Friday 30 October 2009
[Warning: possible spoiler alert coming UP - thanks to Plummy Mummy for pointing that out]
This week has been more local. I took the children to the Greenwich Odeon to see Disney Pixar's Up today. A strange but intruiging film - "by tying thousands of balloon to his home, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn't alone on his journey, since Russell, a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, has inadvertently become a stowaway on the trip." It was the usual animation triumph for Pixar though quite dark in places - the death and miscarriage in the first 15 minutes had my eyes stinging, I have to say. However there's enough else to amuse the kids and they seemed to enjoy it. We braved the tiny Nando's afterwards which was busy busy, busy. There were tears there from my little boy though who, having piled up his bowl, couldn't then (in a 'heaven turned to hell' moment) get the frozen yoghurt dispensing machine to stop! All was well in the end.
Anyways, back to the old school and work routine next week, though before then we have the Halloween circus to brave...
Thursday 29 October 2009
Wednesday 28 October 2009
Saturday 31 October 2009
Anita Desai and Kiran Desai in conversation
"A rare opportunity to listen to the formidable family duo Anita and Kiran Desai, who discuss the different cultural, historical and literary forces that formed their writing lives and which have made them the internationally renowned authors they are today. What were their main influences and how did they start out? Have global publishing contexts changed? How does it feel to share a similar craft? This intriguing conversation between mother and daughter includes short readings from both writers."
At Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, Belvedere Road, London. Click here for more details
Friday 23 October 2009
Finally, for more detail, a couple of links to some live blogging and comments on the programme: the New Statesman and BobfromBrockley (*title quote here from the Statesman blog by Mehdi Hasan). And here's the iplayer link to watch the programme.
[Morning update: depending on what you read or watch, it was either a triumph showing up fascism or it was a lynching and has created sympathy for the underdog. But, hey, sometimes you are the underdog for all the right reasons and deserve not to win.]
Thursday 22 October 2009
- ‘freedom of speech’ issues (the Jan Moir piece on Stephen Gately , Geert Wilders’ visit and the BNP on Question Time) and
- the traditional media vs new media (the 2.0 web success resulting in the records complaints to the PCC about the Moir piece)
Other bloggers have been saying it so much better (and quicker!), as linked above.
It will be interesting to see how the BNP plays out on Question Time tonight (BBC1, 10.30pm ). Will Nick Griffin expose himself? Will he come across as a credible politician with views on a range of (non-race related) topics? Which of the other panel members will be most effective/useless against NG? Will Bonnie Greer prove to have been a good choice? And perhaps most importantly, following the programme, will there be a rise in support for the BNP?
Wednesday 21 October 2009
Amongst the earliest clips with sound, is one of the "Maharaja of Patiala" from 1921, as he "dedicates beautiful Gateway in memory of India's heroic dead in great war. Brighton, Sussex." I wonder if the plaque is still there?
The possibilities are endless. Other south London bloggers (eg. 853, Transpontine) have already usefully catalogued their searches on south-east London which include gems such as the following and many more:
1914: Artillery sports at Woolwich.
1914: A Victoria Cross winner gets a hero’s reception at Deptford.
1916: Lewisham’s pride – footage of soldiers from World War I.
1941: An RAF parade at Kidbrooke.
1942: Mr Woolley of Eltham shows off his model of the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship.
1946: A school for barmaids at the Dover Castle, Deptford.
1947: Their proudest moment – Charlton win the FA Cup.
1947: Bexley’s teenage mayoress.
1948: Cooks on parade for Christmas at Woolwich Barracks.
1948: Making propellers at Stone’s foundry in Charlton.
1948: A mobile fish and chip shop is a big hit in Sidcup.
1948: A “silent butler” to help busy housewives is unveiled in Hither Green.
1949: “Daredevil cockney kids” use a New Cross bomb site as a speedway track.
1949: “Plumstead Plumber” Bill Painter climbs Eros in a trilby.
1967: The aftermath of the Hither Green train disaster.
1967: The second Blackwall Tunnel opens – and work starts on the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach.
1968: The Gipsy Moth arrives at Greenwich – by road from Woolwich
So enjoy yourselves and let me know about your favourites.
Saturday 17 October 2009
Anyways, we're West London bound to my mother's for the Diwali weekend. Not that I am of the religious variety, but the children enjoy it, just like Christmas, and I appreciate the beauty and history of it all. Hubby gets to eat lots of Indian sweets and gets fussed over. The kids, hubby and me get to light a candle at the local gurdhwara (sikh temple) and I might get to find out the answer to that eternal question that's always puzzled me - what's the explanation for the amazing co-incidence of Hindus and Sikhs celebrating Diwali on exactly the same day but for totally different reasons? Can anyone enlighten me? (I can't ask my mum because I don't know how to say 'co-incidence' in Punjabi...)
Friday 16 October 2009
Time: 14:00 – 22:00
Location: Firemasters Warehouse 174-176 Hither Green Lane,entrance on Lanier Rd
Located in the warehouse at the back of the Firemasters building on Hither Green Lane, doors will open at 2.00pm and the day begins with a screening of that classic musical My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.
The film also stars Gladys Cooper as Professor Higgin’s mother, she was born in Hither Green and we are thrilled that her daughter Sally Hardy will be attending the event.
Tea and cakes will be provided by The Golden Afternoon Tea Company, a perfect Sunday afternoon!
3pm My Fair Lady
6pm- The Balloonatic. A Buster Keaton favourite with live piano accompaniment from Costas Fotopoulos.
7pm- Pool of London
A lesser known film from the famous Ealing Studios depicting fascinating scenes of a post war London. A gripping and intriguing film capturing a time of change.
‘Basil Dearden’s paean to London docklands in the 1950s is as enchanting and as murky as the river: a noir-ish heist tale, liberally suffused with a fable of forbidden love and unrestrained passion. The heist element of Pool of London (1951) is well crafted and suspenseful, but the most striking aspect is Dearden’s tentative venture into racial politics, with the first interracial relationship in a British film’ Carl Daniels (screenonline.org)
A bar and refreshments will be available.
Tickets cost £5 at whatever time you arrive. The earlier you come the more films you see!
Available on the door or reserve tickets by calling 07956 614007.
This event has been organised to help save the local cinema in Hither Green lane and to promote the need for a cinema and arts centre in the area....All money raised will go back into funding our campaign, we desperately need your support!
The Londonist has also picked up this news and gives this account of the campaign. It also tells us that "in the morning. Crave Arts Academy are running free drama workshops for children, so limber up and get down there for 10am if your young 'uns are between 3 and 6 years old, or 11am if they're 7-13.)"
This venue and its cultural events would be very welcome in the cultural desert around the area, so you may want to go along (I shall be elsewhere, as you might learn in the next post...)
[UPDATE: "Spectacular success for Hither Green cinema day" read more here]
Thursday 15 October 2009
London Postcodes Top UK Car Crime List
Chislehurst in Bromley is famous for its man-made cave system, but now has other connections to the underworld. According to new 'research', the town rules the UK for car crime. 3.8% of local motorists made insurance claims for break-ins or theft over the past year (the national average is 1.17%). Meanwhile, Ilford and Romford postcodes fill six of the top twenty spots. We're always a little suspicious of reports conducted by companies with an interest in the results (in this case a price comparison website whose aim is to sell as much car insurance as possible). However, we can't fault the data, drawn from 3.8 million claims and quoted as percentage rather than absolute number.
Crikey. Mystifying though it is (why on earth Chislehirst?), regular readers will know I've had my own car-related misfortune recently, not far from there...
Wednesday 14 October 2009
"A Sikh boy has been withdrawn from a north London school after he said he wanted to wear his traditional dagger.The boy, 14, was told not to carry the 5in (12.7cm) kirpan at the Compton School in Barnet after governors ruled it was a health and safety risk. Under Sikhism the sheathed scimitar is one of five "articles of faith" that must be carried at all times."
It's being debated all over the media (esp.the LBC Radio station right now). In haste now, might write more later...how can carrying a knife in school be justified?
Tuesday 13 October 2009
"...it is ...a question that is still unanswered 30 years after the death of a teacher in another London demonstration.Marshall has just asked the inspector "did you kill Blair Peach?" "No, no way, I didn't" he said. He's now Dr Alan Murray, an academic, sounding quite sincere and plausible. On the other hand, surely the death of an innocent, peaceful person on a march needs to be accounted for?
His name was Blair Peach and the Metropolitan police commissioner has finally promised to release the findings of their investigation into his death after keeping them secret since 1979.
It was widely reported at the time that the inquiry recommended charges be brought against individual police officers. Tonight, for the first time, the inspector said to have been a prime suspect speaks about his role in an exclusive report from Peter Marshall."
The findings of the Met Police investigation will be made public "by the end of the year".
My previous post on Southall and the death of Blair Peach here and the BBC summary, including a clip from the programme here
Home GrownWednesday 14 October11.00-11.30am BBC RADIO 4Yasmeen Khan investigates the growing trend among British Asian men to marry women from their native countries. Forget arranged or forced marriages, this is something completely different.
Despite being raised in the UK, many second-generation British Asian men are choosing to marry women from "back home" – from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. These are young professionals, working alongside British Asian women in places such as investment banks, law companies and accounting practices.
This cultural phenomenon is unique to the second generation of British Asians. While it could be expected that those born in Britain would seek partners from a similar background or even marry out of the culture to a white partner, few would have predicted that a generation would end up struggling with a culture and identity that left them choosing a partner from their parents' country of origin.
Yasmeen, who has written on Asian dating from both a personal and a journalistic perspective, uncovers why many young British Asians want a "home-grown" girl, many of whom are just as educated and professional as their British Asian peers. She travels around the UK and asks young British Asian men and women what their expectations of a partner are, whether they find it hard to juggle their own desires with that of their parents and community, and – talking to the men who have brought a wife over from "back home" – whether the match has lived up to their expectations.
I hope she'll look at why it's more prevalent amongst men rather than British Asian women. I once knew a top city British Asian accountant who opted to marry a woman from India - she turned out to be less than docile and obedient, much to the chagrin of his family. So I offered her a job!
Monday 12 October 2009
One of the early ‘American- or British-Asian’ authors I came across was Hanif Kureishi and, to be honest, there were few such authors around during my sixth-form years - well, it was the early eighties and the Eng Lit syllabus was dominated by white British and American authors – we didn’t have the option of Meera Syal and and Benjamin Zephaniah as some schools offer these days. Later I came to read Salmon Rushdie, Meera Syal, Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth and Jhumpa Lahiri amongst others.
Fiction-reading opportunities are few and precious these days (my job, two young children, husband, house etc.) which means I normally fall asleep having read about 1.5 articles of the week's New Statesman magazine – and that’s on a good day! But over the last few months these are the books I’ve read on my mini-mission (the few notes I made have been long lost, or more likely scribbled over by my kids, so I shall mostly leave analysis to others):
Rohinton Mistry’s Family Matters (2002; shortlisted for the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction):
This is a hugely warm, affectionate and absorbing novel – I genuinely missed the characters when I finished the last page. A real delight for me was discovering more about the Parsi community in India. The Parsis belong to a minority religious community in India who follow the faith as laid down by the prophet Zoroaster – they originally travelled generations ago from Iraq to settle in Bombay. Here’s what two writers have said about the book and the man:
“[the novel] is based in Bombay once more. Where his first two novels were set in the 1970s and were essentially ‘historical’ fictions however, Family Matters depicts contemporary Bombay and is set in the 1990s. At the centre of the book is an old man, a Parsi with Parkinson’s Disease. Nariman Vakeel is a retired academic whose illness places renewed strains on family relations (Nariman, an English professor, compares himself to King Lear at one point). A widower with skeletons in his closet, Nariman’s memories of the past expose the reader to earlier moments in the city’s, and the nation’s history in a novel that moves across three generations of the same family. In Family Matters we have the familiar slippage between public and private worlds. Similarly the lives of the residents of ‘Chateau Felicity’ (Nariman’s former residence) and ‘Pleasant villa’ (where he is forced to move by his scheming step daughter) recall the world of Firozsha Baag. Where the earlier novels tended towards a decisive closure however, the epilogue of this novel seems much less ready to console.” [Credit: Dr James Proctor, 2003]
“The author was born in Bombay and earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and economics at the University of Bombay. ..In 1973 Mistry and his wife moved to Canada, where he got a job in a bank. Ten years on, he got a sense that there had to be more to life than this and -- simply to overcome bank boredom -- he enrolled at the University of Toronto to study English and philosophy. It was while he was at the U of T that Mistry first saw himself as a teller of stories. "I always enjoyed books and I thought I'd give this a try," he says today.” [credit: januarymagazine.com]
Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day (1980; Booker prize nominee):
“Set in India's Old Delhi, Clear Light of Day is Anita Desai's tender, warm, and compassionate novel about family scars, the ability to forgive and forget, and the trials and tribulations of familial love. At the novel's heart are the moving relationships between the members of the Das family, who have grown apart from each other. Bimla is a dissatisfied but ambitious teacher at a women's college who lives in her childhood home, where she cares for her mentally challenged brother, Baba. Tara is her younger, unambitious, estranged sister, married and with children of her own. Raja is their popular, brilliant, and successful brother. When Tara returns for a visit with Bimla and Baba, old memories and tensions resurface and blend into a domestic drama that is intensely beautiful and leads to profound self-understanding”.[Credit: www.fantasticfiction.co.uk]
Anita Desai’s Fasting, Feasting (1999):
“Fasting, Feasting might have as its epigraph the author’s assertion 'that different lives are parallel lives', as constant correspondences are drawn between an Indian and an American middle-class family. Uma’s traditional Indian parents, desperately trying to arrange a good marriage for Uma with disastrous consequences, suffer from the same lack of communication with their children as the Pattons, the American suburban family where Uma’s brother Arun is staying while on vacation from his American University. Whether Desai’s characters live on the banks of the Ganges or amidst the excesses of Massachusetts, they cannot find meaningful personal relationships other than with their own solitude” [Credit: Luca Prono, 2004]
A bit of bio info: Anita Mazumdar Desai was born June 24, 1937. She is Emeritus John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been shortlisted for the Booker prize three times. Born as Anita Mazumdar to a German mother and a Bengali businessman in Mussoorie, India. She grew up speaking German at home and Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and English outside the house. She first learned to read and write in English at school and as a result it became her "literary language" Despite German being her first language she did not visit Germany until later in life as an adult. Her daughter, the author Kiran Desai, won the 2006 Booker prize (and now I’ve got to catch up with her books too!)
Hanif Kureishi’s Something To Tell You (2009):
I think I’ve probably said enough about him in a previous post. Needless to say, I think the novel is great – so many apt little descriptions that capture moments in time and social situations. And of course it effortlessly includes the diversity of London with little fuss, but is just as happy wandering over to Pakistan too.
Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger (2008):
A lot has been said too about this winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize – a Guardian interview says of the book “it has an engaging, gobby, megalomaniac, boss-killer of a narrator who reflects on his extraordinary rise from village teashop waiter to success as an entrepreneur in the alienated, post-industrial, call-centre hub of Bangalore.
That is a pretty apt summary – it is an incredible book though has not been welcomed by some Indians who say it portrays a negative picture of India. It is pretty irreverent and that was fine by me. I should also add here that Kureishi himself is about to start on the screenplay of The White Tiger – that might be a film to watch.
The books of less well-known authors in my reading list have included Zahid Hussian’s The Curry Mile (2006). This was a poignant and moving story about a British-Pakistani family who ran a restaurant on Manchester’s famous ‘curry mile’ of eateries, and the relationships within the family, especially between the daughter and father.
And lastly, I have to admit that, nestled hidden, amongst this esteemed ‘anglo-Indian’ reading list was also ‘Bollywood Boy’ by Justin Hardy (2002). In its own words, the book “follows Hrithik’s [Rosen’s] meteoric rise through the celluloid firmament. It could be straight from one the film industry’s own big-budget schlockbusters, with its heroes, heroines, villains, exotic locations, a cast of thousands, myriad costume changes…and like any good Cinerama drama, there is a big chase scene as Justin tries to track down the man behind the hype, the hysteria and the silver disco suits’. It wasn’t Anita Desai, but you what, it was really good fun!
So that’s the recent list.
Why would I want to read such disparate fiction which only has the origin (sometimes only by ethnicity and not even birth) of the author in common? Well such writing does actually constitute a genre, and is part of a larger unit of fiction – that of post-colonial writing. Most university departments will have modules and even degrees devoted to this literature (eg. Leeds University) though some have criticised a lack of such academic studies – see, for example, this piece by Dr Joan Anim-Addo and Professor Les Back of Goldsmiths, University of London called ‘Black British Literature in British Universities: a 21st-century Reality?’
But I digress. Back to why one would read this genre. Such writing speaks to readers who have an interest or experience of sub-continental cultures. Thinking about my own reasons, I’m drawn to Indian post-colonial fiction because I’m curious to know about other people’s perceptions of the places and communities with whichI have a connection. And I guess I’d like myself to be able to articulate better and analyse some of my own thoughts and experiences about them – and this is after all part of what literature is supposed to do for you – a form of psychoanalysis I suppose.
In fact, in an interview, Hanif Kureishi has noted that a novel such as the phenomenally successful White Tiger shows that post-colonial fiction has in fact reinvigorated the novel – now that’s a bold claim for what the sub-continent has done for the novel.
One final observation – I was struck by the number of these types of writers who are ‘mixed-race’ (or ‘dual heritage’) – Kureishi (white mother, Indian father), Anita Desai (German mother, Indian father) and Monica Ali (English mother, Bangladeshi father), for starters. Perhaps there is something in their experience of be-striding two cultures which enables them to see their communities with a different eye, perhaps that of an outsider. What do you think? And I’d be interested to hear about your desi reading experiences and recommendations.
Friday 9 October 2009
"two Kapurthala district-based Punjabi businessmen-cum-private collectors, Peter Virdi from Kapurthala township and his associate Dev Bath, originally from Baathan village in Kapurthala district.
They, it was learnt, bought the necklace, for a whopping £55,200 (around Rs 42 lakh), including buyer’s premium at the rate of 20 per cent. Virdi and Baath live in Central London.....The auction evoked a warm response and a large number of Punjabis, particularly Sikhs, were present,” said London-based journalist Nirpal Shergill, adding that the Sikhs felt relieved that necklace was purchased by the two Punjabi collectors." [Credit: The Tribune, Chandigarh]
So there you have it. Anyone know if the collectors display their items anywhere?
But never mind the necklace, what sounds more interesting is another piece sold yesterday, "a rare first-edition book, “The Court and Camp of Runjeet Singh” (more commonly 'Ranjit' Singh) - now who bought that?
Thursday 8 October 2009
"Lot 366" was described by Bonham's as "An important emerald and seed-pearl Necklace from the Lahore Treasury, worn by Maharani Jindan Kaur (1817-63), wife of Ranjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab (1780–1839) Lahore, first half of the 19th Century".
You can read the Bonham's bumpf on it here and for those who want to read more their bibliography is given as:
Peter Bance, The Duleep Singhs. The Photograph Album of Queen Victoria's Maharajah, Stroud, 2004
Peter Bance, Sovereign, Squire and Rebel. Maharajah Duleep Singh, London, 2009
Christy Campbell, The Maharajah's Box, London, 2000
Patwant Singh and Jyoti M. Rai, Empire of the Sikhs. The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, London, 2008
I wonder who bought it? On the one hand it's a part of Sikh heritage and history and it would be fitting if someone of that background retained it. On the other hand, it is merely an ornament, a jewel of some value worn by someone who was leading a privileged life while there was no doubt hardship all around her. Whatever we think, this necklace will bring back memories of a special time for Sikhs and the Duleep Singh story.
[Update: see who bought it here]
Saturday 3 October 2009
Monica Ali talks to Zaib Davids about her novels, including her latest book 'In the Kitchen'. They will discuss Ali's rich, complex characters and explore the themes of identity, loyalty and belonging that emerge from her work. Monica Ali is one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists and won Newcomer of the Year at the 2004 British Book Awards. Her first novel 'Brick Lane' was short listed for the Man Booker Prize, the George Orwell Prize for political writing and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Zaib Davids is a psychoanalyst and consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at University College London Hospital. Presented in association with Connecting Conversations, this event is a part of the 2009 Black History Season.
The Telegraph tells us:
It was rather cool on the one hand, and especially great to see Gandhi still recognised. On the other hand I'm not sure what I think about Gandhi being elevated to a design icon alongside Che, Mona Lisa and Marilyn Monroe. What do you think?
As well as being celebrated in India as a national holiday known as "Gandhi Jayanti" – October 2 is marked around the world as International day of Non Violence.
Born on October 2 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is celebrated for his ideas on non violent passive resistance.
He is known around the world as the "Mahatma" from the Sanskrit word meaning "Great Soul".
In a tribute to mark the anniversary, Barack Obama praised Gandhi for his influence on modern America through his influence on figures including Martin Luther King the civil rights leader.