On 1 January 1818, Frankenstein, a novel that gained phenomenal success was published. The thrilling page turner was written by Mary Shelley. The book caught on immediately. It was so successful that people thought a man had written it…outrageous as this may sound right now! The appeal of Frankenstein still continues 200 years after its publication. Why is that so?
Let’s rewind back into the year 1816, the year when this classic was first conceptualized. It was on a night in 1816 that a group of young Romantic poets gathered together and read ghost stories. One can well imagine the scenario that took place by the shores of Lake Geneva on this dark stormy night. The setting was the salon of Lord Byron. Lord Byron, the famed poet, Byron’s doctor John William Polidori, poet Percy Shelley and his wife Mary Shelley sat talking about philosophy and life. Byron suggested that each of them write a ghost story. The rest, as they say is history.
The story is about Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who is determined to defy nature. He takes the process of creation into his own hands and creates a living being from dead tissue. This nameless being is called ‘The Creature’ in the novel. What ensues is a saga that is as relevant to humanity today as it was 200 years back. What happens to the creature? What is his relationship with his creator? Does this feat turn into a great scientific contribution or does it spiral into something else? The exciting storyline keeps the reader enthralled till the very end.
Even 200 years after the book was published, readers are enthralled by this novel. What is the reason for this timeless appeal of Frankenstein? I believe that humans are constantly at odds with nature. As science seeks to unravel the mysteries of nature and take things in its own hands, nature springs new surprises. We human beings have always used science as a tool to further our progress. We use science to understand natural phenomenon and to control things that were originally beyond our control. Though the world has seen much scientific progress, and though we have spiraled to great heights in terms of scientific advancement, we have still not been able to master death. This conflict of control between science and nature- the control that we seek over nature, will always remain. Till then, any body of work that addresses this conflict will never lose its charm!
Mary Shelley: How Frankenstein is linked to her life
It is very tempting to seek parallels between the life of an author and her work. More often than not, one does find that there are some surprising similarities. Mary Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer and feminist in her own right, died giving birth to her. The separation of the creator and the created echoes in the book as well. Victor Frankenstein’s mother also dies early. Moreover, after giving life to “the creature” Frankenstein is repulsed by it- maybe echoing the feelings that Mary Shelley’s father had when he lost his wife and was left to care for little Mary. The feelings of anger and loss so prevalent in her tumultuous life also find expression in Frankenstein.
Have you read Frankenstein?
Coming back to the novel in question, we can safely say that Frankenstein remains a timeless work. It is so popular and has pervaded our collective consciousness so much, that the dictionary actually has a meaning for the word “Frankenstein”! It means (and you guessed right) a thing that destroys its creator.
The Frankenstein magic continues 200 years on. This is probably a great time to read or reread the classic. The appeal of Frankenstein will not diminish!
Bollywood is a part of the Indian psyche. It is firmly entrenched in our collective consciousness. However, in a country where collectors appreciate beautiful and unique things, Bollywood memorabilia used to be largely ignored. That is, until OSIAN, India’s pioneering Arts Institution and Auction House earnestly attempted to collect and preserve Indian and World cinematic heritage.
It all started with the landmark auction ‘The Historical Mela – ABC: Art, Book and Cinema’. This event pioneered a new and refreshing viewpoint- that of looking at film memorabilia with a collector’s eye. Two other auctions firmly strengthened the demand for Indian film memorabilia. Osian’s auction of Rare & Vintage Indian Film Memorabilia in September 2014 and consequently in June 2017 wooed collectors and film enthusiasts with priceless pieces of film history.
Film memorabilia can play a major role in the education of many subjects beyond film and media studies. Given the fact that Indian cinema itself is well over 100 years old, it provides crucial references from a historical point of view. “It is not very far away when the finest scholars and researchers will flock to India to understand the profound role the cinematic and related arts have played in developing culture and a thousand influences thereon. The auctions have facilitated this journey just like Film Festivals facilitate a film appreciation culture. One has to only see the growth of the Hollywood memorabilia market to understand the vast energies that get energized when the film fraternity, media and the public work in unity to respect one’s history, and hence one’s current creativity,” explains Founder Chairman, Neville Tuli.
The Greatest Indian Show on Earth is the catalogue pertaining to Osian’s auction of Rare & Vintage Indian Film Memorabilia. The two catalogues artfully present the rich and diverse treasure of Bollywood memorabilia that Osian has collected, salvaged, sourced and preserved over years.
The catalogues are works of art in themselves. Akin to a bespoke coffee table book they bring out the rare and precious moments and milestones of Indian cinema that would otherwise be lost. Flipping through the pages will take you down the Bollywood memory lane.
The enticing cover depicting Dilip Kumar & Meena Kumari in their famous embrace in Yahudi tempts the viewer to delve inside. One of the very first images in the catalogue is a painting by Arpana Caur. It depicts the famous song ‘Pyaar hua, Iqraar hua’ showcasing the legendary under the umbrella song scene of Raj Kapoor and Nargis from the film Shree 420. While nothing can beat holding the actual painting, viewing it in the catalogue is grand enough and sets the tone for a nostalgic journey. This catalogue is packed with such artfully done posters, prints and photographs.
It showcases some of the earliest films made by Prabhat Film Company. It then moves on to the Kapoors- India’s first family of films. Right from Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Rishi and Randhir Kapoor to the Manish Malhotra costumes worn by Karisma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor inspired art by artist-fan Nitin Utge, the catalogue depicts in finesse rare cinematic moments. It also features vintage and rare Bengali & Classical Music Cover Designs with inspiration drawn from artists such as Jamini Roy with Paritosh Sen actually designing record covers for Rabindra Sangeet and his plays.
The iconic images of superstars such as Dharmendra, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan among a host of others appear as one browses ahead. Of course, how can one forget the enigmatic leading ladies? Right from the gorgeous Madhubala, to Hema Malini (along with her brand campaigns), Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi, Aishwariya Rai and more, the beautiful belles of Bollywood make an appearance here. Pictures depicting international locations, information about collectibles, pictures of some veritable collectibles like show cards, tickets, rare music records and so on also add to the element of interest.
While the visual delight on browsing the catalogue is definitely a key feature, the nuggets of information that appears along with the artworks and photographs is also very interesting, and highly educative. These little bits of information and some rare stories make for some great trivia which will be of interest to anyone who loves Indian cinema.
This catalogue continues the enthralling depiction of Bollywood at its finest. This one is also quite informative, with a lot of text to complement the images and enhance understanding of Indian cinema. It starts with a depiction of the early years of Indian cinema- 1925 to the 1940s. Again, there is a focus on the Kapoors with a depiction of photographs, movie posters and artwork. There is a section on Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Helen and Amitabh Bachchan as film legends. Mughal-E-Azam, one of the greatest Indian films ever made, also gets a dedicated section. Besides the movie posters and photographs, it is interesting to see paintings on the same by M.F.Hussian. The catalogue also explores Satyajit Ray as a draughtsman and artist. These are but a few highlights.
In essence, both the catalogues provide a visual feast for anyone who loves Indian cinema. The explanatory text that accompanies the images, gives a context to them. It also presents vital information and trivia. These auction catalogues have helped increase awareness regarding the history of Indian cinema. This has also complemented other major platforms of Osian, such as the Library and Archives and the Osian’s-Cinefan film festival, which aims to nurture a cinematic culture rather than just being content with a love for cinema. India still truly lacks a great cinematic culture, despite having so much passion for cinema.
It may not be possible for all Bollywood lovers to obtain and own such a vast collection of Bollywood memorabilia. Osian’s auction catalogues which describe the collections that were up for auction, are quite relevant for a Bollywood enthusiast and collector. These catalogues provide a detailed glimpse into a rich treasure trove of pictures and informational nuggets about Bollywood. They constitute in themselves a rich compilation of Bollywood memorabilia.
Today, we see that the market for India’s film memorabilia has evolved considerably. However, it is a long journey ahead before we can call it a mature market. Osian’s auctions have placed Bollywood memorabilia at par with modern and contemporary fine art and rare books. This in itself is a fait accompli. The show will go on!
Note to readers: Many items of interest are documented on www.osianama.com. Anyone interested in Bollywood memorabilia, film memorabilia and publicity material pertaining to Indian and World Cinemas can contact:
Ms Attreyee Roy Chowdhury
Senior Vice President-Communications
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +91 22 6156 3108
We are all familiar with a rich text environment. Look into any primary classroom and you will see that it has some elements of a print rich environment.
Way back in 1989, researchers Neuman and Roskos conducted a study. They made a classroom environment more print rich. They studied the children before and after this change. They found that after the experience of print, children used twice as much print in their play than they did prior to the changes!
Parents can benefit from this knowledge and turn their children’s rooms into havens for learning by creating a rich text environment.
A rich text environment means much more than having books all around!
Here is how you can design a home environment to make it rich in text.
A space for displaying words, text and pictures
Every child will benefit from good display space. This is also the best way to create a print rich environment since you can display any kind of print you want here. Ideas for what to include here- age appropriate charts, labels, signs, timetables, quotes, written text and work by the children.
Soft boards, magnetic boards, white boards and chalk boards are the common ways to provide a space for display. Nowadays we also get chalkboard and magnetic paint. Use them on any blank wall or even the wardrobe doors!
Having boards on the wall is not in the only way to display texts and posters. Display spaces can be created quite innovatively. One can use colourful strings and ribbons across the room and display stuff on fancy pegs. Other spaces that could be utilised for display include the back of the door and the space above the study table.
It is also important to ensure that children are able to interact with the display. For example, a child is more likely to look at a chart that is placed at their height.
When a child starts recognizing letters, it is the perfect time to label stuff in the room. This enhances and stimulates their interest in reading. However, one must make sure that the print is clear. Labelling is a classic example of how something small makes a big difference. If labelling is combined with images, it would have the maximum impact.
Playing around with colours for the labels is a good idea. For very young kids it is better to use solid colours like red or black for labelling their stuff. Later on, you can experiment with the numerous options that the markets are crowded with.
Well, this is something that obviously goes into making a space a rich text environment. A little reading corner will give the best advantage of a print rich environment. A good book-nook should be well lighted. Ideally, a child should be able to access books by himself. Books must be well organized. A seating space for cuddling up with a book is not so bad either! Rotate books regularly to ensure freshness.
Today, the market is filled with great wall décor options. For instance, wallpapers that have informational text or maps are great for a child’s room. Interactive wall décor through reusable wall stickers is another option. These come very handy there as they are repositionable. They can be peeled off as soon as the child outgrows a learning phase. They do not leave any damage to the walls. For example, an alphabets wall display can be easily converted to nursery rhymes or an animal recognition chart the following year. They are also versatile and can be used on everything from painted walls, furniture, glass, windows, and doors to bathroom tiles – so one can be creative with their display options. This is a great way to personalise a room and turn it into an interactive play area.
While map wallpapers are a good idea, map prints themselves work great. Maps look great in a child’s room and they have so much packed into them. In addition to all the print on the map, they open up literally a world of possibilities for discussion. Another subtle touch is to add a globe. It’s a great accessory to have.
The above changes can be incorporated in your child’s room or your own if you share space with your child. One can keep these factors in mind while redesigning or creating a new room. But, the most important thing to make these design ideas work is to use them for the way they are intended.
Different children respond to print-rich environments differently. For some merely having the stuff there is enough. For others, parents need to help the child interact with the room to benefit from it. A reading nook will work if your child actually sits there and reads as would a display space, if your child actually looks at what is put up there! As always, design works for those who help themselves! Well, here’s to a rich text environment then!
Here is a selection of posters for younger children:
India is known as the land of diversity. Delving into the storytelling traditions of India is expectedly a Herculean task! But, in Lore of the land: Storytelling traditions of India, Nalini Ramachandran takes up this challenging task.
Storytelling is one of the most basic cultural activities of any group of people. Storytelling can be through words, dance or music. It could be oral, written or enacted. This book is an introduction to the beautiful world of stories in India.
Story of storytelling
The book begins with an incident involving Mohini- a young girl who is born into a family of storytellers. Well, it would be more appropriate to say, a family of exceptional storytellers. But the story of Mohini begins with a failed performance, where she is not able to narrate a proper story. Disappointed, she decides to run away from home following this humiliating performance. As she sets off she encounters a book loving spirit, aptly named Katha, who takes her on a captivating journey through the world of stories.
Each chapter takes Mohini and Katha, the story loving ghost to a different part of India. They manage to cover the length and breadth of this gigantic country! They take their time, taking in the beauty of the place and its unique culture. They then delve into the storytelling traditions of that place- how these stories originated, how they changed over the years and what they are now.
Katha happily imparts all this information to Mohini in form of a story. Interspersed with this narrative are side boxes that outline facts about the traditions of the area. Most importantly, the actual age old lores that have been passed down generations are also narrated. Well, a story within a story…that’s always fun!
The book outlines 38 storytelling traditions of India in most of its states. It is also like a crash course in Indian traditions and rituals! After all, most storytelling traditions in India have roots in the agrarian lifestyles of people or are linked to mythology and religion. They are also closely interwoven with the art and music traditions of the state. Hence, a dive into the world of stories of a particular state reflects not only its stories but also its art, culture and music.
Storytelling traditions of India are not just about stories alone. They are also linked to art and craft traditions. Hence, when we read about the puppetry performances of Andhra Pradesh for instance, we learn also about the intricate puppets crafted from leather. In Arunachal Pradesh a local dance performed by a tribe captures traditional stories. Or, how Mithila and Madhubani forms of art are interwoven with storytelling traditions.
The book is quite detailed and comprehensive. However, reading it is never overwhelming because the information is broken into different headers and sidebars and also colour-coded. This makes the text easy to navigate.
To top it, there are lots of illustrations to complement the texts. The illustrations by Abhishek Choudhury bring out the story and the stories within the story in a very vibrant manner. The illustrations are apt for the story as well. For example, in the chapter describing the Madhubani traditions, one of the illustrations is depicted in the Madhubani style, thus adding authenticity to the story.
But, the most important theme that emerges from the book is the fact that stories can be told in many ways and that there is never a single story for a single thing. Mohini learns that different versions of stories exist and “people believe what suits them”.
When I think about this theme of the book, I recall a popular lecture by Novelist Chimamanda Adichie who spoke about the danger of a single story. It is with pride that I recognise that storytelling traditions of India have always incorporated multiple viewpoints.
As Katha puts it in the book:
“Why should there be only a single story about anything? “Katha asked. “There is always room for interpretation and imagination. A story can be told in a zillion ways!”.
There are many more storytelling traditions in India than have been described in the book. But, the book talks about key ones that people need to be aware of. Some of them flourish, but most of them are dying out. Maybe this beautiful storytelling attempt will open people’s eyes and ears to the wonderful world of stories that exists in our own country.
This is a book packed with information and stories, as well as stories within stories. It is a captivating and detailed introduction to the storytelling traditions of India. It has many legendary stories woven with stories of the origins of many myths and traditions. The book is written in a manner that appeals to young adults and adults. Anyone with an interest in stories and storytelling traditions in India will find the book to be a worthy addition to their library.
Author: Nalini Ramachandran
Illustrator: Abhishek Choudhury
Age group: Adults and Young adults
Ruskin Bond is one of the best loved authors today. Both children and adults equally enjoy books by Ruskin Bond. He is Anglo-Indian and has spent his childhood in India. He lived in Shimla, Jamnagar, Mussoorie and Dehradun, while he was in India. Indeed, scenes of life on hill-stations of the Himalayan ranges continue to permeate his writings. He was sent to London as a teenager, but got terribly homesick and thus returned to India. His first novel was “The Room On the Roof“, published when he was 21. The novel is partly based on the experiences at Dehra in his small rented room on the roof and his friends. He won the ‘John Llewellyn Rhys’ Prize that is awarded to British Commonwealth Writers who are under the age of 30 for this book. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award for English writing in India for ‘Our Trees Still grows in Dehra’ in 1992. He has also received the Padma Shri in 1999 for his contributions to children’s literature. He now lives with his adopted family in Mussoorie.
Love for the mountain towns and descriptions of beautiful hills and landscapes of North India are a characteristic feature of his works. The beauty of Bond’s stories lie in their simplicity. He talks about simple people who one encounters in day to day life. His language is simple and highly readable. What is the best is probably his sense of humor.
He describes even sad events with a tinge of humor. The icing on the cake is that his characters are young with a naughty spark. They are “normal” people, with streaks of good and bad. The author must have been a mischief maker as a child too! Any child would immediately connect with the characters!
On reading his works, one gets a feeling that he has a deep understanding of the human mind and heart, especially of children. He is an Anglo-Indian, but yet, writes about India from an Indian perspective. If one reads his “autobiographies”, which are like leaves from his journals, they are very similar to his stories. He writes about what he experiences. Indeed, he is a master storyteller.
Bond has written numerous books and it is really not possible to enlist all the names! It is recommended that for younger children, you start with some of his short stories. Read the stories out to them and then encourage them to read the books by themselves. Some of these books also have illustrations which are an added attraction. The Parrot Who Wouldn’t Talk and Other Stories is one such example. “Book of Humor” is another book which has one in splits.
His books for teenagers are a little different. His teenage characters go through their own unique experiences and meet the most idiosyncratic people on their journey through life. The “Room on the Roof” and “Rusty comes home” is written keeping teenagers in mind. He has also written books for adults, and these are quite appropriate for teenagers too.
I would strongly recommend Looking for the Rainbow, a book that was published in 2017 when Bond turned 83. We have reviewed it on this site, and I believe that it is Ruskin Bond at his sensitive best! It is a book that is poignant and beautiful. It is meant for children but I would say that adults must read it as well. It is a memoir where he recalls his childhood and his relationship with his father.
The line between Ruskin Bond books for adults and children is somewhat blurred. However, some of his books are clearly for adults.
The Sensualist is the story of a man enslaved by his libido and spiralling towards self-destruction. This is one of the rare ‘adult’ books by Ruskin Bond, and a bold and compelling one at that! Another one is titled Susanna’s 7 husbands. This is a story about Susanna Anna-Maria who is a beautiful romantic girl. Well, she hopelessly tries to find love in one marriage after another. Surprisingly, all her husbands die mysteriously. Finally, his autobiography, Lone Fox Dancing, is a must for all Bond fans, even if they have caught glimpses of his life in his other books.
Recently he has written two books about his favorite books in literature. Both these books talk about his preferred authors and their works. But, what I find interesting is that they also provide extracts from certain novels and once you read these, you get a taste of what Bond likes, and what you can experiment with as well! Love Among the Bookshelves is the first of that. This book was very well accepted and loved, as all hs books are. It is followed by Confessions of a Book Lover, which again follows the same format. It talks about writers and books that have made an impact on Bond. He delightfully follows these with curated extracts.
He has also written “The Puffin Good Reading Guide for Children” which has a selection of classical and contemporary books for children aged 4-16. The selections are from all over the world.
He has also published a journal which actually encourages the reader to write. Words from the Hills, has already been reviewed on this site. Developed around the life, works and philosophy of Ruskin Bond, Words From The Hills is one collector’s piece you cannot miss! It is a very attractive and beautiful journal where Bond leads you to pen your thoughts.
It is great to read his works or carry them along when planning a vacation to Indian hill-stations; especially in the North. One is sure to get a flavor of the local people and surroundings and connect with the “holiday” place in a very different manner.
Books by Ruskin Bond occupy a special place in Indian literature. Their apparent simplicity coupled with their depth, make them true classics. It’s time for Bond!
We all know that connectivity is the mantra of the day. India and the World: A History in Nine Stories, an ongoing exhibition at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai takes on a different lens to look at how India was connected to the world in the distant past.
India and the World: A History in Nine Stories is an ongoing exhibition at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Mumbai. This exhibit is in collaboration with the British Museum, and the National Museum in New Delhi. It presented a landmark exhibition opening in Mumbai in November 2017 and will run in Mumbai till 18 February 2018. Thereafter, it transfers to New Delhi in March 2018. India and the World: A History in Nine Stories showcases some of the most important objects and works of art from the Indian subcontinent, in dialogue with iconic pieces from the British Museum collection.
There are two books which highlight the essence of this exhibition. They distil the key facts, conclusions, thoughts and descriptions illuminated through this beautiful exhibit.
The smaller book, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories, is presented in an innovative way. Using the technique of paper folding, each page in the book is neatly folded into a smaller square and on opening reveals the rich text and images. Neeta Premchand from the Bombay Paperie is credited with the concept and text. Rachana Devidayal Shah has done the design and layout of the artistically presented book.
Each page talks about a concept and story through which one can view India through an object, and then again through similar objects from other parts of the world. Navigating through the book by folding and unfolding the pages is a tactile experience in itself!
One does not really need to go through it chronologically or in order, and that is fun part. This book is quite apt for reading to children. This book is available at the exhibit.
The other book, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories by Neil MacGregor is more detailed. It aptly accompanies this collaborative exhibition that creates dialogues between the rest of the world and India through the displayed artefacts. It shows how different people have responded to situations in their own way. It also highlights a deep understanding of an intricately interconnected global history.
So, what do you exactly look out for in the exhibit? In simple words, you look at objects from the past- objects from India and similar objects from another part of the world, mostly during the same time period in history.
This sounds simple, but as anyone who corroborates and coordinates objects knows, it is a herculean task to curate such an exhibit! Yet, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories is a fantastically curated exhibit that is quite illuminative.
When you look at the same object and how it was so similar across the world, in eras where there was almost no global connectivity, it kind of gives you an idea of how similar human beings are, and how connected we are in our collective subconscious.
As you enter the exhibit, some of the very first objects you will see are hand-axes from different parts of the world- India, Tanzania, Jordon and Europe. There was no communication between these parts of the world before ages, and yet there is a striking resemblance in these creations. The same thread of thought runs through the entire exhibit.
While many of the objects were quite enamouring I found the “Heads” of a Kushan King, Roman Emporer Hadrien and head in style of Alexander quite interesting to compare.
The representation of gods across geographical locations was also fascinating. Two architectural fragments from two great capital cities of two great empires Persopolis and Pataliputra were also striking.
Children will love the interactive activities at this exhibit at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalya (CSMVS) Mumbai. They can make their own bookmarks with Ashokan edicts, weigh different stones and materials, stamp their very own coins in a variety of designs and do some more printing at the Harappan stamping station. At the end of the exhibit there is a nice reading corner with a curated section of books on world history.
India and the World: A History in Nine Stories, both the exhibit and the books present a unique world view of India!
She may have led a very short life, dying at the age of 42. But, Jane Austen’s charm is not lost on us yet, even 200 years after her death. Jane Austen is still relevant today. Look at the bookshelf of a seasoned book lover and you will find an Austen for sure. Her novels are still in print. Her characters are still alive. We still have sequels to her popular books. Not to mention, the numerous movies and sitcoms that take inspiration from her plots.
We look at a few reasons why Jane Austen is still relevant today. As you scroll and read, we’ve also got links to some curated Austen souvenirs, books and boxed sets that would make any booklover’s day!
Maneuvering business of marriage
Yes, it is the age of Tinder and online dating. But, courtship and marriage is very much a part of the game. All of Jane Austen’s novels have love and marriage as prominent themes. All these concepts resonate with us today- the role of social class in fixing a ‘match’, issues of mental compatibility, marrying for ‘practical’ reasons, gender roles and discrimination in marriage.
Modernity of thoughts
Jane Austen wrote in an era where norms and thoughts of the time were quite orthodox. However, her characters had a certain modernity to them. Elizabeth Bennet is perhaps the best example. Her hero-heroine relationships, specifically the main ones, are based on the very modern notions of equality of genders. The heroes respect the women for who they are, and the heroines refuse to bow down to mores of the times. They have their own mind and are not afraid to speak it. This echoes with a modern audience as well.
Jane Austen’s books are set in a limited geographical and cultural boundary- Regency England. Still, even within this narrow canvas she provides us with layers of psychological complexity in her characters. Values may change over time, but human beings essentially remain the same. They are still complex and difficult to understand! Her deep insight into human character makes the stories evergreen!
The plots of Austen novels are classic and timeless. The characters, the setting as well as the overall narrative is something that transcends time and geographical boundaries. Movie makers have thus adapted her story lines to come out with movies and television series that either stay true to the original, or follow the plotline but allow for the change and evolution of society. Either way it works. The same goes for books as well.
So, how can one really sum up in a single line why Jane Austen is still relevant today? The answer is, while the rules have changed…the game still remains the same!
A soul-stirring tryst with poetry is not what one generally expects young children to do. But, that would be underestimating the power of poetry. It is said that poetry is language at its most distilled…and most powerful. No wonder then, poetry can be a powerful tool for change. That the simple act of writing a poem could spiral into a strong movement for change, is indeed a miracle! Since 2011, 100 Thousand Poets for Change has been working with poets, writers, artists and musicians to help organize events around the world for peace, justice and sustainability. This global movement has spread to more than a hundred countries in the world.
The sweet fragrance of this movement has seeped right into India as well. Kitab Khana, the popular bookstore in Mumbai, and a hub for cultural activities and events hosted this poetry festival for the sixth time. The four-day event, curated by Menka Shivdasani and co-presented this year by Deepankar Khiwani, took place on October 26, 27, 28 and 29, 2017, with the generous support of Mrs Amrita Somaiya, Director, Kitab Khana, and her team.
The festival was packed with many events and sessions. However, the cherry on the cake was clearly the popular Sunday morning event for children, conducted by Rati Dady Wadia, (Former Principal of Queen Mary School) on October 29. Mrs. Wadia, who hosted the event that morning, is an educationist and through her long and successful career, she has experienced first-hand the power of words and the miracles they can bring. Kitab Khana was packed to the brim- quite literally with a huge gathering of people eager to witness the event, and metaphorically, with the collective energies of the children and adults present there!
The event started off with the book launch ‘I Believe’ (2015) ‘Beauty is a Step of the Divine’ (2016), a poetry book that featured poems written by schoolchildren in Mumbai, representing various schools (Activity High School, Campion School, Queen Mary School, J.B. Petit High School for Girls, Cathedral and John Connon School) and students of Writer’s Bug. The beautiful illustrations and impressive cover of the book were designed by renowned author of children’s books, Katie Bagli.
Chief Guest Urvi Piramal launched the book. She is well known for her business acumen, but what truly came to light on the occasion were her ambitious philanthropic goals which include positively impacting one in every five people globally. Her inspirational and encouraging speech set the tone for the morning.
It has come up in many cities in the country. In Mumbai, we have been having it for seven years.
Poetry has rhythm and music in it. It is very powerful because of that. It touches the heart so much. One has to be sensitive towards it- not only poetry but also music and art. In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Jessica says that she feels sad when she hears music and Lorenzo replies that this is because she is intrinsically sensitive by nature. One has to be sensitive to all the five fine arts: music, poetry, sculpture, art and architecture. Our 2016 poetry festival was in fact centered on ‘The Five fine Arts’.
It is very important for us to encourage children to get aesthetic joy. With the 2015 edition of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change, we took on the theme of the five elements for the poetry festival. I feel that as parents and teachers we all need to hone the tastes of our children. We must take them to art galleries, music concerts and give them the opportunity to write creative poetry. There is such a sense of satisfaction even when you write a small verse! All the fine arts should be a part of our lives. We need to make our children sensitive to this. Try to fill your children’s lives with all that is beautiful. There are so many families that do not experience this kind of joy at all!
Jane Austen…does she need any introduction? It is a truth universally acknowledged that the genius of Jane Austen stands in a league of its own. The year 2017 marks the 200th year of her death. She died in 1817, when she was but 41.
In order to commemorate her legacy, the Jane Austen’s House Museum, located in Hampshire, in the United Kingdom, has displayed a special exhibit titled “Jane Austen in 41 Objects”. This evolving exhibition tells the story of her life and legacy with reference to 41 different that were an integral part of her life, and continue to be a part of the permanent museum collection.
Bookedforlife highlights some of these objects. Let’s go back to Austen time!
This is an 1813 square piano, similar to one owned by Jane Austen whilst at Chawton. Jane Austen fans know very well that music, especially playing the piano was something that her accomplished heroines did very well. Well, Jane was an ardent piano player herself. 200 years ago, enchanting music from Jane’s piano must have enlivened her house! Jane’s father encouraged this love for music and Jane also received formal instruction in music.
This early 18th century walnut tripod table belonged to Jane Austen. This little table, quite unassuming and simple, is the one where Jane penned down all the timeless works that she is known for. The table is a part of the museum collection. It is placed in the dining parlour at Jane Austen’s House Museum. Undoubtedly, it is one of the highlights of the entire collection. Jane used to place the table by the window to get full benefit of the natural light. She wrote daily. No wonder the table is iconic. Many visitors stand by and ponder, and some of them even cry, as they see this little object. Such is its aura!
The carriage was made locally, probably for Jane’s brother, Edward. It was a convenient and cheap form of transport compared to horses. The carriage was preferable to walking since the roads were often very mucky and dirty.
This imposing and very beautiful piece of furniture was a part of Jane’s life. This George III mahogany bureau bookcase, belonged to Jane’s father, George Austen. He must have worked on this very desk, with his books all kept in the glass fronted display cabinet. The pigeon holes and small niches on the desk would have held his important documents. Jane would have watched him work here as he composed sermons, prepared lessons or wrote letters!
This is a manuscript sheet music book for piano. Music was a key part of her life, but what makes this book special is that the scores have been copied out by Jane Austen herself. She copied music onto manuscript paper with great precision. However, it is her own touch to these scores that indicates that she did not merely copy them, but also imbued something of her own voice in these.
The manuscript book is titled “Juvenile Songs & Lessons”. This is perhaps in the hand of the person who gave her the book. What is interesting though, is that underneath the title, in Austen’s own script, appears the ironic line “for young beginners who don’t know enough to practice.” Now that’s what we call the Austen touch!
No discussion of Jane Austen can end without a mention of Pride and Prejudice. Jane’s novels have been translated into numerous different languages. This book is a handwritten translation of Pride and Prejudice in Danish, made in 1904 by two Danish sisters for their mother who wanted to read the book her daughters loved so much. The beautiful transcription and the wonderful painted illustrations (copied from Charles E. Brock’s illustrated edition of Pride and Prejudice in 1895) make this object a beauty! There is embroidery on the front and back cover as well. In a sense it is heart-warming to see how the love for Austen lead to such breath-taking craftsmanship!
Pictures provided by the
Photo credits: Peter Smith for Clementi Piano, Donkey Carriage, Writing table and George Austen’s bookcase.
Jane Austen’s House Museum for Austen Family Music Book and Danish Translation of Pride and Prejudice.
Santosh Das, renowned artist who is known for creating magic with the Mithila painting style, looks every bit the quintessential artist, as he sits in a contemplative mode at ARTISANS, the culture hub tucked away in the beautiful by-lanes of Kala Ghoda.
A white long flowing beard and an air of peace around him strike any visitor. He is sitting amidst Mithila paintings hung up on the walls around him, and copies of his latest book, Black – An Artist’s Tribute. Published by Tara Books, this is an illustrated handmade book in a limited edition of 1000 copies only. In a short while, he will be conducting a workshop on Mithila painting for an urban audience.
We start talking about the book, but not before we touch upon the wondrous world of Mithila painting, which occupies a central place in the book- and in his life.
Das works in the traditional Mithila painting style from Madhubani, Bihar, where he was born. Mithila painting, also called Madhubani painting is a well-known form of folk art. The roots of this art are deep, and skills continue to be passed through generations. Since time immemorial, women in his community have used natural pigments to decorate the walls and floors of their homes for special occasions like birth, marriage, and religious festivals. Precise geometry and detail depict ancient epics, folktales, and religious scenes along with the stuff of daily life.
Das’s mother used the black colour from the night lamp and expressed her skills with this ‘handmade’ colour. “Black means a lot of things to me. Anything one draws is black. Even if I draw an image with a pencil, it is also a form of black. Black also has a spiritual significance. It shows a certain kind of steadiness and determination. This quality of the colour black inspired me to focus on it. I have been working with this colour for 40 years, a very long time!” he asserts.
“The rightful place for an artist, his real world, is a pot of black ink. I believe it contains all the magic, all the forms, everything that human beings can imagine and render. It hides inside itself the seeds of creation” he adds.
Today artists like Das are bringing traditional arts in the contemporary context. “This transition is very difficult, but it allows you to see things in a different perspective. There are challenges but it ensures that you make efforts to make a traditional language very relatable. Once you know the essence of a traditional language, you will realize that you can indeed use it to express something different”.
What Das does moan however, is the fact that very few artists today choose to evolve. They learn and apply traditional work, and thereby may churn out numerous pieces that sell well. But, he sees the role of an artist as something higher. After initial training, he feels that one needs to do different things as an apprentice with a master. This would prevent stagnation. Every art needs a catalyst.
What makes Das’ work so fascinating is that he follows strict aesthetic traditions while responding to current local, national, and global issues. His work on the Gujarat riots was very well received.
The idea of the book took birth in Chennai at a workshop. “Black” is an autobiographical story. It focuses on the journey of Santosh Das: his becoming an artist and his relationship with his many muses, particularly his mother.
Published by Tara Books, the limited edition copy is numbered and screen-printed on recycled paper, then hand-bound into a work of art itself.
Inside its pages lie the simple story of Das’s childhood and his myriad inspiration. The prose is simple but poignant. The illustrations, which are Mithila paintings are all in black. Together they make for a conceptually rich reflection on an artist’s relationship between the real world, imagination, and storytelling through art.
As mentioned before, the title “Black” references the colour his mother painted with, which was made of the soot that collected on a night lamp. His fascination for black makes him explore the different shades of black. This makes the black of morning different from the black of night and the black of dust different from that of the sky. “Black has a lot of shades, once you get to know its potentiality, you can explore further” explains Das.
Who is the ideal reader for the book? “Maybe those who are related to art, maybe writers, students…” he muses. However, moments later, he smiles and says, “Everyone”. It is true. It is a book for all those who love and admire the beauty of art and words.
Boundaries become blurred. Art and publishing combine. It is a mélange of two beautiful worlds. The publishers of this book, Tara Books are known for their hand-made visual books. The aspect of touch and feel, of tactility and graphic assume importance here. Of course, unusual paper and brilliant design are the perfect accompaniments here!
This book brings folk art to an urban audience, thereby creating awareness of the art and also providing an object of beauty. However, there is something more happening here. It is merging the world of art and book publishing.
“It is a good means of promoting rural art which is high potential in terms of artistic merit. Through a book, art can reach out to a larger audience. Such an endeavor is highly appreciable. It is a good way of promoting art from different districts. It is only then that you can know the diversity of India’s heritage. It is a good way to take it forward,” says Das.
Black – An Artist’s Tribute by Santosh Kumar Das
Published by Tara Books.
Available also at ARTISANS, https://www.facebook.com/artisans.centre.9/
Original works by Santosh Ji are available at ARTISANS’, Contact [email protected]