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The Reading Room of Satabdi Mishra (Co-Owner, Walking BookFairs), Bhubaneswar, India

This is a special picture from a trip Satabdi and her team made to Mayurbhanj district in Odisha where they started the first Walking BookFairs Library in Bisoi Government School for children who were working as child labourers. These 116 children have been rescued and rehabilitated by the district administration. They now go to school and all of them love stories. Walking BookFairs helped start a small library for them with a box full of story books and picture books (some of them cannot read yet).

Satabdi Mishra is a mother of a four and half year old. She co-owns and runs independent book shack Walking BookFairs in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India, which mainly involves driving a van-full of books – the Walking BookFairs traveling bookshop – through villages and small towns of Odisha. She wants to spread the joy of reading all around and strongly believes that books are for everyone, including the poorest farmer in the remotest village.
This bibliophile loves good books, good cinema and good tea.

I invited myself into her Reading Room to hear all about the pages she loves, abhors, goes back to over and over again.

You’re currently reading

An Evening in Calcutta – Stories by KA Abbas (Harper Collins India)

Baluta by Daya Pawar, translated by Jerry Pinto (Speaking Tiger Books)

Last book you bought

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk.

I have to confess that it’s been some time since I have bought a book, one of the perks of running a bookshop!

A Book you left unfinished (why, when)

Oh! I do that a lot. Only to re-visit them later.

A Book you’ve wanted to read for years, but haven’t yet

The Diary of a Genius by Salvador Dali.

Three books everyone should read

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.

The Outsider by Albert Camus.

1984 by George Orwell.

We live in strange times. Anybody who has access to books, should absolutely read these three books!

An author you wouldn’t be caught dead reading

I am someone who would read anything in print. But even with all my love for adventures I am yet to read Chetan Bhagat.

A Book that sums up childhood reading years

Oh! Those glorious years! Alistair McLean, O.Henry, PG Wodehouse and some Sidney Sheldon too!

Book(s) you’ve read more than once & would love to read again

‘100 years of Solitude’ is a book I keep reading again and again.

‘Blindness’ by Jose Saramago.

‘Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair’ by Pablo Neruda.

Favorite author(s)

Gabriel García Márquez, Jose Saramago, Fakir Mohan Senapati, Manto, Nagarjun, Pablo Neruda, Haruki Murakami

A fictional character from a book that you most identify with and why

One of the most brilliant characters in a book is Meursault from The Outsider.

When Meursault finally realizes that people’s lives have no grand meaning or importance, and that their actions, their comings and goings, have no effect on the world. This realization is the culmination of all the events of the novel.

The most prized book in your library

A copy of ‘Siddhartha’ from a very special person in my life. This book and the person who gifted me this book have been my anchor.

Your favorite reading spot

The garden at Walking BookFairs. I spend most of my days reading by the lily pond with butterflies, spiders, squirrels and sparrows for company. But I will read anywhere.

If you’d like to participate in this or other Q&A series, holler on Twitter or leave a message below and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!

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Framed by Wanderlust with Amrita Samant (Photographer, Mommy Shots and ThatWindowSeat), Chennai, India

Amrita is a baby-grapher who loves to travel (looking on from ThatWindowSeat), drink wine, chase light, eat good food and all this while dodging selfie-sticks across the globe.

She’s joining me today for a quick (and not dirty) Q&A about her wandering soul and its many journeys. Travel with us will you.

Amrita Samant at a Holiday in FranceLast place you visited: France (July 2015)

Three places on your travel wish list: Russia, Iceland and Japan

An unforgettable experience from a  journey: A haunted rented house experience in Bari, Italy. Doors would open and close by themselves. Another one, learning to kayak on the ganges was overwhelming but an experience that pushed me way out of my comfort zone.

Five things you always carry on holiday: My camera/iPhone, sunglasses, sunscreen, multiple shoe options (just-in-case) and pepper spray.

Would you rather head to the beach, the mountains or city streets: If I had to pick one, it would be the mountains, But I try and give my trips a combination of at least two. (Greedy me!).

A place you’d like to visit again and again: Italy. Anyday!

A place you wish you hadn’t visited: None. I’m glad that hasn’t happened yet.

A person (real/fictional) you’d like to go on holiday with, and where: Can I ignore this one?

Your holidays are incomplete without:  A trip to the local food markets and a local movie at the theatres.

A stranger you met during a journey who you’re still in touch with: A (now) dear friend named Parvati whom I met in Halong Bay, Vietnam in 2012 on a terribly boring couple-y cruise 🙂 

If you’d like to participate in this series or nominate a wanderlust-afflicted friend, holler on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!

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Today I met the Queen…

…Not the octogenarian in England.

I’m referring to the Hindi film that has been receiving rave reviews since it released about two weeks ago.

Over the years most of my movie viewing experience has involved waiting for reviews (mostly from multiple ‘professional’ critics) before standing in line for a ticket. There was the sole instance of running across a deserted parking lot to catch a 10am first-day-first-show of ‘The Last Samurai’. But that was more about a Tom Cruise phase and mostly about the boy I was running with.

As it stands, I end up watching very few Hindi films in theatres. The industry produces an obscene number of very trashy material every year that I have no tolerance for. And when there is something interesting to watch there’s the challenge of finding a willing partner. One CAN watch a film alone, (It was just me at ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ for instance), but something about Hindi films makes them more family outing (adults only) friendly. As it turned out, all through dating years the boyfriend never wanted to step anywhere Hindi films. But now that he is the husband he has no choice.

So after the girls at work (and random people on twitter) were gushing over ‘Queen’ (“Every woman should watch this film”) I decided to force my man along and make a Sunday of it. Keeping clear of spoilers, I had been given to understand that this was going to be about a woman finding herself, in some form or another.

Having seen it and under no obligation to keep quiet, an elevator synopsis would explain it thus (SPOILER ALERT): Simple, sober, homely Delhi Girl gets stood up at the altar – decides to go on her honeymoon alone – Gets to Paris where she faces troubles at first but triumphs, meets French-Indian free-spirited woman who helps her loosen up (with ample alcohol) and widens her horizon (not ‘Mulholland Drive’ wide. That’s illegal here) – our Delhi girl then travels to Amsterdam where she continues her vacation at a hostel, sharing her room with three appropriately-ethnically-diverse men (French, Japanese, Russian) and finally finds herself.

I will give the film brownie points for not labouring on any matter endlessly and instead maintaining the feel of a holiday everyone is taking alongside the girl while she ‘discovers’ herself. But I will not call it a “path-breaking” film and am surprised so many people are labelling it that. It is peppered with several formulaic features like typical Delhi humour that has become quite common in recent films (Punjabi music, jokes, supporting actors and their quirks), cardboard characters she meets during her trip with their little background stories (Parisian girl with child out of wedlock because “that’s what people do here”, Muslim girl working at a strip club in Amsterdam to support her family, Japanese roommate who lost his parents in the Tsunami etc.). The only real departure it makes from the norm (of Hindi films) is side-lining the need for a male partner in the scheme of things.

It seems to me that the main reason everyone is applauding this film is the centrality of the female gaze and perspective and the fact that the film ends with a rejection of the reconciliatory advances of the fiancé who had left her at the altar. Perhaps the culmination with her walking out of his house after an honest hug is to complete the circle the film had begun with their cancelled wedding at the outset.

So riddle me this: Why is it that in coming-of-age films with central male characters, women are incidental to the story (usually only as sexual partners) and not linked to the man’s journey to self-discovery? And here everyone is rushing to applaud a film where a female character’s self-worth emanates most significantly from her rejection of a subscribed relationship?

Perhaps a truly “path-breaking” Hindi film that sets out to celebrate freedom would be one that does not need to establish a male character who must be rejected/accepted by the woman in order for her to discover herself.

And it should be family outing and popcorn-cola worthy. For all else there’s After Hours with Simone de Beauvoir.