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The Literary City

Explocity Podcasts

EXPLOCITY PODCASTS presents THE LITERARY CITY With Ramjee Chandran. This literary podcast is devoted to books and authors. It features interviews with a stellar line up of authors, both world famous and also authors who are being discovered—the only criterion being the quality of the prose. Topics are generally literary and include history, biographies, literature and literary fiction. The Literary City podcasts celebrates authors, poets, playwrights, grammar police, literary lounge lizards...and, oh yes, a cunning linguist or ten.

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04/11/23 • 39 min

That was my guest today, the incomparable Shobhaa De.
Shobhaa is one of the most famous writers in India and her reputation has travelled everywhere, but it behooves me to talk about the realpolitik of Shobhaa De’s literature.
Let me tell you why Shobhaa De is so significant to English writing in India. Not only was her great success as an author inspiring, but to my mind, the most significant thing I can say about Shobhaa is that she kicked down the doors for generations of women writers who followed her.
Uniquely, she gave women a voice. At the risk of reduction, I’ll venture that her novels explore the lives and loves of Indian women who embrace their sensuality without apology.
Despite, simply living their lives is often a patriarchy-fostered challenge, her protagonists are never sad victims. They follow their dreams rather than fit into society's expectations. At the fount of their sentience, they will not be marginalised.
I imagine that such a narrative is even possible only because Shobhaa’s prose is an honest prose, without artifice.

And funny. But the lightness she brings to this prose often belies the dark realities that she is addressing. While most literature of this genre tends to be disconsolate... even self-pitying— the humour I speak of, in Shobhaa’s narratives, is a testament to her skill as a writer.
For this reason, I am sure, her writing has been the subject of almost one hundred academic dissertations—of researchers and scholars in universities around the world—studying feminist literature—and I imagine this number is only growing.
Recently, Shobhaa launched her latest book titled “Insatiable”, and it is a memoir filled with anecdotes and personal experiences—told interestingly from the perspective of food. Artfully, Shobhaa De crafts a narrative using food as the conduit for descriptions of events in her life that happened around it.
In literature, eating and not-eating are always symbolic, and food always means something other than mere food. Food is a fun metaphor in literature. Ernest Hemingway used it as did Shobhaa’s favourites, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.
And now, here she is, joining me from her home in Bombay to talk about her life and literature.
ABOUT SHOBHAA DE
Shobhaa Dé, voted by Reader's Digest as one of 'India's Most Trusted People' and by Daily News and Analysis as one of the '50 Most Powerful Women in India', is a bestselling author and a popular social commentator. Her works, both fiction and non-fiction, have been featured in comparative literature courses at universities in India and abroad. Her writing has been translated into many languages including Hindi, Marathi, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish, among others. Shobhaa lives in Mumbai with her family.
Buy Insatiable: https://amzn.to/3KKJ2mZ
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the origin of the phrase, "SHIT HIT THE FAN".
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
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04/11/23 • 39 min

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11/15/22 • 44 min

There’s something about Huma. Something happens a few seconds after you meet her. You fall in love with her.
Now, this immediate attraction is not for the typical reasons—of which admittedly there are many. And it has nothing to do with things like innate goodness, inner light and such other syrup. Well, I'm putting it down to some “cannot tell what it is x-factor” and I’m moving on.
My guest today is Huma Abedin. She works with Secretary Hillary Clinton. Huma is former Deputy Chief Of Staff of Hillary Clinton and at present, something even more central, I’m assuming.
Huma has worked with Hillary Clinton in this job for over 25 years. It isn't an easy job. I imagine that it would take not only a tough internal spirit, and a strong work ethic of course, but requires something more deeply intellectual to be able to comprehend the meaning of such a job and do it well.
It was not the simplest thing for Huma Abedin to have lived in the Venn diagram overlap of being BOTH an American AND a Muslim whilst living in the penumbra of the Clintons and the White House.
This, more than anything, summarises the ethic, the plurality, the dualism if you like, of her book Both/And, that I will discuss today with her.
Both/And is a 500-page memoir of Huma’s life...till date. It has her life from childhood, her parents, her growing up years in Saudi Arabia and then in the United States of course, and all her years working for Hillary Clinton.
Reading all the reviews of her book in the international press, I found the central theme that ran ran through much of the world's press—newspapers, TV—reviewing Both/And tending towards the trivial and reductive—rather than her as an author, a thinker, her faith and her pivotal role as an assistant to one of the most powerful women in the world. One who was this close to becoming the first woman president of the United States.
But when I read Both/And, I discovered in it, a woman, a writer, a polyglot, a diplomat, and a sponge to knowledge and—I repeat—something more deeply intellectual that helps her comprehend the true meaning of her job.
With Both/And Huma steps out from stage left, right into her own spotlight...and maybe a career in politics? I am privileged to be able to ask that and other questions of her today.
ABOUT HUMA ABEDIN
Huma Abedin has spent her entire career in public service and national politics, beginning as an intern in First Lady Hillary Clinton’s office in 1996. After four years in the White House, she worked in the U.S. Senate as Senior Advisor to Senator Clinton and was Traveling Chief of Staff for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. In 2009, she was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of State. Huma served as Vice Chair of Hillary for America in 2016, resulting in the first woman elected nominee of a major political party. She currently serves as Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff. Born in the United States and raised in Saudi Arabia, Huma moved back to the U.S. in 1993. She lives in New York City with her son, Jordan.
Buy Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds: https://amzn.to/3EpDlHY

WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the interesting origins of the word, "PABLUM"
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
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Music credits: Daddy_s_Music and ArtSlop_Flodur - Pixabay

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11/15/22 • 44 min

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10/11/22 • 39 min

What and when was the first English language novel?
There are some contenders for this honour, but the most plausible for me would be Pamela by Samuel Richardson—first published in 1740 and several times since. Widely accepted as the first English novel, it is a racy, saucy, sexually-orientated story—and , of course, for that reason it was the world’s first bestseller.
In 1832, the first book covers started to happen. In America and Britain, these books, with designed covers, sold for a penny. They were largely the retelling of gothic horror stories. For that reason these books came to called Penny Dreadful.
A significant moment in the history of publishing was the advent of the American brothers Albert and Charles Boni, who started a mail-order publishing company. The pioneering efforts of Albert Boni resulted in the creation of the major publishing company , Random House—so called because they decided that their choice of published literature would be random by nature.
Their success was followed in 1935 by Penguin—a hugely successful British publisher that printed clearly branded books that appealed to everyone. And mention of Penguin brings me to my guest today, David Davidar—the best known name in Indian publishing
David was hired by Penguin in 1985. First as an editor and then very quickly as Publisher, David took Penguin places—from publishing six books in 1987 to 150 titles annually.
By the time he moved to Penguin Canada in 2004, David had published a stable of thoroughbreds—here’s a sample—Shashi Tharoor, Vikram Seth, Ruskin Bond, Romila Thapar, Salman Rushdie and William Dalrymple.
One of my earlier guests on this show, author Pavan Varma made singular mention of having been first published by David.
David Davidar is, at once, a publisher, an editor, a novelist of three wonderful books. He runs Aleph Book Company—a top-shelf publishing house, in partnership with Rupa Publications, and continues to battle alongside the gods of academe with weapons of mass typography.
Those in the business will not need me to say anything. For those who are readers of books, who might not be familiar with the publishing industry, you can easily attribute a large part of your proud book collection to one man. And I feel privileged to be able to introduce him to you today.
ABOUT DAVID DAVIDAR
David Davidar is an Indian novelist and publisher. He is the author of three published novels, The House of Blue Mangoes, The Solitude of Emperors, and Ithaca. In parallel to his writing career, Davidar has been a publisher for over a quarter-century. David Davidar has been around books all his life.
Buy A Case Of Indian Marvels: https://amzn.to/3VhkEMO
Listen to Constantine Cavafy's poem, "ITHACA", the inspiration for David's book by the same name, recited by Sean Connery : https://youtu.be/i8is5ZE4_CU
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss "#"—which is the "hash" or "pound" symbol.
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
Reach us by mail: [email protected] or simply, [email protected].
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Or here: https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/
Cover photo: Rachna Singh

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10/11/22 • 39 min

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11/01/22 • 47 min

There is an old saying, “Dead men tell no tales”.
But how wonderful and useful it would be if we could follow a conversation into the afterlife? And what more wonderful than if you wrote about it and then won the Booker Prize for your efforts? Is this the stuff from which dreams are made?
Clearly true if you consider my guest today, Shehan Karunatilaka, winner of the The Booker Prize 2022.

In Shehan’s novel, The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida, the main protagonist is dead but the character is alive. The novel—set in a terrible patch of Sri Lankan history between 1983 and 1990—is the story of a photojournalist who dies. In the afterlife, he finds himself in the "In-between"—a state between "Down There" which is life on earth and "The Light"—and where that is, is revealed at the end of the book.
The protagonist is confronted by—of all things—a bureaucracy in the afterlife and he is told he has a week, or seven moons, to find out how he died if he wanted to make it to The Light.
The novel touches the reader in many ways. Not the least to wonder what happens if we were indeed to find bureaucracy in the afterlife. Even the disappointment that visits us upon such a proposition is not rational. Yet...
Shehan uses the second person as a literary device. Literary fiction written in the second-person is rare. This style is unusual because the narrator tells the story to the reader using the personal pronoun "you." The perspective suggests that the reader is the protagonist.
Shehan Karunatilaka’s prose is compelling...gripping, even. The turns of phrase and word come together like play dough in what seems to be an absently crafted sculpture.
Intelligent prose is never without its humour and Shehan’s prose has a river of funny as its undercurrent.
He defines a queue in Sri Lanka as “...an amorphous curve with multiple entry points.” (Clearly, a south Asian malaise.)
"The afterlife is a tax office and everyone wants a rebate."
"You drift among the broken people with blood on their breath."
All this and you are still on Page 10.
But humour is peppered through the entire narrative and some of it is recognisable to typical snarky South Indian humour. This on page 135: ”...frilly shirt tailored by a blind man”.
In the context though, the humour is a noir humour that characterises places in the world that are in strife—such as Ireland, parts of the Middle East and Shehan’s home country, Sri Lanka.
I really cannot wait to ask him about all this.
At the time of this recording, Shehan has just won the Booker Prize, a little over a week ago. I know that the entire world’s media waits to talk to him and so, I am particularly happy that he chose to spend this time with me.
ABOUT SHEHAN KARUNATILAKA
Shehan Karunatilaka is a Sri Lankan writer whose first book, Chinaman, won the Commonwealth Book Prize, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and the Gratiaen Prize, and was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize. Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is his second book, it won the Booker Prize 2022.

Buy The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida: https://amzn.to/3gUhnDw
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the interesting origins of the phrase, "DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES"
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
Reach us by mail: [email protected] or simply, [email protected].
Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
Or here: https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

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11/01/22 • 47 min

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10/25/22 • 35 min

There is a point late in the lives of the very accomplished, when they unscrew the caps of their pens and write a compelling memoir of their lives.
But how does a self-effacing journalist write an autobiography? By not writing one. Not in the stock sense, anyway.
My guest today is journalist TJS George. He is 94 years old. His life as a working journalist began when he was 19. That was in 1947—in the months following India’s Independence. And ever since, George has had a ringside seat to India—and to every twist in its tale.
Journalists always have the best stories. After years of working their profession as a “little pitcher with big ears”—fly on the wall, if you prefer—they wait impatiently to fill the ears of the world with anecdotes.
But instead of all that, George’s latest book, “The Dismantling Of India”, is the closest we have got to an autobiography—unless, of course, he decides to up and write a classic memoir.
I read this book as a narrative history of India to be harvested from the biographical portraits of 35 Indians. They include people from art, entertainment, politics, science, business, crime and cause—profiles—at times in contrast; sometimes in concert.
But the word “dismantling” in the title of the book amounts to disappointment, because from the day he joined as a rookie reporter, the newly-born India has been on a downward trajectory, aging poorly—day after year after decade.
Biographies bring people to life, as a tapestry of the stories of their lives. An autobiography is supposed to do the same thing—a personal narrative gives an author licence—to a point of view, an explanation, or even an excuse. George has no use for excuses and his writing leaves no wiggle room for explanation.
The reason I equate this book to an autobiography is because it seemed to me that he was expressing his own life story through the aggregate of the lives of those he has profiled.
TJS George’s writing is not misplaced modesty. It seems to come from a conviction that he is—first and last—a journalist and thus, the story should come first, second and last. And any trace of the writer’s presence be excised—except by good example, to every journalist.
ABOUT TJS GEORGE
He has worked as a journalist and editor across India and Southeast Asia. He is co-founder before of Asiaweek in Hong Kong. Returning to India, he has worked with the Indian Express as Editor and as a columnist. He has written 20 books, including biographies of Krishna Menon, Lee Kuan Yew, Nargis and MS Subbulakshmi. He is a recipient of the 2011 Padma Bhushan and numerous other awards. He lives in Bangalore.
Buy The Dismantling Of India: https://amzn.to/3zaug2x
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the interesting origins of the word, "SCOUNDREL."
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
Reach us by mail: [email protected] or simply, [email protected].
Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
Or here: https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

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10/25/22 • 35 min

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10/18/22 • 34 min

In the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, the central character, the fulcrum of the story is Draupadi...in my view. But epics in mythology, the Mahabharata included, are full of tales of male valour. Mythology instills in its male protagonists, high chivalry. Men are always saving women.
But whenever women are warriors, they are usually fierce and angry, wreaking vengeful havoc everywhere. I haven’t read many historical or mythological stories of calm and collected women whose battle strategies were super-intelligent and saved a bunch of men.
Men, valour. Women, wrath. But from where do these messy notions spring?
From the stories we have been told. From subjective telling of history, the epics, folklore and mythology.
In the Mahabharata, we learned the story of how Yudhishtra gambled away his wife in a game of dice with his cousins and then sat back helplessly and humiliated while she was manhandled in the court. And then of course he went to war and avenged...I am not sure what he was avenging when he was the one who went and gambled her away. And then how did the wife, Draupadi, feel about being used as a poker chip? No one asked her, clearly.
Obviously, this narrative needs to change to include questions such as this. And the good thing is that it might just be happening, at an accelerated pace.
My guest today, Koral Dasgupta—one among a tribe of writers who seek to re-tell stories from the epics, but from a woman’s perspective. Today we talk about her book Draupadi—third in a five-part series of women in mythology, called the Sati series.
Most of us in India know Hindu philosophy only by what was repurposed for kids without nuance. As adults—whether or not plumbing the depths of this philosophy is material to our daily mundane, transactions—we find it lends itself to endless interpretation and intellectual excursions.
The blurbs on her book praising her, are from noted and respected authors, like Chitra Divakaruni, Saikat Majumdar and Pavan Varma—all of whom have been my guests on this podcast. And Namita Gokhale—whom I hope we will have the honour to feature before long.
Koral is deeply philosophical as you will hear. So, let’s hear her then.
ABOUT KORAL DASGUPTA
Koral Dasgupta has published an eclectic range of books. Draupadi is her seventh. Besides India, Koral’s books are shelved in university libraries across the world, including Harvard, Columbia, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Wales, Duke, North Carolina and Texas. Her work is discussed in the context of gender studies, art, myth and ecocritical literature. Koral’s fourth book has been optioned for screen adaptation.
Buy Draupadi: https://amzn.to/3D5LNLJ
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the phrase "self-fulfilling prophesy."
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
Reach us by mail: [email protected] or simply, [email protected].
Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
Or here: https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

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10/18/22 • 34 min

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11/08/22 • 39 min

The way I read the book, the story is about the travails of a young Indian who must make the long and labyrinthine transition from boy to man.
A difficult job when a large offset of one's opportunities in middle class India is being beholden to family, with conservative family elders and conversations in a minefield of verbal taboos.
It is hard to hold down an adult conversation with elders—always an uncomfortable thing—and incurably hard to avoid.
To wit, when you are spoken to as a perennial child right into your adulthood, there is little scope for quiet and confident assertiveness and individualism. Personas must change to suit whatever pleases the current conversation.
And all this while there's the business of growing up to contend with. Sometimes so difficult a job that many don't ever fully make it to what might be considered manhood—at least by the the stereotypical norms of the rest of the world.
An ethic that is skilfully captured by my guest today the author, Jerry Pinto.
You might say that Jerry understands the Indian middle class. His book The Education of Yuri is what people in literature would call, a bildungsroman—which is a novel about the growing up years.
It is a story of a feckless 15-year old middle class Indian teen who must make decisions about where his life is headed in the time of changing goalposts, moods and largely predictable hormones.
Jerry Pinto’s narrative sucks you into the story.
The Education Of Yuri captures the college ethic of the 70s and hits you with a litany of cultural references from the decades. Those who grew up around then would smile at references like...
“Ground Control to Major Tom”
James Hadley Chase's "No Orchids For Miss Blandish"
Hotel California... "Bring your alibis"
The 70s also were a time when the contrasting pressures of what someone wanted to do and what was good for them could be hard to handle.
So Jerry places his protagonist in a situation where he is largely free of oppressive family pressures and through Yuri’s experiences, he allows the reader a view of how society was structured.
Yuri’s decision to abandon his course in the sciences in favour of the liberal arts being an example.
And then Jerry captures the disposition of the 70s English language major and empties out his literary arsenal in this book and uses these artfully in his descriptions of Yuri’s normal life of friendships, tawdry sexual escapades, romance and inevitably, poetry.
I've been a fan of his writing—his columns and books—for many years. And it is therefore my pleasure to present him on my show.
ABOUT JERRY PINTO
Jerry Pinto is a writer and poet based in Mumbai. His books include the novels Em and the Big Hoom (winner of the Hindu Prize and the Crossword Book Award) and Murder in Mahim (winner of the Valley of Words Award, and shortlisted for the Crossword Award); the non-fiction book Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb (winner of the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema); and two books of poetry, I Want a Poem and Other Poems and Asylum. Jerry Pinto received the Windham-Campbell Prize and the Sahitya Akademi Award.

Buy The Education Of Yuri: https://amzn.to/3DJ9Ejl
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the interesting origins of the word, "FECKLESS"
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
Reach us by mail: [email protected] or simply, [email protected].
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11/08/22 • 39 min

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Different cities have different things they buy into.

In Paris there’s style—you never want to look sloppy in Paris. In New York it’s the energy of movement—try walking slowly on the sidewalk and you’ll have Fran Leibowitz come up and say "Hey! Pretend it’s a city."
In Bangalore, there is a buy-in to preserve trees.
You can ride a motorcycle on a crowded sidewalk, drive up the wrong way on a one-way street and only mildly annoy others. But try cutting a tree and the passing Bangalorean will give you a sharp look and probably make a quick call to the authorities. Indeed most homes have trees and apartment buildings are sometimes built around an existing tree. So Bangaloreans would not be surprised to see a new apartment building with a tree growing right through its floors.
This isn’t new though. Something about trees has found its way into the DNA of the city and indeed in all of us—after all in our DNA, we are part human, part city.
And the sense of greenery has expressed itself in the city having two major, botanically rich parks—Cubbon Park and Lal Bagh—each as large and as old as some of the greatest city parks in the world. Hyde Park in London, Gorky Park in Moscow, Central Park, New York, and there are others.
My guest Roopa Pai is author of the book, Cubbon Park—The Green Heart Of Bangalore.
When Roopa was researching she called and asked to interview me. I said yes of course, immediately. More than anything, this appealed to my sense of duty. Indeed, I was personally involved in an investigative story about Cubbon Park titled, The Conspiracy To Kill Cubbon Park. The story was based on some builders and politicians who were spoiling to parcel off this historic lung space to developers.
I grew up in Bangalore. The Park has been a part of my life. Roopa made me realize that I share a connection with people I will probably never meet.
Because each of us has been alone with our deepest introspection when we experience the solitude of Cubbon Park. A bliss of birds and dogs—and oddly, the company of a hundred other humans who exist and at the same time, don’t.
Roopa Pai is a widely published author having written several children’s book ranging from Indian mythology to Economics.
She is an engineer—of computer science—a restaurant reviewer and a sometimes travel writer.
Her ability to deal with such diverse subjects comes from Roopa being a fascinating subject for an urban petri dish. And beneath a charming and unassuming front, an incisive and perceptive mind.
Let’s find out all about her and about Cubbon Park.
ABOUT ROOPA PAI
Roopa Pai is one of India’s best-known writers for children. She is Bangalore-based and has written over 25 books, ranging from picture books to chapter books and fiction to non-fiction, on themes as varied as sci-fi fantasy, popular science, math, history, economics, Indian philosophy, life skills, and medicine. When she is not writing, Roopa leads groups of children and young people on history and heritage walks across Bangalore and Karnataka, as part of her job as director of a company she co-founded, BangaloreWalks.
Buy Cubbon Park: The Green Heart Of Bengaluru: https://amzn.to/3V0cJ6o
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the phrase "UP STICKS (AND MOVE)".
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
Reach us by mail: [email protected] or simply, [email protected].
Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
Or here: https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

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10/04/22 • 37 min

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The great author Gustav Flaubert once said, “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe."
I am not buying that entirely. I believe that the art of writing is to make others believe what you want them to believe.
And by that, I don’t mean only storytelling. I mean all writing. Direct and compelling prose can raise even the most academic and arcane subjects to literature.
Sometimes academicians couch their findings in thick and opaque prose—sometimes because they don’t know how to express themselves in a more comprehensible manner. You know, in simple sentences without using jargon as crutches.
Sometimes because they think they won’t be taken seriously if they expressed themselves in a less formal style.
And some of them are great writers and storytellers. So they go looking for an outlet for their creativity and happily some find it.
My guest today is author and historian, Devika Rangachari. Clearly, she found her muse. She is both versatile and prolific. Her writing has spanned everything from a post-doctoral thesis on 10th century women rulers of Orissa to children’s books.
Reading her is a delight. Her latest book is titled Train To Tanjore and is the absorbing account of a young schoolboy who battles small-town orthodoxy in the time of World War II.
Devika captures the period and the honest sentiment that RK Narayan once did in Swami And Friends. She does this with her unique literary sparkle.
As you can tell, I enjoyed reading this book. Equally I enjoyed reading some of her academic writing. And today, I am delighted to be able to share her with you. So here she is joining me from her home in Doha, Qatar.
ABOUT DEVIKA RANGACHARI
Dr. Devika Rangachari is an award-winning writer whose book, Queen of Ice was on the White Raven list, won the Neev Young Adult Book Award, was shortlisted for the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar. Her other books include The Train to Tanjore, Queen of Fire (Parag Honour List 2022), Queen of Earth (Parag Honour List 2021; shortlisted for the Neev YA and the JK Women AutHer awards), 10 Indian Monarchs Whose Amazing Stories You May Not Know, Tales of Love and Adventure, Swami Vivekananda—A Man with a Vision, Harsha Vardhana, The Merry Mischief of Gopal Bhand, The Wit of Tenali Raman and Growing Up (IBBY Honour List 2002). She also received a prestigious national fellowship of the ministry of culture in India to research aspects of gender and historical fiction in Indian children’s literature.
Buy Train To Tanjore (Penguin Random House): https://amzn.to/3dy8Gh1
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the word "QUEEN".
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
Reach us by mail: [email protected] or simply, [email protected].
Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
Or here: https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

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09/27/22 • 39 min

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There’s much interest of late about the Chola empire.
For many reasons. The reason that looms large is the recent blockbuster movie, Ponniyin Selvan, which, is all about the most famous of the Cholas, Raja Raja.
The Cholas were one of the longest running empires in history. The earliest historic references to the Cholas dates back to 300 BC and the empire was disestablished in 1279 AD. That’s just shy of 1600 years. By comparison the Mughal empire ran from 1526 - 1857—that’s under 350 years.
While the Indian region was invaded and occupied variously for thousands of years, the Cholas were significant in their thalassocratic—or maritime—escapades in South East Asia. Their trade routes extended to Guangzhou in China and the silk route on the other side.
They ruled the Maldives and Sri Lanka and clearly they knew where to sail to and where to fight.
And there was no greater time in all the Chola years than during the rule of Raja Raja Chozhan that ran from 985 to 1014, about three decades. If you made a list of all the stuff he achieved from infrastructure and construction to military campaigns across the south and overseas, you would find it hard to figure how someone could do so much today, leave alone over a thousand years ago.
My guest today is Kamini Dandapani. She is a New York based corporate executive—Chase Manhattan Bank and McKinsey consulting. She does not call herself a historian. As a hobby she started a blog writing about historical places she visited in the south of India. There’s a link to her blog in her bio below. She says that Aleph, the reputable publishing house, called and asked to write a book.
And she did. This book is titled Raja Raja Chola, King Of Kings. I chose this book to present on this podcast because it is a wonderfully structured book.
The book is broken down into easily digestible chapters and Kamini strikes no elegant postures in her recounting the rule of one of the most respected kings of the world. In the parlance of the present, a man we might refer to as woke, efficient and progressive.
Kamini’s biography brings us closer to the history of the south in a way that cannot be replaced by comic books and movies.
She is a writer, a historian, a Carnatic singer, A Bharatanatyam dancer, a trained western classical pianist and she joins me now from her home in Manhattan.
ABOUT KAMINI DANDAPANI
Kamini Dandapani lives New York. She has had training in Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam and Pianoforte, She moved to the US to study and work, Her blog, Tales of South India resulted in the writing of her book about Rajaraja Chola, published by Aleph.
Buy Rajaraja Chola, King Of Kings: https://amzn.to/3OrTuQg
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the interesting phrase, "GIVING AN INDIAN ANSWER".
WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
Reach us by mail: [email protected] or simply, [email protected].
Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
Or here: https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

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11/22/22 • 39 min

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