SALF 2013 starts 23rd Oct - Do not miss it!

South Asian Literature Festival 2013

The South Asian Literature Festival (SALF), London’s premier event for writing and discussion on the Subcontinent, returns to the capital for the fourth consecutive year from October 23rd to November 1st 2013.

SALF is a celebration of the language, culture and literary heritage of South Asia, and is produced annually by Amphora Arts. Major themes this year include Indo-Caribbean literature, Asian Britain, Partition and Mythology.

With support from Arts Council England, British Council, and the Foyle Foundation, SALF will present 30 events with over 50 writers at a number of venues across London, including Asia House, British Library, Conway Hall, Free Word Centre, University of Westminster (Regents Street) and Weiner Library, as well as schools across the capital.

Authors and speakers this year include Amit Chaudhuri, Daljit Nagra, Kamila Shamise, Damian Barr, Declan Walsh, Gaiutra Bahadur, Jaspreet Singh, Jeet Thayil, Neel Mukherjee, Razia Iqbal, Sathnam Sanghera and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

Tickets are available through www.southasianlitfest.com or by calling the Festival Box Office on 01865 798797.


VAANI at Asian Women Training and Education Fair 2013

We attended the Asian Women Training and Education Fair. VAANI's table displyed our anthology 9.69 seconds.
One of the volunteer Priyankini Pathak collected funds for VAANI by applying Henna designs on the attendees palm. The idea proved to be a big success. So Congratulations Priyankini!
Many local organisations like Ekta Project, Victim Support, UEL, Redbridge Libraries, St Andrews College etc had a table. It was a great opportunity to meet and know various organisations and also to develop partnerships.
It was a very well organised event by University of East London.


VAANI Culture Night photos

A BIG thank you to all those who attended VAANI's Culture Night 2013. It was great to have you with us. It was huge turn out of 200 people attending the event. Your support is precious to us and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

As cited in the Census 2011 the borough’s Asian/Asian-British population is now about the same size as the white population, with increase in the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other Asian communities in particular. VAANI decided to represent different cultures in the borough but at the same time showcase the cohesion, the unity within the borough via a Culture Night. 
The VAANI Culture Night was held on 1st June 2013 in Ilford Central Library that was part of Redbrridge Book and Media Festival 2013. The Chief Guests were Sita Brahmachari (Winner of Waterstone's Children Books Prize 2011), Redbridge Mayor Councillor Felicity Banks, and the Redbridge Deputy Mayoress.

The event was a combination of dance and music performances, readings of prose and poetry, art and craft exhibition by people with learning disabilities, local Redbridge residents belonging to different ethnic groups and VAANI members including adults and children. It also showcased the cohesion of Disabled and able bodied people.

Inspiring poetry readings were by Bengali Poet Neil Mukherji, Manju Chaudhury, Somalian poetess Fatima May Ali and storyteller Jane Grell from Dominica Republic. There were dance performances in Arabic, Spanish and Indian folk style. 
Arabic dance performed by Maitreyi Bhatawdekar and Arushi Agrawal
Spanish dance performed by Vinisha Agrawal
Indian Folk dance by Priyankini Pathak, Dipika Verma, Rumi Thakur and Archana Jha

The Redbridge Israeli Dancers performed Israeli dances to which many of the audience joined in including the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor. Vaani's own project SENSE (for people with learning disabilities) performed a Bollywood Dance number and much loved Damien of Woodbine Day Services performed an enthusiastic street dance.

Art Exhibition by artists Amber, Smita, Rupam and Rajesh.

VAANI's Managing Director Smita Rajesh said "The Culture Night symbolised unity in diversity. VAANI endeavours to integrate the diverse community via the medium of different Art forms. It's our honour to see such diverse and inspiring talents on this stage tonight."

Redbridge Mayor Councillor Felicity Banks said " A wonderful evening – full of variety, poetry story telling, singing, individual dancing and group dancing from many different cultures. Most memorable was the happy smiling faces of all the performers and hosts."

Please see below the photos of the event.

VAANI Culture Night 1stJune2013photos


Vaani's Culture Night

VAANI Culture Night 1st June 2013
Let's celebrate our culture together!
We would like to invite you along with your family and friends to attend
VAANI's Culture Night.
Chief Guests are well known Children's Author Sita Brahmachari,
Redbridge Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

The Culture Night is to celebrate the 'Cohesion' of different cultures
residing in Redbridge. It is also celebration a cohesion of able bodied and
disabled people. It is to provide a platform to be one in our differences, to
perform, gain confidence and hopefully a launch pad for bigger and
brighter future for local residents of Redbridge and surrounding area.

Event Date: 1st June 2013
Time: 7:00pm start. Guests to arrive by 6.45pm
Venue: Gloucester Room in Ilford Central Library, Ilford
Entry Fee: £2.00 per person
Refreshment: A simple Indian Dinner

Hope to see you all there


Competition!!! Review 'Kite Spirit' and meet the author

'Kite Spirit' is the latest Teen book by Sita Brahmachari author of award winning 'Artichoke Heart'. Sita is also a guest author at VAANI's Culture Night on 1st June 2013. If you are reading group, or a school interested to participate, please read on.

About Kite Spirit

During the summer of her GCSEs Kite's world falls apart. Her best friend, Dawn, commits suicide after a long struggle with feeling under pressure to achieve. Kite's dad takes her to the Lake District, to give her time and space to grieve. In London Kite is a confident girl, at home in the noisy, bustling city, but in the countryside she feels vulnerable and disorientated. Kite senses Dawn's spirit around her and is consumed by powerful, confusing emotions - anger, guilt, sadness and frustration, all of which are locked inside. It's not until she meets local boy, Garth, that Kite begins to open up - talking to a stranger is easier somehow. Kite deeply misses her friend and would do anything to speak to Dawn just once more, to understand why . . . Otherwise how can she ever say goodbye?
A potent story about grief, friendship, acceptance and making your heart whole again.

About the Author

Sita Brahmachari was born in Derby in 1966 to an Indian doctor from Kolkata and an English nurse from the Lake District. She has a BA in English Literature and an MA in Arts Education. Her many projects and writing commissions have been produced in theatres, universities, schools and community groups throughout Britain and America. Sita lives and works in North London with her husband, three children and a temperamental cat.
To know more or to participate CLICK HERE


Butterfly by Julie O'Yang - a book review

I met Julie O' Yang, author of 'Butterfly' in Oct 2011. She had flown in from Netherlands to take part in the South Asian literature festival in London. I was pleasantly surprised by her unassuming and modest yet very confident attitude.

Julie has published fiction and articles in various publications worldwide. Apart from being an author Julie is also a visual artist and Butterfly has some of her own illustrations in it.

The book cover shows a vague woman's face underwater, a very artistic choice in keeping with the story.
Butterfly is a love story that spans life and death, magic and reality and parallel reality.

The author has woven mythology and history skilfully together to create a mysterious atmosphere in the story that keeps readers hooked till the end. 
The butterfly motto has been used repeatedly to create and reinforce the idea that like a butterfly changes its form and gets reborn time and again, so does love in-spite of all the odds against it be it war, Nanking Massacre, or the darkest secret.

“They say butterfly fish was made by Bodhisattva Guan Yin after she had a strange dream. Guan Yin looked at the star-studded body hauling a fantail so black like ink spilled in water. At that moment a butterfly floated past her. One thing other fish don’t do, though. A real butterfly fish can change into a beautiful woman at night.”

The love scenes are infused with Chinese myths and strong imagery that gives it a mystical tinge.
“I decided to love him. I decided I would accept him for everything he was. I learned to forgive and how to forgive. The world happens, we can choose how much it happens. At the end of the day no-one loses or wins. There is no future living in the past. For all I know, we could start finding peace and happiness between two human beings. To love, to be loved is the true gift of our heart. Love is not mediocre. Love is our freedom.”
“You were pregnant by a man-killer, didn’t that bother you?”

The book is littered with metaphors and beautiful imagery that spell binds its readers and gives them wings to take them along on an unpredictable, conflicting journey of a butterfly.

I found it hard to put it down until the very end although the end itself is a bit lacking in clarity may be done so  intentionally by the author to maintain the aura of mystery.
The book Butterfly all in all reads like a Bestseller and the readers will find it a page turner. A must read for all.

A book review by Smita Singh


Have you got the X-Factor?

The Culture Night
Join VAANI in celebrating the 'Culture Night' during Redbridge Book and Media Festival 2013
The VAANI Cultural Night will be on 1st June 2013. The final participants will be decided during the next few weeks.

The Culture Night is to celebrate the 'Cohesion' of different cultures residing in Redbridge. It is to provide a platform to be one in our differences, to perform, gain confidence and hopefully a launch pad for bigger and brighter future for local residents of Redbridge and surrounding area.

VAANI is also a BIG platform for disadvantaged people like people with learning disabilities and Asian women, for them to integrate better within the the fabric of society and a SMALL step towards main stream integration.

Have you got the X Factor?
Show the world what you've got!
We invite both young and old, raw and gold to perform on the night. We are looking for:
  • group dance performances,
  • group song performances,
  • Asian Women group dance/song performances,
  • original Poetry/ Prose recital in any language as long as a short description is given to the audience during the performance.
  • One act play/ skit/ monologue (could be a Comedy)
There will be an Audition and then a final dress rehearsal prior to the event itself. All participants are expected to practice once they've been selected.
To register email Rupam on rupam@vaani.org stating your area of interest.

The closing date for registering is 20th March 2013.

Interested to know more about VAANI? www.vaani.org


Gender Violence: Movement for Change

As I was about to leave the door I hesitated, for a few seconds, it was cold, I was going alone. These hesitations only lasted for a few seconds.  My husband gently encouraged me to go. My young boys understood, when I told them I was going to the open meeting at the London School of Economic and Political Science on Gender Violence.

Remembering the protest on the 7th January in front of the Indian High Commission in London, I had no hesitations, I was going and going with a determination, to find voices that felt the same anger that I had felt in isolation, anger of the 50 million girls missing, of the acceptance and support of abuse from government. This endless cycle had to be stopped.  I needed to be the voice that had been denied to millions. I felt so much in unison with all the girls that had died and had yet to shout.  The voices at the protest on the 7th January were powerful, very powerful.  We shouted, ‘Shame on you’ for hours, we demanded justice, freedom and sang, 'We are not just flowers we are sparks and fire’. It was both a process of healing for all the hurt and an opportunity to be with other women, who were strangers but shared a common cause.

I was very lucky to be sitting next to my heroine Meera Syal during the open meeting at LSE, I spoke to her briefly.

Then the discourse began.

One of the audiences began with ‘We need more judges’ in India. Kavita Krishnanan Indian feminist at the forefront of change was on face time live to answer questions. Yes, Indian feminist will be watching closely the budget and assessing what actually has been done to address the issues.  Having more judges is a right. But having judges with moral conviction, having an ethos in the system which respects and supports women is just as necessary and valid.  Women’s issues have lit a spark which will not die down to the unjust system until real changes are made. Changes demanded by locals not just in urban communities but in rural communities, as well.


‘Women’s freedom is everyone’s freedom’

Is it a fight for the dignity of all our sisters, when one sister is unhappy it affects all sister’s. If one sister is abused in the global family then all our brother and sisters feel the pain.

There is a dangerous line that must be kept in check, while we demand freedom from abuse, we must be careful not to label a whole community of being abusive. It is the system, it is the ethos that must be changed from the top that allows, if not encourages the abuse.

Confronting abuse with abuse is not productive.  We are asking for justice against crimes, we are asking for an end of reading, listening and knowing that millions of girls were denied the right to life, around 50 million missing girls in India. If they survived birth many did not see childhood, if they survived childhood, the incidence of abuse was high, if they got married then abuse would continue if they bore girls.

A member of the audience a lawyer who has dealt with crimes against women for 20 years and seen men escape justice and commit abuses against women. Now she cannot understand why the death penalty has not been implemented widely in India for rapes.  There was ‘Boos’ from the rest of the audience.  The problem with the death penalty is that the police and the army are exempt and the government is selective for whom they subjected death penalty to. Most rapes are committed by men whom the girls know for example, relatives, neighbours community members; girls would be under immense pressure not to ‘kill’ her abuser.

Rape laws as they stand in Indian are scandalous, they do not include stalking, inserting objects in women’s bodies etc. The sexual harassment bill is very problematic and as a first step this needs to change to encompass abuse against women. The widespread abuse and rape of UK military and police force was highlighted.  The difficulties and issues are similar for example only 6% of sexual harassment cases are brought to justice in UK.

If the 23 year old student 'Damini' had survived, life would have been no better than a ‘corpse’.  One of the audiences mentioned a cartoon she saw in paper. It had one candle burn out and then next to it a million candles light up.

 This movement needs to continue, we must continue the dialogue, and we must stand up with the light within us to shine the light of justice everywhere. 

The workshop ended with a list of actions that demanded action from Dr Manhohan Singh. Manmohan Singh is perfectly aware of the injustice to women; he was quoted as saying once that what was needed was a moral crusade to stop this. As if he was waiting for an outside force to deal with the problem within his government.  That moral crusade needs to come from his government for effective change.

I was worried going back home alone but that light within me that took me to the open meeting also gave me another light to walk home with. I made a new friend, usually I say hello to an elderly man on the way to school run and occasionally I see his daughter with him. I went home with his daughter and it was delightful to connect and to hope for a better future.

by Gurmit Kaur

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