Show cover of The Literary City

The Literary City

EXPLOCITY PODCASTS presents THE LITERARY CITY With Ramjee Chandran. This literary podcast is devoted to books and authors. It features interviews with a stellar line up of authors, both world famous and also authors who are being discovered—the only criterion being the quality of the prose. Topics are generally literary and include history, biographies, literature and literary fiction. The Literary City podcasts celebrates authors, poets, playwrights, grammar police, literary lounge lizards...and, oh yes, a cunning linguist or ten.


Celestial by Abhay K And 10 Indian Languages by Karthik Venkatesh
Send us a Text Message.In this episode of The Literary City, we embark on a journey with two distinguished guests—each bringing a unique perspective to our exploration of literature and language.Abhay K, a poet-diplomat, and the author of "Celestial," a poetic masterpiece comprising 100 couplets that intricately weave the enchanting tales of the 88 constellations in our galaxy. Abhay's journey into the realm of poetry was sparked by a mesmerising night beneath the southern skies during his tenure as the Indian ambassador to Madagascar. His book "Celestial" stands as a testament to the wondrous inspiration found in the cosmos, beautifully complemented by illustrations from the renowned 10th-century Persian astronomer, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, known as Azophi in the West. Through his return to our show, we anticipate delving deeper into the celestial wonders that continue to captivate both poet and audience alike.Later in the popular segment WHAT'S THAT WORD—with co-host Pranati  “P with an A” Madhav—we are joined by Karthik Venkatesh, an Executive Editor at Penguin and the author of the enlightening book "10 Indian Languages And How They Came To Be." Karthik's book is a trove of knowledge, with each page resembling a rich chapter brimming with insights into the origins and evolution of Indian languages. What strikes me the most about Karthik's work is the depth of research—evident from years of accumulated knowledge and experience. As an editor himself, Karthik has skillfully distilled this wealth of information into a concise yet impactful narrative, shedding light on languages both familiar and obscure to India. This is an action-packed and intellectually stimulating episode of The Literary City.ABOUT ABHAY K Abhay K. is a poet-diplomat, translator, and author of several poetry collections. His poems have appeared in over a hundred literary magazines. His “Earth Anthem” has been translated into over 150 languages. He received the SAARC Literary Award and was invited to record his poems at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., in 2018. His translations of Kalidasa’s Meghaduta and Ritusamhara from Sanskrit won him the KLF Poetry Book of the Year Award.ABOUT KARTHIK VENKATESH Karthik Venkatesh grew up in Bangalore, speaking Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, English, Dakhani and Hindi. He tried to learn French but failed. He did learn Punjabi though. Once an MBA, he later studied education and taught English and History in a school. He now edits for a living and writes whenever the fancy strikes him. Karthik lives in Bangalore. On weekday mornings, he often runs. On weekends, he naps.Buy Celestial: 10 Indian Languages: similarities between Brahui in Pakistan and Tamil:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati Madhav "Pea" joins Ramjee Chandran in the fun etymology segment, "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!" where they discuss the word “PATOIS”.CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity..comOr here: here:
43:43 3/5/24
The Literary Life Of Ramachandra Guha
Send us a Text Message.My guest today is a titan of Indian history, Ramachandra Guha.He is known for his monumental works on Gandhi and Indian history, but today we're taking a detour into the realm of literature.We'll be diving into his latest book, "The Cooking Of Books," a slice-of-life memoir that offers a poignant glimpse into his relationship with his first editor, Rukun Advani. It also offers us a look into Ram's literary side and the bonds that have shaped his writing journey.My first encounter with Ram Guha’s writing—and I have probably read every book he has written, other than his books on cricket—was what could have been the start of his own intellectual odyssey, "Savaging the Civilized". I was carrying a freshly purchased copy of it into our favourite cafe in Bangalore, Koshy’s, and Ram jabbed approvingly at it.That book captures him, beyond his geographical roots and into a profound intellectual depth—a passion for colonial critiques, insightful biographies, and an unwavering commitment to social justice. It is refreshing not to have to interview Ram Guha about Gandhi, or any other history, sociology or politics but rather about his prodigious output— in books, columns in newspapers and publications—and what must constitute a lifetime of learning.And it begs the question: what drives him as a historian? Is it the solitary pursuit of knowledge, the quiet contemplation he once described as "staring out of the window with a blank piece of paper in front of him"?This ethic is wonderfully captured in his latest book, "The Cooking Of Books". The title hints at the profound collaboration in editing a manuscript, a process he celebrates through his long-standing association with Rukun Advani.And now to the conversation.ABOUT RAMACHANDRA GUHARamachandra Guha is a distinguished historian and author of several acclaimed books, including "India After Gandhi" and "The Unquiet Woods." He has received numerous awards, including the Leopold-Hidy Prize and the Fukuoka Prize for contributions to Asian culture. Currently a Distinguished University Professor at Krea University, Guha's intellectual breadth spans environmental history, biographies, and socio-political commentary.Buy The Cooking of Books: A Literary Memoir here:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the fun etymology segment, "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!" where they discuss the word “HISTORY”.CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity..comOr here: here:
47:47 2/20/24
The Lighthouse Family: A Compelling Novel From The Turkish Ambassador
Send us a Text Message.My guest today, is an author from Turkiye, Firat Sunel. He is a career diplomat. He is currently the Turkish Ambassador to India.Firat is a demonstrably fascinating novelist. His latest novel, “The Lighthouse Family”, is a wonderful example of storytelling, of craft and of everything literary. I venture to say without qualification that it is one of the best novels I have read in recent years.Because this novel embraces a universally-resonant human sentiment, it makes it relatable across cultures, to anyone anywhere, even if the story it tells is set deep in rural Turkiye.We'll delve into the unique blend of ethnic authenticity and international appeal that characterizes contemporary Turkish literature, tracing its evolution from folk tales to modern intellectual prose. From the reforms of Kamal Atatürk to the global recognition spurred by Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Prize, Turkish literature has garnered increasing attention on the world stage.Firat Sunel is a product of the rich Turkish literary heritage. I had the opportunity of a conversation with him (together with the Lithuanian Ambassador Diana Mickevičienė) live at the Bangalore Literature Festival; and today I have the privilege of having him as my guest here—another conversation I am eager to have. To that end, joining me from his home in New Delhi is the Ambassador to India from Turkiye, Firat Sunel.Buy THE LIGHTHOUSE FAMILY: FIRAT SUNELTurkish diplomat, lawyer, scriptwriter, and author he studied law at Istanbul University and did his postgraduate at Bochum ruhr university in Germany. As a diplomat, he served in several countries and is now in New Delhi as Turkiye’s ambassador to IndiaHis novels include Salkım Söğütlerin Gölgesinde [In the Shade of the Weeping Willows, 2011] which inspired a tV series called Büyük Sürgün Kafkasya [The Great Exile Caucasia], İzmirli [Izmirli, My Last Love, 2015] and Sarpıncık Feneri [The Lighthouse Family, 2020].WHAT'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the fun etymology segment, "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!" where they discuss the word “DIPLOMAT”.CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity..comOr here: here:
41:24 2/13/24
Churchill And India Fighting Retreat With Historian Walter Reid
Send us a Text Message.You know how some people just seem to have that star quality? Winston Churchill, he was one of those. No matter how many books, documentaries you may have imbibed—or, speaking of imbibed, tales you may have heard of his brandy-infused mornings, there's always an insatiable appetite for more and more Churchill.His wit, his wisdom, and yes, even his lack of a filter in his shock-jock pronouncements—all adds up to a mystique, often a respect, that even the former colonies do not deny. Maybe the respect comes from his sense of personal conviction and his uncompromising dedication as a patriot. And not the least because he is credited with defeating Adolf Hitler.Churchill's desire not to let India go seemingly bordered on obsession. Even when he wasn't steering the ship in India he was always with one eye on the country that made the Empire, well, the empire.Today, to guide me through understanding Churchill and India, I have the privilege of talking to my guest—renowned historian and author, Walter Reid—whose new book, Fighting Retreat, unravels the layers of Churchill's impact on the Indian subcontinent.From Churchill’s privileged though unconventional background, through the many accusations against him for being a racist and being cold-hearted, there’s also his apparent compassion for the underdog. As an example, his support for the Dalit cause.In 1917, The Montagu Declaration marked a turning point in British ownership of India. The Irwin Declaration of 1929 tried to paper over its deficiencies. And then as one thing led to another in the 30 eventful years between 1917-1947, between Montagu-Chelmsford and independence, Churchill stoutly opposed any countenance of an India independent of the Empire.He once spoke of the three factions—of Hindus, princely states, and Muslims—being the metaphorical "three-legged stool" upon which Britain sat indefinitely.Was this divide and rule? Or was this good administrative strategy?  How did it all pan out? I cannot wait to ask Walter Reid and to delve into the intricate relationship between the icon Winston Churchill and the complex tapestry of India.Buy Fighting Retreat: WALTER REIDWalter Reid is a historian educated at the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and the author of a number of acclaimed books on British politics and history, including Keeping the Jewel in the Crown: the British Betrayal of India and most recently Neville Chamberlain: The Passionate Radical. He raises sheep and cattle in Scotland and grows olives in France. He is married to Janet Reid, a journalist, and has two adult daughters.WHAT'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the fun etymology segment, "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!" where they discuss the word “QUISLING” and Churchill’s wit.CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here:
43:48 12/12/23
A Disquiet In The Queen Of All Nations With Abhijit Sengupta
Send us a Text Message.In what is meant to be his quiet and reflective corridor of retirement, my guest today, Abhijit Sengupta grapples with a disquiet that lingers. A former senior IAS officer and therefore, you might say, a custodian of order and democracy, a lifetime of service to the nation has clearly left him with a profound sense of duty that refuses to retire with him.Abhijit’s expression of angst—a visceral response to the erosion of the democratic foundations that he cherished—has resulted in his latest book, The Queen of All Nations. A response to what he sees as the foundations of democracy that are being visibly eroded with every headline and each policy shift, serving up yet another dissonant note in a score he thought he knew by heart.It is understandably difficult for anyone to come to grips with the realisation that the ideals he held dear are slipping through the cracks of a society in a time of ideological polarisation.So, amidst all this angst, Abhijit Sengupta becomes a reluctant activist in this shifting landscape of incipient fascism and rising fundamentalism. But he channels his efforts not as a lament for a bygone era but as something of a rallying cry for the return of ideals. With the optimism that the spirit of a plural, democratic society can endure if those who believe in it refuse to be silent witnesses to its demise.The Queen of All Nations is more than a historical narrative. It's a call for greater awareness of history and what got us here. It is a poignant reflection on the anguish of this intellectual in a world grappling with political turmoil.And, as a comfortable read, the book serves as a lighthouse for readers of the younger generation whom he takes on a sweeping journey through the annals of modern India, delving into the intricate political landscape, social upheavals, and cultural transformations that have shaped the nation's identity.To discuss his book, his ethic and his state of mind, he joins from his home in Bangalore, a city we share.Buy The Queen Of All Nations: Buy A to Z: Read Ramjee Chandran’s review of A to Z: ABHIJIT SENGUPTAAbhijit Sengupta joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1972 and retired in 2008  as Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Government of India. He has Master's degrees in Public Administration from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and in English Literature from Delhi University. He received the prestigious Pearson fellowship of the IDRC, Canada in 1984-85 to study Public Administration.WHAT'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the fun etymology segment, "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!" where they discuss the "FULL STOP."CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here: by Sergii Pavkin from Pixabay
40:39 11/28/23
The Secret Of More With Tejaswini Apte-Rahm
Send us a Text Message.The essence of historical fiction is telling stories set in a particular period of time. They transport us to a different place, offering insights into the past while exploring themes that are relatable across generations.In the craft of historical fiction, authors take creative liberties with places, events, and characters, using them as foundations for their stories. Here are some noteworthy examples: "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell, "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy, "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett, and “The Great Gatsby”... Fitzgerald. Among such works most discussed of course is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years Of Solitude.”One of the few Indian writers who have attempted a huge span of time in a novel is my guest today, Tejaswini Apte-Rahm. Her debut novel, "The Secret of More," unfolds in colonial Bombay and spans 50 years—1899 to 1952. (Another such notable  work is David Davidar’s “The House Of Blue Mangoes”—featured in my conversation with him in an earlier episode on this podcast:’s story captures the transformation of Bombay, under British rule, from a mercantile centre to a busy metropolis. And the emergence of a vibrant movie industry—starting with silent movies.And against this intriguing backdrop, she unravels the story of a young man named Tatya, who is driven by a relentless desire for “more” success. Tatya is modelled after Tejaswini’s great-grandfather—and she crafted his character and that of early Bombay through extensive research, including the oral histories of her family.It's easy to understand why "The Secret Of More" has captured the attention of critics like myself and many others. There's something truly compelling about this novel that draws you in and keeps you there. Managing to maintain a charged narrative across five decades is not easy, but Tejaswini does it well. Deservedly, the book just won the Tata Literature Live First Book Award For Fiction 2023, and at the time of this recording, it's shortlisted for both the JCB and the Atta Galatta awards. The JCB award winner is to be announced around the time this episode goes live.I invited her on this podcast to get a look at her creative process. So she now joins me here.ABOUT TEJASWINI APTE-RAHMTejaswini Apte-Rahm's short story collection, These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape, was shortlisted for two awards in 2017. She co-authored an environmental education book for children, The Poop Book!, nominated for the Jarul Book Award 2021-22 and translated into Tibetan. Her fiction has appeared in various publications. She has worked as a journalist and environmental researcher. She studied in Singapore and the UK, and has lived in Serbia, Israel, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Fiji and Azerbaijan. She currently lives in Germany.BUY THE SECRET OF MORE:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the fun etymology segment, "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!"CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here: by
33:42 11/21/23
Mani Shankar Aiyar And The Memoirs Of A Very Literary Maverick
Send us a Text Message.My guest today is the remarkable Mani Shankar Aiyar. If you haven’t heard of him, let’s simply admit that you’ve been living under a rock.If you've been anywhere near the worlds of diplomacy, politics, or literature, you will know of him in detail but let me sum up his remarkable journey as succinctly as I can.Mani Shankar Aiyar joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1963. He then went on to become the Consul General in Karachi, Pakistan in 1978 through 1982. His path took a significant turn when he entered the Prime Minister's Office in 1985, working closely with the late Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.However, in 1989, he made a pivotal decision to leave the diplomatic arena and dive headfirst into politics. He served off and on as a Member of Parliament for the Congress Party for 25 years.Aiyar is a diplomat and politician—a man of words with a deep well of knowledge and a vast literary appetite. His unfiltered and honest expression, which has sometimes landed him in hot water, causing his own party, the Congress Party, to distance themselves from his candid remarks.His sense of humour is decidedly wicked and Wodehousian and he is nothing if not completely hilarious on demand. In one interview he spoke of his early Marxist leanings and being investigated by Indian intelligence for it. Of this, he said, “I think the Intelligence Bureau ultimately came to the conclusion that I was indeed a Marxist but of the Groucho variety.”For all his education a career in the best places in administration, Aiyar remains a socialist. He believes that the real and equitable development of India can happen only ground up, from the villages. To this, the country created the Ministry Of Panchayati Raj… for him. He was its first minister.His book, "Memoirs Of A Maverick," is a delightful read. It’s the sort of book that you can read in one sitting. And today, I am truly honored to host him again, this time on my podcast. He joins me from his home in Delhi, diplomat, politician, columnist, author, Mani Shankar Aiyar.ABOUT MANI SHANKAR AIYARAfter Doon School and St Stephen’s College, he joined the Indian Foreign Service and served for 26 years. In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi inducted him into the Prime Minister's Office from where he migrated four years later into politics and Parliament.Buy MEMOIRS OF A MAVERICK:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!",  where they discuss the phrase  "RAINING CATS AND DOGS*,CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here:
52:59 11/7/23
The Art Of The Thriller And The American Boyfriend With Ivy Ngeow
Send us a Text Message.In an essay, published in a 1964 edition of The Times Literary Supplement, V S Naipaul wrote:"The language was ours, to use as we pleased. The literature that came with it was therefore of peculiar authority, but this literature was like an alien mythology. There was, for instance, Wordsworth’s notorious poem about the daffodil. A pretty little flower, no doubt; but we had never seen it. Could the poem have any meaning for us?"He was talking about the irrelevance of English language education that was bottled in the UK and served up to the colonies. He was speaking of the sensibilities that post-colonial writers must have felt when confronted with the British literary canon as their window to a worldview.He eloquently expressed the perplexity felt by post-colonial writers when confronted with the British literary canon, which had been transplanted to their educational systems. Naipaul's words not only encapsulated the sentiment of those writers but also laid the foundation for the genre known as post-colonial literature.He, along with his contemporaries, emerged as the pioneering voice of post-colonial literature, paving the way for subsequent generations. Yet, even now, the weight of the British canon lingers as a defining aspect of their literary heritage.Today, we have the privilege of introducing you to Ivy Ngeow, a remarkable Malaysian author. She embodies the spirit of this literary fusion, skillfully weaving mystery narratives with a diverse tapestry of multicultural voices. Her latest work, "The American Boyfriend," stands as a testament to her storytelling prowess. This novel traverses the landscapes of the UK and the vibrant backdrop of Florida, offering an authentic and insightful narrative that mirrors the complexities of contemporary life.Join us as we explore the enduring influence of the British canon on post-colonial literature and delve into the remarkable literary journey of Ivy Ngeow, our first Malaysian author on The Literary City.ABOUT IVY NGEOWIvy Ngeow was born and raised in Malaysia. She holds an MA in Writing from Middlesex University, where she won the 2005 Middlesex University Literary Press Prize. Her debut, Cry of the Flying Rhino (2017), was awarded the International Proverse Prize in Hong Kong. Her novels include Heart of Glass (2018), Overboard (2020) and White Crane Strikes (2022). She is the commissioning editor of the Asian Anthology New Writing series. The American Boyfriend was longlisted for the Avon x Mushers Entertainment Prize. She lives in London.Buy THE AMERICAN BOYFRIEND:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!",  where they discuss the phrase  "WATCHING THE PAINT DRY*CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: Or here: music by Geoff Harvey, Pixabay and Andy Warner, Tunetank
39:37 10/24/23
What Happens When The Big Man Passes On? After Messiah With Aakar Patel
Send us a Text Message.Most of us do not colour code our threat levels. But nations do.Following 9/11, the Homeland Security Advisory System in America in 2002 came up with the warning system that we all know and love today in our TV shows—green, blue, yellow, orange and red, depending, obviously, on the severity of the threat.Government officials plan and practice their responses to each threat level—war games for the bureaucrats.What if the threat was not a threat in the conventional sense of some action that the nation must defend, but the threat that comes from nothing at all? One example is say, the leader of the nation passes and the administration suddenly loses its alpha and is left rudderless and the panjandrums receive no instructions on what to do next.Building an entire novel built upon this possibility as a foundational premise, is my guest today, a journalist, author, analyst, and commentator, and now, novelist. Aakar Patel, known for his extensive body of work in politics, culture, and political economics, has ventured into the world of fiction with his debut novel—After Messiah.A novel is a remarkable canvas for expressing ideas, freeing the author from the constraints of traditional media like newspapers.Newspapers, for instance, are required to simply and clearly report what happened. But sometimes as a newsperson, you get to know about things that you cannot report by the usual rules of reportage. Such as off-the-record information that might be of great importance. The edit page of the newspaper is for such things— where you might reveal or hint at something, having editorialised it.Aakar Patel's work raises essential questions about the role of the bureaucracy and the responsibilities it bears. His superior skills in prose ensure that his novel is not just thought-provoking but also an effortless—and very often funny—read. Aakar is not one to stay snugly inside the box; he busts out the whole “eager to learn and illuminate” ethic and thus, escapes the confines of convention.Today, he unveils this debut novel. While After Messiah might be his debut novel, this is not his debut appearance on The Literary City. He is my first returning guest in almost two years of this show. He joins me from his home in Bangalore, a city we share. PREVIOUS APPEARANCE: AAKAR PATELHe is a syndicated columnist who has edited English and Gujarati newspapers. His books include "Why I Write", "Our Hindu Rashtra: What It Is. How We Got Here", "Price of the Modi Years" and "The Anarchist Cookbook". His work reimagining South Asia, "The Case For Akhand Bharat" is out in 2024. He is the Chair of Amnesty International India.BUY AFTER MESSIAH:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!",  where they discuss the word  "MESSIAH"CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: Or here:
50:23 10/10/23
Reason And Hope In A Dark Time With History's Angel And Anjum Hasan
Send us a Text Message.Good literature can help us navigate our own emotions and motivations, and it helps us see the world through the eyes of the writer. The best literature touches our hearts and our minds. It triggers our emotions, and makes us think critically about the world around us, by challenging our assumptions and consequently, expanding our understanding of what it means to be human.Some writers write from the heart, some from the head. The truly literary among them speak from the junction of emotion and reason—and this is what makes literature powerful. It is what allows us to connect with characters and stories on a deeper level.My guest today is an example of a writer who can write from the heart and from the head. She is novelist Anjum Hasan.Anjum grew up in small town India, in Shillong, Meghalaya—as we imagine, an idyllic setting in which her early impressions of life and culture took root, she now lives in the urban sprawl of modern Bangalore.And—judging from her earlier novels—she is comfortable in both skins. Anjum’s ability to traverse the two landscapes—both of small-town India and the ambition of Bangalore—is seamless. And this could be one reason why her insight is not just quick and keen, but unusual. And this sense of the insight has led to some pretty evocative, well-crafted prose. A good example of this is her latest novel, History's Angel—a powerful and moving story about lives in a time of rising religious phobia. History’s Angel explores the protagonist Alif's challenges of navigating an increasingly incomprehensible contemporary India, where political unrest is the normal and nostalgia is the refuge. The story offers a perspective on the larger context of asserting humanity in the face of widening social fissures.Anjum Hasan, apart from her novels, is someone I have always admired in general, for her prose. Her writing is sharp, compassionate, and darkly witty. What gets me most is her ability to craft sentences that are elegant but also accessible. I have always wanted to ask her about her prose.  So she is joining me from her family home in lovely Shillong.ABOUT ANJUM HASANAnjum Hasan’s work has been shortlisted for the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Hindu Literary Prize, and the Crossword Fiction Award. She won the Valley of Words Fiction Award 2019. She has been a Homi Bhabha Fellow, a Charles Wallace Writer-in-Residence, and is currently a New India Foundation Fellow. Her essays, short stories and poems are widely published including in New York Review of Books, Granta, The Paris Review, Baffler, Los Angeles Review of Books, Wasafiri, Asia Literary Review, and Caravan. She is the co-editor of the recent anthology Future Library: Contemporary Indian Writing.BUY HISTORY’S ANGEL:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!",  where they discuss the word  "ALEF”CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here: pic credit: Lekha Naidu.
45:20 9/26/23
Prof Ganesh Devy - The Man Who Discovered Over 700 Languages In India
Send us a Text Message.As a curious and casual reader of linguistics, one of the first things I learned is that there is no monolithic object called a single language. Languages are like a living organism, they grow and sometimes they are said to die, and sometimes, like humans, they disappear into a bureaucracy. Age and origins of language are not straightforward because languages evolve gradually over time, their origins, often, shrouded in prehistory. So, to determine that a particular language is “pure” or that another one is the world’s oldest language is to make specious determination. And naturally everything specious leads to contention. And then, the idea of linguistic age can vary, depending on how one defines it—whether by the emergence of a common ancestor language, or by early written records, or other criteria. And so it goes. And although one’s language is the closest expression of one’s identity, the more we learn the more we will temper our assumptions with a generous measure of “I don’t know.”This is exceptionally true of India. There is possibly no other landmass that offers up an overgrowth of languages, dialects and linguistic surprises as India does. All Indians know we have a diverse language landscape. Very few of us understand how astonishingly diverse.My guest today is the remarkable Prof Ganesh Devy—one of India’s foremost intellectuals, a linguist, a literary critic, and a cultural activist renowned for his pioneering work in documenting endangered languages and championing linguistic and cultural diversity in India. He is the principal behind the mammoth People's Linguistic Survey of India—or PLSI—and the winner of national awards, including the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Padma Shri.Prof. Devy's passion for language extends to his deep concern about the pitfalls of turning language into a political weapon. His idea of political activism is quite real—he lives it.  His extensive travel and the time he spent living among tribal communities is a testament to his commitment as would his returning the Sahitya Akademi award in protest after the tragic killing of MM Kalburgi.His most recent work is the book The Indians—Histories Of A Civilisation. A dazzling project that maps the history and evolution of the peoples of India. Written by over 100 scholars—and edited by Profs GN Devy & Ravi Korisettar and Tony Joseph—it maps every region of the country and speaks of the Indian human heritage of 12,000 years from the Ice Age to the present. And this book distills it into a little less than 700 pages, making it accessible for everyone, even with the most modest curiosity.You probably have heard of Prof Ganesh Devy but if you have not, it is a very good idea to learn more about someone who has pretty much made it his life mission to unearth, protect and foster the plurality that makes India, India.ABOUT PROFESSOR GANESH DEVYHe led the People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI), a comprehensive documentation of all living Indian languages. He has received several awards including the Padma Shri, Prince Claus Award, and Linguapax Award. Buy The Indians: Histories of a Civilization:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!",  where they discuss the words  "MOB" and “CROWD”CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here: https://www.ins
49:09 9/12/23
Tree And Serpent With John Guy Curator At The Met In New York
Send us a Text Message.As part of Siddhartha’s awakening, he became aware of a spiritual energy in nature where trees had souls, birds had wisdom, and flowers bloomed no matter what the season. And snakes had the power of protection. And then there was all manner of mythical and hybrid creature contributing to the magical art and literature of Buddhism.Of the many symbols and icons of Buddhism, there are two that are easily identifiable—the tree, everyone knows the most remembered thing is that the Buddha came to his enlightenment under one—the Bodhi tree—and another is the snake.Snake cults have always been known to India as I guess there was always the danger of snakebites—still an issue today in most parts of India. But the snake features in the narrative of the Buddha’s life. In one famous story, a cobra coiled itself around the base of Buddha’s platform of the tree and then spread its hood over his head, to protect him from the elements as he reached his enlightenment. And even since, understandably, the snake has been used as the principal symbol of protection.Happening right now, in New York City, as we speak is an exhibition called “Tree And Serpent” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It explores the origins of Buddhist art in India. The exhibition features more than 140 objects dating from 200 BC to 400 AD including sculptures, paintings, jewellery, and metalwork. It also explores the influences on early Buddhist art by other cultures, such as the Hellenistic world and the Roman Empire. The most significant slice of it is that this exhibition focuses on the contribution of South India to the Buddhist canon. Historically, the contribution of south India was often overlooked or downplayed and Tree And Serpent seeks to correct this gap in the narrative.Tree And Serpent—not sure if I should call it a companion book—is the first book to focus on Buddhist art produced in South India from 200 BCE to 400 CE. While traditional narratives tend to focus on north India, this book presents Buddhist art from monastic sites in the south.My guest today is John Guy. He is the author of Tree And Serpent and he is Florence and Herbert Irving curator of South and South Asian Art at the Met in New York. His scholarly association with Indian art spans a lifetime of work and I am deeply honoured to be able to speak with him today.What I find amazing is what he had to go through to put this exhibition together. From ferreting out these Buddhist relics in remote parts of Andhra and other locations to shipping them to New York, the process would have been consuming. Amplify that when you consider that some of the heaviest pieces had to be transported, before the monsoons set in, by a boat, a ferry across the Krishna river and then on land to be loaded onto planes at Hyderabad.ABOUT JOHN GUYJohn Guy's research interests focus on the early Buddhist art of India and the temple arts of the Hindu-Buddhist-Jain traditions. He is an elected Fellow of the London Society of Antiquaries and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.Buy Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India: Head to your favourite bookstore for a deal.The Exhibition:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!",  where they discuss the word  "MONIKER".CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here: 
38:14 8/29/23
Ahmed Naji Discovers Literature In An Egyptian Prison - The Story In Rotten Evidence
Send us a Text Message.Today I‘m excited to be speaking with Ahmed Naji, a writer who spent two years in prison in Egypt for writing what the authorities judged to be objectionable material.But while Ahmed Naji was in prison, he discovered literature and through that, himself. It’s an amazing story of a person who finds magic and hope in the unlikely environs of the library of a stereotypical prison—a pestilential and dank hovel, one biscuit short of hell.But before I talk to him, I thought it might be useful to get some context going here, so, a little bit, about Egyptian literature first. Modern Egyptian literature began to flourish in the early 20th century, or right up to say the 1940s, as writers started to break away from traditional Arabic literary forms such as classical Arabic poetry, with specific meters and rhyming schemes. It was during that time that author Taha Hussein, often called the "Dean of Arabic Literature," challenged classical literary norms, when he introduced a more accessible style of prose.The next decade saw the birth of a cultural renaissance with the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952 and the beginning of the republic. That’s about when Naguib Mahfouz happened. He went on to win the Nobel in 1988 and brought world attention to Egyptian literature.As with all cultural forms, one decade tends to build on the previous and the successive decades have seen social realism, pioneering books, like "Woman at Point Zero", about the struggles of women in Egyptian society, and writers explained the challenges of contemporary life. There was the growth of female and feminist voices and of course the influences from the Arab Spring. Importantly, there has been a growth in contribution to literature from the Egyptian diaspora.I found Ahmed Naji’s writing online and I was fascinated by his story and his work and we tracked him down to his new home in the United States. Ahmed’s latest book Rotten Evidence is a story about his time in prison, about how he discovered literature and found the writer in himself and the reality of protest. These lines capture the essence of the protest against censorship and being jailed for alleged obscenity."James Joyce, who swore to express himself with the greatest degree of freedom possible—and never to serve home, fatherland, or church—said a writer had three weapons: silence, exile, and cunning. Well, Joyce, they put me in prison, and all I had left was laughter and rage."Such is the captivating prose of my guest today. Ahmed Naji joins me from his home in Las Vegas for this delightful conversation.ABOUT AHMED NAJIAhmed Naji is a writer, journalist, documentary filmmaker... and criminal. His novel Using Life made him the only writer in Egyptian history to have been sent to prison for offending public morality. Naji has won several prizes including a Dubai Press Club Award and a PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. He is currently a fellow at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute. Buy Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in an Egyptian Prison:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!",  where they discuss the Arabic proverb  "BUKRA FI'L MISH MISH".CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here:
43:38 8/15/23
Centres Of Power - In The Den With Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi And Chinmay Gharekhan
Send us a Text Message.Why were the 1980s pivotal in so many respects? Think the giddy days of glasnost and perestroika, the end of the cold war—of the whole Soviet Union in fact, liberalisation and globalisation, GATT and open borders, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the rise of Rajiv Gandhi—who stepped on the gas and pushed the country towards a more open economy.I became a lobbyist in Delhi in the 80s. I was barely twenty when I joined as a fresher, in 1980. When I quit my job and returned home to Bangalore in 1988, I had aged more than the chronology of the eight years would suggest.As a young man growing into his own, I was privileged to have been in the middle of the most pivotal period of Indian administration and world history since WWII. Up close and in the middle of it all. It was a lesson in how policy and administration works, it was a lesson in understanding the scale of their enterprise, and it was a lesson in humility.When you are in your twenties, you have the answer to all problems—and there’s a good side to that because you feel both empowered and a participant, with access to the centres of power.But my guest today was one of those who was, himself a centre of power—Chinmay Gharekhan. Of the many important offices he held, one of which was in the Prime Minister’s Office—both during the time of Indira Gandhi and then Rajiv Gandhi. And then he was India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.His book is a memoir of his days at the Prime Minister’s Office, the real seat of power in India and following that in the United Nations Security Council during the period of the First Gulf War—another greatly pivotal period for us.Chinmay Gharekhan is the author of the memoir, Centres Of Power - My Years In The Prime Minister’s Office and Security Council. It is always fascinating to think of our history—as these things influence the way we think today—and when you have someone who had a ringside seat to those events, you listen carefully.And joining me from his home in Scarsdale in New York is Ambassador Gharekhan.ABOUT THE AUTHORChinmaya R. Gharekhan, a distinguished member of the Indian Foreign Service, served in several capitals in different continents. He had the unique privilege of working with two prime ministers, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, for a period of about five years. He spent the better part of his career dealing with the United Nations. As ambassador of India to the United Nations in New York, he represented India on the Security Council during 1991–1992 and was twice president of the Security Council. He was appointed prime minister’s special envoy for West Asia and the Middle East Peace Process during 2005–2009.Buy Centres Of Power:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!",  where they discuss the etymology of  "HOIST WITH ONE'S OWN PETARD"CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here:
40:18 8/1/23
With Tenzin Dickie And The Defiance Of Tibetan Literature In The Bardo
Send us a Text Message.A few weeks ago, I was reading LitHub, one of the many literary magazines I enjoy greatly, and I found an essay that caught my immediate fancy. It is titled, “Literature in the Bardo: Tenzin Dickie on the Past, Present, and Future of the Tibetan Essay”. Not only was I captivated by her prose but importantly, it opened a window to the world of Tibetan literature.Growing up in India, Tibet exists by default, if nothing else. We know a smattering of things about that country and its culture. There’s the Dalai Lama, there are the Tibetan settlements in Dharamsala in the north and Bylakuppe, south of Bangalore and we know that the Tibetans come here to run away from the Chinese occupation of their country. Inevitably there’s someone who tells us to go to that Tibetan doctor—and that their system of medicine is the best.Things like this make us believe we know Tibet more than we really do. Gives us a sense of familiarity but not any knowledge. You don’t think much about it—other than maybe feeling happy to have been a shelter for someone in need, especially when that someone is the Dalai Lama—but the LitHub piece set me running down a delightful rabbit hole.My guest today is the author of that essay, Tenzin Dickie and you heard her reading an extract from it. I would describe Tenzin as an exceptionally gifted writer.  Her latest book is titled The Penguin Book Of Modern Tibetan Essays and the stories in it present a wonderful window into the Tibetan soul—these stories are both touching and strong and you begin to appreciate not just the mind of the minority but also the mind of a minority in exile, possibly forever.Tenzin edited this book and with this and whatever I read about her in my research, I’ll venture that she is the new custodian of the Tibetan tale. I have spent the last week happily immersed in Tibetan literature and I have a ton of questions for her. And so here she is, joining me from her home in Boston.ABOUT TENZIN DICKIETenzin Dickie is the editor of the English language anthologies of modern Tibetan fiction and nonfiction: Old Demons, New Deities: Twenty One Short Stories from Tibet & The Penguin Book of Modern Tibetan Essays. A graduate of Harvard and Columbia Universities, she also studied at the Tibetan Children's Village School in Dharamsala, India.Buy The Penguin Book Of Modern Tibetan Essays here:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the etymology of  "PROVERB"CONTACT USReach us by mail: or simply, tlc@explocity.comOr here: here:
35:54 7/18/23
Godfrey Pereira And The Insane Story Of An English Smuggler In Bombay
Send us a Text Message.This is the incredible but true story of an Englishman—a dockworker in Bombay in the 1940s, who became a smuggler around the time of Independence.Not far offshore from the Ferry Wharf in Mumbai is a small island. It’s only some 100 metres out by boat, and you can see it from Ferry Wharf. It’s called Cross Island. You can see Cross Island on Google Maps. But even people who have lived in Mumbai all their lives are not aware that this island even exists.Mystery has always shrouded Cross Island. And like every abandoned or uninhabited place, it is beset by urban legend. The usual stuff… it’s haunted… it has ghosts… but the most compelling mystery of Cross Island is the story of the gold supposedly buried there. My guest today, Godfrey Pereria reads a passage about the gold that was buried on Cross Island because of the doings of the famous Portuguese poet Luis de Camoes. And about how the ship captain who actually hid the gold on the island was killed in a fight and how, since then, no one has been able to find the gold.Godfrey Pereira is the author of the book, Four And Twenty Blackbirds. He chanced upon the story of an Englishman, Charlie Strongbow,—an Englishman, born and raised in Bombay and a dockworker in the Bombay docks.Charlie Strongbow was one of a few Englishmen who were in India at the time of Independence, but did not leave India. Returning to England was not an option for them as they had nothing there. He and 23 others—hence four and twenty—British people move to Cross Island to set up a smuggling operation.We have all read colonial and independence and partition stories all of which tend to be about people at the top of society or who are responsible for historical events. But Godfrey Pereira’s historical fiction novel highlights another point of view. It focuses on this group of Britishers of lowly status—men of calloused hands and base desires—trying to survive independence. It's a new perspective on the colonial era.And of course, there’s always gold. There’s no evidence that the poet Luis de Camoes decamped with stolen gold, but the damnedest thing is that in 2021—just two years ago—workers dredging in Cross Island found two bars of gold stuck in their dredging equipment.Was this the gold that de Camoes had decamped with? Or was it all urban legend Godfrey Pereira joins me from his home in West Palm Beach, Florida so we can ask him.ABOUT GODFREY PEREIRABorn in Pali Village, Bandra, Bombay, Godfrey Joseph Pereira graduated from college with a degree in English Literature and Philosophy. What followed was a career in journalism. He worked with leading national magazines and worked as War Correspondent covering the First Gulf War from Israel. His first novel Bloodline Bandra was published by HarperCollins in 2014. His second novel is  Four And Twenty Blackbirds, a work of historical fiction. He has just finished his third novel The Incredible India Brownwash. He has lived and worked as a journalist in Bombay, New York City and New Jersey and now works and resides in West Palm Beach, Florida. Buy Four And Twenty Blackbirds here:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the meaning and origins of "Let the chips fall where they may".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
36:50 7/4/23
A Tumbleweed In Shakespeare & Company - Jeremy Mercer
Send us a Text Message.When George Whitman, in 1951, established a bookstore he wanted it to be more than a literary sanctuary for book lovers. He turned it into a sanctuary for writers seeking inspiration.The bookshop — as any devotee of books or, really, any of my listeners would have guessed — is the legendary Shakespeare & Company in the heart of Paris. Whitman welcomed all writers who needed a place to stay as his own personal guests at the bookstore — and to accommodate them, he had rooms and beds and made space available, entirely free. This philosophy is best summarised by a sign painted above an inner door that reads, “Be kind to strangers lest they be angels in disguise”.In exchange for staying there for free, these indigent writers — Whitman called them tumbleweeds — were asked only to read one book every day, and help stack books and carry out other chores in the shop. Oh, and they had to write something autobiographical about themselves for Whitman’s archives. Today, Shakespeare & Company is said to have played host and refuge to an estimated 40,000 tumbleweeds since 1951.One such tumbleweed that blew through Shakespeare & Company was my guest today, Jeremy Mercer — author of a delightful book, Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs. The book has another — and in my opinion better — title, Time Was Soft There.Towards the end of 1999, Jeremy had to abandon his life — and his job as a crime reporter in Ottawa, Canada — following a death threat. You’ll find out why in this podcast. He sought refuge in Paris. Before long, Jeremy was broke and without a place to stay, ended up living in Shakespeare and Company, as another tumbleweed.During his time there, Jeremy met a vibrant cast of characters — including George Whitman and fellow tumbleweeds — all of whom made the bookstore their home. Jeremy’s daily life became inseparable from the bookstore's activities, and its rich history and its literary heritage.Again, most of my listeners would already know that Shakespeare & Company — first started by Sylvia Beach was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and other literary giants. In fact, Sylvia Beach first published James Joyce’s Ulysses, when no one else would. In Whitman’s time, Shakespeare & Company served as a base for many of the writers of the Beat Generation, such as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William S. Burroughs.Jeremy’s book gives us a sense of the bohemian world of artists and writers in Paris as it celebrates the charm of independent bookstores. Above all, Jeremy brings us close to George Whitman, the legend.ABOUT JEREMY MERCERJeremy Mercer is a Canadian writer and translator who lives in the Luberon in France. He has written four works of non-fiction that have been published in more than a dozen languages. After translating the English edition of L’Abolition by former French Minister of Justice Robert Badinter, he began specialising in art and photography translation. His writing has won or been nominated for numerous literary and journalism prizes. He also serves as president of AS Dauphin, his local football club.Buy Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs here:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the meaning and origins of "left bank" and "right bank".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
41:22 6/20/23
Aamina Ahmad And The Return Of Faraz Ali
Send us a Text Message.Authors have for a long time used literary expressions of anguish as a powerful tool to connect with readers. They may use language and symbolic references to nuance the emotions associated with it, but whatever their approach, they look to inspire emotions that deliver that gut punch.My guest today, Aamina Ahmad clearly knows how to handle the literature of conflicted emotions. Her debut novel, The Return Of Faraz Ali—set in the walled city of Lahore, Pakistan—is the story of a cop who is asked to hush up the murder of a prostitute by some powerful figures. But his deep connection to the Mohullah from his past takes the story in a direction that is both unexpected and compelling.While “The Return Of Faraz Ali” might be Aamina’s debut novel, she is an experienced writer. Her background and career speak to this experience.Aamina was born and raised in London and studied English in college. She worked for the BBC as a script editor, including on epic stories like The East Enders. And since then she has, of note, published a full length play, a short story and a novel. Here’s how she did:Her play, titled The Dishonoured, won a Screencraft Stage Play Award and was nominated for an Off-West End Award. Her short story "The Red One Who Rocks," published in 2019, won the Pushcart Prize. And “The Return Of Faraz Ali” won the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award. And then they decided to give her the 2017 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award for… well, simply for being a good and promising writer.One of the many things I like about doing this show is discovering new authors—even if the rest of the world discovered them before I did.And ever so often, a particularly delightful piece of writing presents itself and I spend several happy days disappearing into the worlds that they have crafted. The last few days were spent in the literature of Aamina.And now, she joins me from her home in Minneapolis. Aamina Ahmad, welcome to The Literary City.ABOUT AAMINA AHMADAamina Ahmad was born and raised in London, where she worked for BBC Drama and other independent television companies as a script editor. Her play The Dishonoured was produced by Kali Theatre Company, in 2016.  She has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a recipient of the Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, a Pushcart Prize, and a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award. Her short fiction has appeared in journals including One Story, The Southern Review and Ecotone. She won the Writers’ Guild Award 2022 for Best First Novel and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction at the L.A Book Prize for The Return of Faraz Ali. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Buy The Return Of Faraz Ali:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the origin of the phrase, "IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME!".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
37:00 5/9/23
John Keane And The Shortest History Of Democracy
Send us a Text Message.There are many who believe that the cradle of democracy was Greece. But if anything, Greece may lay claim to the etymology of the word democracy, but not to democracy itself. Whence then?The short answer by many historians is that the first evidence of democracy was in the Syrian-Mesopotamian region (Mesopotamia would be a large region around Iran as we know it today). That was around 2500 BC and this democracy was characterised by assemblies of people. And then—about 1000 years later—around 1500 BC the Indian sub-continent saw people assembling for public governance.And in the thousands of years since, we have seen the growth of democracy—marked by greater inclusiveness of its stakeholders. To see all of it laid out in a convenient timeline is both fascinating and illuminating because it provides a ready reference and immediate context.My guest today is John Keane historian and Professor of Politics, at the University of Sydney. John Keane is credited with introducing and popularising the term "Monitory Democracy" in his book "The Life and Death of Democracy," published in 2009. His formulation of "Monitory Democracy" has gained widespread recognition and influence in the field of political theory, as a distinct and important form of democratic governance.John’s latest book, The Shortest History Of Democracy, is a concise journey through the history of democracy, from ancient Greece to the present day. It sets out the origins you really need to know about democracy. To be able to pull this off in less than only 250 pages, would take a lifetime of learning.John Keane’s contributions to the field of political science have been both profound and influential. His research has focused on a wide range of topics, from democratisation and globalisation to political violence and the role of media in politics.But it all begs the question that very few can answer and I am not one of them: what is democracy? I grew up completely convinced that my government if you like is the moral equivalent of an apartment building manager, to whom I would offer this job description: “Keep things clean, safe and in working condition and you don’t get to decide I can and cannot watch on cable TV.”But in reality, well, the study of democracy and its history is the reality in which we live, an always fluid—even roller-coaster—state of affairs it seems. But the importance of a historian in this mix goes back to that time-worn adage about repeating history. I can't help but wonder: what went right, what went wrong, and where is democracy headed and this is a question that really visits all of us… even our listeners who don’t live in a democracy. This is a timeless conversation that I can't wait to have with John. Happily, I don’t have to wait, because here is he joining me from Sydney, Australia.ABOUT JOHN KEANEHe is a Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and the WZB (Berlin). Renowned globally for his creative thinking about politics, history, media and democracy, The Times of London described him as among the country’s leading political thinkers The Australian Broadcasting Corporation speaks of him as one of Australia’s great intellectual exports. Buy The Shortest History Of Democracy:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the origin of the phrase, "TO HELL IN A HAND BASKET".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here: 
40:38 4/25/23
The Insatiable Feminism Of The Fabulous Shobhaa De
Send us a Text Message.That was my guest today, the incomparable Shobhaa De.Shobhaa is one of the most famous writers in India and her reputation has travelled everywhere, but it behooves me to talk about the realpolitik of Shobhaa De’s literature.Let me tell you why Shobhaa De is so significant to English writing in India. Not only was her great success as an author inspiring, but to my mind, the most significant thing I can say about Shobhaa is that she kicked down the doors for generations of women writers who followed her.Uniquely, she gave women a voice. At the risk of reduction, I’ll venture that her novels explore the lives and loves of Indian women who embrace their sensuality without apology.  Despite, simply living their lives is often a patriarchy-fostered challenge, her protagonists are never sad victims. They follow their dreams rather than fit into society's expectations. At the fount of their sentience, they will not be marginalised.I imagine that such a narrative is even possible only because Shobhaa’s prose is an honest prose, without artifice.And funny. But the lightness she brings to this prose often belies the dark realities that she is addressing. While most literature of this genre tends to be disconsolate… even self-pitying— the humour I speak of, in Shobhaa’s narratives, is a testament to her skill as a writer.For this reason, I am sure, her writing has been the subject of almost one hundred academic dissertations—of researchers and scholars in universities around the world—studying feminist literature—and I imagine this number is only growing.Recently, Shobhaa launched her latest book titled “Insatiable”, and it is a memoir filled with anecdotes and personal experiences—told interestingly from the perspective of food. Artfully, Shobhaa De crafts a narrative using food as the conduit for descriptions of events in her life that happened around it.In literature, eating and not-eating are always symbolic, and food always means something other than mere food. Food is a fun metaphor in literature. Ernest Hemingway used it as did Shobhaa’s favourites, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.And now, here she is, joining me from her home in Bombay to talk about her life and literature. ABOUT SHOBHAA DEShobhaa Dé, voted by Reader's Digest as one of 'India's Most Trusted People' and by Daily News and Analysis as one of the '50 Most Powerful Women in India', is a bestselling author and a popular social commentator. Her works, both fiction and non-fiction, have been featured in comparative literature courses at universities in India and abroad. Her writing has been translated into many languages including Hindi, Marathi, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish, among others. Shobhaa lives in Mumbai with her family.Buy Insatiable:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the origin of the phrase, "SHIT HIT THE FAN".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
39:12 4/11/23
Nilanjana Roy And The Literature Of The Black River
Send us a Text Message.Nilanjana Roy is the girl who, as a child, ate books — in fact, she was known to have devoured them whole. This is obviously a reference to her book The Girl Who Ate Books, a paean to writing, writers and other such pursuit.Nilanjana is, most recently, author of the novel, Black River and she is my guest on The Literary City and we will talk about her fascinating career, from her early love of reading and writing, which led to her becoming a respected voice in the literary world.One of Nilanjana’s better known works is "The Wildings," a novel that tells the story of a community of cats who must band together to protect their home from a menacing force. But for me, it is the "The Girl Who Ate Books" — a memoir in which she reflects on her lifelong relationship with literature and evidently, the impact it has had on her life.In addition to being a novelist, Nilanjana has been a journalist — and something that all journalists agree on is that it provides a certain respect for fact and a discipline of prose — and Nilajana's writing reflects this in spades. She is also a columnist for reputable publications and consequent to her being a literary commentator, she has views on the evolution of literature in India and her book, The Girl Who Ate Books showcases that side of her very well.I enjoyed Black River mainly because it had a certain lyrical quality and a journalist’s eye for detail, all of which led to a murder mystery that is at once, a social commentary.So much to talk to her about. Here she is, joining me from her home in New Delhi.ABOUT NILANJANA ROYNilanjana S Roy is a writer, editor, columnist and compulsive reader. Born in Kolkata, she lives in New Delhi, a combination of cities that make her an expert on stray cats, homicides and brooding political dystopias. She is the author of Black River, a novel set in and around Delhi, the award-winning fantasy duology, The Wildings, and a collection of essays, The Girl Who Ate Books. She has edited three anthologies, including Our Freedoms, and writes a column on books for the Financial Times.Buy Black River:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the origin of the word, "NICKNAME".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
34:41 3/21/23
Jeet Thayil And The Epic Of Names Of The Women
Send us a Text Message.In the beginning of the episode, you will hear my guest Jeet Thayil read from his book, Names Of The Women — women whose paths crossed with Christ, and who, it is said, stayed by him during the crucifixion. And after.I have been fortunate to read so many books since I started hosting this podcast. Each book is as wonderful and as compelling as the next. And then a book comes along, like Names Of The Women that holds the craft of writing to a higher standard.Let me tantalizingly cycle back to that in a minute.Penguin had sent me a copy of a book compiled and edited by Jeet — The Penguin Book Of Indian Poets — an almost 1000-page thick compendium of Indian poetry. The book was years in the making and I am sure it will be around years for the taking.But when I had gone over to interview Jeet’s father, the famous journalist and author, TJS George, an earlier guest on this show, Jeet gave me a copy of Names Of The Women. And it gave me the chills in a way that very few books have done before. It is a hauntingly evocative story of the lives of those women.Despite being less than 200 pages long, Names Of The Women is aching to be a book three times its length. The substance is such. And when you pack all that into 200 pages, it makes it powerful.Thayil’s writing is a masterclass in narrative storytelling, rich with literary devices that enhance his already compelling craft.So much for what I think about the book. Let’s talk to Jeet.ABOUT JEET THAYILJeet Thayil is the author of four novels and five collections of poetry. His essays,poetry and short fiction have appeared in the New York Review of Books,Granta, TLS, The London Magazine, The Guardian and The Paris Review,among other venues. He is the editor of The Penguin Book of Indian Poets.Buy Names of the Women: The Penguin Book Of Indian Poets:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the not-so-fun origins of the word, "FUN".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
47:01 3/7/23
The Compelling Prose of Lynda Rutledge And West With Giraffes
Send us a Text Message.It is said that you don’t rescue dogs. They rescue you. This saying reflects the connection we can have with our pets. Especially dogs, who are said to have had a relationship with humans for thousands of years.When we adopt a dog, we think we're giving them a new lease on life, but in reality, they often give us so much more in return. Joy, comfort, companionship and a sense of purpose. They make us better humans. This idea of animals rescuing humans is the central theme in my guest Lynda Rutledge's brilliant novel, West with Giraffes.The book follows the journey of Woodrow Wilson Nickel, or Woody, a seventeen-year-old boy who drove two giraffes cross-country from New York to the San Diego Zoo. This novel is based on a true story—events that happened in 1938. The two giraffes survive the high seas and braved a storm that almost killed them. Then they needed to be transported to the San Diego Zoo.As Woody—and this travelling companion, the Old Man, navigate the challenges of the journey, the giraffes become not just his companions, but his teachers, showing him the beauty and grace of the world around him.What strikes me about West with Giraffes is how it channels the classic American novel style of writing and storytelling. It's a literary gem that will have you feeling like you're living in 1938 America, driving alongside Woody.The parallels with Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird are impossible to ignore. Both novels explore themes of coming-of-age, social injustice, and the power of empathy, all set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing America.While modern writing often reflects the times we live in and the technology we use, Lynda Rutledge proves in this novel that she has the ability to carry forward the tradition of great American authors like Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain. Her writing is just as compelling.She joins me from her home in Austin, Texas.ABOUT LYNDA RUTLEDGELynda Rutledge, a lifelong animal lover, has had the joy of petting baby rhinos, snorkeling with endangered turtles, and strolling with a tower of giraffes in her eclectic freelance career writing nonfiction for well-known publications and organizations while winning awards for her fiction. Her debut novel, Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale, won the 2013 Writers League of Texas Book Award for Fiction and was adapted into a major 2019 French film starring Catherine Deneuve. She, her husband, and resident dog, live outside Austin, Texas. For more information, visit   Buy West With Giraffes:'S THAT WORD?!Special guest Linda Persson joins co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav and host Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting origins of the phrase, "TWO SHAKES OF A RAT'S TAIL". WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
38:47 2/21/23
The World–A Family History With Simon Sebag Montefiore
Send us a Text Message.This interview was recorded live at Blossom Book House, Bangalore.Many years ago I saw a TV commercial that stuck with me. It showed a montage—sepia tinted portraits of older couples, with rather interesting last names:Alois and Klara HitlerBeso Jughashvili and Ekaterine Geladze (Josef Stalin’s parents)Andruta and Marie Ceausescu (parents of Nikolai Ceausescu, the genocidal leader of Romania.)And a few similar others. And then the punchline “If only these people had heard of Trojan condoms.”This commercial spoke a truth—that families are involved and responsible for the good ones and the monsters alike.We have heard much of the campaigns and conquests and cruelties of world leaders and we have read stories of incidents that might have influenced their growing years. But history is rather quiet on the roles their mothers played. Yes, what about Mom? How did Mom mess with their heads?The most definitive record of this truth—that is the family’s role in history—is written by Simon Seabag Montefiore in his book, "The World—A Family History". Simon’s book opens with the discovery of footprints. In 2013, a storm lashed the coast of eastern England in Norfolk at a village called Happisburg and uncovered these footprints. They found out that these footprints were left behind at least 850,000 years ago by a small group of humans and children— and that is the first evidence of a family.A blurb in Simon’s book says that from the beginning of history through the present, the one thing that humanity has in common is family. The World—A Family History reveals how the family unit has driven history—from the prehistoric homo antecessors of Happisburg to the modern days—the Trump family included.The book has such a huge span. In about 1300 pages it takes us through recorded history as we know it and in a never done before narrative, presents the history of the world through the families that have caused and created history in every corner of the world.This book is nothing short of a modern day epic. To those who have not had the pleasure of reading Simon Sebag Montefiore, let me say that his narrative is not only deep but gripping. And don't let the size of the book fool you. It is unputdownable and call me if it doesn’t go faster than binge-watching Game of Thrones with as much guts, gore and sex.I have been given the honour of bringing to you this prolific and hugely entertaining historian.ABOUT SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIOREMontefiore is the internationally bestselling author of prize-winning books that have been published in 48 languages. Catherine the Great & Potemkin, The Court of the Red Tsar, Young Stalin, Jerusalem: The Biography, and The Romanovs: 1613-1918. He is the author of the Moscow Trilogy of novels: Sashenka, Red Sky at Noon and One Night in Winter. He also wrote Written in History: Letters that Changed the World and Voices of History: Speeches that Changed the World. You can get a special 20% discount at Blossom Book House on Church St in Bangalore.  Or you can it order it from them here:  The World: A Family History: or better, here:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting origins of the word, "CONDOM". WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here: 
47:09 2/7/23
Karen Anand - The Culinary And Literary Adventures Of The Masala Memsahib
Send us a Text Message.There’s something primal about watching food shows on TV. Or any food show. Even restaurants that have a glass pane through which you can watch the chefs in the kitchen doing their thing. It engages your attention while they ham it up. No that’s not a pun.The business of someone setting about chopping up ingredients and turning them into masterful creations of art–truly subliminal and soul stirring to watch on the couch, while you eat instant noodles, unmindful of the irony.I had no better example than when my partner and I had bought the kids in our apartment building a ton of firecrackers for Deepavali. They had great fun on the street. Suddenly, at 8pm, total silence. They were gone. Bags of fireworks lay unattended on the sidewalk, the starter candles drooping.And where had all these pre-teen children gone? To watch Masterchef on TV.For many of us, watching cooking shows or reading about food is a form of escapism. It transports us to far-off lands and exotic cuisines, allowing us to experience new flavors and dishes without leaving home.But there's more to our love of food literature than just the escapism it provides. Food brings people together. Reading about it gives us a sense of connection. Sharing a meal is a fundamental human experience, and reading about food allows us to share in that experience–even vicariously. By reading about the foods of different regions and countries, we gain insights into their customs, cultures and traditions. So much history and indeed, social anthropology there.On this podcast—after months of dealing with authors who have written about the ravages of war and politics and poetry’s melancholic joy—today I feel as happy as a predictable late light TV talkshow host who is about to cook Christmas turkey with Martha Stewart.Except that my guest today is closer to Julia Child, the famous author of cookbooks and host of TV and radio shows in the US. You might remember that Meryl Streep played Julia Child in the movie Julie and Julia.My guest is Karen Anand, one of India’s best known food personalities. Author of some 30 books and host of TV shows since the mid-1980s Karen has brought class to the industry in India. She is widely respected and—to my knowledge—chefs of all persuasions are known to court her opinion and her approval.Her most recent book is intriguingly titled “Masala Memsahib” and it is a wonderful journey through giving us a window into food across India. Her expertise is honed from years of practice and her prose is that of an imaginative writer. And I am eager to talk to her about the book and about her life. So here she is. Karen Anand, welcome to The Literary City.ABOUT KAREN ANANDKaren Anand is widely accepted as one of India’s first food gurus. A prolific author with some 30 books published, she has been a TV host on popular food shows.  Karen received the prestigious Food & Spirit Award (Trophée de l’Esprit Alimentaire) for Culture from the French Government. In 2019, she won the French Ambassadors Travel Writers Award.Buy Masala Memsahib:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting phrase, "CHERCHEZ LA FEMME".  Plus they are joined by celebrity chef, Abhijit Saha. WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
43:02 12/13/22
To Hell And Back With Barkha Dutt
Send us a Text Message.When the government exempted media from the lockdown, logically, this was to ensure that the media could do its job—which was to bring information and news to the people who were sequestered in their homes.My guest today did just that. She is Barkha Dutt, one of India’s best known journalists. Barkha decided that she was going to bring information to the people. True to her wont, she did not do this by halves. She stepped out and travelled across the country with a small team of colleagues.Over about three months, she with her team logged over 30,000 kms—that’s a shade under 19000 miles—travelling over surface in every available transport just to meet people.Of course a tragedy like this brings out the best and the worst in people and Barkha was witness to all of it. Appropriately, her book is titled Humans Of Covid.Everywhere she went, she logged the stories of the worst off among us. These stories are deeply human and capture the essence of how we cope when nature turns against us.The medical fraternity cared for the living. Barkha met people who cared for the dead. People who put their own religions behind them and even temporarily adopted the faith of those who needed to be cremated. They gave the dead the dignity that the pandemic had taken from them.At one point this journey turned deeply personal for Barkha. She lost her father to COVID. But she soldiered on and the result is this compelling book. A historical account, oral histories of the most disadvantaged; their grief, sometimes their hubris, often their humanity. As a journalist Barkha has covered some of the biggest stories in the nation. Of the many, she mentions that her eventful career was bookended by the war in Kargil in 1999 and the Covid crisis in 2021.In what was a staid and almost pedagogic profession—as journalism in India used to be—she was one of the new breed of TV journalists, aggressive with an eye on one prize alone...the story.I had the privilege to host a live session with Barkha at the recent Bangalore Literature Festival and doubly my privilege now to welcome her as my guest today.ABOUT BARKHA DUTTBarkha Dutt is one of India’s foremost broadcast journalists. After two decades with NDTV, she is now the Founder-Editor of Mojo Story, an independent digital media platform. A columnist for The Washington Post, she has received more than fifty national and international awards, including the Padma Shri.Buy To Hell and Back: Humans of COVID:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting word, "DEADLINE".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
39:41 12/6/22
The Compelling Book Of Bihari Literature With A Poet-Diplomat Abhay K
Send us a Text Message.The ability to write well used to be a necessary qualification for high office. Whether prose or poetry, literature was important as a tool of communication.It all makes sense. The more skilled you are in the medium of instruction, the better the instruction. The highest thinkers of the realms were always great writers. The founding fathers of the USA—such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams only to name two very good examples. They pursued letters and learning as a necessary part of their ability to create law and to govern effectively. Before them, we have learned of several of the ancient Greeks and Roman senators who were men of letters. And not to forget some famous Chinese emperors who wrote their edicts in verse.The mandarins and panjandrums of yore morphed into the present day bureaucrat. Of particular relevance to us today, the diplomat.My guest today is Abhay K. He is the Deputy Director General of the Indian Council For Cultural Relations. He was India’s Ambassador to Madagascar and is a career diplomat. He is what is called a poet-diplomat.Poet-diplomats are poets who have also served their countries as diplomats. The best known poet-diplomats are perhaps Geoffrey Chaucer and Thomas Wyatt; the category also includes recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature: Gabriela Mistral, Saint-John Perse, Miguel Asturias, Pablo Neruda, Czesław Miłosz  and Octavio Paz.Abhay K is one of a few contemporary poet-diplomats. In his words, “Diplomacy is generally conducted in short sentences which reveal as much as they hide. Poetry is no different".Abhay is the author of several tomes of poetry and through those has discovered so many cultures of the world through their poetry. His latest book is titled The Book Of Bihari Literature. This book opened up a world that I had only suspected existed. With every page.The biggest revelation I got from reading the book was how humane the text and adult the sentiment. It is the sort of maturity that does not characterise any but the best of Indian writing in English. And this book alone would stand testimony to the need for more translations of not only Indian literature but those of so many cultures.Abhay’s understanding of the space and his skill in translating verse and curating these anthologies came rushing out the pages of the book. It is an understanding that—not surprisingly—goes beyond literary constructs, abstractions and devices, straight into the heart of the culture whether it is Brazil or Bihar.And this whole definition of poet-diplomat started to make complete sense. I am eager to talk to him and so here he is, joining me from his hotel room in the Andamans, where he is currently on a work trip.ABOUT ABHAY KAbhay K. is a poet, diplomat, editor and translator. He is the author of a dozen poetry books including ‘Monsoon’ (Sahitya Akademi) and the editor The Book of Bihari Literature (HarperCollins India). He received the SAARC Literature Award 2013. His poem-song 'Earth Anthem' has been translated into over 150 languages. Buy The Book Of Bihari Literature:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting word, "LIMERICK".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
38:12 11/29/22
The Amazing Reign Of Raja Raja Chola With Kamini Dandapani
Send us a Text Message.There’s much interest of late about the Chola empire.For many reasons. The reason that looms large is the recent blockbuster movie, Ponniyin Selvan, which, is all about the most famous of the Cholas, Raja Raja. The Cholas were one of the longest running empires in history. The earliest historic references to the Cholas dates back to 300 BC and the empire was disestablished in 1279 AD. That’s just shy of 1600 years. By comparison the Mughal empire ran from 1526 - 1857—that’s under 350 years.While the Indian region was invaded and occupied variously for thousands of years, the Cholas were significant in their thalassocratic—or maritime—escapades in South East Asia. Their trade routes extended to Guangzhou in China and the silk route on the other side. They ruled the Maldives and Sri Lanka and clearly they knew where to sail to and where to fight.And there was no greater time in all the Chola years than during the rule of Raja Raja Chozhan that ran from 985 to 1014, about three decades. If you made a list of all the stuff he achieved from infrastructure and construction to military campaigns across the south and overseas, you would find it hard to figure how someone could do so much today, leave alone over a thousand years ago.My guest today is Kamini Dandapani. She is a New York based corporate executive—Chase Manhattan Bank and McKinsey consulting. She does not call herself a historian. As a hobby she started a blog writing about historical places she visited in the south of India. There’s a link to her blog in her bio below. She says that Aleph, the reputable publishing house, called and asked to write a book.And she did. This book is titled Raja Raja Chola, King Of Kings. I chose this book to present on this podcast because it is a wonderfully structured book.The book is broken down into easily digestible chapters and Kamini strikes no elegant postures in her recounting the rule of one of the most respected kings of the world. In the parlance of the present, a man we might refer to as woke, efficient and progressive.Kamini’s biography brings us closer to the history of the south in a way that cannot be replaced by comic books and movies.She is a writer, a historian, a Carnatic singer, A Bharatanatyam dancer, a trained western classical pianist and she joins me now from her home in Manhattan.ABOUT KAMINI DANDAPANIKamini Dandapani lives New York. She has had training in Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam and Pianoforte, She moved to the US to study and work, Her blog, Tales of South India resulted in the writing of her book about Rajaraja Chola, published by Aleph. Buy Rajaraja Chola, King Of Kings:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting phrase, "GIVING AN INDIAN ANSWER".WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here:
39:35 11/22/22
Huma Abedin The Indomitable Peace Within
Send us a Text Message.There’s something about Huma. Something happens a few seconds after you meet her. You fall in love with her.Now, this immediate attraction is not for the typical reasons—of which admittedly there are many. And it has nothing to do with things like innate goodness, inner light and such other syrup. Well, I'm putting it down to some “cannot tell what it is x-factor” and I’m moving on.My guest today is Huma Abedin. She works with Secretary Hillary Clinton. Huma is former Deputy Chief Of Staff of Hillary Clinton and at present, something even more central, I’m assuming.Huma has worked with Hillary Clinton in this job for over 25 years. It isn't an easy job. I imagine that it would take not only a tough internal spirit, and a strong work ethic of course, but requires something more deeply intellectual to be able to comprehend the meaning of such a job and do it well.It was not the simplest thing for Huma Abedin to have lived in the Venn diagram overlap of being BOTH an American AND a Muslim whilst living in the penumbra of the Clintons and the White House.This, more than anything, summarises the ethic, the plurality, the dualism if you like, of her book Both/And, that I will discuss today with her.Both/And is a 500-page memoir of Huma’s life…till date. It has her life from childhood, her parents, her growing up years in Saudi Arabia and then in the United States of course, and all her years working for Hillary Clinton.Reading all the reviews of her book in the international press, I found the central theme that ran ran through much of the world's press—newspapers, TV—reviewing Both/And tending towards the trivial and reductive—rather than her as an author, a thinker, her faith and her pivotal role as an assistant to one of the most powerful women in the world. One who was this close to becoming the first woman president of the United States.But when I read Both/And, I discovered in it, a woman, a writer, a polyglot, a diplomat, and a sponge to knowledge and—I repeat—something more deeply intellectual that helps her comprehend the true meaning of her job.With Both/And Huma steps out from stage left, right into her own spotlight…and maybe a career in politics? I am privileged to be able to ask that and other questions of her today.ABOUT HUMA ABEDINHuma Abedin has spent her entire career in public service and national politics, beginning as an intern in First Lady Hillary Clinton’s office in 1996. After four years in the White House, she worked in the U.S. Senate as Senior Advisor to Senator Clinton and was Traveling Chief of Staff for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. In 2009, she was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of State. Huma served as Vice Chair of Hillary for America in 2016, resulting in the first woman elected nominee of a major political party. She currently serves as Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff. Born in the United States and raised in Saudi Arabia, Huma moved back to the U.S. in 1993. She lives in New York City with her son, Jordan.Buy Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting origins of the word, "PABLUM" WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here: credits: Daddy_s_Music and ArtSlop_Flodur - Pixabay
44:36 11/15/22
Jerry Pinto, His Muse And The Education Of Yuri
Send us a Text Message.The way I read the book, the story is about the travails of a young Indian who must make the long and labyrinthine transition from boy to man.A difficult job when a large offset of one's opportunities in middle class India is being beholden to family, with conservative family elders and conversations in a minefield of verbal taboos.It is hard to hold down an adult conversation with elders—always an uncomfortable thing—and incurably hard to avoid. To wit, when you are spoken to as a perennial child right into your adulthood, there is little scope for quiet and confident assertiveness and individualism. Personas must change to suit whatever pleases the current conversation.And all this while there's the business of growing up to contend with. Sometimes so difficult a job that many don't ever fully make it to what might be considered manhood—at least by the the stereotypical norms of the rest of the world.An ethic that is skilfully captured by my guest today the author, Jerry Pinto. You might say that Jerry understands the Indian middle class. His book The Education of Yuri is what people in literature would call, a bildungsroman—which is a novel about the growing up years.It is a story of a feckless 15-year old middle class Indian teen who must make decisions about where his life is headed in the time of changing goalposts, moods and largely predictable hormones.Jerry Pinto’s narrative sucks you into the story. The Education Of Yuri captures the college ethic of the 70s and hits you with a litany of cultural references from the decades. Those who grew up around then would smile at references like…“Ground Control to Major Tom”James Hadley Chase's "No Orchids For Miss Blandish" Hotel California… "Bring your alibis"The 70s also were a time when the contrasting pressures of what someone wanted to do and what was good for them could be hard to handle.So Jerry places his protagonist in a situation where he is largely free of oppressive family pressures and through Yuri’s experiences, he allows the reader a view of how society was structured.Yuri’s decision to abandon his course in the sciences in favour of the liberal arts being an example. And then Jerry captures the disposition of the 70s English language major and empties out his literary arsenal in this book and uses these artfully in his descriptions of Yuri’s normal life of friendships, tawdry sexual escapades, romance and inevitably, poetry.I've been a fan of his writing—his columns and books—for many years. And it is therefore my pleasure to present him on my show. ABOUT JERRY PINTOJerry Pinto is a writer and poet based in Mumbai. His books include the novels Em and the Big Hoom (winner of the Hindu Prize and the Crossword Book Award) and Murder in Mahim (winner of the Valley of Words Award, and shortlisted for the Crossword Award); the non-fiction book Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb (winner of the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema); and two books of poetry, I Want a Poem and Other Poems and Asylum. Jerry Pinto received the Windham-Campbell Prize and the Sahitya Akademi Award.Buy The Education Of Yuri:'S THAT WORD?!Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting origins of the word, "FECKLESS" WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?Reach us by mail: or simply, here: here: 
39:08 11/8/22