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

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