By D. Lalitha Rao
In the past few months I have been to a number of book launches in Mysuru and I must say it made me feel very happy to attend. I was delighted that people are still writing books and going to the trouble of getting them published.
One of these was the launch of a book Anveshana – The Search written by a Sanskrit scholar, Dr. Anil Kumar, who has combined philosophical discourse with a plot line and created an interesting novel on a man’s search for inner peace and the answers to questions that haunt him. I read the book with the idea of reviewing it but it turned out to be charmingly quaint and sincere. I hope the author will write more novels in the future.
The other book launch was a small event but significant. A poet read out poems from her first collection, to about 25 of us gathered there, and afterwards signed copies. Prachi Joshi Johar, the author, calls her book ‘Of Desires Dilemmas and Divinity’ and writes about nature, the poetry manifest everywhere, the inner human being, and similar thoughts. Prachi has a way with words that linger on in your memory. Poetry is not a very popular genre with most people but this book was worth picking up, simply to enjoy the writer’s imagination.
Yet another book launch I happened to attend was of our Mysuru man, Aroon Raman. His latest offering, Skyfire is a sci-fi thriller chiller complete with murders, chases, torture and passion, and is a page turner. Raman is more than willing to talk about the theme of his book which is control of world climate and gave a wonderful presentation on climate control and how it can be used for evil purposes. Definitely worth buying for a quick and exciting read.
Finally, there was the launch of a most interesting volume entitled ‘Seasoned’ For Family and Friends by Morvarid Fernandez, a member of the famous Irani family of Mysuru. Her father was the founder of Jawa Motors, the makers of the iconic Yezdi motor bike, who ran the company successfully for 35 years till it stopped production in 1996. Morvarid has written a delightful book consisting of traditional Parsi recipes interspersed with affectionate and gentle memories of her parents, her life in Mysuru as a child and reminiscences of the past. Morvarid’s book is unusual and very readable. The launch was at the Race Club on a chilly December evening. The backdrop of the Chamundi Hill was awesome as usual, and the author was lucid and amusing.
Mysuru never fails to live up to its reputation of being a cultural capital of the country and I hope even more books will see the light of day in the future.
I must mention here my friend Shubha Urs, who has almost single-handedly brought the concept of book clubs to the city. With great dynamism she runs several groups that meet and discuss books at least once a month whether in English or in Kannada. It’s wonderful to see retired folks, ordinary housewives and children gathering to talk about books. It is high time that the traditional book made a comeback in the lives of people. I belong to one of Shubha’s groups and our meetings are lively, full of opinions and counter arguments.
Book clubs are an excellent way to promote reading habits among the mobile apps generation. If you can’t get hold of the actual physical book, read on a device like Kindle, but don’t stop reading, ever. It is the one intellectual pleasure that sets human beings apart from beasts, the ability to process words and make sense of language.
Very often we have a Meet-the-Author session in our club, where the author interacts with us, answers all our queries patiently and we get an insight into the workings of their mind. It’s always a lively session.
Recently at Sankalp we had a group of children gather in the library on an afternoon in January. The event was a read aloud: Children sat quietly and one of the ladies read out a story to them, complete with noise effects, that delighted and thrilled them no end. The problem is that today’s kids have an attention span of ten minutes max. After that it is almost comical to see them fidget, stand and sit again, and see their gaze wandering. A small attention span means you have to provide stimulus in ten minute chunks or less.
I remember as a little girl attending read aloud sessions in a library close to my primary school at London where I lived for a year. We would be taken from school and marched down to the local council library, and the librarian would wait till we had settled ourselves into chairs. She would then read to us. I had never experienced this in India, although I read for my pleasure, and it was altogether delightful. It’s a lovely memory from more than 50 years ago.
There is a unique pleasure in visiting libraries. Recently I had gone to the City Central Library on Sayyaji Rao Road on some work and it was filled with people, elderly members reading newspapers, students preparing papers, a buzz of activity. The library is more than a hundred-years-old, and has a wonderful ambiance, with old wooden shelves, stacks and stacks of volumes, a most helpful and friendly staff. Somehow I felt very hopeful for the future of books in society. No amount of internet or WhatsApp is going to replace the sheer pleasure of an actual physical book. Ever.
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