Discussing discomfort

Book Talk

Literary Connection: Anita Nair listens as Shinie Antony makes a point. dh photos by manjunath M S

Crossword bookshop, in association with Rupa & Co, hosted the launch of the anthology Kerala Kerala Quite Contrary recently. Unlike a regular reading, the launch was promoted through a panel discussion titled Southern Discomforts.

On the panel were many eminent personalities. Author Anita Nair, senior journalist Jayanth Kodkani, playwright Shreekumar Varma, former Director General of Police, Kerala Hormis Tharakan and the anthologist Shinie Antony, all indulged in a friendly banter. The discussion was moderated by blogger Tony Sebastian.

The mostly Malayalee gathering settled in for an evening-long discourse on Kerala and the freshly-coined terms Keralaism and Malayaleeness.

Before this could begin the moderator, Sebastian, spoke to Shinie about her role in bringing out the book. “My job was to find the right writers and to make sure that both sides of the story gets told. It really is a writer who makes the book what it is,” said Antony.

“The anthology boasts of the best Malayalees, who have been in touch with Kerala and Malayaleeness,” opined Sebastian, who then went on to talk to each of the authors present about their contribution to the anthology.

Nair’s story is about three distinct characters through whom, she said, she talks about the one-upmanship prevalent among Malayalees. Varma’s half-a-story-half-a-play is apparently about students’ involvement in politics and strikes. This, he said, was partially based on a true story. Kodkani’s contribution is a travelogue.

The gathering was informed that the anthology attempts to look at all different aspects of Kerala, capturing its contradictions. The way the book is compiled, too, apparently contributes to this. “The book begins with a boy returning home from the States and ends with a story about a young man leaving Kerala in search of employment. Beginning with arrival, the anthology closes with departure,” Antony informed the crowd.

The rest of the evening was a humourous discussion on Malayalees.

Their affinity to politics, their love of their land, their need to contradict each other and the Gulf, or shall we say, ‘Gaylf’, of course. There was also some serious talk about Malayalee women and their position in the community.

The one thing that rankled was the fact that there was no reading from the book, which might have helped the non-Malayalees connect with the subject a bit more.

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