Monday, March 19, 2018

We are happy to announce that Sananta Tanty will be conferred with the Assam Valley Literary Award, along with Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi and Rita Chowdhury, on 24 March 2018. Instituted by the Williamson Magor Education Trust, this is one of the highest literary awards for the Assamese literature. The award ceremony will be held in Guwahati.
As we celebrate, our gratitude to Sananta Tanty for his unsurpassable contribution to Assamese poetry.
Red River (formerly i write imprint) was honoured to publish an English translation of Tanty’s poems, ‘Selected Poems Sananta Tanty’ in 2017, which was longlisted for the first Jayadev National Poetry Award 2017. You can get the book here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Beyond good and evil on Colombo streets

Loyal Stalkers
Chhimi Tenduf-la
Pages 232
Price 499

This being a short story collection, I started with the last story, titled ‘Balls’, finished it in one sitting and was blown away. A ‘coming out’ story of a high school kid, Tenduf-la handles the narrative with such light touches and with such humour that it must be read to be believed. There are usual bigotry and homophobia, coupled with peer pressure and twitter-bullying. Yet, Tenduf-la’s young protagonist remains confident about his sexuality and of course, he is rewarded for his tenacity in one of the most heart-warming ending I have read in a long time. Tenduf-la’s take here is modern and pragmatic, as opposed to, say, Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy, a queer coming-of-age story steeped in trauma.

So I started reading Loyal Stalkers, a collection of 15 short stories by Sri Lanka-based author Chhimi Tenduf-la, with extra-excitement. Set in Colombo suburbs, the stories are loosely connected in the sense that the narrator of one story may appear as a minor character in another. This conceit itself is not new, but how Tenduf-la uses it to add depth of his characters is extraordinary.

Take, for example, the title story, where Chin-up Channa, a buff gym instructor with severe speech impediments as regards to opposite sex, falls in love with a young divorcee with a child. He talks to her in his imagination and come to accept all her reactions as consent to his overtures. Soon he invades her home, sleeping under her bed, taking care of her baby and cleaning up the leftover biryani. The story ends with a terrifying implication and a looming threat, and it is likely to gross out an average politically correct reader. However, Tenduf-la undercuts the morality of it by making Chin-up Channa a first-person narrator and as a result despite his unethical actions, we remain largely empathetic towards him. If this was not enough, the author gives us a back story for his protagonist in another story involving a religious leader cum local gangster.

I was looking for a series of idealised narratives on individual identity, but Tenduf-la gives me something more, a series of complex characters beyond the confines of good and evil, living their life the only way they can, not always happy but always without regret. And suddenly the oxymoronic title of the book begins to make sense. In Tenduf-la’s Colombo, two polar opposites can cohabit and make up a colourful narrative.

This tenuous thread that runs though all the 15 stories of the collection, some absolutely macabre, like the story of a 17-year-old mother and the story of a woman chased by man with devil mask tattoo after a one night stand and some absolutely heartbreaking, like the story titled ‘Loveable Idiot.’

If you thought this wide variety would make the book tonally inconsistent, Tenduf-la makes up for it with his informal, chatty and often brazen storytelling, which is at once real and funny. He is not afraid to peer into the darkest of human experiences and always returns with a witty quip. This clear-eyed look at the complexity of human experience makes Chhimi Tenduf-la’s Loyal Stalkers a book to be read and remembered.

(First Published in Sakal Times, Pune)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Reading Nitoo Das's fabulous new book Cyborg Proverb', especially the poem, 'Geeta Sings a Thumri'. Haunting.
I interviewed Dominic Franks, the author of the Nautanki Diaries, the new cycling book, which is witty, humours and immensely readable. Recommended! Published in Sakal Times 11 March 2018‘getting-cycle-tremendous-act-independence’-14481
A review of Chhimi Tendul-la’s collection of stories Loyal Stalkers, I would happily recommend it. Published in Sakal Times, 11 March 2018.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Act of Letting Go/ 2/ 16 years of my existence in Pune and I have these nine boxes to show for it — nearly 2,000 DVDs, some 50 books, reams of handwritten papers containing gibberish, 15 caps and some items of clothing. Enough to last a lifetime. As I carry them to Delhi, five years after shifting base, what saddens me is the fact that I have finally severed my connection to the City of Blessed. Now there is nothing for me return. I am forced a rebirth and it’s not pleasant.
The Act of Letting Go/ 1/ This Videocon Little Cooler. 13 years after receiving this used artefact as a gift, and five years after leaving Pune, I finally managed to give it away, to the great relief of my friend who was hording it for me all this while. Not that I was attached to it, or it had any intrinsic empirical value to me. For me, the cooler was the ideal of a future that could have been and which was now lost. This cooler was a memento mori of a time when I was in love, when I happy for one last time. I paid for it through tears and two broken teeth. One died and escaped and the other was condemned to reconstruct memories. 18 years is too long a time to mourn for someone, and after all these years, I have learnt that object cannot store memories. I am the memory of a future that could have been.

Friday, January 19, 2018

(Post 4 of 4)/ Folk wisdom dictates that publishers must promote their authors. But I have been exceptionally lucky to find authors who are not just friends but also arden supporters of this venture. We did this together, and now, Uttaran Das Gupta, writes about Red River in today's Business Standard. I am counting my blessings.
(Post 3 of 4)/ The third recognition came when a fellow poet insisted that he should do an interview with me and followed it through despite my misgivings, and it turned out to be really cool. More strength to Abhimanyu Kumar and Raiot.