Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fifty years on, Sahitya Sahawas pens its first book

She first came to India to discover the land of her parents, who had moved to Sweden, where she was born and brought up. The heat and dust fascinated her too, and she stayed on. She moved to Mumbai and became a choreographer. In course of time, she met a guy, fell in love, and got married. They then moved into a special housing society, and this is where Shazia’s life took another interesting turn.

Having always been fond of reading, and having read literature in Swedish, English and French, she found herself staying in this housing society, which was meant for authors. Shazia Qureshi’s husband, noted photographer Avinash Gowariker, one of my neighbours, had grown up here, in Sahitya Sahawas.

Shazia Gowariker. Picture by Avinash Gowariker

Sahitya Sahawas was established after an idea put forth by well known Marathi authors, Acharya P K Atre and Anant Kanekar. They felt it was possible to have a housing society just for authors. It was registered in 1966 and many well known Marathi and few Hindi authors began to stay here. These include Dnyanpeeth award winner Vinda Karandikar, Anant Kanekar, Gangadhar Gadgil, Ra Bhi Joshi, M V Dhond, Ashok Ranade, Dharmaveer Bharati, Ramesh Tendulkar, Y D Phadke, K J Purohit, Vijaya Rajadhyaksha, MV Rajadhyaksha, Narayan Athawalay, M Kalelkar, Shanta Shelke, Deepa Gowariker, K J Purohit, Keshav Meshram and Arvind Gokhale.

Shazia, who is a lawyer, says, “I have stayed abroad and have never seen anything anywhere like this colony. There is nothing like this even in Sweden or in London.”

The atmosphere in our colony is such that most people are often reading, or writing something, or discussing words, books, authors or something related to writing. Having come from a family where reading was always encouraged, Shazia had married into another with a similar atmosphere, and gained a mother-in-law, Deepa Gowariker, who is an author. She also found herself surrounded by literature through her neighbours. Slowly an idea took shape in her mind and her husband and mother-in-law encouraged and supported her when they heard of it.

“Sometimes, it takes an outsider’s perspective to put things into focus,” she says of the idea. Every evening she says, Aai (her mother-in-law) and her friends meet in the colony and are engrossed in long chats. “I was curious as to what they might be discussing. I thought it would probably be daughters-in-law and TV serials. But I was impressed when she told me the subjects ranged from books to current affairs,” she says. “I wondered, why not have a book compiling articles by these women on such subjects?” she adds. 

Shazia and Avinash put forth this idea to the group of women who meet every day, and a few others who stay in the colony, and the book was born. This is the first time that authors staying in Sahitya Sahawas will be featured in one book.  Titled ‘Kattyavarchya Gappa,’ it is a compilation of articles in Marathi by 13 women authors who stay here. Some of them are already well known authors and translators.
Says Shazia, “I just felt as most of the group were authors, it would be silly not have a book where all of them could feature together.”

This Republic Day, which is also the annual Colony Day for Sahitya Sahawas, the book will be released by veteran theatre personality Vijaya Mehta. Well known classical singer Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande, who is the chief guest for the Colony Day, will also grace the occasion. Interestingly, it is 50 years since the registration of the society and it will be celebrated in a grand manner.

People have been making comments about Sahitya Sahawas, saying there are few authors here now and there is no sahitya coming from here. This book compiled by Shazia is proof that they are wrong. There are also many authors in the generations that followed the original residents.

Shazia proudly says, “I come from a country which gives the Nobel Prize for Literature.” Unfortunately, India has only won it in 1913 through Rabindranath Tagore. Let us hope this changes soon.

Kattyawarchya Gappa, the book, whose cover has been done by Raj Thackeray

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

An emoticon is not enough

The terrorist attack on Pathankot is on. The social media is abuzz with emoticons in tribute to our soldiers and defence personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending the base. For many of us our role ends with a ‘like’ or emoticon on social media when we read about them. But does our responsibility end with that? Having decided mine does not, I make the journey to the Sainik Welfare office once a year and make a donation. It’s not much, but it’s something.

The Sainik Welfare office – there are many in the country – collects money for the benefit of injured soldiers and the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  

Showing solidarity with an emoticon is good. But I feel doing something is much better. Knowing a couple of soldiers personally has also opened my eyes wider to their lives and work. I know I don’t do much with a small monetary donation. But at least it’ll do much more for them than a periodic emoticon.

For this Republic Day, I suggest you also move beyond the emoticon. Do something for the Indian defence forces. One small way is by making a donation.

The cheques can be addressed to the:
Collector and President Zilla Sainik Welfare Officer Mumbai Upnagar

Send them to:
Zilla Sainik Welfare Officer,
Mumbai Suburban District,
New Administrative Building, 9th floor,
Government Colony,
Bandra East,
Mumbai 400 051