Tuesday, September 10, 2019

'So Now You Know: Growing Up Gay in India' by Vivek Tejuja-Book Review

A year after the colonial era law of Section 377 was decriminalized Vivek Tejuja’s memoir 'So Now You Know: Growing Up Gay in India' has hit the shelves. I pre-ordered the book not just because of its premise, I was also interested in the voracious reading habit of the author as I follow him on social media for book recommendations. Now that I have read this one, my belief in the power of reading and befriending books has only gotten stronger. Sometimes we turn to books to give ourselves company, fighting a hundred battles within and the outside world. While we read and read and read our subliminal self makes a world of its own where everything is the way we want it to be. We grow stronger, wiser and happier. Therefore, we are in a better place. The Hungry Reader definitely is.

Here is his blog.

Vivek writes about his love for reading and the solace he found in the seas with all that he had to go through. A stereotypical Indian household and standard upbringing, bullying in school and unrequited love, friendships and relationships, social acceptance and the question of identity from the age of nine to nineteen are some issues he writes about. Life is not easy if one is different, we live in a world where hypocrites rule. Despite people coming out to accept their sexual orientation and gender identity, there will be at least one conversation where someone would go “Hey did you know? He is gay!”

Which law to change societal attitude?

I read this book while travelling in the Metro train this morning, the stares and glares I got from people sitting in the opposite row was quite predictable. It did not matter to me, what was important to me was my connection to the author as a reader. My eyes were moist while I read Vivek’s experiences, I did not stop reading. In fact page ninety-six changed me as a person.

I remembered a young boy in his early twenties who was in my cabin in the hospital on a Sunday morning for his retro positive status, while I was following my standard format of counselling midway through the conversation he stopped me to say

” Doctor I am gay…”

I had to pause for a while and realign my thoughts to counsel him for treatment again. I cannot share more details because of confidentiality and ethical issues. While he got himself tested and started his therapy, I was happy that I did not treat him differently for what he is. He must have had a war inside his head to reveal this to me, a stranger whom he met five minutes ago.

All people want is respect for their being, love and acceptance is something we don’t ask for from everyone. If people who mean the world give it to us there is nothing like it. Vivek has literally kept his heart out there in this book, a warm hug to you for that. I am going to treasure this book on my shelf. May your bookshelves overflow, may your writing grow.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Treasure Hunt- TV Annaswamy's Book on Bangalore

Bengaluru to Bangalore: Urban History of Bangalore :
from the Pre-historic Period to the End of 18th Century.
T. V. Annaswamy, published in 2003 by Vengadam Publications

And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” so wrote Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist. My search for this rare book on Bangalore got me to various articles and I must thank some fellow Bangaloreans for the knowledge and information they have shared over time.

Meera Iyer for her excellent article in Deccan Herald titled 'A Journey From Rags To Riches' on Dharmarathnakara Rai Bahadur Arcot Narrainswamy Mudaliar , a philanthropist par excellence who understood the importance of education, especially for the lesser privileged class and gender of the then society.

Divya J Shekhar’s 'Date with history: A century on, Mudaliar's philanthropy is helping the needy' article in The Economic Times adds more to the long list of Arcot Narrainswamy Mudaliar’s contributions, and a conversation with his great grandson Dr BA Anantharam. a renowned plastic reconstructive hand surgeon with whom I have had the fortune to work with doing some lab tests and signing a few lab reports for his patients.

Another excellent article is by Nila Tamaraa Blog-Magazine titled 'Gandhi At A 140-Year-Old Heritage Building In Bangalore' speaks about a Gandhian event in RRBANMS heritage auditorium, the contribution of the stalwart to the town from Attara Kacheri to schools, dispensaries, choultries and temples and a conversation with TV Annaswamy, the book’s author who is in fact the great grandnephew of Arcot Narrainswamy Mudaliar.

A recent article 'Schooling Bengaluru since 1873' by Akhila Damodaran in The New Indian Express turned out to be a booster. With a dozen mentions about the book on how well researched the work of TV Annaswamy is and the references that are cited about Bangalore my desire to read this book had grown enormously. Bookstore visits, request mails and online searches continued.

A fortnight ago Udaya Kumar P L of Inscription Stones of Bangalore posted about the greatness of this book saying “Every Bangalorean must have a copy in his/her home…” which pumped me up. Following this a random search on Facebook while travelling in Namma Metro brought me to a page called Art Tipsy with a post about promoting this book in 2014. Curiosity surfaced, I contacted the owner of the page hoping for some luck and ta-da! A few conversations and days later the book reached home, thank you Asha Ramamurthy and Ramamurthy Annaswamy for the gesture and love given to a fellow Bangalorean. I am indebted forever.

It is the collective experiences like these that transcend beyond time from the 1900s to 2019; beyond places from Whitefield to Kengeri through benevolent and insightful people who make the city of Bangalore what it is, not just the weather.

Bangalore indeed feels like home.

The ‘Kannada Gothilla’ and ‘Dead End Right’…
The ‘One and Half’ and ‘Traffic Saar’...

…are bearable because of the Bangaloreans who love and live in this city.
Happy reading and sharing!


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Select Bookshop-The Temple of Books on Mr Murthy's 90th Birthday and The 90's Sale

Today was a quiet monsoon Sunday in Bangalore and I strolled down Brigade Road to go through a narrow lane on the left to reach the iconic Select Bookshop, the temple of books. The place was bustling with visitors and volunteers for today is Mr. K.K.S. Murthy’s ninetieth birthday. To celebrate this occasion today the bookstore had ‘The 90’s Sale’ with books in Classics, Biographies, Indian Fiction, Children’s, Regional Languages, Economics and Politics genres neatly arranged in piles on the staircase.

The smartest shelf!

Poster for the posterity!

Open Sesame!
And that was the treasure we found!

The grand teak chair
The grand clock

Older than independent India, yes it is!
Mr Murthy looking as dapper as ever, we love you Sir!

I was impressed with the rare choices given today’s times of the so called best sellers. Also, the Open Sesame rack near the store’s entrance was a reader’s delight, truly colorful and neat. While the classic wooden chair and grandfather’s clock with a dozen paintings and photographs on the wall gives one the old Bangalore feeling and a sense of belonging to this city, the place will also surprise you with some rare finds and entertaining titles. I did get a few nice ones for my reading and shelf.
What draws me to the place is the whole-hearted smile of Mr. Murthy and his exquisite book recommendations. Today on his special day he looked adorable surrounded by books and readers, smiles and laughter. He cut his birthday cake for all those who came to wish him as we all 'Select Lovers' sang 'Happy Birthday' in unison.
While the world continues to move at its pace, we must not forget that no online sale with discounts and pre-orders or any bookstore selling toys, stationery and gifts along with books will give us that one precious conversation with a legendary bookstore owner, an ardent book collector and most of all a great human being who may influence your taste of reading, and who knows it may change you for life!
Mine did.
Happy Birthday Mr. Murthy.
Wishing you all the happiness in this world and good health.
Thank you for all the knowledge through books, and for teaching me the value of humility and simplicity.


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