Monday, November 27, 2006

Katha in schools ...

Katha concluded two days of exhibition of its titles for children, in Hari Shree Vidyalayam, the school that is a part of the Chettinad Management on the 20th and 21st November, 2006. Katha showcased its vast array of titles for children, throwing into brilliance stories written by contemporary Indian authors; folk-tales and fiction from the far-reaching Northeast.

Katha has always believed in bringing the pleasures of story-telling and fiction-appreciation to our children; with this in mind, they also organized "The Katha Review Contest 2006" in which prizes and certificates were bagged by eight enterprising students who combined creativity and appreciation in their book reviews. Katha also sponsored a "Meet the Author" session, where translator/writer Mira Naik, a resident of Besant Nagar, whose story forms part of Katha's Young Adult Fiction Collection, interacted with students of varying age groups. Children had a great time quizzing her about her own writing experiences, and tips about writing.

In a land where Noddy and Pinocchio and Cinderella were firmly rooted, India's beautiful fables and writers have finally taken center-stage.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Maitreyi Pushpa, Udaya Narayana Singh, and Katha

(Metroplus - Delhi, The Hindu, 16 November)

WORDSMITH'S WISDOM DON'T Judge Maitreyi Pushpa's book by its cover
Maitreyi spoke about "Alma Kabutari" to AMRITA TALWAR.

Nobel laureate and author Orhan Pamuk came into limelight when his stories were translated from Turkish to English. Now, people across the world can read his novels. Similarly, India with its diversity in culture, language and religion, has some great stories and storytellers. It is important that the thoughts of such writers are read by the largest possible numbers.
Keeping with the trend of translations, Katha Publishing House has brought out a double treat for literary diehards - Maitreyi Pushpa's SAARC Literary Award-winning novel "Alma Kabutari" translated from Hindi to English and U.N. Singh's poem, "Second Person Singular", translated from Maithili to English.

"Alma Kabutari" is an account of Alma, a young girl from the marginalised kabutara community. It is the story of her evolution from victim to survivor to a tenacious rebel. Identified as a criminal tribe during the colonial times, kabutaras have dealt with social and sexual subjugation by the upper caste. They are not only poor but do not possess any land or water resources, are roofless, and the society has completely shunned them.

Real person

But Alma is the revolution. Educated on her father's insistence, Alma finds that literacy brings her authority and confidence to sustain her through life's upheavals and tragedies. She is the nerve centre of her village. She leaves home and connects with society and creates an identity for herself.

Maitreyi Pushpa, who has written consistently about rural politics and is an activist of sorts for the underprivileged and exploited tribes, through her book has presented to the world, the condition of Kabutaras. "My book's protagonist is not just a character but a real person. I met her in Khill, my village in Jhansi, and was mesmerised by her beauty and touched by her plight," says Pushpa.

So how did she connect with the tribe? "These people either stayed in mountains or made a banyan tree their home. As a child, I wanted to go and help them but was always stopped by my mother. But opportunity came in the form of my brother Shovaram, who was at that time interacting with the women of the tribe." Alma is his daughter-in-law.

Kabutaras were blamed for the sins, which they never committed. "When the tribe realised that without stealing they are being blamed for it, they started robbing places and rich landlords - attacking the rice granaries and other agricultural produces. They used to be caught and jailed for life. The men spent most of the time in jails and their young wives were left behind," says Pushpa.

According to Pushpa, the kabutara women are very beautiful. "The women, to make an income sell hooch made of mahua and gur. Since men spend most of their time in jail, the women to ensure breeding of their future generations indulge in illicit sex with the upper caste."

But they have no recognition in the society. "Two kids were studying and I asked one of them, why they weren't going to school and the younger one said that the upper caste children release dogs on them."

On translating it from Hindi to English, she says, "My Hindi novel could only reach selective audience but I wanted to share the plight of these people globally and translating it into English was the perfect medium."
Translated work of SAARC award winner released
By Indo Asian News ServiceNew Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS)
Two English translations, including 'Alma Kabutari', the SAARC literary award winning Hindi novel by Maitreyi Pushpa, have been released by Katha.

Pushpa's novel and 'Second Person Singular', a collection of original poems in Maithili by Udaya Narayana Singh, were released here by noted Hindi scholar Namwar Singh Wednesday evening.In 'Alma Kabutari', translated by Raji Narasimhan, Pushpa delineates the old Kabutari tradition of sexual slavery of the Kajja tribe. The onus of breaking this vicious circle of subjugation and securing a human status for the Kabutaris falls upon young Alma.
It is an engrossing tale of both her extraordinary achievement and also a window to the lives of marginalised tribes.Pushpa, who usually writes on women's issues, said after the launch: 'Women have come a long way from their position of subordination to carving out a niche for themselves. 'They have had to bear harassment and torture to bring about this change. There are hopes resting on the new generation that they will be able to take up the challenges of the day and take this movement forward.'Pushpa won the SAARC award in 2001.'Second Person Singular' presents the strange counterpoints that one gets from an involvement with language.
The authors read excerpts from their books and interacted with the audience.
More Links @
Publishers: Katha
Cover Design: Geeta Dharmarajan
Cover Painting: Paresh Maity
ISBN 81-87649-23-2 [PB]
Price: Rs 350 [In the Indian subcontinent]

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"The man from Chinnamasta" comes to Chennai

Even the rain stayed away from November 16's launch of Indira Goswami's "The man from Chinnamasta," - and the event kicked off to a dignified, crisp start, with Katha providing the perfect platform for the release of the Jnanpith Award Winner's masterpiece, in the Odyssey Bookstore, Adyar.

Katha played host to the novel that created waves when it was first published in Asomiya - and consequently, among literary circles throughout the country, when its English translation was published.

Set in the times of unrest and turmoil; at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel paints the hoary history of Assam’s most famous temple of the Sakta cult, Kamakhya.

The story flows as swiftly as the Brahmaputra; it holds the reader’s attention as seductively. And as the narrative moves inexorably towards the end, we see the power of the storyteller in Indira Goswami. This evocative translation of Prashant Goswami makes the novel a must read for all lovers of good fiction.

These sentiments were insightfully expressed by both the Chief Guest for the launch, Kanimozhi, and Dr Nanditha Krishna, Director of the C P Ramaswami Art Foundation, who received the first copy. Kanimozhi spoke of "the conflict the book raised in my heart" and asked that "those present must also read it, that they too experience the myriad emotions it kindled in herself."

Dr Nanditha Krishna spoke evocatively - animal sacrifice was a subject that was very close to her heart, and as such, she could relate to it on many levels; she has written and spoken about the subject many times. She described the trials suffered by animals, made a heartfelt request that more people become aware of these animals' plight, and extend compassion towards them. She also gave glowing praise to Katha for having brought out translations that enabled people to read such excellent works in English - "for how would I be able to appreciate a novel written in Ahom or Asomiya, had it not been for this excellent translation? We are all deeply indebted to Katha for their sterling services."

This was followed by a charming skit presentation by The Karuna Club, an initiative of Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School, Adyar. The Karuna Club’s objective is to kindle kindness and compassion towards animals and indeed, all life around us. It is a part of activities, competitions and holds exhibitions centered around Karuna, compassion and other values. Begun in 1999, they hold an Animal Welfare Fortnight from January 14th to 30th of every year. Special mention must be made of the fact, here, that the school prohibits leather shoes, in view of its stand on animal welfare.

10 children of varying ages, starting from a sweet six year old to a dignified 15 year old played their parts perfectly in a dramatic piece which revolves around a family that decides to sacrifice an animal, when their son falls sick. The superstitious servant maid and milk man urge them to sacrifice a chicken - when the father has a change of heart. They reflect about the wrongs of taking a life away in exchange of their son's health, and adopt a little girl, instead.

The skit won a great deal of acclaim and appreciation from the crowd present. Writers Ashokamithran and Jayakantan who were present, expressed their enjoyment of the presentation. The children and Skit coordinators received gifts and certificates from Katha, given away by Dr Nanditha Krishna, who made sure to congratulate each and every child on the part they played.

Author Indira Goswami and translator Prashant Goswami, though not present for the function, took the time to convey special messages for the Chennai Launch.

"The writing of Chinnamastar Manuhto was provoked by my encounters with the tradition of animal sacrifice at the famous Kamakhya temple in Assam, a tradition that continues to this day," said Indira Goswami. "It’s a gruesome sight, there are rivers of blood flowing on festival days. My book raises a simple question -- if you can change tradition to stop human sacrifice, why not change it to exclude animal sacrifice!

Since my childhood I have been horrified by this shocking practice at the Kamakhya temple on Nilachal Hill, at Guwahati, in Assam where I grew up. Known as the greatest place of Shakti worship in all of India, the Kamakhya temple has a hoary 2000-year-old history, and has been visited by great saints such as Shankaracharya, Guru Nanak and Vivekananda. I soon learnt that there were regular sacrifices at several other temples in my native place. In fact, our mighty Brahmaputra river is known as the Red River, as a result of all the blood that flows into it from various temples.

In my novel, I have vehemently condemned the ritual of animal sacrifice at Chinnamasta, especially the buffalo sacrifice that has been going on for over 2000 years. There is no one to raise their voice against such sacrifices. I have also depicted the life of people and priests of the temple and several rituals, including that of Kumari puja, where even the daughters of prostitutes were worshipped. In fact the Ahom king Shiv Sinha married a Devdasi, who went on to rule the vast empire of the Ahom dynasty.

When the novel was serialized in a popular magazine, I was threatened with dire consequences. Shortly after this, a local newspaper, Sadin, carried an appeal about animal sacrifice, which resulted in quite an uproar -- the editor was gheraoed and a tantrik warned me. But when the appeal was published, the response was overwhelmingly in favour of banning animal sacrifice. I also had to contend with rejection from a publisher who was initially keen and had promised me a huge advance, but who later backtracked, offering instead to publish any other book of mine. But the rest, as they say, is history and Chinnamastar Manuhto went on to become a runaway bestseller!

I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if more people understood and appreciated such issues as these in all their complexity. I hope The Man from Chinnamasta will be just the right catalyst to a making us more sensitive and responsible citizens. I wish the Chennai launch all the very best!"

Translator Prashant Goswami expressed his wish that the novel provoke debate about the fate of animals. He said that "Mamoni di (Indira Goswami) has produced a jewel which book lovers need to read.''

The event wound up with Katha expressing its vote of thanks. It was a crisp, photo finish … and an issue that desperately needs to be addressed found a way to express itself. Both by the young generation, and the old. The event was a fitting bridge, the pathway that was intended to connect different points in society.

"The man from Chinnamasta" had arrived.
The Deccan Chronicle covers the Chennai Launch here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Katha - by kids!

It's November 14 - Children's Day.
This is the day children are celebrated, when everything is pushed back and you watch the youngest of the young generation step forward.
And Katha has celebrated children for more than 18 years, when Executive Director Geeta Dharmarajan first planned and brought out the first issue of Tamasha in 1988, her magazine for kids.

Tamasha!Logo (c) Katha

Katha has done this by shaping their minds, widening their perceptions, broadening their world. Through stories from India.
Katha for Kids, the banner under which Katha brings out books for children wishes to celebrate it in a different way. Our books have been reviewed by the media, by writers and artists ... why not have a book reviewed, for a change, by a kid herself? After all, aren't children the ones to derive the greatest enjoyment from them? And wouldn't they be the right people to know, really, what a kid's book is all about?
Listen to Samyukkthaa G, age 8 from Class IV C share her thoughts about the Katha book, Surangini.

"Surangini is my favourite character," she says seriously. "She is a kind young woman who loved her siblings and took care of them after her mother's death. She stood up against her father when he was wrong. Surangini offered to help Kalu and gave him her golden pot in return for the pot he broke."
"But I didn't like her to disappear," she confides. "The Zamindar's action is not right. Inspite of Kalu narrating a story which made Surangini appear, the Zamindar had not got his daughter married only because Kalu was poor."
"I really liked the story. I would have liked it better if Surangini appeared again and lived happily with her father."
What does she think of Vandana Bist's illustrations?
"I think the carpet is so nice," she says, feeling the pages of the book. "When Surangini walks on the carpet, see? It looks like it's water. And the design is so pretty!"
Samyukkthaa loves stories and has now discovered Indian writers, through Katha.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Katha's launch in Chennai


KATHA welcomes you to the launch of "The Man from Chinnamasta" by Jnanpith Award Winner Indira Goswami.

KATHA proudly presents Indira Goswami's hugely successful novel, "The man from Chinnamasta." Set in the times of unrest and turmoil at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel paints the hoary history of Assam's most famous Temple of the Sakta cult, Kamakhya.

Splendidly translated by Prashant Goswami, KATHA presents you this best-selling Asomiya Novel,

at …

The Odyssey Bookstore @ 7.00 PM, 16th November 2006.

Renowned poet and author, Ms Kanimozhi will release the book, presenting the first copy to
Dr Nanditha Krishna, Director the CP Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation. A presentation follows by The Karuna Club, an initiative of Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School.

KATHA would love to have you with them, on this special occasion.

Please feel free to contact us for more details, at 4211 4326/ 94443 90134.

Friday, November 10, 2006


We're letter-writers. And we love sharing news with you. Imagine that: long, newsy letters talking about everything that's going on in Katha, all that we're up to: the books, the schools, the teachers, kids, workshops, exciting and upcoming events ... face to face. Rubaru.
That's what it means, in Urdu. "Face to face." Imagine that you and I aren't sitting before computers - that we're actually seated at arm's length. Imagine cosy surroundings. The misty rain, and a nice book to curl up on the couch with. A nice Katha to sink into.
Here's to Rubaru, then. Katha's Winter Newsletter, for your reading pleasure.

Friday, November 03, 2006

On DD Lok Sabha ...

The DD Lok Sabha channel will feature a programme on Katha, at 9.30 PM on Friday, November 3, 2006. It's a half hour programme - be sure to catch it!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Launch today!

Katha launches
Do drop in!
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