My latest novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets was shortlisted for two categories in the Book Award 2020 organised by the National Library of Malaysia. When I reflected on the journey that this book has taken, I acknowledged the enormous influence of one of my all-time favourite books, Joseph Anton: A Memoir (ISBN 9780224093972 – hardcover) by Salman Rushdie. Written in the third person, the memoir is an account of Rushdie’s life during the fatwa that was issued as a reaction to criticism and a widespread controversy over his novel The Satanic Verses (1988). Rushdie used “Joseph Anton” as a pseudonym while in hiding.
Recently, I accepted an invitation to speak to members of a Readers Club at a school. The topic I was given was to explain the importance of reading and a book that had an impact on me. It seemed easy enough until I found it difficult. In the end, I decided to put myself in these students’ shoes, which meant going back in time and trying to figure out the novel I’d read in school that had had a huge impact on my life. The novel I eventually chose was Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
It was recently reported that the Indian Medical Association called on the health minister, himself a doctor (Dr. Harsh Vardhan), to provide evidence that Ayurveda and yoga are effective in treating the coronavirus.1 This has been the source of ongoing, and sometimes contentious, discourse. The story of Asha (not her real name) illustrates this point.
A few months ago, I received an email informing me about an award called the Book Award 2020 organised by the National Library of Malaysia. Within the text of the email was an invitation to submit a publication of my choice to be considered for the award. I thought it was a hoax and wrote back to ask if this was really true. Lo and behold, it was! So began the process of submitting The Age of Smiling Secrets for consideration by the experts. I was very grateful for the support from family, friends, the readers of this webiste and also subscribers to my newsletter. As it stands, my novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets, is now on the shortlist (2 categories) for this award. Unfortunately, like many other events this year, the ceremony to announce the winners of these awards has had to be postponed several times because of the pandemic. Instead of wallowing in this malaise of sorts, I decided to take the opportunity to get to know those behind this award. I wrote to the National Library with a request to interview its Director-General. I am mighty pleased that the Director-General consented to this request. Without further ado, I have much pleasure in introducing you to Maizan Ismail.
‘Bengali’ is not a pejorative term, but endows the recipient with a sense of self-worth and respect rooted in glory.
I recently watched a movie on Netflix about the life of Gautama Buddha and it had a profound effect on me. I was eager to learn about the life of this prince born into privilege who gave up everything and everyone to search for the ultimate truth.
Is looking after a dog one dog too many? How about 40? There are some rules and habits you can stick to, though, to make it all work.
A few weeks ago, I received a message from a friend about the publication of a new book called The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human. I found this title intriguing and went about looking for more information about both the book and its author. Duly fascinated, I made a request via my friend about whether or not the author was open to being interviewed. She was. So, without further ado, I allow me to share, in her own words, the story of The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human and its author, Marguerite Richards.
I want you to know that you are the best thing to ever happen to me. I have loved many of your kind my whole life, but you are something special. For you, I feel my heart grow bigger and beat louder. I love you with a love that I have never experienced before and I believe it is because you are different from anything that has ever entered my life. Even when I am not perfect you still look at me like I am. You are, without a doubt, the beat of my heart.
When I was still contributing feature articles to the New Straits Times, one of the most curious assignments I had was to work on a story about a quiz master. I never forgot this story for a few reasons. One, a quiz master? What on earth was that? Two, the gentleman in question had a unique name (although I suspect that like most Indian names, it’s probably not unique in his hometown) – Phanindra. Three, Phanindra turned out to be one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever interviewed – you could practically feel the energy bouncing off him. Four – his general knowledge was vast.