Antique Harmonium and a Partition Poem

Two contributions from me are included in the exhibition: CREATIVE MEMORY.

I was interviewed by the MMPI Project in 2020, during the pandemic, about objects that evoked undivided India and also what I had written that had come about from family trauma and memories of Partition.

The exhibition features a photograph of a pedal harmonium that belonged to my paternal grandmother, and an excerpt from my poem ‘Civil Lines: One man’s Chronicle of Partition’, which is based on the experience of my maternal grandfather.

This harmonium is well-travelled, starting out in Europe, traversing the northern part of the Indian subcontinent for a century, and returning to Europe [well, London] in the 21st century. This is a folding harmonium, or reed-organ, with foot-pedal bellows. It can be closed down into its wooden box for transport.

This instrument was made in Germany for export in the late 19th century. It was shipped to Karachi where it was bought from a music store for my grandmother, Inderjit. She took it with her on marriage and to her husband’s postings to many locations in (then undivided) Punjab. Just before Partition in 1947 it was shipped to India along with her household goods. It was with her in Delhi, and later in Chandigarh. When I was 11, she gifted the harmonium to me. I learnt to play on it.

It was looked after by my mother for many years. In 2005 I brought it to the UK and had it restored to musical health by a specialist restorer. The foot pedals and the keys are all still the original materials. The bellows and stops had to be sourced, re-made and fitted. The beautiful walnut case is original.

One interesting, and little-known, fact is that reed organs like this became co-opted into northern Indian music and the design eventually evolved into the floor or tabletop harmoniums which were more popular with Indian musicians as it fitted better with their group playing style, seated with other musicians.

This is the poem-excerpt used in the exhibition.

Read the whole poem-sequence.

The exhibition can be viewed at:
Tuesday 1-15 November 2022 | 2-6 pm
Kobi Nazrul Centre | 30 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR

Then at Charnwood Arts, Loughborough, in February 2023.

Creative Memory: An MMPI Project Exhibition

Final exhibition of the creative outputs of the Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination research project.

This exhibition is the creative showcase of the Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination (MMPI) project. Since 2017, the MMPI project has been working with different community groups in London and Loughborough, using creative activities as a way to evoke memories of Partition, migration, and the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh and stimulate discussions around identity, Britishness, and belonging. These collaborations have resulted in creative outputs including photographs, music, sound and film, which we will showcase in this exhibition. Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination is a research project conducted at Loughborough University and Loughborough University London, which explores the legacies of the 1947 Partition of British India for South Asian communities in the UK and their memories and post-memories of migration.

Prepare Your Daughters For No Agency

Three years ago my poetry chapbook Patina was published. It was launched at Matwaala festival in New York and all that week I read out this poem to audiences. Sadly, in the US, with the exception of some states, this situation has come to pass.

Messages of Peace and Support

Messages of support from Indian Poets were published on PEN Ukraine, part of PEN International on 10 March 2022. Written at the onset of fighting, mine is direct and personal to keep spirits up, in terrifying times for those under siege.

On a broader perspective, my wish is naturally Peace and Safety for all Humankind, as much as possible, in all corners of our world.

At the link you can read the English version of my short poem and the Ukrainian translation.

Manual For A Decent Life Wins The Eastern Eye Award for Literature

From the judges: “The book’s boldness, beauty and courage make it utterly seductive.”

You can watch a video of the award ceremony here (Literature category is announced in the first 15 minutes): https://actas.co.uk/live/en/page/watchawards.

India, 1996. Waheeda, a principled and spirited young woman from Uttar Pradesh sets her sights on becoming a member of Parliament. But her romance with the scion of a Delhi business dynasty threatens that dream. Manual for a Decent Life plays out against the backdrop of a tumultuous time in Indian politics in a world where nothing is what it seems and danger lurks at every turn.

“This ambitious novel is both epic and intimate as Jindal moves seamlessly between domestic family scenes, the passion of an illicit love affair and the instability of political parties vying for power at any cost. The fast-paced, plot-driven drama unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of India in the 1990s. The writing is accomplished, the story is thrilling with a bombshell of an ending.”

REVIEWS

This stunning crisply paced novel reveals its interwoven themes and storylines in social-realistic style. Manual For a Decent Life is excitingly ambitious, exploring dilemmas around politics, gender and sex at a fascinating moment in Indian history.
Michele Roberts, author of the Booker-Prize-shortlisted Daughters of the House

The rapid pace of the plot makes for edge-of-seat excitement.
Saleem Peeradina, author of Heart’s Beast: New and Selected Poems

A compelling novel that is impossible to put down.
Manju Kapur, author of Difficult Daughters

A heart-searching novel with a wide sweep. Its themes of Indian family, female identity and power struggles are of contemporary significance.
Russell Celyn Jones, author of The Ninth Wave

A work that will live with me for a long time. … A deftly rendered collision of place, religion, class, person, culture, and politics.
Jason A. Reading in The Book Review. Read the full review here

It would be difficult to describe this novel as a piece of truly postcolonial literature, since it refuses to contextualise its narrative or its characters as reacting to a colonial past. In this, I found the approach of the author quite daring, and I admire her courage in presenting her work to an audience that will immediately comprehend the cultural context.
Jenny Gorrod in Dundee University Review of the Arts. Read the full review here

It is a fascinating love story set in the political turmoil of that time, an account of how people adapt themselves to these shifts of power and values, as it raises important questions about the independence of women and the choices that they make in that society.
Jennifer Wong

An authentic book that needed to be written… This world we see; restrictive and conservative, then glamorous and modern, makes the book unique.
Mona Dash

I was particularly fond of, and impressed by, the wider set of characters each playing their parts in the overarching narrative. Waheeda’s friends and family feel very real. We are forced to contemplate the extent to which we are all prepared to risk not only our careers and social standing, but our family and friends simply to fulfil desire.
Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

Manual For A Decent Life is filled with energy and sensuality, and Jindal serves a satisfying feast for the adventurous reader.
Gabrielle Barnby in Ars Artium

Lyrical prose and great characters kept me hooked to the end.
Tracy Fells in The Literary Pig. Read the full review here

A riveting book. The kind you’d read in one sitting, if only you didn’t want to pause and reflect over the depth of the situations hidden behind the almost simple prose. The kind of book you want to re-read, immediately after turning the last page.
– Reader Review

A masterly account of one woman’s lone battle – (albeit aided and abetted patronizingly) to get elected. Woven into it are hauntingly lovely descriptions of the finer and grimmer versions of day to day life.
– Reader Review

Brilliant, edifying, terrifying.
– Reader Review

I had trouble putting this book down once I began. The writing is masterful.
– Reader Review

The main joys are the realistic characters, flawed and likeable, who populate the book.
– Reader Review

Tongues and Bellies Out Now!

Tongues and Bellies is The Whole Kahani’s third anthology.

These stories play with lies and truth. Chameleon-like characters clutch at worlds that remain just out of reach. An old recipe, a robot, a key – these are clues to the people they once were or hope to be. Appetite and eating are often central in this collection as characters remember childhood meals, a mother’s cooking, meals with lovers and meals that turn out not as expected. Their appetite for food, as for life, is by turns bitter and sweet but never predictable.

‘Rich, incisive and at times magical, this is a collection to be savoured and cherished. A joy from start to finish.’
– Awais Khan, author of No Honour

‘An absolutely captivating collection of short stories that surprise, delight and entertain. These female authors are a force.’
— Bobs and Books

‘The best kind of short stories are those that leave you with unanswered questions. This collection of stories does that and more!’
– Asma Khan, Chef & Owner, Darjeeling Express

Review in the Daily Star, April 2022

Praise for The Whole Kahani:
‘A thoroughly modern and lively collection which reaches out across multiple histories and distinctive worlds to capture some of the best in contemporary British Asian women’s writing today.’
– Susheila Nasta MBE, Editor in Chief of Wasafiri

Have you got your copy? Buy now!

Direct from Linen Press

Order from your bookstore or Amazon UK

In-person Launch on June 13th 2022 at the Nehru Centre. Hope to see you there.