Enter your email address to get updates of new postings: Delivered byFeedBurner

Monday, December 8, 2014

* Symposium on Literary Activism!

At the symposium on literary activism it was a curious case of reading with the grain and yet against the prevalent dominant trend. The so-called democratisation of the literary space has brought an end to the pursuit of the aesthetic value of a text in favour of its archival importance as increasingly the literature departments in the academy concentrate on culture studies. Derek Attridge (York) in the inaugural UEA Infosys lecture on “The Critic as Lover” pointed out that the language of celebration generated by the market is a reductive mechanism catering to an anti-intellectual environment. David Graham (Canongate/Granta/Pavilion) too acknowledged the situation and rightly said that in publishing the focus has shifted from the book to the market. But this is noessentially a market phenomenon. The general environment is such that often editors succumb to the threat of legal notices and violence by certain groups who do not understand the nuances in literature. The micro-publishers and independents like Ananda Lal (Writers Workshop India) and Navin Kishore (Seagull) are perhaps stubbornly occupying a niche which the mainstream is nervous to invest in.

Today’s English Departments are places for professionalisation and there is no room for the literary amateur. Saikat Majumdar (Stanford), through the example of the polymath Nirad Chaudhuri, championed the cause of the autodidact amateur in shaping the bildung (culture) of the society. Discrediting literature is divorcing oneself from its civilising influence and creating a world of cultural bureaucracy. And those who are not deemed to be politically correct are forced to live in the ON (out-of-Nation) zone, like the Croatian writer Dubravka Ugresic. She explained her situation as having turned up at a party with the invitation but the dress code is all wrong. Amit Chaudhuri (UEA) in his failed campaign for Arvind Krishna Mehrotra as Oxford Professor of Poetry showed a case of literary activism. Chaudhuri explained that the attempt to establish a non-Eurocentric cosmopolitan poet in Oxford was worth an “adventure” because it at least created a flutter in the literary space which has been marginalised. Another kind of literary activism is through translation, which both UK poet Jamie McKendrick (translating Italian poets) and CNRS’s Laetitia Zecchini (translating Arun Kolatkar) practice. Translating, and that too poetry, becomes a zone of resistance against the market forces and the general climate governed by the hermeneutics of suspicion.

In the discussion on the journal of ideas Jon Cook (UEA) mentioned the part once
played by Scrutiny and Partisan Review in the UK and the US respectively in mediating literary criticism into the public domain. Chinmoy Guha (CU) put into perspective the idea of having a symposium on literary activism in Kolkata, supposedly a society in decline and political chaos, but arguably harbouring a rich tradition of cultural and literary enterprises. In this historical context he related the activity of Bengali journals like Desh, of which he was the literary editor for ten years, and the eventual advent of global forces. Perhaps Benjamin Kunkel’s N+1 and Anjum Hasan’s The Caravan by bringing back syntactical complexity and breaking consensuses play as much a part of literary activism in the global stage as little magazines do at the local level.

It was left to Peter D. McDonald (Oxford) to acknowledge a sort of homecoming at this symposium for English Literature became a subject in the colonies even before it became a curricular discipline in Britain. Speaking in the two voices of the optimistic Don Q and the pessimistic Sancho P, he explicated the demise of traditional literariness where now Shakespeare is studied for scrutiny and no longer as a canonical figure. With reference to Maurice Blanchot’s 1959 essay “What about Criticism?”, he pointed out the role of criticism as an intermediary between journalism and the academy. Swapan Chakraborty (JU) made the pertinent point that one who studies literature does not necessarily write literature but writes about literature unlike certain other disciplines (as in Physics where one studies Physics and writes Physics). Rosinka Chaudhuri (CSSSC) hinted at the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, which is crucial to the polemics of writing and defines the strangeness of the literary.

What  ultimately emerged over the three days was a rather deconstructive view of the literary where the hierarchy of predominant and latent trends were disturbed and a degree of indecisiveness was introduced into the argument. The literary cannot have an autonomous existence irrespective of culture and society but to be of value it needs to have a certain irreverence for the institutions that make culture and society. Literature’s relevance lies in its non-belonging: sui generis for the present and thereby, paradoxically, for all times too.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

* Wordweavers Short Story Shortlisted!

Read my short story "Candy" currently shortlisted in the Wordweavers Short Story Competition 2014 -

And my poem "Behind the Curtain" is also shortlisted in the Poetry category.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

* The Leaky Pot - Winner!

My short story "He Stooped but not to Conquer" is the winner of "Stranger Than Fiction-The Leaky Pot Short Story Competition." Read the story here:

Monday, July 28, 2014

* After Bashabi Fraser's Lecture!

After Bashabi Fraser’s Lecture
The lecture’s over, the embers remain:
Echoes of the Ganga remain,
Remain the echoes of the Tay-
An hour freed from the prose of life,
Dedicated to poetry,
In a world of Ukraines and Palestines.
Words fill the rivulets of ideas
While seeking forms to flow into:
The dynamics of arrivals,
And the stasis of absences,
Chaotic and homebound, like boys
Distributing at the mouth of the school,
The mind resounds the words from its replenished store
In tune with Kathak and Holi on Scottish shore.
Thank you Saptarshi Mallick for inviting me to Prof. Bashabi Fraser's lecture at St. Xavier's Hall on 21st July, 2014.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

* Hurrah!

Applying for Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral Research Fellowship on South Asian American Literature.
Prof. Rajini Srikanth has agreed to mentor me in my postdoctoral work at UMass Boston if I get the grant. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

* Diaspora, Migration and Literature (CU and SUNY)

This year I have been assisting and participating in an online class (via Email, Facebook, Skype and Blog) on Diaspora Literature conducted jointly by the English Departments of Calcutta University, Kolkata, India and State University of New York, Oswego, USA.  Read my post "Bias Against Humanities in Diasporic Indian Families" in the our blog Diaspora, Migration and Literature at

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

* Estrade Magazine & JNU Viva

My short story "Coming Back / Going Back" is published in the Diaspora issue of Estrade Magazine (Volume 2, Issue 1, March 2014).

Dr. Santanu Majumdar conducted PhD Viva of Sakshi Chanana at JNU. Here are a couple of glimpses from that event:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

* Cha: An Asian Literary Journal

My poem "Aphasia" is one of the highly commended poems of "Void" Poetry Contest and is published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal's Sixth Anniversary Issue (Issue 23, March 2014). 

Here is the link to my poem:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

* Film-making!

I attended a Documentary film-making workshop organized by British Council in association with Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute and this is the two-minute documentary I along with my team members, Hoimashree, Shahnawaz and Rohan made on the theme "Character". Watch it!

Here is the link to all the films made during the workshop:  

Thank you Anand Gandhi and Recyclewala Films for sending me a signed DVD set of Ship of Theseus.
Is it the same ship? My answer: As far as there is continuity of consciousness there is continuity of identity. From Locke's memory criterion to Parfit's successive selves, it is the continuity of consciousness that seems to define identity. The planks of Theseus's ship are gradually removed but not all at once, so there is a continuity of identity. More so if human beings are involved as they have consciousness. Then it becomes a matter of mental acceptance just as there is a need of bodily acceptance of a foreign implant. Once such acceptance is achieved, despite structural and functional divergence, identity is maintained. So the ship is the same otherwise every moment it is a new ship for every moment something changes. Just like a river whose water changes constantly but it remains the same river.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

* At the launch of Pegasus volume on Reading and Writing Difference & Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Special in Diplomatist

The formal book release of Pegasus volume on Reading and Writing Difference: Gender and Literature (Ed. Sanjukta Das, ISBN 9789380542560, Kolkata: Monfakira, 2013, Rs. 150) took place on 4th January, 2014, at Bhawanipur Education Society. Pegasus ( and especially its steering head Prof. Salil Biswas have been striving for the last thirteen years in producing volumes on research work of academic merit in the form of journals and books. This latest volume consists of excellent research articles by academicians as well as Sanjukta Das's review article of the book Media, Gender and Popular Culture (co-authored by Sanjukta Dasgupta, Sudeshna Chakraborty and Dipankar Sinha). The Pegasus volume was launched by Dr. Paromita Chakravarti, Director of School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University. She also spoke on “Gender and Politics” delineating the history of women’s movement from the time of Mary Wollstonecraft to the modern feminism of today. She showed how issues of class, caste, race, economy, and other categories of double marginalization fracture the binary of gender difference. More so in the current consideration of issues of sexuality, gender is seen as a spectrum rather than being constricted by definition in terms of difference.

This lecture was followed by a group discussion on “Gender and Literature” by the panelists comprising young researchers Jashomati Ghose, Sanghita Sanyal, Swaty Mitra and Gargi Talapatra. They spoke variously on representation of gender in fairy tales, women’s writing in England, the coloured women’s literature in the US and gender representations in Indian literature. The audience enthusiastically participated in the discussion especially on the issue of representation of Little Red Riding Hood, which underwent transformation from an oral erotic tale of how the girl seduced the wolf and escaped to a Victorian tale of being rescued by a male hunter. One member of the audience pointed out that in a retelling of the tale in the TV series “Once Upon a Time” it is the girl who is transformed into the wolf. There was heated debate on  whether the whole oeuvre of fairy tales should be rewritten to make them gender sensitive and suitably consumable for the children of the new generation. Dr. Chakravarti intervened to say that instead of rewriting fairy tales in an age where all sorts of information is freely available it is advisable that children should be taught to read correctly. Sensitivity has to be inculcated rather than censorship imposed.

Dr. Chakravarti had earlier narrated an anecdote about the 2006 Autonomous Women's Conference where malejournalists were banned from entering because it was a women-only event. But interestingly the labouring class who worked to put up the event were all males. She pointed out that the underprivileged male workers were somehow not seen in terms of their masculinity whereas the male journalists were not treated similarly because of their privileged status. Then there was the issue of LGBTs. There was the question of whom to include - whether those who are biologically male by feel psychologically female or those who are biologically female but feel psychologically male. She then legitimately raised the perplexing question - Who is the subject of the discipline of “gender” or just who is a “woman”?

This situation made me think of a discussion I once had in Calcutta University with some fellow researchers on whether those Dalits who belong to the creamy layer and have attained economic and social status need the privilege of positive discrimination. Then came the question of Dalit consciousness. All subalterns who have passed through years of discrimination inherit this consciousness which often may not seem apparent. Gender consciousness may not be apparent when a privileged-class woman is in front of a poor male stall owner on the street. But it will be apparent if it is the middle of the night and the street is abandoned. It becomes an issue of power and not necessarily of strength but a consciousness of dominance and marginalization. So to answer the question “Who is a woman?” we just have to take two individuals from the gender spectrum and whoever is potentially the vulnerable of the pair in a given situation is the representative woman and the right subject of the discipline of gender.

Read my article "The Indian Diasporic Creative: Literature to Music" in the January 2014 issue (volume 2 issue 1) of Diplomatist magazine released on the occasion of the twelfth edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi, 7th-9th January, 2014.