Kavita A. Jindal In Conversation with Shashi Tharoor at Asia House UK about his new book ‘Why I Am A Hindu’

On 5 June I was in conversation with Dr Shashi Tharoor, the author and politician, about his new book ‘Why I Am A Hindu.’ We discussed, among several other topics and issues: his belief in reincarnation; the ideal outcome for the Babri Masjid site; casteism, spirituality, free will and superstition in Hinduism; and Artificial Intelligence.

Here’s a write-up from Luke Foddy of Asia House that covers some of our wide-ranging discussion:

Love Across A Broken Map

The many permutations of love from girl-crushes to gigolos, spanning Manchester to Mumbai.

Short Stories by The Whole Kahani

“Unique…thought provoking”

“A beautiful, moving and sometimes challenging collection of tales”

“Unsettling and delightful”

It’s hard to believe that this anthology was published two years ago in June 2015. And that it’s already a year since the eBook was released in June 2016.

Love Across A Broken Map has had great reviews, some of them wonderfully detailed, and ‘The Whole Kahani’ collective has been invited to read and hold workshops at several literary festivals.

We are in the midst of finalising our second anthology and are celebrating the various individual successes and books of our members.

If you haven’t yet read this “engaging volume that eschews stereotypical stories about the experience of the South Asian diaspora in Britain” then now is the time to order the book or download it.

Buy Love Across A Broken Map from Dahlia Publishing or Amazon.

​Also available at the wonderful Daunt Books, Marylebone, London.

Kindle Edition (available in the UK, US, India, and worldwide)

Reviews of the anthology:
The Short Story
Byte The Book
Desi Lekh
The Book Review India
Confluence Magazine

An extract from the beginning of James Holden’s review in The Short Story:

In one of the short stories in this collection by The Whole Kahani, a character is asked whether she feels English, British or Indian. ‘“Wholly of one culture? A bit of both? Disconnected from both?”’ To which the narrator responds:
‘“I think of myself as multifaceted, blessed. I am not A or B; I am A+B, I am lucky to draw the best from both cultures.”’*
This exchange underscores the central mission of The Whole Kahani, a collective of British fiction writers of South Asian origin, who aim to ‘give a new voice to old stories and increase the visibility of South Asian writers in Britain.

*story excerpt from ‘Three Singers’ by Kavita A. Jindal

The review goes on to state:

‘Three Singers’ by Kavita A. Jindal similarly inhabits a culturally specific space, telling the story of a pair of twin sisters who attend an Indian classical choir, but Jindal subverts this by locating the class in a London church. It’s also one of the only stories to explicitly address issues of identity, exploring what it means to be mixed race, as well as telling a touching story of twin sisters competing for love.

Read a Group Interview with members of The Whole Kahani at:

More on The Whole Kahani here: http://www.thewholekahani.com/

A Poem for the month of May

// The day the gutters overflowed / I left Kotapuram Port //

I’ve dug out an old poem first published in 2012:

It was in May. The sky poured.

The day the gutters overflowed
I left Kotapuram Port.

Abandoned on the platform were black trunks and tan suitcases
forsaken to their drenching while the porters huddled
under the whipped red awning.
The long brown train awaited the flutter of the guard’s green flag
as with slick-wet hair, from the window I stared
at a shadow I thought was there.

Friends wrote after long silences to say they’d told you
I’d shed tears on a platform awash with water
Scraped on to the train and cried again.
It was too good not to repeat.
You were puzzled when you heard this
or that’s the version I received.

It wouldn’t have changed anything, you said
if you’d been there, if you’d spoken
It wouldn’t have erased the train timetable
or the date of leaving Kotapuram
If you’d said ‘best of luck in life, my friend’
or another farewell equally inane
I’d have lived exactly the life I have
it would all have panned out the same.
I would’ve left on the day the sky poured
the day the gutters overflowed
Even if you’d stood there
to say ‘Hello. Goodbye. I care.’

‘Tears?’ you’d asked, with perplexed brow when the story was repeated
of rampant lightning and umbrellas twisted by the storm.
Of the face squelched to the streaky window.
‘Tears, for what purpose?’

There were pillars on the platform
Posters on the pillars, imploring us to
Stick No Bills
The yellow of the posters was shiny-succulent, water-lashed.
The pillars were white and round, the sodden green flag was down,
the train slipped out, pulled away my stare,
away from the shadow I thought was there.

It was in May. The sky poured. The gutters overflowed.
I left Kotapuram behind. The trains ran on time.

First Published in The HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry [by Indians], edited by Sudeep Sen, July 2012;
Also published in The Yellow Nib, edition: Modern English Poetry by Indians, edited by Sudeep Sen, July 2012.

Reading the poem ‘It Was In May. The sky poured.’
At Stanza Springback at The Ship, Mortlake, May 2018.
Photo credit: Konstandinos Mahoney

As always, feel free to write in with your comments on this poem.

If you haven’t yet signed up to subscribe to updates on events and new work, please do so now.    Emails are very occasional.

Read more poems.

Bucharest in Spring & the Joys of Translation

On a drizzly spring day I’m looking ahead to next week in Bucharest teaching Literature Translation Masterclasses at The University of Bucharest.

I’ve been involved with the translation programme there since 2009 when I worked on polishing the English translations for some of the poems in the anthology “It Might Take Me Years” [Mi-ar trebui un sir de ani]. Then I worked on some of Dan Verona’s poems for the online publication of his selected poems in English, published in 2011 by Contemporary Literature Press. http://editura.mttlc.ro/

Three of my more recent poems, translated by Ana Maria Tone, were broadcast on Romanian Cultural Radio in 2015.

This will be my first visit to Romania. As I prepare to teach translation workshops I’m reminded of the lovely experience of Raincheck Renewed being translated into Romanian by Patricia Neculae, then a student at the MA Programme for the Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text (MTTLC) at the University of Bucharest. Not being able to speak a word of Romanian, I was no help, of course.

Here’s the link to the translation: http://revista.mttlc.ro/116/index.html

[If you are fluent in Romanian, do email and tell me how it reads/sounds in your language.]

And here’s an interview that Patricia conducted with me after she’d translated the book. She totally got it, that’s all I can say!

Alina Popa, another MTTLC student, also translated a few poems from Raincheck Renewed for the magazine Regatul Cuvantului in February 2012. I haven’t compared the translations. You can see Alina’s translations here.

Raincheck Renewed Cover

I look forward to meeting the dedicated students (I already know they all are ) of the 2018 masterclasses. The really interesting feature of this year’s project is that we’re helping to polish translations of short stories by young contemporary Romanian writers.

I’ll post details in a day or so about the new English-Romanian anthology of work by the visiting delegates (that’s me and my fellow writers) and the launch events planned for our week in Bucharest.

But first, my thanks to all these institutions and people for making our visit possible:

Prof. Dr. Lidia Vianu, Director, MTTLC and Contemporary Literature Press
Anne Stewart, http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/poetrypro.html
National Museum of Romanian Literature, https://mnlr.ro/
University of Bucharest, http://en.unibuc.ro/
Romanian Cultural Institute, http://www.icr-london.co.uk/; http://www.icr.ro/
British Council In Romaniahttps://www.britishcouncil.ro/en

100 Great Indian Poems

// how many paise for each brown glass bottle, how much for each tin can //

I’m delighted that my poem Kabariwala features in “100 Great Indian Poems”, now available to order. This anthology is unique for its selected translations of Indian poetry in 27 languages spanning 3000 years of literature.

Kabariwala is one of the few poems written originally in English.

The book is edited by Abhay K and published by Bloomsbury India.

Order 100 Great Indian Poems.

Kabariwala and a few other poems from the book can be read at Asia Literary Review here.

You can read an extremely well-researched and well-written review of the book at DesiBlitz. The article includes an interview with me about the story behind this poem: https://www.desiblitz.com/content/100-great-indian-poems-poetic-feat-feast.


One of the ‘firsts’ for me this year was the commercial installation of my short poem Optimism.
It has had the most amazing reactions. That’s made me look at the poem in a new light and read it to boost myself after disappointments. Considering I’d ignored this poem since it was first published in Raincheck Renewed in 2004, this installation has provided a new beginning in many ways.

An example of the response I’ve had:
A few days after the installation a neighbour knocked on my door. ‘Your poem!’ she exclaimed.
‘What?’ I wasn’t sure what she meant.
It transpired she’s been to the hairdresser to have her highlights done. ‘There I was, sitting at the shampoo basin, when I look up at the wall in front of me. Your poem! There. I read it – it was wonderful’.

Yes, my poem had ambushed her.

A view from the basin

Kavita with Thomas

This was the brilliant idea of the owner of the hair salon, Thomas Gaughan, who selected this poem as artwork for his wall. Thomas said he’d wanted something inspirational. He’s really pleased with the effect and says that his clients love it. “Great words from Kavita that lift you up when you need it most.’

I’m proud too, because as my first commercial poem installation, it’s sited where you least expect it. Where the words come to you when you’re not in a ‘reading’ frame of mind. The context is surprising, just the way I like things to be!
I’m really glad that so many people are having their spirits lifted at the shampoo basin.

Pictures are of the installation at the William Thomas Gaughan hairdresser in London.

Graphic design by Tim Barnes of Chicken Print Design
Installation by Danillo Cooper
Vinyl cut wall transfer produced by Omni Colour

And a note about the project in the shape of a happy tweet or ‘life-sentence’ published in Mslexia December 2017:

From Mslexia Issue 76, December 2017


Another friend delivers a book! Way to go @SallyhyphenAnne. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” 😊

It's 34,361 and rising: how the List tallies Europe's migrant bodycount https://t.co/FJHl6DHiML

Look what arrived today - first copy from @DahliaBooks! Subjunctive Moods will be launching at @WstoneIslington on Thursday 5th July. All welcome: https://t.co/hDSiHXwUOj

New poems have just been released onto the underground - keep your eye out for a Windrush-themed set, live for 4 weeks from today. Find out more and get your own (free) set of posters now: https://t.co/YpKISW6n4V

I create male & female characters and I definitely want male & female readers - who doesn't? One day perhaps male readers won't make a distinction between the gender of authors, they will be open to all writing. Till then, let's just pity those who stick to authors of one gender.

The new Mslexia Women’s Fiction Awards 2018 are open for entries! Categories include children's novel, short story, flash fiction and novella, and the prizes range from £5k and publication to agent networking events and heavenly writing retreats. Enter: https://t.co/RGJZoSMEgz

And @DhakaTribune has a wonderful review of The Whole Kahani member @NadiaKabirBarb's collection "Truth or Dare" https://t.co/l8DJlU3rVg

And another event for The Whole Kahani - member @cg_menon's launch of her collection "Subjunctive Moods" from @DahliaBooks on 5th July. All welcome! https://t.co/TsJYCglsrT

Fun Fact: The motto on the Coat of Arms of the #DukeofBedford, @Woburn_Abbey among other possessions, is "Che Sara Sara". 'What will be, will be'. Since late 1500s. So different from all the highly serious Latin family mottoes we normally see.

Delightful visit to @Woburn_Abbey to view the #HumphreyRepton exhibition and a guided tour of @woburngardeners with the manager, Martin Towsey. Thanks to @GardenMuseumLDN for the invitation - a lovely day out.


I've just asked my MP to protect our environment after #Brexit - it only took me a minute. You can write to yours here. #WithdrawalBill https://t.co/NUKON9j2P5

An important debate; an even more important letter from @PenguinRHUK’s #WriteNowLive mentees.

Wonderfully literary day @ZEEJLF with @TheWholeKahani @writerkavita and @NadiaKabirBarb


On the question of Urdu and Hindi- whose language: Javed Akhtar ‘Languages belong to regions not to religions’. 👏 @ZEEJLF #ZeeJLFatBL

#poetry “Now poets have found a balance - they feel free to write what they want.” #JavedAkhtar at #ZEEJLFatBL @AzmiShabana

“Despite all the problems with democracy, who in the audience wants to be born in an authoritarian regime, if they had the choice?” Brian Klass #ZEEJLFatBL

“We must think about proportional representation” @salman7khurshid on the future of democracy @ZEEJLF

“Gujarat, which has the biggest middle class, is also the most xenophobic state in India.” @SunilKhilnani on theories not fitting the reality @ZEEJLF @britishlibrary ‘Ideas of Democracy’ session.

“All democratic countries struggle with personal law, in some way, such as the recent referendum in Northern Ireland.” Helena Kennedy ⁦@ZEEJLF⁩ ⁦@britishlibrary⁩

I’m looking forward to sampling the wine Mircea Dinescu produces and the food he cooks. Yes, amazingly, a poet who is a wine producer and a chef! And he’s treating us to all three tonight.

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