Monday, 10 August 2020

An Evening with Books & Coffee...

Readers’ Rendezvous
Cordially invites you for the
 Third Edition of its Friday Fiesta 
An Evening with Books & Coffee
Friday, 14 August 2020
 6 pm onwards…

On Zoom

Book Review 1

Post-Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back by Matthew d'Ancona

Dr. K. Ganesh
Faculty, University of Madras, Chennai
Head [Retd], Research Department of English
Madras Christian College (Autonomous)
Chennai, TN

Book Review 2

Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster

Dr. Abdul M Jinnah
Jamal Mohamed College (Autonomous)
Trichy, TN

Book Review 3

The Pregnant King by Devdutt Pattanaik

Dr. Saumi Mary M
St Xavier’s College For Women
Aluva, Kerala

Book Review 4

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Prof. Muthu Meena
Department of English
Mannar Thirumalai Naicker College (Autonomous), Madurai, TN

Book Review 5

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Poornima Shree, T. M
III BA English
Bishop Heber College (Autonomous), Trichy, TN

The Books & Coffee Virtual Meet will start sharp at six pm, Friday, 14 August 2020.

Hence participants are requested to enter the ZOOM waiting room at least ten minutes in advance.

Since we have limited participation for this informal Meet, [50 max] admission will be on first-come-first-served basis alone.

To Register -

Sunday, 2 August 2020

An Evening with Books & Coffee...

Readers’ Rendezvous

Cordially invites you for the

Second Edition of

An Evening with Books & Coffee

07 August 2020, 6 pm onwards

on Zoom 

1. The Better Man by Anita Nair

Dr. R. Chakkaravarthy
Head, Department of English
G. T. N Arts College, Dindigul, TN

2. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard

Dr. Kunhammad K. K
Head, Dept of Studies in English
Kannur University, Kerala

3. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

Prof. Sharon Alice Christy
Department of English
Lady Doak College, Madurai, TN

4. Vaster than Empires and More Slow by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ms. Bhuvaneshwari Ramaswamy
II MA English Literature
Mother Teresa Women’s University
Kodaikanal, TN

5. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Ms. Apphia Carol
Child Author, Poet, Diarist
Homeschooling, Chennai

To register, click on the link given below.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

'Every artist writes or creates because they can't help it’...

The Call of An Artist | Manohar Devadoss

I remember signing off on our last past post here, with the words,

‘When you have an overpowering urge to tell something, just express it!’

‘Jot them down! Put them on canvas! Without bothering about anything else! - like the public man, or cheering crowds!’

This post, in a kutty little way, would then try to elucidate on these lines, by invoking a passionate artist who very fervently and intensely stood by this conviction, evoking the aura of his region with such finesse and flourish!

Art for heart’s sake!!!

Presenting Padma Shri Manohar Devadoss, ladies and gentlemen, and the legend’s delectable drawings from his book titled, Multiple Facets of My Madurai.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of the Father of our Nation, in his admirable foreword to this 2007 - ‘Manohar Devadoss’s ‘ink-painting’ publication, calls it the ‘Manohar-Mahema-Madurai miracle’!

Says Gandhi, in his Foreword to this, his 2007 book (republished in 2019) –

‘Madurai, Manohar and Mahema’ are a threesome miracle. All three lose themselves in each other. All three find themselves in each other. Together they form the subject, the skill and the soul of this book.

Mahema read out to Manohar from books, articles and papers, things about Madurai. And as she did so, Manohar’s own indelible memory of scenes and spaces formed the stunning images that this volume holds.

Manohar’s pen draws with ink, now flowing thick as a tail-brush, and now as thin as an ant’s trail on talc. As his nib moves, slowly, deliberately, cell by cell, point by point, in lines as clean as Euclid’s and as fine as the veins on a peepal leaf, the light and shade of that city’s life arise on the page.

A tilt of the pen here, a pressure on it there, now strong, now slight, a joinery here, an ellipsis there, a smear here, the ponds filled with water, buffalos wallowing, ducks paddling, vendors selling, elephants gamboling and hills sitting in sage reflection. Here is art that makes photography seem ersatz and words a failed exercise in description.

Such is the ‘reality of representment’ that adorns each of the seventy two intricately detailed pen-and-ink drawings. 

An added joy for art lovers is the fact that, each drawing is dated, and is also accompanied by a lovely textual illustration to the left of the page, that adds to the ecstatic feel of each of the drawings!

Moreover, these drawings spread over a lifetime, start with the earliest one that was done in December 1983, to the latest one in July 2010.

A passionate artist, Manohar Devadoss speaks in the preface to this, his book on his artistic call - 

And I’m sure you’re gonna be so moved beyond measure by his great passion and commitment towards this, his artistic call!

Indeed! there’s no stopping you, when there’s a voice nudging you from behind, that says, ‘Just go ahead! Create!’

Says the legend – Padma Shri Manohar Devadoss -

As a teenager, I realized that I had a feel for rural scenes and architectural entities, a good comprehension of perspective and a flair for ink drawings. Over the years, ink-on-paper became my preferred medium, although it is not an easy one.

Tonal differences are created by changing the thicknesses of black lines and by varying the spaces between the lines.

How to distill for instance, the mood and magic of a still fragrant early morning jasmine garden in black ink without the use of color and depict the fine gradation of texture in every surface?

I immensely enjoyed addressing such challenges in my artwork. Fortunately for me, these very challenges became my assets in later years.

My vision declined, my color perception faded and my acuity weakened. But I could still clearly see black and white.

With passing years. I found it harder and harder to draw and I had to spend longer and longer hours at my easel…

However, my motivation to draw and the pleasure I derived from the creative work never declined.

While capturing statuary in ink, my emphasis was on factual precision. So it was with lofty monuments too, but I used my own input in creating the scenes at the ground level, as they really were.

I created the artwork on street houses by drawing upon my knowledge of the structure of such buildings, by poring over disparate visual sources, by sketching existing abodes and by using trigonometry.

As for rural scenes by and large, I carefully composed them based on my deeply engraved memory and our existing rustic landscapes, without compromising authenticity.

This book brings into focus multiple facets of my Madurai. Through its artwork and the text, this portfolio is also an indirect plea for the civic renewal of this town.

My hope is that its citizens will nurture, cherish and preserve its varied, rich Heritage even while looking forward to its assured, vibrant future.

Bespeaks volumes to the ‘rootedness’ of this legend in his own social milieu, his time and his place, and how his Madurai for him becomes a microcosm of the entire world!

How true proves Bella Lewitzky’s renowned line, ‘To move freely you must be deeply rooted’!

Shri Devadoss, Manohar Devadoss is the bestest exemplar to this credo, in his own inimitable ways!

And howww!!!

And now, for a kutty little dash and sprinkle from off his Madurai for us all excerpted from this, his book titled, Multiple Facets of My Madurai!

[Immense appreciation to Aravind Eye Hospitals, Madurai, for having published the seventh edition of this memorable book.]

[And kudos to the JC Art Gallery, Madurai, for making these treasure-troves from off a legend's exquisite evocative sketchings, framed in their collectibles on display for the lay. Double delight when you are informed that, each of the sketchings is embellished with a succinct commentary in the legend's own voice, describing each of his works for us all!]

Indeed, pages from ages past, come alive with such 'reality of representment', in such real 'flesh and blood' in the rich, evocative sketchings of Devadoss, Manohar Devadoss!

[PS: You may want to know about another legend, an exemplary artist and a Professor of English, from Madurai, J Vasanthan, in our 2014-blogpost HERE!]  

Pen-and-ink drawing, completed in June 1986 - represents Meenakshi Kalyanam - Wedding of Meenakshi -carved in high relief on a large, tall stone pillar in Pudu Mandapam (New Hall) built three-and-a-half centuries ago - opposite the east gateway tower of the temple complex. Meenakshi Kalyanam was a favourite theme for sculptors of yore. Similar groupings of these deities can be seen in many other places in and around Madurai.

The culmination of the Chithirai Festival in the triumphant procession - on the morning of the day after the wedding - of the two impressive thers (temple chariots), one for the bride and the other for the bridegroom. The two gargantuan chariots pass through the four Masi Streets.

Among the finest entities within the mahal that is extant today is the Nataka Sala (the Drama Hall), north of the Swarga Vilasam. An arcade runs on all four sides, about eight feet above this depressed rectangular hall. The relatively short columns lining the arcade support a complex of foliated arches, above which are ornate entablatures, high corridors, topped by an arched roof seventy feet above the floor. The entire surface between the arches and the roof is interspersed with yali-like figures.

Gundu Malli (globular jasmine) buds are tight, hardy, fragrant and pearl-like. These buds from Madurai are considered the best, not merely in Tamil Nadu, but in the entire country. Many believe they are among the finest in the world. I have always been fond of jasmine. When i completed this drawing in June 2003,  I experienced a special sense of fulfillment that I had been granted the grace to create such a piece of artwork even with my severely impaired vision.

Approved by Pope Gregory XV, the revitalized Madurai Catholic Mission built St. Mary's, a small church in the early 1840s. Madras, as the state capital of Tamil Nadu, has many churches ranging from the simple to elegant to quaint to the stately. And yet, this huge metropolis, as far as I know, cannot boast of a single significant church having twin spires with a beauty all its own, as St. Mary's Cathedral in Madurai does!

And the legend's specially autographed copy for me!

A million thanks to my little cousin paapa, for getting me a signed copy of Padma Shri Manohar Devadoss's book, and thereby making this post a reality! 

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

What is the significance of Art in everyday life?

Anita Nair | On the Artistic Process

Anita Nair has been one of my favourite writers of all time, for any many reasons!

One reason why we at the Department of English decided to personally invite her over to MCC, to talk to our students at the Department of English, over a ‘Book Review Event’ on 06 April 2016!

And so nice of her, she gladly accepted to grace the occasion. 

Ms. Anita Nair with our PG Final Years, 06 April 2016

The rest, as y’all know, is history, and is also on our YouTube page HERE! ;-)

At MCC, Ms Anita Nair motivated students to read good books of all hues, and also spoke at length on the writing process.

Says Ms Anita Nair -

When you look back on your life, and you ask yourself, ‘Did I write all by myself?’, or ‘Did I write because the world expected me to write in a certain way?’

And well, given the choice between individual worth and societal worth, I have always maintained that individual worth is more important than collective worth and it has always been the leitmotif of most of my works. That’s because I've always believed that in the contest between individual and the society the individual always prevails!

Now fast forward to a TedX talk given my Ms Anita Nair in November 2017 titled, ‘A Story about a Story-teller’, where she talks again on a similar theme! And with such apt and able illustrations!

To Ms Anita Nair, then, artistic success takes place only when one moves out of one's comfort zone to create an impact on those around as well as on oneself.

Says Ms Anita Nair –

After publishing my first two novels, and tasting success, I was constantly being invited to dinner parties and speaking engagements, world tours, etc.

But at some point in my life, I took a step back and asked myself, “Is this artistic success, all this fame, is this truly a measure of artistic success?”


“Is artistic success something when an artist raises the bar or pushes himself or herself beyond the limits?”

You tell yourself that you'll pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. And that’s when you feel you’ve made an impact not just on the world around you but also on yourself.

So this was a question that was troubling me.

I was asking myself this question over and over again. Am I going to play to the gallery?

Am I going to keep writing the same kind of things that have got me success or am I going to push the barrier higher?

So that’s when I remember something significant that happened in my life.

I was working in advertising in Bangalore. These were the pre-internet days.

It was a little agency and so I had to climb up the steps and in the reception, there was a Kathakali dancer standing in his full costume. He was there to do an ad for a rate card. I soon found out that he was a figure of ridicule. For one minute of stage time, the Kathakali dancer practices for almost a record 100 hours! But all his practice of nine years goes for contempt and scorn in a moment like this!

It was then that I wanted to write a book on artistic success.

To me artistic success is about pushing the barriers.

Taking it to the next level to be able to tell myself at the end of it all that this was worth it.

What is the significance of Art in everyday life?

It's probably a work of painting that hangs on the wall or a piece of music that you listen to when you walk up the stairs in the reception area, and then you forget all about it. 

Or probably a book that you’d read never to look at again.

But somewhere somebody is working endlessly on it and toiling endlessly for it.

And for what Joy???

Yesterday I was having dinner with my publisher and she was telling me about a cricketer who was writing his biography.

And once the economics of publishing was explained to him, he was shocked and he turned around and said, ‘Why do writers write? There seems to be no profit of it!’

Indeed! There's no money in it. Writers write because we can't help ourselves. We have to write.

Every artist writes or creates because they can't help it.

So yes, there is serendipity!


That's one of the things I need to remember as a storyteller. I need to be able to create my stories.

At the end of it all when I look back and ask myself, ‘Why do I write?’

‘To lead from ignorance to the beginnings of knowledge’.

‘From prejudice to a better understanding and to reaffirm in these time, wreaked with discrimination and terror, that there is still hope!’

‘And that we need to be as much Humane as we are human’.

‘Nothing else matters. Nothing else is of consequence!’

So beautifully, straight from the heart, she’s summed it all up!

W. B. Yeats in his ‘Irish Airman’ poem, says something on a similar vein –

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

Chinua Achebe also has a delightful take that runs on similar lines –

Says Achebe, Chinua Achebe –

For me there are three reasons for becoming a writer.
The first is that you have an overpowering urge to tell a story.
The second is you have the information for a unique story waiting to come out, and
The third is that you consider the whole project worth the considerable trouble.
I have sometimes called it terms of imprisonment you have to endure to bring it to fruition…

So yup! From Anita Nair, to Chinua Achebe to W. B. Yeats, they all have one motivational liner for us all – literary souls -

When you have an overpowering urge to tell something, just express it!

Jot them down! Put them on a canvas! Yes! Without bothering about anything else – I repeat – anything else! - like the public man, or cheering crowds!

Just write…!



And the rest will fall in place! Straightaway! ;-)

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

'Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers...'

Guernsey Literary Society | Shaffer & Barrows

Well, if you’ve loved reading Byatt’s Possession, then this one’s for you as well!

It’s a lovely 2008 novel  titled, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society written by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows!

A novel that – much like Possession – is made up entirely of letters and letters and letters!

Whereas Byatt’s Possession has been a single-author’s creation, this one’s by a duo!

Added, in Byatt, you’ve got a great overflowing love for words! Sample this –

Christabel LaMotte says in her letter to Ash,

Words have been all my life, all my life - this need is like the Spider’s need who carries before her a huge Burden of Silk which she must spin out - the silk is her life, her home, her safety - her food and drink too - and if it is attacked or pulled down, why, what can she do but make more, spin afresh, design anew!

Replace ‘Words’ with ‘Books’ and you have the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society!

As simple as that!

And what’s more? -

You don’t have the scholarly encodings and decodings and the resultant quests that are staple to Byatt’s Possession anywhere over here! ;-)

In fact, what lends the Guernsey Society its added charm is its simply lovely bubbly plot!

There is a dash and sprinkle of all high-renowned Victorian characters strewn all over the novel!

Set against the backdrop of World War II, when London is slowly stepping out of the gory effects of the war, the novel narrates the story of a writer by name Miss Juliet Ashton (reminded of Possession here?) who is on the hunt for a good subject for her next book!

The story as I see it –

A young lady [Miss Juliet Ashton] who also doubles up as a literary being, gets to know about a Reading Society in a faraway island – Guernsey - a lovely-o-lovely, lush green sylvan island!

By a fortuitous coincidence perhaps, this young lady’s [Miss Juliet Ashton] copy of Charles Lamb’s Essays of Elia gets into the hands of a handsome ‘Guernsey’ guy, who’s also member of this Reading Club aka Literary Society in the lovely island of Guernsey!

Miss Juliet, the vibrant literary being that she is, eagerly catches up on news about this Guernsey Literary Society – officially called the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! ;-)

She braves all odds (and even her fiancĂ©) to meet up with the members of the Guernsey Literary Society! And hey presto! Without prior notice, she arrives one fine morning in the island and…

The rest is for y’all to read and to enjoy over a cuppa coffee! ;-)

There are a host of things that one would sure love about this delightful unputdownable read!

For one, the lovely delightful quotes that make the reading such an engaging exercise!

Sample these –

What is the matter with me? Am I too particular? I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with.

In the meantime, will you accept this small gift from me? It is his Selected Letters. I think it will tell you more about him than any biography ever could. E. V. Lucas sounds too stately to include my favorite passage from Lamb. I find my moral sense in the last stage of a consumption and my religion getting faint.

While there, Lamb helped Hunt paint the ceiling of his cell sky blue with white clouds. Next they painted a rose trellis up one wall. Then, I further discovered, Lamb offered money to help Hunt's family outside the prison.

Though he himself was as poor as a man could be. Lamb also taught Hunt's youngest daughter to say the Lord's Prayer backward. You naturally want to learn everything you can about a man like that.

That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive! All with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.

I no longer live on Oakley Street, but I'm so glad that your letter found me and that my book found you. It was a sad wrench to part with the Selected Essays of Elia. I had two copies and a dire need of shelf-room, but I felt like a traitor selling it. You have soothed my conscience.

I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true. ;-)

Emily had to make Heathcliff up out of thin air! And what a fine job she did. Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life. ;-)

Amelia told us you would like to know about our book society and what we talk about at our meetings. I gave a talk on the Bronte girls once when it was my turn to speak. I'm sorry I can't send you my notes on Charlotte and Emily.

I used them to kindle a fire in my cookstove, there being no other paper in the house.

Think of it! We could have gone on longing for one another and pretending not to notice forever. This obsession with dignity can ruin your life if you let it.

After all, what's good enough for Jane Austen ought to be good enough for anyone. But it's a lie. The story is about to begin, and every day will be a new piece of the plot.  

Excuse my unburdening myself. My worries travel about my head on their well-worn path, and it is a relief to put them on paper. I will turn to more cheerful subjects such as last evening's meeting of the Society.

None of us had any experience with literary societies, so we made our own rules: we took turns speaking about the books we'd read.

At the start, we tried to be calm and objective, but that soon fell away, and the purpose of the speakers was to goad the listeners into wanting to read the book themselves.

Once two members had read the same book, they could argue, which was our great delight. We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to one another.

Other Islanders asked to join us, and our evenings together became bright, lively times we could almost forget, now and then, the darkness outside. We still meet every fortnight.

For instance, they were always changing curfew. Eight at night, or nine, or five in the evening if they felt really mean-minded. You couldn't visit your friends or even tend your stock. We started out hopeful, sure they'd be gone in six months. But it stretched on and on. Food grew hard to come by, and soon there was no firewood left.

Days were grey with hard work and evenings were black with boredom. Everyone was sickly from so little nourishment and bleak from wondering if it would ever end.

We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us. Elizabeth used to say a poem. I don't remember all of it, but it began. Is it so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done, to have advanced true friends.

Lots more of lovely lines and quotable quotes are there on this lovely read for us to taste and to digest!

So why wait dear gentle reader?

Grab your copy asap!

If possible, right away! ;-)

Happy reading to you! 

image: amazondotcom