Sunday, December 30, 2007

This One is for the Birds

1938 - A shooting party headed by the then Viceroy of India shot a maximum of 4,273 birds on 12th November.

1965 - The last leopard was shot with a gun

1967 - Keoladeo Ghana declared a reserved forest

1981 - Keoladeo upgraded to the status of a National Park

Situated 176 Kms away from Delhi, KEOLADEO GHANA NATIONAL PARK has about 400 species of birds. If you have never seen the ever dwindling species of birds called the Siberian Crane, then you must know that this is one of the two places in the world where this bird can be seen. the other one is in Iran.

Purshottam has been plying his rickshaw since he was 21 years old. His father was a guide at the Bharatpur bird sanctuary as well. Affectionately called Purshotti by everyone around, he keeps pointing out the various species of birds as we go. He knows their names in Bengali as well he tells me. "I have learnt the names of at least 30 birds in German and French languages. After all it is the tourists I have to depend on." He amazes me with his knowledge of birds and his ability to spot them. He loves chatting and keeps me engrossed with trivia and bird facts. I try to ask him about the brightly colored Kingfisher that is flitting around the marshy patch to my right. Purshotti silences me midway. He gets off from his rickshaw and looks up at what seems like a Palm Tree. I follow my teacher. He shows me a brown owl sitting snugly and blinking at the early rays of the morning Sun. Purshotti has tiptoed to the next tree and is gesticulating wildly to me to show me another owl. "They always move in pairs."

I rub my hands together to keep myself warm. The quaint little tea-shop in the sanctuary is brewing some tea. The clientele is building up. That includes a curious Neelgai who is keen to join us for breakfast. The visitors to the park have been feeding this Neelgai human food for so long that this particular animal no longer enjoys grass like the rest of them. Purshotti clicks his head in disapproval at the visitors trying to feed the animal some sandwiches.

When will we ever learn??

Bharatpur is hop step and jump from the Taj Mahal and the beautiful city of Fatehpur Sikri. The next time you are in the vicinty stop by to look at an amazing collection of birds and a few animals. If you meet Purshotti, say Hi to him.

Friday, December 28, 2007

2008 - The Year of the Bookworm?

The Chinese calendar has dubbed 2008 as the Year of the Rat - actually it is the Chinese Brown Earth (Soil) Rat Year. So one would imagine that Mickey Mouse (known as Topolino in Italy) would thrive. Rat trap sales will decline. I was just about going down that path when someone decided to give the lowly bookworm its pride of place in the zodiac.

The Hindustan Times of 21st December 2007 did a story on the next year being the Year of the Bookworm. Girija Duggal predicts the rise of graphic novels and fiction being the dominant flavor of the next year.

The article talks about the retail boom driving the expansion of chains like Landmark and Crosswords across cities in India that in turn is making it easy for booklovers to buy books. Fictions seems to have been the big success story this year. What with Advaita Kala's Almost Single (7,000 copies sold and counting) being the success of the year.

To quote Girija Duggal, "So, in 2008, get ready for Keep off the Grass by Karan Bajaj, Married But Available by Abhijit Bhaduri, You Are Here by popular blogger Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan and The Other Half of Me by Swati Kaushal.
Indian fiction has been growing in popularity. When I go into the bookstores, I see increasing amount of shelf space being given to the desi writers. Publishers are bringing out more of fiction. Graphic novels are inching their way into the bookshelves at home. We have got publishing houses who are willing to promote unknown authors, authors who are willing to find their own voice. What is missing is the matchmaker to put writers in touch with the publishers. So the market is ripe for literary agents. That is the missing link. A literary fest is often the space that does just that. It gets the reader, the author, the publisher and agent into one forum. And possibly the translators. There is a rich market of readers waiting out there.

I recently met Mita Kapur, a literary consultant and literary agent who is based out of Jaipur and runs Siyahi. She has been running the literary fest at Jaipur for the past three years. The conference, Translating Bharat: Language, Globalization and the Right to be Read (20th - 22nd January, 2008) is an effort by Siyahi to provide an interactive space for creating synergies to help writers, translators and publishers to understand core issues and work towards creating bonds which will help them benefit from each other's experiences and understanding.

I loved being there in Mumbai for the Kitabfest in Feb '07. Let me see if I can make it to Jaipur for the lit fest having just got back after a fab vacation in Jaipur, Bharatpur and Fatehpur Sikri. More of that soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hai Koi MICA Lal?

Once upon a time I used to live in Ahmedabad. And I used to work for the ad agency called Mudra Communications. Those were heady days for advertising agencies. The founder of Mudra AG Krishnamurthy (AGK) ran the place. The Ahmedabad office of Mudra used to be decorated from the floor to ceiling with photos from the various shoots of Vimal. Remember the "Only Vimal" campaign starring the oh-so-gorgeous Mehr Jessia? Deepak Parashar, Deepak Malhotra, Bikram Saluja and Himanshu Malik were the male models who were the brand ambassadors of Vimal suitings.

The creative duo Freddy Birdy and Naved Akhtar were the stars at Mudra those days. Their campaign for Nestle Polo "Mint with a hole" was the rage. I still have prints of their public service campaign "All You Have to Spend On the Elderly is Your Time" at home.

Mudra had set up the Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad, known as MICA among students. MICA was one of the first schools of communication and advertising in India. Tucked away in the village of Shela near Ahmedabad, the campus was still being built as the first batch of people from MICA graduated. I have not been to MICA since then but from what I hear MICA is not only doing well but thriving.

It was great to know that it is not just students but Professors who read the book Mediocre But Arrogant and liked it. Here is a mail from Deval Kartik - a Professor at MICA. Deval Kartik ( is an Adjunct Professor at MICA. I had to be cautious while spelling that word. It is not "Ad Junked Professor", stupid. Here is her mail to me:

"Hey Abhijit

Thanks for writing such a 'straight from the heart' book. Really enjoyed reading it. And now waiting for the sequel.

I loved the book at two levels. One, it is set in the time I can identify with. I graduated to be 'Mediocre But Arrogant' in 1990. Not too far away for your period, though from a completely different part of the country. Yet, there are several characters one can identify with clearly...some profs and some batch mates!

And now, I am on the other side of the game and can almost sense my students calling me...well...I hope not Kaamini!!! Hehehehe.. But more than that I can really see where all assignments come from, why someone is ever so bright for a 6pm PPT and lot more.

The best I could do was gift the book to MICA library and just tell a few of them about it!

The good word spreads ever so quickly!

Cheers and keep writing!

Deval Kartik