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Sep-Oct 2013 Vol 3 Issue 5 64 pages

Reading Hour

short fiction essays verse reviews

Published, owned, and printed by Vaishali Khandekar, and printed at National Printing Press, 580, KR Garden, Koramangala, Bangalore-560095 Published at 177-B Classic Orchards, Bannerghatta Rd, Bangalore-560076 Editor: Vaishali Khandekar Editing Support: Arun Kumar, Manjushree Hegde Subscriptions, business enquiries, feedback: Ph: +91 80 26595745 Subscription Details: Print (within India only) or Electronic (PDF): Annual subscription Rs. 300/- (6 issues) 2 years subscription Rs. 600/- (12 issues) Payment via cheque / DD in favour of ‘Differsense Ventures LLP’ payable at Bangalore. Subscription form elsewhere in this issue. Online subscription: Submissions: Advertisers: Contact Arun Kumar at / +91 98450 22991 Cover Illustration & Design: Satish Kumar Story Illustrations: Raghupathi Sringeri Disclaimer: Matter published in Reading Hour magazine is the work of individual writers who guarantee it to be entirely their own, and original work. Contributions to Reading Hour are largely creative, while certain articles are the writer’s own experiences or observations. The publishers accept no liability for them. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of the publisher. The publishers intend no factual miscommunication, disrespect to, or incitement of any individual, community or enterprise through this publication. Copyright ©2013-2014 Differsense Ventures LLP. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any part of this issue in any manner without prior written permission of the publisher is prohibited.

Editorial It’s September and the ground under the cork tree is littered with stars. We wish we could also package the heavenly smell of the ‘mara malli’ into the cover for you! History, which was a dry memorization and regurgitation of seemingly unneccessary facts during school days, comes alive when one outgrows examinations and visits historical sites in person. Hampi, and the ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire scattered around it, is termed by UNESCO as ‘one of the most striking ruins of the world’. Spread over a large area, the ruins can keep you engaged for several days, and you would still have only scratched the surface. Join Manjushree Hegde as she gives you a glimpse of the splendours of Hampi. As a child in Kumaon, Nepal was just the ‘country on the other side of the Kali river’ for Abha Sah. Years later, she is able to visit it for herself, and reports on her experiences in Kathmandu. In this issue we profile a teacher and the organisation he founded, ‘Gram Mangal’, which propagates innovative approaches to education in schools. Poet, playwright, newspaper columnist and novelist Shreekumar Varma chats with Monideepa Sahu about how he handles a variety of genres, about writing for children, and about ‘observing the world and creating one’s own’. We’ve moved from rustic-nostalgic to haute cuisine with this issue’s recipe! And we have it straight from the chef’s mouth too – Abhijit Saha chats briefly with Reading Hour about fine dining and his Bangalore restaurants. In first person accounts, Jyoti Kanetkar awaits with eagerness and trepidation, the birth of a first grandchild, while Sarah Rand comes home after twenty years, in search of ‘Madras’. There’s a marvellous collection of stories, ranging from gunfights and kidnapping to jungle laws and spousal rivalry; as well as some thought-provoking poetry. So thank you for picking up Reading Hour, and happy reading!


Contents essays


The Splendour of Hampi manjushree hegde

first person 35 53

One Degree of Separation sarah rand

Fun With the Sudden jyoti kanetkar



abha sah

profile 55


Gram Mangal: The Science of Education


Are you reading this?


A Familial Event


Carnival at Big House






Gali Dasami, Gali Montang




Given a Choice


The Athlete


icycle Ride B mohd junaid ansari

ranjitha janardhan

p shukla & l luthria

by arukum

poetry 8

padma prasad

New Age Tiramisu

last page

Almost Ransom

sharath komarraju

monideepa sahu

A chat with Abhijit Saha


bhakti bapat mathew

Shreekumar Varma

light stuff

reviews 47


Experiencing Nepal


tapas ranjan mohanty nina bhatt

The Retirement of Elvira adreyo sen shruti rao somendra singh kharola

Errata: Jul-Aug 2012: Author of Along Which Path is ‘Sumati Saxena Lal’.

fiction Almost Ransom bhakti bapat mathew

Bhakti writes for Indian and international publications including The Hindu, Mint, Business Standard, Good Housekeeping, Deccan Herald, New Indian Express, and The National.


areshbhai shut his eyes and counted his blessings.

Thick thatch of jet black hair – check. A fair complexion valued by the Indian marriage market (even for men) – check. Bushy, luxuriant moustache, much valued in his town – check. On paper, almost handsome. He opened his eyes and looked into the mirror. Now he counted the other facts. 60 kilos overweight – check. At middle-age, a long-time bachelor – check. A shopkeeper of modest means – check. Vertically challenged – check.

Nareshbhai walked up to Dada’s tiny, dingy room. The two sat on Dada’s cot drinking the tea Nareshbhai had brought in a flask. After a few moments, Dada said, “We need to kidnap the kid and ask for a ransom amount.”


A Familial Event tapas ranjan mohanty

Tapas is an Engineer at a manufacturing firm in Hyderabad. He is an avid photographer and an amateur poet. His works have been published in Brown Critique,, Everydaypoets and other magazines.


A graduate in Painting, Nina writes, and also makes and sells leaf mold compost.

The Retirement of Elvira

Adreyo lives in Kolkata and enjoys writing poetry.

nina bhatt

adreyo sen


Shruti is an editor with a children’s publisher. She has written for several Indian and international magazines. Her poetry has been selected for an anthology of new writing in India due this year.

The Athlete

Somendra is a physics undergraduate student studying at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune.

shruti rao

somendra singh kharola

Fiction Carnival at Big House sharath komarraju

Sharath is a novelist based out of Bangalore. After Murder in Amaravati (2012), and Banquet on the Dead (2013), his third book The Winds of Hastinapur is expected to hit shelves this year.


sit in Papa’s old study in the Big House, amid mountains of upturned stools and tables with broken legs and rotting tops. The dust doesn’t bother my

nose, not today, and when I rest my forearms on Papa’s old plank and sink lower into the depths of his oak chair, I think a whiff of Old Monk hits my nostrils for just a second, for just long enough to make me grab at it with both hands, only to turn them over and find that all they had in them was powder. I bring them close to my nose and shut my eyes. A husky twinge wriggles its way up my nostrils like a feather and tickles the bone between my eyes.

essay The Splendour of Hampi manjushree hegde

Manjushree lives in Bangalore. She reads voraciously and enjoys writing and travelling.


erched atop a copper-coloured boulder on Matanga Hill, Hampi, I flipped through the slim volume of Vijaynagar Empire: Chronicles of

Domingo Paes. The big drop of sun, the colour of pressed grapes, lingered on the horizon. A few dreadlocked foreigners and backpackers like me had gathered on the peak to see the day off. From where I sat, I could see the ruined colonnades of the ancient Hampi bazaar below. “In this street is sold (publicly) all sorts of rubies and diamonds and emeralds and pearls and seed-pearls and cloths and citrons and limes and oranges and every other thing there is on earth!� wrote Paes, the medieval Portuguese traveller, on his visit to Hampi in



C.E. of


magnificent past beckoned,


without struggle, I gave myself up to them.

fiction Lace padma prasad


Padma is a writer and painter. She lives in North Virginia, USA, and is working on a collection of short stories.

ohn Li tacked the strip of lace to the front of the wedding gown and smoothed the gown out on the table.

When the bride’s mother had brought in the lace last week, she’d said, “It’s

from my mother’s wedding dress. We’d like to have it in the front, like this.” They had made so many alterations already, that John Li was close to exploding. “That’s it, that’s the last, John. No more additions, no more changes, I promise you,” the mother had added, responding to his expression.

interview Shreekumar Varma in conversation with monideepa sahu

Ex-banker Monideepa lives in Bangalore and writes for a variety of newspapers and journals. She is the author of fantasy adventure novel Riddle of the Seventh Stone and a book on Rabindranath Tagore for Puffin Lives.


nassuming and gracious, Shreekumar Varma spreads an aura of serenity. His eyes twinkle with intelligence, while his wit surfaces with dashes of self-deprecatory humour. This prolific author has penned the novels Lament of Mohini (Penguin, 2000) and Maria’s Room (Harper Collins, 2010); his books for children include Devil’s Garden (Puffin, 2006), The Magic Store of Nu-Cham-Vu (Puffin, 2009) and Pazhassi Raja: The Royal Rebel (Macmillan, 1997). He is also a poet, playwright and newspaper columnist, whose short stories and poems have been widely anthologized in India and abroad. His work has won many accolades.

While Lament of Mohini was longlisted, The Magic Store of Nu-Cham-Vu entered the shortlist for the Vodafone Crossword Book Award 2009 in the children’s category. Maria’s Room was longlisted for the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize (2007). It also featured on the India Today Top 20 List. He was, among other honours, awarded the Charles Wallace Fellowship for the year 2004, and was Writer-in-Residence at Stirling University, Scotland. This prince of the literary world has more works in the pipeline. He’s working on three novels: The Axe of Parashurama, Indian Scotch and The Gayatri Club and also the play Hamsini.

light stuff Recipe: New Age Tiramisu A Chat with Abhijit Saha Not so long ago, a lesser-travelled Bangalorean’s closest brush with terms like ‘amuse bouche’, ‘moules mariniere’, or ‘sous vide’ remained virtual, but the food and wine scenario in Bangalore has matured a lot in the last decade. Now, discerning diners demand the finest food

experience, and to cater to them, hotel-kitchens are simmering with aromas and tastes from across the world. From the familiar Chinese and Italian to more exotic fare like Vietnamese, Japanese and Spanish cuisine, restaurants are doing it all. Sep-Oct 2013 Vol 3 Issue 5


fiction Gali Dasami, Gali Montang ranjitha janardhan

Ranjitha is a language and intercultural specialist with a passion for stories and writing. She is a voracious reader, always on the lookout for the next stroke of inspiration.

Gali Montang on the left Gali Dasami on the right I keep my feet on the road My eyes on the horizon And my mind on my crops The forests are beautiful from a distance. Keep away, children Keep away, sisters Keep away, brothers Keep away, all The forests are beautiful from a distance.

first person One Degree of Separation sarah rand

Sarah is a psychiatrist practising in the USA. She writes, travels and bird-watches to celebrate her love of life and nature.


t is an ever so familiar story of the South Asian Diaspora. I came to the United States as an economic immigrant, a medical degree in hand

and seeking a benevolent environment wherein to develop my professional skills. Those were my generative years and my entire focus was on work and accomplishment. The only time off I would permit myself was, at most, four or five days to a nearby resort. Long trips to the home country were out of the question, or so I thought. I started a private practice, bought a home, become an American citizen and put down roots in my adopted country. As the years went by, the sense of belonging, of identity and of connectedness to the old country seemed to be slipping away. I was too busy to examine these feelings and had clearly put them on the back burner.

fiction Given a Choice p shukla & l luthria


P. Shukla and L. Luthria are advocates in Bangalore and occasionally enjoy writing fiction.

he fudge cake oozed rich, dark, chocolate cream. It was just reward, Sameer felt, for completing the strenuous trek up to

Tengboche. The serenity of the place slowly settled over him despite every one of his muscles screaming blue murder. He could have just stayed where he was. As far as he was concerned this was the better destination and not Everest Base Camp where he was headed. For him, right now, this was it: the cake, the spectacular view of Everest from the windows of the bakery attached to this isolated monastery and the sight and smell of freshly baked bread.

essay Experiencing Nepal abha sah


Abha is a writer-translator based in Mumbai. She taught English at a junior college for 16 years and now freelances as a translator. Photographs: Abha Sah

o you know you were once part of Greater Nepal? The question with which my hostess Rakhi Chhetri floored me,

stemmed from a nascent idea less than a decade old, born of historical fact. At one point of time, in the 1700s, Gorkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah started an extension of Nepali rule. His sons carried on his work and extended the borders of Nepal up to Kangra in the West, to include Kumaon and Garhwal, to the Siwan district of Bihar in the south and to the Teesta river in the east. This sovereignty, however, lasted only about twenty years. In 1814-15, the Nepalese lost the Anglo-Nepal war to the East India Company and, according to the treaty of Sugauli, agreed to surrender the Nepali won territories in India.

Sizzling baras and alu jhol

reviews Are you reading this? An eclectic journey of unexpected discoveries, Dr. V Raghunathan’s latest book, Locks, Mahabharata and Mathematics, surprises you at every turn of the page. That one would find parallels from the great epic in ancient locks is a given, but I did not expect to see Gaulish citizens rubbing shoulders with those of Indraprastha, nor George Bush with Yudhishtira, not to mention Indian cricket fans with the Kaurava army, and Anglo-Saxon legal systems with pronouncements of the ancient Maharishis!

Locks, Mahabharata and Mathematics, V. Raghunathan, Harper Collins (2013) ‘Stories with Goan sap’, promises the cover. Indeed, the stories in Fatima Noronha’s debut collection ooze Goan-ness. The stories in the first half, which are fiction, as well as those in the second, which the author claims to be “real happened”, drip with the sights and scents of Goa and the quirks of its people. The title story is particularly appealing and demonstrates how a skilled writer can create an impact with almost nothing – a warm afternoon, an unruly mango tree, an old woman.

Stray Mango Branches, Fatima M Noronha, Goa 1556 (2013) There are those murder mysteries that the detective solves from the safe depths of his armchair, using only his now legendary grey cells. There are those that the gun-toting, roughtalking private eye with a cigarette stuck to his lip solves, at the risk of grievous bodily harm. There are the modern murders that are solved in the sterile, glass-walled confines of forensic labs and cyber centres. It Takes a Murder is really unlike any of these for all that it proclaims ‘Murder’ right on the cover beside the abandoned bicycle. Much more than, and wholly apart from your average whodunit, it is a masterly piece of storytelling from a writer who is clearly dedicated to her craft.

It Takes a Murder, Anu Kumar, Hachette

Fiction Bicycle Ride mohd junaid ansari


Junaid is studying at the University of Delhi. He has published cartoon strips and articles in newspaper supplements as well as college magazines.

eshma went whirring past on her bicycle like a butterfly. Zigzag through the vendors’ stalls and mats

spread on the street without stopping at any; and then she went straight in the direction her nose pointed. Her summer frock flapped in the wind and her hair was tied tight with red school ribbons. She was being followed diligently by Jugnu, the young boy who helped her mother at home with the day-to-day chores. Jugnu ran fast behind the bustling cycle, jumping over kerbs, avoiding piles of cow dung and potholes. He was carrying a balloon right hand held high up in the air. Reshma had bought it for herself from a hawker for two rupees.



first person Fun With the Sudden jyoti kanetkar


Jyoti is a counsellor and English / Marathi writer based in Pune. She has won the 2001 CBA short fiction award, and the 2005 Vyankatesh Madgulkar award (Marathi).

he impending arrival of a first grand-child has catapulted me into a strange place. The language is strange, the people are

unknown, the weather pattern anxiety making. Still, the lure of the baby soon to come holds me. At such times, known rhythms stand me in good stead. Most virtuous people – and I make so bold as to count myself among them – go for morning walks. Stepping out into an unsullied day helps you to anchor the rest of the hours, gives you a respite from the mediocre but necessary things that so often despoil the majestic possibilities of each new dawn, and of course, has a salubrious effect on your health, which at this stage, is as vital as your wealth. I cross the boundary of the gate and launch into my walk. Since I intend spending considerable amounts of time in this strange place in the foreseeable future, I try to practice my usual courtesies towards my fellow walkers.

profile Gram Mangal: The Science of Education vaishali


heard of Prof Panse and his organisation Gram Mangal, from a friend who was supporting their efforts. Prof Panse, through Gram Mangal,

implements and mentors a program of child-centric learning in schools. Gram Mangal operates a school in Wai for extremely poor children, one in Aina (Thane) for tribal children, and one at Sevagram, Wardha. Gram Mangal also conducts ongoing teacher training programs, publishes an education journal Shikshan Vedh, has a production unit for its learning aids, and operates several other centres for learning-related activities. Bharat Vidyalaya (BV) at Wai in Satara District is considered to be a ‘model’ Gram Mangal school that implements perfectly the principles of their methodology.

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Reading Hour Sep-Oct 2013  
Reading Hour Sep-Oct 2013  

Explore the historical ruins of the glorious Vijayanagara empire around Hampi or savour the sights of Kathmandu. The short stories in this...