& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Inspirations 2013

Inspirations 2013 - a celebration of diversity, creativity and justice
Inspired by Asia's first Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (Literature, 1913)
November 9, 2013 6:30pm
George Weston Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts
5040 Yonge Street North York Toronto
Buy tickets here: Inspirations 2013 tickets

INSPIRATIONS brings rare treats from South Asia to Toronto’s multicultural, English-speaking audiences. Hear music and poetry that fuses the East and West; meet distinguished recipients of the Inspirations Spirit Awards; and watch ‘A Woman’s Quest’ - a timeless play about love and justice written in colonial India. Live music, narration, and classical Indian choreography come together in this stunning event. Presented in English and with translations.

Inspirations 2013 is inspired by Rabindranath Tagore who became the first Asian and non-European Nobel Laureate in 1913. The fundamental equality between all human beings, the need to resist all forms of injustice, and the infinite possibility of deepening our understanding of each other within and beyond borders – these are some of Tagore's values. He saw the arts as a powerful medium of social change which enables us to come together – irrespective of language, identity, race, nationality or religion.

Read about the people behind Inspirations 2013 here: Inspiration 2013 team

The Tagore Anniversary Celebrations Committee of Toronto (TACCT) will also present awards on November 9. Read about the award categories and recipients here:
Inspiration 2013 Awards

Click here to find out about the evening's program: Evening's program

More about Tagore: Meet Gurudev 

Full details at www.Inspirations2013.ca

Monday, October 14, 2013

To look for something and find the other...

Guest post 
by Aleksandra Skiba

It was pure chance that I visited http://www.joga-joga.pl/ I've been training yoga for seven years but, to tell the truth, my interests concentrated on the asanas than philosophy itself. The yoga accessories which I wanted to see were to help me to simplify my exercises and only by accident I noticed a title of an article which was advertised there.

It read: Wanda Dynowska (Umadevi – Bogini Światła) by Kazimierz Tokarski.
If it had been just a Polish name I would have left it without a second look but it seemed like a strange or rather an exotic compilation. I looked at the preface and didn't realize when I finished the whole article – fascinated by its subject, its heroine.
Wanda Dynowska seemed an unusual woman who met unusual people.
Wanda Dynowska - Umadevi
She was acquainted with Mahatma Gandhi who called her Umadevi, and Dalai Lama who said in all probability about her that a Polish woman encouraged him to vegetarianism. She spent her life helping people and it didn’t matter to her whether one was a Hindu or a Pole or a Tibetan.
She searched her path between her Polish roots and her Indian choice but the thing which drew my attention was her involvement in writing, translation and the most important part – publishing.
Over 30 years Dynowska's Polish-Indian Library (Biblioteka Polsko-Indyjska) was bringing Indian literature closer to Polish language readers. But her activity, known only to a niche, was broadly unrevealed.
I decided to find out more about her work on this field. I knew it could be an uneasy task.
She published in India in the second half of the last century, so sending the books to Poland, which at that time was behind the iron curtain, must have been a challenge even if books didn't include political topics.
Wondering if there is anything in Poland, and more closer in my town on Dynowska, I started my search – as a typical librarian would – from a catalogue. To my great joy, I found many works listed on the Polish union catalogue KaRo. What's more important, I found the books belonging to Dynowska's series in Książnica Pomorska, my home library.
I discovered also there were two series Indian-Polish and Polish-Indian Library which included reprints as well as original works. The first one was to show the English-speaking readers Poland with its geography, history, policy and culture. The second series was directed to the Polish readers and contained Dynowska's own writing and her translations related to yoga, religious or mystic topics and literature.
My efforts of getting information about Dynowska's publishing activity started to take a proper shape but I didn't know that another figure would emerge on the stage soon.
The next step to broaden my knowledge was to borrow the books which Książnica Pomorska had in its collection. I did it and began to look at them, studying the text and the covers and mastheads. Studying the mastheads I noticed a name which was repeated constantly as a publisher's one, Maurycy Frydman.
Maurycy Frydman - Bharatanda
I had encountered the name for the first time in Tokarski's article and when I began to see his name more frequently, I decided to look closer at his activity. It wasn't an easy task though.
Frydman led a modest life and didn't reveal too much information about himself. Known as Bharatanda he was a Mahatma Gandhi's friend and a person absorbed in such experiments as drafting a new constitution for the State of Aundh, or organising a free custodian colony in Atpadi.
It was also obvious there were strong friendship and cooperation between him and Dynowska but it appeared his involvement in the publishing was more important than I thought at the beginning. Although he didn't translate the texts or edit them, he supported the process of publishing for years. I discovered later, he took over Polish-Indian Library when Dynowska, being 81 years old, retired from her duties.
Going on with my search in the paper and online sources I was impressed by two Poles' effort. Living abroad they published about 132 books almost without help and with limited amount of money (they started with a sum earned by Dynowska at the Polish Consulate in Bombay in 1940s).
The books were published in a small number of copies but some of them had even second edition and many of them contained not only the text but also illustrations, footnotes, comments. I believe that such efforts need to be remembered and recorded for posterity. That is the reason I wrote an article on them which will be published in Bibliotekarz Zachodniopomorski, a Książnica Pomorska periodical.
I hope there will be an English-language publisher who would be interested in Dynowska and Frydman's publishing activity too. The English version of my article is still waiting for its editor.

About the author: Aleksandra Skiba is a librarian at Pomeranian Library (The Central Library of the West Pomeranian Province) in the Polish city of Szczecin
Read previous post on GAB on the same / related subject: Rediscovering a poet

Wanda Dynowska - Umadevi: http://cosmopolitanreview.com/wanda-dynowska-umadevi/
Maurycy Frydman - Bharatanda: http://www.gurusfeet.com/guru/maurice-frydman

Cosmopolitan Review a transatlantic review of things Polish, in English has more articles of on similar subjects by Irene Tomaszewski. Tomaszewski is a writer, editor at CR, founding president of the Montreal-based Canadian Foundation for Polish Studies and program director of Poland in the Rockies. She is the author of "Inside a Gestapo Prison 1942-44: The Letters of Krystyna Wituska" and "Codename Żegota: The Most Dangerous Conspiracy in Occupied Europe," co-authored with Tecia Werbowski, published by Praeger in Spring 2010.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Courtney Park Collection

There’s a story behind the scenes of the launch of the new title, The Courtneypark Connection published by In Our Words Inc. www.inourwords.ca.
The Courtneypark literary circle is a writers’ group that was formed five years ago and meet once a month in Mississauga. During the Fall/Winter months, the group meets at the Courtneypark Library in Mississauga.
As the story goes, the group began meeting once a month at the Courtneypark Library in Mississauga. As the group continued to grow so did the individual writers’ confidence.
Originally the group focused on poetry alone, but later challenged themselves by writing in different genres. There are now short story writers, novelists, artists and musicians attending on a regular basis.
The common bond was a love of writing. The group’s connections have spread across the GTA.
All 18 contributors to the anthology are Ontario writers. Brandon Pitts has edited the anthology.  The Courtneypark Library is to be thanked for providing the space to host the group every month for the past four years.
Contributing writers are:
·         Lindsay W. Albert
·         Rashmee Karnad-Jani
·         Pratap Reddy
·         Peta-Gaye Nash
·         John Ambury
·         Beverlee Blampied
·         Kim Cayer
·         Janine Georgiou-Zeck
·         Tasnim Jivaji
·         P.I. Kapllani
·         Cheryl Antao-Xavier
·         Mary Ellen Koroscil
·         Marlene S. Leighton
·         Brandon Pitts
·         Kumkum Ramchandani
·         Ivy Reiss
·         Trevor Trower
·         Zohra Zoberi
Here’s an excerpt from Kumkum Ramchandani’s story The Holy Man from the anthology. It’s about a burnt out Indo-American whose life is changed by his encounter with a sadhu on a train from Delhi to Chennai.

I quickly located my train compartment - air-conditioned first class as I had requested and paid for. I slung my overnight bag onto the overhead locker and with a sigh of relief sank down into my comfortable well upholstered seat. I had only one other person with me in the compartment but he or she hadn’t arrived yet. So, I told myself, here I am - embarking on a journey which was to be a final marker to where my life was heading. “What am I doing here?” I asked myself. “A US born Indian from Silicon Valley - the MD of one of the most successful start-ups, one that was destined to give Apple and Google a run for their money!” To put it in a nutshell - I was burnt out. A former workaholic who spent eighteen hours a day working for a six digit salary, with a palatial home in Palo Alto and a sleek Ferrari Sports, and all before the age of thirty five! But I was tired, I wanted a change, I knew my life was destined for transition. I wanted something else but I didn’t know what. So here I was, in the comforting lap of the country I should have been born in but had only learned about from my first generation parents, books and newspapers.

Read Sunil Rao’s (South Asian Focus) excellent news report on the book here: The Story Behind The Courtney Park Collection

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Nationalism, displacement, memory, loss, arrivals and departures

Sanjay Talreja is among the many people from Bombay that I got acquainted to only in Toronto.

I find that incredibly strange – living in the same city, moving about among the same circle of friends, and yet remaining strangers, and then serendipitously discovering each other in Toronto.

Gavin Barrett, Jasmine D’Costa, Syerah Virani, Teenaz Javat are among the Bombayites I befriended only in Toronto.

Sanjay is an award-winning filmmaker who has directed a number of issue-based films in India, edited many independent documentaries in Canada, and has also been associated with the US-based Media Education Foundation as an editor and producer.

I haven’t seen any of Sanjay’s film work. I know him as someone who has a unique ability to evaluate creative work and transform it by suggesting the smallest of changes.

Among the many friends who gave me invaluable feedback to enrich my manuscript, his comments were among the most perceptive. After incorporating his suggestion, I succeeded in transforming a particularly blandly written scene into a something that was rancorous, alive, and almost frothy.  

Sanjay was selected for Diaspora Dialogues for its mentoring program in 2012. And was among the readers at Toronto’s the Word on the Street (TWOTS) in September.

He read an evocative passage from his story Love is All There is. The story is about a triptych of characters (none of whose lives collide) who are affected by the things that shape much of our contemporary lives – nationalism, displacement, memory, loss, arrivals and departures.

A few days later, Jhumpa Lahiri, speaking about her new novel The Lowlands also spoke in a similar vein about the effects of immigration, a multiple sense of belonging and perpetual displacement.

Sanjay’s collection Postcards and other stories (a working title) is a collection of short stories set in India and Canada. The obliquely interlinked stories in this collection explore how immigrants find themselves in the in-between stage of their lives – feeling as if they will never be at home, despite jobs, children, passports, houses and investments.

“This condition of homelessness, of border crossings, of leaving without having fully left, of arriving without a sense of ever being fully settled, forms the underpinning of my stories,” Sanjay says.

Downward This Dog looks at a Yoga teacher who faces a dilemma; Postcards (a two phased story) looks at a man who has become obsessed with prayer even as his wife and father juggle with factors facing their own lives; The Kick is about a bright young woman who believes her dentist may have touched her in the wrong places.

The stories in the collection narrated sardonically and yet compassionately attempt to depict immigrants neither as victims nor agents but as ordinary, complex, contradictory people fumbling and struggling to make sense of their new lives.

About the story he read at TWOTS, Sanjay observes, “Tonally and stylistically, this story is different from the rest of the collection and I am still trying to figure out if it will be part of the final collection but I was trying to use TWOTS
to gauge a response. I read Part 1 of the triptych.”

Images: First image: http://diasporadialogues.com/writers/profiles/2012/08/27/sanjay-talreja.png