Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Satyajit Ray — Adventures of Feluda, Jan 20, 2016

Satyajit Ray (SR) was an unusual choice, being known primarily as a film-maker. However he has a body of Bengali writing – detective stories, science fiction, and short stories – translations of which are available in English, a few by Ray himself. Several have been made into films and comic books.

Saras & Gopa, both garden lovers in KumKum's garden

But SR was much more than a film-maker. He was an artist with a keen eye and imagination to design advertisements (his first trade after graduating from Santiniketan). Later he went on to design type-fonts in Bengali and English scripts, and then became the internationally recognised film-maker with the Apu trilogy comprising Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959).

Epitaph on Job Charnock's Tomb in St. John's Church compound,Kolkata

Preeti who recommended the stories recalls them fondly from her youthful reading. She selected five stories for our reading but many readers could not resist delving into the rest for the entertainment and excitement they afforded. The stories are addictive, just like the Sherlock Holmes stories. SR confessed to his wife that having to keep of sex and violence denied him as an author the full creative licence (the stories were originally written to appear in the children's magazine, Sandesh, started by his grandfather). His own father, Sukumar Ray, was also a well-known author of children's stories and nonsense verse.

Shoba, Preeti, Talitha, KumKum having tea

This being the first reading session of the year KumKum invited the readers home for tea and snacks. Sunila (wife of Sunil) made a lovely orange cake and mini-idlis for us. Some pictures of the readers enjoying the convivial gathering are here.

Saras, Priya, Thommo, Sunil at tea 

At the end the readers posed for a closing shot here below – it was the largest gathering we have ever had at a session.

Kavita, Zakia, Priya, Sunil, Gopa, Shoba, Preeti, Thommo Talitha (standing), Shehnaz, KumKum, Saras, Philo, Mrs Sheila Cherian (sitting)

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Poetry Reading – Dec 4, 2015

The last reading for the year 2015, a poetry session, was held on December 4.

Though there were only five members who made it to the reading, eight poets were read and discussed. Zakia said that the session was unexpectedly vibrant in spite of the curtailed attendance.

Sunil, Priya, Gopa, Zakia, Thommo

Priya read Afro-American poet Langston Hughes, who has been read before. She read his most famous poem  The Negro Speaks Of Rivers, written when he was just 17. The others poems she read were – You and Your Whole Race, feet O’jesus, The City and Park Bench.

An American poet, novelist, playwright and activist Hughes is credited for introducing the new literary art form  jazz poetry, as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes homosexuality remained an issue amongst the literati of his time.

Sunil, Priya, Gopa, Zakia, Thommo

Priya said she read Hughes after meeting a black artist , with the same name, working at a residence in Vagamon, a hill station located in Kottayam-Idukki border of Idukki district of Kerala. The artist told her that crimes against the Blacks continued in America as before and that there had been no respite as generally believed.

Sunil said that even in Bangalore the African community is treated with suspicion adding that there is some good reason behind that. They have often been found guilty of crimes such as drug peddling and related violence.  Gopa said that the AAP government in New Delhi too had unearthed a drug racket involving Africans.

Sunil said that an African from a small country in Africa who was training in Kochi rued the fact that nobody here spoke with him. He felt lonely and ostracised.

Thommo narrated about an African who he met during his Kolkata days and that the man was a helpful character. But after he returned to Nigeria, which saw violence later, nothing more was heard from him.

Gopa read four poets who have written about sisters. She said that she has two sisters and they are close, but lately she was having some differences with one of her sisters over issues of parenting their children. She felt it was a good time to select poems that deal with relationship between sisters. She read My Sister Laura by Spike Milligan, Brother and Sister By Lewis Caroll, The Sisters by Rainer Maria Rilke and One Sister I have in the House by Emily Dickinson.

The mix of poems and poets read by Gopa were widely discussed, especially Dickinson’s poem about her sister in law and confidante, Sue.

Sunil read G. K. Chesterton whose wit was once again enjoyed by the group. The poems were – The Englishman and A Ballad of Abbreviations. True to Chesterton's ethos, both poems were about true blue Britishness and about their competitors in the English language, the Americans.

St George, the patron saint of England was discussed and Sunil said that the St George Church in Edapally is associated with powerful graces; he has been saved many times by his faith in Saint George.

Zakia read the popular 13th Century Iranian Sufi poet Rumi. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, Mawlānā/Mevlânâ, Mevlevî/Mawlawī, and more popularly simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi's poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages . He  has been described as the 'most popular poet' in the United States, in fact as a 'best selling poet.'  Rumi's works were written mostly in Persian.

Thommo read D.H. Lawrence’s  A Bad Beginning. The suggestive circumstances in the poem were discussed animatedly. While Sunil wondered if there was a reference to a third person in the poem, Gopa and Priya felt that a husband was giving an ultimatum to his wife who perhaps had a roving eye? Priya felt that the poem was written on the morning of what is referred to as the Morning After. Thommo said that Austria was a landlocked country and hence the sound of the steamer horn in the poem must be a reference to Europe, or else to a boat on one of the many lakes in Austria.

As there were few readers the group felt that there was time for discussing the poem and poet but as all discussions go astray the group digressed into other subjects.

Everyone wished each other Merry Christmas and Happy New Year at the close of the session.

Sunil, Gopa, Zakia, Thommo

Sunil and Zakia have selected The Long Road to the Deep North By Richard Flaganan as their novel for 2016. Thommo and Priya have selected The Gropes by Tom Sharpe, Joe and Kum Kum have selected Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. The other groups have to send in their selections.

Edgar Allan Poe — Short Stories, Nov 27, 2015

Edgar Allan Poe -- Master of the Macabre

Five stories by Poe were assigned for reading –
1. The Murders in the Rue Morgue
2. The Mystery of Marie Roget
3. The Balloon Hoax
4. The Oval Portrait
5. MS. Found in a bottle



Poe wrote poetry from the age of thirteen and is famous for his poem The Raven published late in life, but many readers love his poem Annabel Lee even more. He was known for the genre of detective stories he published under the title Murders in the Rue Morgue. He published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, a spine-tingling collection including The Fall of the House of Usher. He battled depression and alcoholism, and suffered when his young wife (for whom Annabel Lee was written) died at the age of twenty, after he married her at age thirteen. He was never well off. He died in mysterious circumstances at the early age of forty, after stumbling into a tavern in a delirium.


His murder mystery language is a bit archaic, when you compare it to the straightforward narratives of Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes stories. Poe had a large vocabulary and used uncommon words and elaborate sentence constructions.


You can read more about Poe at


Here are the readers at the end of the session:

Sunil, Priya, Preeti, Thommo, Pamela, Saras, Talitha