“What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
-- Carl Sagan, Cosmos, Cosmos, Part 11: The Persistence of Memory (1980)
Dear Readers, Writers, Well-wishers,
May the Book of the New Year 2017 hold out a better promise to each and every one of you in every sentence and page. Though time is infinite and cyclical, we scale it for our chronological convenience since our individual lives are finite. So we travel from one landmark to the other in the odyssey of our lives and human generations. The ‘Book’ of the New Year reminds me of Carl Sagan’s words as quoted above that all of us the lovers of letters would like to pause and ponder over.
Yes, the release of this Jan-Feb 2017 number has been inordinately delayed owing to an unanticipated coincidence of overwhelming preoccupation of the entire core editorial team of Muse India. A record of sorts, so funny – yes, let’s enjoy the fun, even as this new toddling Chief Editor seeks your forgiveness. And I thank Surya – GSP Rao – who is doing his best to steady my first baby steps; Charanjeet for her confidence in transferring the mantle onto me; and Ambika for readily endorsing the move. And I look up to each and every one of the Contributing Editors in carrying forward the mission of Muse India.
The cusp of 2016-2017 in India has panned over to literary stalwarts in due recognition of their literary prowess.
We have Sankha Ghosh winning the coveted Jnan Pith award for 2016. Muse India joins the entire nation in heartily congratulating him. Let us have a peep into his work in the words of Dr Subodh Sarkar, another well-known Bengali poet and a recipient of Bangla Academy Award. I thank Dr Subodh Sarkar for readily agreeing to share his impression of the latest Jnan Pith laureate Sankha Ghosh.
Here is what Dr Subodh observes:
“Sankha Ghosh has his own twilight zone as a prophet, poet and an activist. Sensibility and good sense – these are the two basic human instincts that reign supreme in his poetry to render Sankha Ghosh as one of the finest poets of India. If his poems are autopsied and re-autopsied, we will get a simple report of love and care for men and women in terrible dross and despair. His poetry is not wild, nor revolutionary, nor even hot either, it`s all quiet at surface, but as you delve deeper and deeper you take the heat of the burning issues which reshaped India during the last fifty years. Sankha Ghosh does not offer any compromise in the name of status quo; rather he questions the audacity of the establishments reducing the humanity to a small bag of indignity in which the dead are not given an iota of respect.
“Both as a man and as a poet, Sankha has always been a strong voice of protest in spite of his fragile and ‘Bhadralok`appearance. In the time of Emergency, in the time of the Gujarat carnage, in the time of Nadigram, in the time of Kamduni, in the time of fear and xenophobia, he played the role of a prophet on the road.
“Structuring a poem is like dressing up a soldier going to a war or a groom to a wedding or a widow to a condolence, but Sankha Ghosh has a pure pattern born out of the content for each of his poems in flawless meter and spontaneous rhymes. He lifts his poetry much above the words which have been spent up and he puts new lease of life into them. I personally feel that I often disagree with his socio-political agenda, but I never lose my choice to read his poems as a wash of light for my soul.”
In the same spirit, let us hail all the 89 Padma awardees for 2017 for their contribution in various fields, and especially the undernoted 20 literary luminaries for their contribution to Literature/Education/Journalism.
Padma Bhushan: 1. Prof Devi Prasad Dwivedi (Uttar Pradesh), 2. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Srindhorn (Thailand), and 3. Late Cho Ramaswamy (Tamil Nadu) – posthumous.
Padma Shri: 1. Birkha Bahadur Limboo Muringla (Sikkim), 2. Eli Ahmed (Assam), 3. Dr Narendra Kohli (Delhi), 4. Prof G Venkatasubbiah (Karnataka), 5. Akkitham Achyuthan Namboothiri (Kerala), 6. Kashi Nath Pandita (J&K), 7. Chamu Krishna Shastry (Delhi), 8. Harihar Kripalu Tripathi (Uttar Pradesh), 9. Michel Danino (Tamil Nadu), 10. Punam Suri (Delhi), 11. VG Patel (Gujarat), 12. V Koteswaramma (Andhra Pradesh), 13. Balbir Dutt (Jharkhand), 14. Bhawana Somaaya (Maharashtra), 15. Vishnu Pandya (Gujarat), 16. Anant Agarwal (NRI/PIO – USA), and 17. HR Shaw (NRI/PIO – USA).
Then the Hyderabad Literary Festival – HLF 2017 – left its literary exuberance felt for full three days in Hyderabad during Jan 27-29, 2017. Muse India, the prime mover behind it to begin with, is proud to be associated with it. GSP Rao, Managing Editor of Muse India is Director of HLF. Let’s have a snapshot at HLF in his own words:
“HLF2017 concluded yesterday late evening [Jan 29] and I am still recovering from the tremendous effort that went into it. With unprecedented number of people – adults, college students, and school children – swarming HPS [Hyderabad Public School campus] throughout the day and evening on all 3 days of the festival. With an extremely rich content spread across the literary, art and culture streams, it drew heart-warming coverage in the media this time. Since two of MI Young Writer Award winners were there, I took the opportunity of giving them the awards during the festival.”
Coming to the contents of the current issue, we have Dr GJV Prasad present a rich collection of Contemporary Indian English Poetry by a galaxy of 39 poets, most of them “from the younger generations,” as part of his Annual Feature on Indian-English Writings. I profusely thank him for having brought it out despite his tight academic schedules. We have six literary expositions – all of them very illumining and absorbing – as curated by the redoubtable Charanjeet, our sapient Editor for Literary Articles, notwithstanding her grueling routine. For the regular Poetry Section, Ambika Ananth treats us to a unique poetic feast by a line-up of 10 poets, though squeezed by a line-up of domestic commitments herself.
And enjoy the carte du jour of 9 multi-dimensional short stories, as well as reviews of 7 interesting books – poetry, fiction, essays – by competent reviewers, from Atreya’s section of Fiction and Reviews.
Not to miss is a compulsive visual delight – “A walk through installation art of Durga puja pandals of Kolkata” in the Art Gallery exhibited by Editor Priyadarshi Patnaik jointly with Pinaki Gayen and supported by the youthful spirits – Stuti Modi, Preksha Trivedi, Hardik Tharad, Archit Tekriwal, Rohan Khameshra and Neerav Jain.
In sum, I am sure you would enjoy the polychromatic content in the present number. Happy reading.
PS/NB: I request every intending contributor to carefully go through the Submission guidelines. No fancy in formatting, spacing, fonts and alignment please. Piece of writing and bio-note in MS Word. Author photos/ book cover scans in Jpg.