one, while the first part philosophies the second goes deep into the urn of sorrow and picks up the various muted bruises buried long ago.

It would be really hard to pick up one to site as an example where all the poems one after another tells a heart wrenching story.
But the author has aptly summed up the story of mourning in her last poem titled "Standing alone like the Eucalyptus tree"
"The breeze strips me naked,
the sun bares me whole.
Leaves scattered on my breast
as orphans on the streets of Mumbai."
As the name of the chapbook is evocative so is each and every poem in the collection and their scent reaches out and touches the sensibilities of every human being.

Overall an outstanding collection suitable for all those who love poetry and the magic of this collection won't leave even the poetry virgin reader untouched.

A Book Review by Smita Singh


You are Invited!

The Pariah Goddess
The Pariah Goddess by Smita Singh, a Book Launch and signing event.

Saturday, October 15th 2011 at 6pm

Please join us for the book launch of Smita Singh's debut novel 'The Pariah Goddess'.
The event consists of Book Launch followed by readings by myself,
author Sunita Pattani on her upcoming non-fiction My Secret Affair with a Chocolate Cake and well known fiction author and visual artist Julie O'Yang. The event starts with a dance performance by Vinisha, Arushi and Maitreyi
and commences with light refreshments and Book signing by the author. The event is part of DCS South Asian Literature Festival 2011.

When & Where

Date: 15th Oct 2011
Entry: FREE
Time: from 18:00pm to 20:30 pm.
Venue: The Nehru Centre
, 8 South Audley Street,
We hope you can make it!


Cricketer Imran Khan in Ilford!

Former Pakistan cricketer and politician, Imran Khan appears in Redbridge this month as part of the first ever East London Libraries Festival.

The festival runs from 16 September to 14 October and will be taking place in libraries across six London boroughs. Redbridge has lined up more than 20 events for this year’s festival.
ELLF poster
Imran Khan will be at the Town Hall, Ilford on Thursday 22 September to talk about his book, 'Pakistan: A Personal History'.  It follows his childhood in Lahore, marriage to Jemima Goldsmith and his extraordinary cricket career.  Readers will also see how his Islamic faith informs his role as leader of his political party.

VAANI members are specially excited to see him as it will be a golden opportunity for them to listen to his experiences. This would also help them in writing for their upcoming Anthology that's focused on SPORTS.


You are invited!

Our Author event in October is part of the East London Libraries Festival 2011. The festival is set to be launched on 16th September 2011 and will last until 14th October 2011. The events are in Enfield, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest. Some of the prominent guests are Josephine Cox, Lee Langley, and world famous cricketer Imran Khan.

What is love? If you have asked this question ever in life then come and join us in the lively discussion with our chief guests Julie O'Yang who is an author, artist and a film maker from Netherlands, Manju Chaudhuri who is an author, and a teacher and VAANI members.

VAANI's event is on 8th October 2011 at Goodmayes Library from 7:00pm to 9:30pm.To book a seat please email us at info@vaani.org. Hope to see you all on the day!


Submission Date Extended!

We have been facing a lot of technical problems recently on our website and emails and many authors were unable to send in their submissions. We have now sorted the problem and hopefully the system will support us this time.
Keeping in mind the inconvenience caused, we have extended the submission dates for the Anthology.
The new date is 20th September 2011. The results will be announced on the 30th September 2011 on the VAANI website.
Best wishes and HAPPY WRITING!


Open Invitation

This October hold your breath as VAANI is organising two events for the first time.
The events are going to be part of East London Literature Festival 2011 and DSC South Asian Literature Festival 2011.

Keep an eye on this page as V promise to entertain you just the way you like!

Authors, film makers, artists and those who appreciate art are invited to join us. Those interested to take part please email us at info@vaani.org to book your seats.


Book Review - Perfectly Untraditional

Perfectly Untraditional is a perfect first novel by Sweta Srivastava Vikram although she is known to the literary world for her collections of poetry.
Perfectly Untraditional is a story about a woman Shaili who finds her true self only after being married off by her family in an arranged marriage. The story is certainly not about arrange marriages and its trepidations or even about immigration and its after effects. Its a journey of inner soul into self realisation. There are some genuine sparks within the narrative and readers become curious to know more and more about the happenings in Shaili's life.

The story explores the relationship between a father and a daughter and in the process reveals various nuances of feelings and some buried secrets.
"Do you recall the last time you called me Shaili? Frankly, I don't. I was always a pronoun or a bad adjective to you."
"Don't argue! I won't tolerate it! Your mother has taught you nothing. You are just like her! ... I must stop this nonsense or else you will become like your mother and ..."
As the daughter and father gradually clear their misunderstandings, the readers are taken in into their inner space to reveal the true mysteries behind these character's actions.

The male characters in this stories are a breath of fresh air as they bring the positive energy into display in spite of their very complex life. Mr Suresh Kapoor and Sadhil are both likable characters even though they have their flaws. Sadhil is almost too good to be true. Shaili's best friend Su or Supriya is the most lively character and her vivaciousness helps anchor the seriousness of the main characters.

The characters are very well drawn by the author but there are no villains in the story. The drama is played up or down by the emotional upheavals within the individual characters. The author has cleverly interwoven the complexities of personalities with the simplicity of human nature creating a very interesting mix for all to enjoy. All in all a very good read that will keep the readers glued to the pages.

A book review by Smita Singh



Coming up...

Submission now open for 2011 VAANI Anthology. V would like to celebrate the ethos of Olympics 2012 happening here in London. Hence V are dedicating our next Anthology to the cause so that people are inspired and encouraged to be a part of the amazing sport culture and its also our way of saying V care.

The topic is emotions, feelings, joys and sorrows related to any sports, or you could write a fictional account of how a particular sport was invented, or on any game that's played only in one particular country/town which no one else knows about.

Submissions are open for short stories, poems and essays. There is a selection process through which all the entries go through and only the selected entries are published. The Anthology is scheduled to be published in October 2011.

Submissions to: submissions@vaani.org
Closing date: 31st August 2011

Thanks to KACC website for the image above.


Celebrating National Learnning Disability Week!

We are at the Festival in the Park today! Come join us and have loads of fun with a variety of music, crafts, and food.

Venue: Ray Park, Snakes Lane East, Woodford Green, IG8

Age: Open to all

Price: Free

The Redbridge and Waltham Forest Learning Disability Partnership (LDP) provide health and social care services for people with a learning disability and their carers.

For more details and leaflet visit Redbridge website here.

V will post pictures once v come back. See you there.

Our Photos


VAANI in the Asian Women Education and Training Fair 2011

V are delighted to be part of Asian Women Education and Training Fair 2011 in Redbridge. The Fair is on Today and you could find us in the Ilford Townhall from 10:00am to 14:30pm.
The image (above) is taken from UEL website so V extends a heart felt thanks to them. 

Please visit Redbridge website for further details. See you there

Our Photos



VAANI makes news!

Please follow the link here to read the news clipping and/or to download the pdf.

Our SENSE member Zahara Hussain's poem 'My Dream' that she read during the 16th May 2011 event, has been published by Ilford Recorder. Please read the news clipping above. V are so proud of her. Zahara wrote her poem while attending our weekly meetings specially dedicated for Women with Learning Disabilities.


Meeting cancellation

Due to popular demand the upcoming (28th May 2011 this Saturday of the long weekend) creative writing meeting has been postponed to the next week Saturday 4th June 2011.

Please pencil in the next date in your dairies and we hope that you have lots of fun and sun shine during the holidays.



Event Update

Priya Basil, and Chan Ling Yap graced VAANI members with their presence last evening, it was a magical experience!

We are immensely proud of our very special member Zahara Hussain who attends our regular sessions as part of SENSE a project specifically focused upon Asian Women with learning disabilities. Her poem "My Dream" was so touching that many had tears in their eyes! She said she was inspired by the published authors who came to give a talk at VAANI's event and said she wanted to be just like Priya Basil. We wish the best for her and hope her dream of 'being free' comes true soon.

Chan Ling Yap's historical story Sweet offerings gelled quiet well with the Valentine Mansion's own historical back ground. Valentine Mansion used to be the trade center of East India Company. Some say that the root to all corruption started here!
Priya's readings from her novel Ishque and Mushque resonated the era gone by. She also read from her recent novel The obscure logic of the heart which filled the room with love.

The audience grilled them with numerous questions from publishing to writing and they answered each one with patience. Someone in the audience asked Priya if she's written anything for children and she said that her most recent novella 16:02 was something that would interest the young audience.

The best advice given out by Priya for all who write was:
"Reading a how-to-write-a book is not going to help much but writing and writing a lot would definitely help you finding your own voice and your own style."

We are proud of all our members who read last evening. Thanks to Anand Nair, Sunita Pattani, Rupam Shrivastava, and Hema Macherla for reading their work and helping to make the evening a success.

Our heartiest thanks to  Dipika Verma for her presence and support and also for providing tasty sandwiches for the event.

Special thanks to Manjit K Jootle for her generous gift bags from Aunelle handed out to all our guests as well as audience and to Smita Singh and VAANI for organising such wonderful event.



Sweet Offerings - A Book Review

Sweet Offerings by Chan Ling Yap is a novel published by Pen Press. This is one of those novels which doesn't say much to the readers by its humble cover but the moment they start reading it, it takes over them. It is a hard to put down novel with exquisite intricate details of cultural life in Malaya.

The story is basically about emancipation of the main character Mei Yin during the times in 1930s but the author has deftly taken this simple storyline to the next level by including an interesting trip through the history of Malaysia from colonialism, through the second World War, independence and up to the late sixties. 
Written from the point of view of various female members of an ethnic Chinese family living in Malaysia, it covers the transition from a poverty struck and traditional way of life to the formation of a modern state. 

Through the events happening within one family over three decades, the author takes the readers into a different world, the world that is now Malaysia that adapted to change and the way it was affected by world events.  The readers find out how difficult it was for women to have any control over their lives and how often they were treated as assets or bargaining counters.
An example of the kind of poverty could be seen in these lines where a mother bargains to get her daughter a play mate, "I mean, if the girl's get on well, I would like them to attend school together. I will pay Mei Yin's fees." 

Although the author highlights the evil traditions that a female in those days had to face in Malaya, in some ways the main character Mei Yin defies all that. So on one hand the readers learn about the horrid things happening to various female characters, on the other hand they learn to appreciate the silent strength of Mei Yin.
The novel is also about the enduring love story of two main characters Ming Kong and Mei Yin and it proves that love prevails even when the situations are impossible.

Some interesting excerpts,
"That's because the British made cricket popular in India. What's fashionable there still influences Indians here. Anyway, the Chinese are not interested in games, only gambling ones,"
"The British had only ships in these waters and the Japanese sank both of them," " Remember the British have the Germans to contend with. They are fighting many fronts, not only in Malaya. We should pray for all those who have lost their lives."

There are a few obvious editorial glitches in the book but the story pulls the readers away from them and takes them into its own world. Overall a much enjoyable read and would recommend it to everyone.

By Smita Singh


Priya Basil and Chan Ling Yap on 'Love, Pain and Cheats'

Coming Up...

15th May 2011 from 3:00 pm onwards at Valentine Mansion, Ilford.

Come and spend an evening in discussion with Priya Basil, Chan Ling Yap and members of VAANI, on ‘Love, pain and cheats’

Kuldeep Brar of Lovephool Buzz, Hema Macherla, Manjit K Jootle of Aunelle and many other published authors will take part in the discussion.

A gift pack for all visitors is sponsored by Aunelle that includes gift certificates, sample products etc.’

Have an informal chat with authors and publishers!

Light refreshments will be provided.


Happy Birthday To Me - A Book Review

'Happy Birthday To me' is the debut collection by The Asian Writer, a literary magazine which supports and champions British/South Asian writers. It features short stories and poetry on theme of celebration as well as interviews with some of the well known Asian writers writing today.

The book begins with a modern day story by Pervin Saket called 'Happy Birthday to me' that gives readers a clue to the modern psyche. Some of the other notable contributions are Niven Govindan's 'The Writer's wife' a story with a twist at the end and 'My Son's mother' by Roopa Farooki.

'Coming Home' by Farhana Shaikh is a poignant story that touches the heart...
"Happy days at home. Father was so different then. And mother...I can't remember my mother as hard as I try. Memories of her left me a long time ago."
A taste of immigrant voice that welcomes the change is evident in 'White Diwali' by Nikesh Shukla
"The grass of the back lawn was sprinkled with frosting, a candied sugar of anomaly...It was a Diwali miracle." whereas in 'I  am the child of the colony' by Rabiah Hussain is awed but at the same time homesick...
"The brave new world is their abode, but their world is never far found, ... It's in my father's sighs and in my mother's eyes."

Readers who are interested to know more about their favourite authors would be spoilt for choice with some very interesting interviews. Mohsin Hamid when asked if he had other jobs while writing, said, "Thanks goodness 'cause if you spend seven years on a book and don't do anything else, you'd starve to death."
Nirpal Dhaliwal when asked what was his aim when he left England to start a new life in Delhi, confessed, "I wanted bigger questions posed to me rather than thinking about getting a flat, getting drunk, getting laid, getting more work."
Lorella Belli the literary Agent's interview is great for all those wanna be auhtors looking for that big break and that agent.

Lastly, more than twenty authors give advice on writing starting with Rana Dasgupta's, 'Scare yourself. Write with heart' and 'to Read, write and persist' by Tishani Doshi.

All in all a brave attempt by The Asian Writer and the readers won't be dissappointed. The book is available to buy on Amazon.

A Book Review by Smita Singh

Invitation to a Book launch!

An Invitation

You are cordially invited to the launch of Blue Eyes by Hema Macherla
Meet the author, readings, book signing
Friday 8th April 2011
6.30pm - 8.15 pm
Wine and nibbles

You could read the author's interview with VAANI here.

Linen Press is delighted to announce the launch of Hema Macherla’s second novel, Blue Eyes.
Her debut novel, Breeze from The River Manjeera, has been a best seller and has collected a swathe
of awards including Richard & Judy, The Big Red Read and National Reading Hero. It has been translated into several languages.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of 1920s India when Ghandi is about to take the world stage and seeds of change are in the air, Blue Eyes opens with the recently widowed child bride, Anjali, narrowly escaping the funeral pyre and charts her journey towards self-discovery and self-worth. A fast moving narrative with a subtle commentary about the fate of women. At its heart is the love of two men for one woman.

The Nehru Centre
Cultural Wing of the High Commission of India
8 South Audley Street
Nearest Tube Station: Green Park (click here for a map)
Telephone: 020 7491 3567

RSVP TO: hemamacherla@yahoo.co.uk TEL: 01 7084 7 1249



20 Essential Works of Japanese Literature

Japan's ancient history has imbued it with a diverse literary heritage largely ignored by American literati and professors, save for a few notable exceptions. Anyone wanting to further explore the full range of the country's written works should consider this list a primer of the highlights to hit before moving on to other poems, novels, plays, comics and short stories. Plenty of amazing writers and narratives exist beyond these, of course, and anyone who digs for them will dredge up a slew of literary treasures.
  1. Kokin Wakashu (circa 905) by Various: Emperor Uda and his scion and successor, Emperor Daigo, ordered this collection of royal waka to celebrate Japan's rich creative heritage. Spanning 21 collections and roughly 1,111 poems, it was compiled by court poets Mibu no Tadamine, Ki no Tsurayuki, Ki no Tomonori and Oshikochi Mitsune and included works by Ono no Komachi, Ariwara no Narihira and Fujiwara no Okikaze Henjo as well as the editors themselves.
  2. Taketori Monogatari (10th Century) by Unknown: Known alternately as "The Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter" and "The Old Bamboo-Hewer's Story," folklorists believe this narrative is quite possibly the oldest in Japan. Because of the bizarre content, including glowing stalks of the eponymous plant, some even think of the story as one of the earliest science-fiction stories as well.
  3. The Tale of Genji (early 11th Century) by Murasaki Shikibu: Many, if not most, literary critics and aficionados consider The Tale of Genji humanity's first novel. At least in the format familiar today, anyways. Featuring over 400 characters, though focusing on the life of only one, it provides history buffs a glimpse into Japanese life under the feudal system. In spite of this epic scope, Murasaki Shikibu masterfully maintains internal consistency.
  4. Konjaku Monogatarishu (circa 12th Century) by Various: Only 28 of the original 31 volumes of Konjaku Monogatarishu survive today. Thousands of folk stories from across Asia, including India and China, come together thanks to the efforts of a currently unknown compiler. Many believe it was a Buddhist monk's doing, and the exact date of its inception is unknown, too.
  5. The Tale of the Heike (13th Century) by Various: Like many medieval literary works, this epic poem was less the efforts of one rather than a collaboration from many. It depicts the histories of the Minamoto and Taira tribes and their mutual struggle for dominance during the Genpei War. The history trickled its way down to the contributors thanks to Japan's ancient oral tradition.
  6. The Complete Haiku (17th Century) Matsuo Basho: Anyone critical of haiku thanks to their contemporary comedic applications should pick up Matsuo Basho's work. Many literary types consider him amongst the greatest — if not the absolute greatest — Japanese poets of all time. With elegant simplicity, he expounds on everything from nature to daily existence.
  7. Takekurabe (1895-1896) by Higuchi Ichiyo: Taking place in the Yoshiwara district, this short novel traces the life spans of several children as they come of age in close proximity to licensed prostitution. Much time is spent mourning the loss of youthful freedom and imagination as the years and responsibilities pile on.
  8. I am a Cat (1905-1906) by Natsume Soseki: One of Japan's finest satires, I am a Cat deconstructs Meiji politics and social constructs, particularly those liberally borrowing from the "West." The narrator itself is a little housecat watching the neighborhood's day-to-day doings and relating them back with detachment and irony.
  9. A Dark Night's Passing (1921-1937) by Shiga Naoya: As with many of the literary works listed here, this novel began life as a serial printed in a magazine rather than a full manuscript. Shiga Naoya went with the highly popular slice-of-life format to relay the story of an unmarried man and the many misadventures he bumbles into regularly.
  10. Thousand Cranes (1952) by Yasunari Kawabata: Yasunari Kawabata was the very first Japanese writer to ever earn the Novel Prize in Literature, and the nomination committees specifically mentioned Thousand Cranes as one of the major factors in their decision-making process. A war orphan seeks the companionship of his father's mistress in order to forge some semblance of family in his life. Things quickly fall apart.
  11. Fires on the Plain (1954) by Ooka Shohei: World War II understandably left an indelible impact on the Japanese creative sphere, and Fires on the Plain perfectly encapsulates the emotions and experiences of soldiers towards the end. Private Tomura, the protagonist, finds himself stranded in the Filipino jungle after being booted from his company. What results is an encroaching delirium with some sickening consequences.
  12. Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956) by Yukio Mishima: The titular temple is an actual location in Kyoto, and the true story of a wayward monk resorting to arson inspired one of Japan's most famous (and infamous) authors to fictionalize it in one of his celebrated novels. Only loosely based on reality, Mishima's masterpiece dives into the mind of the perpetrator himself. An overwhelming obsession with beauty and perfection eventually drives the narrator mad and prompts him to burn the beloved shrine.
  13. A Personal Matter (1964) by Kenzaburo Oe: Author Kenzaburo Oe was the second Japanese writer to ever earn the Novel Prize in Literature, and this novel undoubtedly solidified his place amongst the literary canon. Here, he pulls from his own life experiences and expresses the myriad virulent emotions that come with fathering a brain-damaged child.
  14. The Woman in the Dunes (1964) by Hiroshi Teshigahara: This deeply existential novel concerns an entomologist lost to the toils of a sandy little village, where a widow is tasked with perpetually keeping the dunes from encroaching. The two become lovers, and the newcomer eventually succumbs to the same daily drudgery. Fans of the postmodern and avant-garde should pick up The Woman in the Dunes when exploring the full range of Japanese literature.
  15. Phoenix (1967-1988) by Osamu Tezuka: Manga in Japan enjoys far more popularity and mainstream acceptance than comic books do in America, hence why the country views Osamu Tezuka's beautiful, complex works national treasures. Although Phoenix remained unfinished after his death, each of the 12 self-contained volumes sports a standalone story reflecting a broader theme. This masterpiece dissects existential and Buddhist philosophies for a thoroughly provocative reading experience.
  16. Almost Transparent Blue (1976) by Ryu Murakami: In spite (or because) of a life packed with the usual sex, drugs, rock and roll and few responsibilities, the protagonists meander through their various narratives with little enthusiasm or motivation. The looming specter of an American military base punctures the largely plotless novel with a distinctly foreign presence.
  17. The Remains of the Day (1989) by Kazuo Ishiguro: Kazu Ishiguro earned a Booker Prize for his third novel, garnering him considerable attention in Britain (where he is a citizen) and Japan alike. Here, a staid English butler contemplates his station in life along with a feisty housekeeper, but allows his stuffiness to ruin many chances at having nice things.
  18. Akira (1982-1990): Both Akira's art and story are brutal, kinetic and highly visceral, but unwind a thoroughly provocative narrative about child abuse and exploitation. Science fiction fans or literary critics unafraid to explore genre fare will appreciate how deeply it impacted the cyberpunk movement and many subsequent writers and artists.
  19. Kitchen (1988) by Banana Yoshimoto: A young woman learns some important lessons about life and love thanks to her culinary experience. Food is always somehow present no matter where she is, and a curious assortment of individuals open up their hearts to help assuage the pain from her grandmother's death.
  20. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994-1995) by Haruki Murakami: Haruki Murakami's oeuvre abounds with essential reads, but The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle continues to enjoy the most international renown decades later. After protagonist Toru Okada's cat runs away, he finds himself embroiled in a plot that unravels his boring little life and reveals the puzzles underneath. This haunting, twisted work earned the author multiple awards and a place as one of the literary world's preeminent postmodern novelists.

    Shared with permission from www.Bachelorsdegreeonline.com
    Follow the link to the original article 20 Essential Works of Japanese Literature


Powerful earthquake struck northern Japan-An Appeal by SUJaS

As you are aware, the most powerful earthquake struck northern Japan at 2.46 pm local time on Friday 11th March 2011. We all watch the news with great worries - the scale of damage and loss is far beyond devastating… Many thanks to those who sent their thoughts for our members who have families and friends in Japan. Our hearts are with the people of Japan and the survivors from the earthquake and tsunami. We are anxious about ‘aftershocks’ following such a massive earthquake…

[Person finder]

I expect most of members were able to get in touch with their families and friends in Japan. For those who have difficulties in communicating with people in Japan, the following services may help to locate them:

Google person finder (in Japanese and English)


ICRC familylinks (in English)


[Donate to Japan!]

The SUJaS is planning to run a fundraising appeal, ‘Donate to Japan!’, which will take place this week with the following schedule. Please do come along and make donations if you can. If you wish to donate by cheque, bank transfer or Paypal – please send an email to me (M.Morioka@soton.ac.uk).

A fundraising appeal week - ‘Donate to Japan!’ planned schedule:

Tue 15th Mar 12:00 - 14:00 Staff Social Centre (Building 38 Highfield Campus)

Wed 16th Mar 12:00 - 16:00 SUSU concourse

Wed 16th Mar 17.30 - 19:00 Café SUSU (during social gathering, prior to film showing)

Thu 17th Mar 12.00 – 14.00 Staff Social Centre (Building 38 Highfield Campus)

Fri 18th Mar 11.00 -16.00 SUSU concourse (at Global Village event)

Mon 21st Mar 11.00 - 16.00 SUSU concourse
Our intension is to send all the collected donations to Japan Red Cross via British Red Cross:


We are currently consulting the SUSU RAG for this fundraising event. We will send you a confirmation email shortly.

[Thousand origami cranes, ‘Senbazuru’]

During the fundraising appeal week, we shall be making ‘Thousand origami cranes’ (Senbazuru) to express our wishes and thoughts to people in Japan who were affected by the earthquake. ‘Senbazuru’ is an ancient Japanese legend – it is believed that folding 1000 paper origami cranes makes a person’s wish come true. It is probably not practical to send out origami cranes to Japan, so our intension is to express our thoughts by demonstrating our tradition of making origami cranes. Please join us if you want to find out how to make origami crane and express your wishes in Japanese way! Our plan is to give away origami cranes to those who donated.

[Volunteers wanted!]

This fundraising appeal will be run by volunteers of the SUJaS who are willing to spend time for supporting this event. We require more volunteers to make this fundraising successful. Please send an email to me (M.Morioka@soton.ac.uk) if you are willing to spend time during the schedule shown above (even 30 minutes of your time would help!).

Many thanks and warmest wishes,

By Yuki Nito (SUJaS)


Shishya by Birri Sangha- A Book Review

'Let me sing you like you've never been sung before.
And bring back the music to my soul once more.'

The book Shishya has the aim to do just that. Birri Sangha has taken the forgotten step towards looking within. Its a thick book but hey who said journey to the soul was ever going to be short? The poems reflect the deep questions that many of us avoid asking even to ourselves. The author asks the readers to surrender to the larger force out there and he reassures them that in return the journey of the soul towards self realisation is an amazing result. A blend of philosophy and simplicity is the strength of this book.

'If I am only a drop
In the Oceans Flowing
How much am I
Is it worth knowing?
In the bigger picture
the total scheme
What value is placed
on my dreams.'

A soul's effort, anguish, and love for the Almighty almost takes the nature of lovers,

'You are a window
You are a door.
I love your eyes, your hair and the integrity in your skin
But I love, more, the soul within
I too am naked and bare
Waiting to be wrapped in your prayer.'

The self realisation is evident when the author says,

'I look in the mirror
And I see
The changes
I must make in me.'
The book ends with a plea to the readers
'I wonder how many souls will die today
How many hearts and eyes will cry today?
Most of the calculations are also applied deep inside
Of your soul and heart
You will end up as portions, pieces and parts.'

All in all a very interesting collections of poems, each of them are a unique inspiring gem in their own respect. This book is for all those who dare to look deep within and develop an eye for the soul and also for those who dabble with the idea.

A book review by Smita Singh


Author Interview - Hema Macherla

1. Your New novel ‘Blue Eyes’ is launching soon, how are you feeling right now?

Happy, excited and butterflies in my stomach. 

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was always writing. Even as a child I used to write down my feelings, imaginations and anything that caught my attention, turning them into stories or poems.  I never consciously thought ‘I want to be a writer.’ Whenever I feel inspired, I can’t help but write.       

3. How long does it take you to write the novel?

My first novel took me three years to write.  Without any pressure and having all the luxury of time I wrote it leisurely, as a hobby.  But I wrote my second novel, Blue Eyes, in less than a year. 

4. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

Before I published I just wrote whenever I felt in the mood, or inspired.  But now I set myself a time table and try to stick to it.  Usually, a few hours first thing in the morning and then late afternoon but mostly I end up writing at nights.  I am more focussed in the quietness of the night.   

5. When did you write your first work and how old were you?
I wrote my first short story when I was twelve for a school magazine, but published one at the age of 24 a few years after I came to England.

6. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Reading and painting.

7. What does your family think of your writing?
They are proud of me. They think I should believe more in myself and my writing.  I suppose they are more appropriate to answer this, but they highly value what I have accomplished.

 8. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
That language is no barrier for creative writing.  When I am writing sometimes it surprises me that the characters won’t listen to me and write their own story. They become real people and they have their own minds. 

9. How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I have written two books. Both are equally my favourite. It is like asking a mother which child she likes the most.   Of course they are two completely different stories.

10. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Smita, if it is for you, I know you are a good writer already and I don’t need to tell you anything.  But for beginners it is essential to read as much as they can. Write, write and write regularly.  Take criticism, particularly the negative ones and use them as building blocks.

11. What do you think makes a good novel?
You start off thinking that you will only read one chapter but then end up reading it the whole night without putting it down. 

12. What inspired you to write ‘Blue Eyes’?
While reading ‘The life of Mahatma Gandhi’, a little story my great grandmother told me when I was a child, came to my mind and the thoughts formed and the idea was conceived. 

13. How would you describe ‘Blue Eyes’ to someone who has not read any of your previous books?
It is set in 1920’s India, when Gandhi was just entering the political stage, and how the young people caught between the ideals of Gandhi and the British colonialism.

14. Does story writing come easy to you? What other things do you write? Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, story writing is much easier for me than any other writing. I used to write short stories and articles for weekly magazines. I suppose I have my own style of writing and readers are the better placed to say what it is. I think every writer has her/his own unique, original style of writing, like their voice, their thinking.  The most important thing is that it should come naturally.  

15. How did you come up with the title?
I didn’t think much about the title. While writing I needed a name to save the file in the computer and I just typed Blue Eyes and later it sounded appropriate. 

16. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
It needed a good deal of research and I found that part particularly difficult because the information from different sources varied so much.

17. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t want to say I am giving any message as such but the readers can grasp their own message from it. I hope that one can realise that how an Indian woman was treated for centuries on end and how she transformed herself now from that sort of background.    

18. Your book has emotional conflicts and old traditions and new rebellion, has that got something to do with your own life experiences?
It is nothing to do with my own life experiences, but with someone, who is very close to me who has endured so much.
19. What are your current projects after ‘Blue Eyes?
I am thinking of writing another book and I have a couple of ideas but not decided yet on which one. 

20. Name one entity that you feel supported you i.e. family members/friends.
My entire family and friends supported me through out, but if I have to pick one I can say it is my husband.  
21. Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I haven’t started it yet.

22. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, grammar. When I started my first book, writing in English itself was a challenge for me. I haven’t learned the language meticulously with grammar at school. I only learned it by reading books.  It is getting a little easier now but still I always have to check my grammar.

23. Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details that would enliven your page.

Officially I can say my first job was working in an optical company, where my heart just wasn’t in the work.   

The inspiration for being creative came from my mother.  As a child I used to watch her burning the midnight oil to write. I literally mean oil, because we didn’t have electricity in my village, Atmakur until 1973. After finishing her house work and her children securely in bed, my mother would sit with a kerosene lamp to write her book. Sadly her book didn’t get published but fortunately her zeal rubbed off on me. She used to encourage me to participate in school essay writing competitions etc. And I even managed to bag a few prizes. Later my husband Radhamanohar encouraged me and supported me to write. Fortunately many of my stories, which I wrote from 1980-1990 were published in various Indian weeklies and monthlies. Also, I get the inspiration from human life that moves me or touches my heart.

When I first came to this country I couldn’t speak a word of English. At that time my husband used to work as a junior doctor and just after a week of my arrival in this country I answered a phone call, because my husband was in the bathroom. The person on the other end asked if my husband was at home. I said, ‘yes’. Then she asked me if she could speak to him. I said, ‘No’. She said, but it is urgent. I said ‘fine.’ The conversation went on like that for some time. The thing was I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. I was just repeating those three words and in the end I said thank you. She got frustrated and put the phone down.
The reason I kept repeating those four words were because before I came to this country I was worrying that I couldn’t speak any English and someone in my family said, ‘Just say yes, no, fine, thank you, and you will be fine. Anyway afterwards I told my husband about the phone call and you should see his face; he was so embarrassed. That evening he came home clutching a woman’s magazine. Even with a dictionary on my side I couldn’t understand a single sentence so I went to the library the next morning and borrowed children’s books. That is how I started learning English. Since then reading became my favourite hobby and now writing.      

 24. What else do you want your readers to know? Consider here your likes and dislikes, your interests and hobbies, your favourite ways to unwind — whatever comes to mind.

I love reading the classics as well as modern literature.   
Besides writing I love painting, listening to A R Rahman’s music, old Telugu songs, watching old films. My favourite way to unwind is a cup of tea and malted milk biscuits with a good book on a cold winter day and also playing with colours on a canvas (even though I am not good at it) is very relaxing.  A walk in the woods, (preferably Lake District) in summer would be very nice.


Arundhati Roy joins call to boycott Lanka literary festival

Calling all Women Authors,

Controversial Indian author Arundhati Roy has joined fellow writers in calling for a boycott of a literary festival in Sri Lanka to protest alleged rights abuses and suppression of dissent in the country.

Roy signed up a petition initiated by the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) urging world class authors to stay away from the Galle Literary Festival which is due to open on January 26.

"We ask you in the great tradition of solidarity that binds writers together everywhere, to stand with your brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka who are not allowed to speak out," the joint appeal said.

It asked the writers to send "a clear message that, unless and until the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda (a local cartoonist who disappeared a year ago) is investigated and there is a real improvement in the climate for free expression in Sri Lanka, you cannot celebrate writing and the arts in Galle."

Support the renowned woman writer Arundhati Roy.
Please pass this news item to all writers and publish on your website.



Call the Ships of Dar-es-Salaam - A book review

'Like a box of crayons where one brazen colour may erase a meeker shade without sympathy, I run to where cultures top religion and landscapes melt into the sea.' The book Call the Ships of Dar-es-Salaam begins with the above prologue that sets the tone of what's on the pages inside. Susan Abraham has presented to the readers a showcase of her versatility, where every piece tops the last one you read taking the reader into a world of romances, of memories untold, of African nights and parting pain.

The poems and the prose seem to be placed randomly if looked at a glance but gradually when the readers get soaked into the lyrical words they see the pattern unfolding in front of their eyes that most certainly creates a wow effect. Each word carries the burden of much complexities behind them, but still manage to convey the rainbow of feelings straight from the heart to the readers heart.
On one page the Author talks of lovers,
'And when she stirred, he
the artful dodger,
pictured her toss a pillow as...'
and on another of blessings,
'How does one put a heartbeat on standby
or warn the swallows they cannot soar on by'
The second half of the book talks of Ships of Dar-es-Salaam and Susan doesn't stop stunning the readers even there.
'...It all started when the boats had
wanted the sea to masquerade a riotous playground.
The water had insisted on all and sundry toeing the
line. The boat refused and scattered...'
The metaphors used are spell binding and readers are taken on a romantic trip where each and every mouth dropping view is hard to miss.
The mishmash of culture is reflected in the poem 'Africa in the Dublin Skies' where the authors says,
'A bright blue glistened in the skies  like remembered
ripples of a seaside's belly and the crabs tried a twinkle
with their claws like a 1000 insomniac stars...
...Yesterday was all in
a morning's work when a homesick Africa came to visit me.'
The author has succeeded in representing through lyrical words the true feelings within many of us. The urban culture is nothing but memories of places travelled to, where we leave some of our own and bring with us something of them and we are no more what we were but become something more.
This book is a must read for anyone who has travelled and also for those who wish to do so. It is a must read for the literary population as the style here is something to learn from and to appreciate.
The book could be bought from Amazon and also from Flipcart.

A review by Smita Singh

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