51 episodes

EXPLOCITY PODCASTS presents The Literary City With Ramjee Chandran. This podcast is devoted to words—written, spoken or signed. Words rule everything...song lyrics, a movie script, a play, prose, poetry or a podcast. We will feature readers and writers, publishers, people of prose and poetry and playwrights. The Literary City podcasts will feature English language teachers, grammar police, literary lounge lizards...and, oh yes, a cunning linguist or ten.

The Literary City Explocity Podcasts

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 1 Rating

EXPLOCITY PODCASTS presents The Literary City With Ramjee Chandran. This podcast is devoted to words—written, spoken or signed. Words rule everything...song lyrics, a movie script, a play, prose, poetry or a podcast. We will feature readers and writers, publishers, people of prose and poetry and playwrights. The Literary City podcasts will feature English language teachers, grammar police, literary lounge lizards...and, oh yes, a cunning linguist or ten.

    Karen Anand - The Culinary And Literary Adventures Of The Masala Memsahib

    Karen Anand - The Culinary And Literary Adventures Of The Masala Memsahib

    There’s something primal about watching food shows on TV. Or any food show. Even restaurants that have a glass pane through which you can watch the chefs in the kitchen doing their thing. It engages your attention while they ham it up. No that’s not a pun.

    The business of someone setting about chopping up ingredients and turning them into masterful creations of art–truly subliminal and soul stirring to watch on the couch, while you eat instant noodles, unmindful of the irony.

    I had no better example than when my partner and I had bought the kids in our apartment building a ton of firecrackers for Deepavali. They had great fun on the street. Suddenly, at 8pm, total silence. They were gone. Bags of fireworks lay unattended on the sidewalk, the starter candles drooping.

    And where had all these pre-teen children gone? To watch Masterchef on TV.

    For many of us, watching cooking shows or reading about food is a form of escapism. It transports us to far-off lands and exotic cuisines, allowing us to experience new flavors and dishes without leaving home.

    But there's more to our love of food literature than just the escapism it provides. Food brings people together. Reading about it gives us a sense of connection. Sharing a meal is a fundamental human experience, and reading about food allows us to share in that experience–even vicariously. By reading about the foods of different regions and countries, we gain insights into their customs, cultures and traditions. So much history and indeed, social anthropology there.

    On this podcast—after months of dealing with authors who have written about the ravages of war and politics and poetry’s melancholic joy—today I feel as happy as a predictable late light TV talkshow host who is about to cook Christmas turkey with Martha Stewart.

    Except that my guest today is closer to Julia Child, the famous author of cookbooks and host of TV and radio shows in the US. You might remember that Meryl Streep played Julia Child in the movie Julie and Julia.

    My guest is Karen Anand, one of India’s best known food personalities. Author of some 30 books and host of TV shows since the mid-1980s Karen has brought class to the industry in India. She is widely respected and—to my knowledge—chefs of all persuasions are known to court her opinion and her approval.

    Her most recent book is intriguingly titled “Masala Memsahib” and it is a wonderful journey through giving us a window into food across India. Her expertise is honed from years of practice and her prose is that of an imaginative writer. And I am eager to talk to her about the book and about her life. So here she is. Karen Anand, welcome to The Literary City.

    ABOUT KAREN ANAND
    Karen Anand is widely accepted as one of India’s first food gurus. A prolific author with some 30 books published, she has been a TV host on popular food shows.  Karen received the prestigious Food & Spirit Award (Trophée de l’Esprit Alimentaire) for Culture from the French Government. In 2019, she won the French Ambassadors Travel Writers Award.

    Buy Masala Memsahib: https://amzn.to/3hkNywB

    WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
    Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting phrase, "CHERCHEZ LA FEMME".  Plus they are joined by celebrity chef, Abhijit Saha.

    WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
    Reach us by mail: theliterarycity@explocity.com or simply, tlc@explocity.com.
    Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
    Or here:  https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

    • 43 min
    To Hell And Back With Barkha Dutt

    To Hell And Back With Barkha Dutt

    When the government exempted media from the lockdown, logically, this was to ensure that the media could do its job—which was to bring information and news to the people who were sequestered in their homes.

    My guest today did just that. She is Barkha Dutt, one of India’s best known journalists. Barkha decided that she was going to bring information to the people. True to her wont, she did not do this by halves. She stepped out and travelled across the country with a small team of colleagues.

    Over about three months, she with her team logged over 30,000 kms—that’s a shade under 19000 miles—travelling over surface in every available transport just to meet people.

    Of course a tragedy like this brings out the best and the worst in people and Barkha was witness to all of it. Appropriately, her book is titled Humans Of Covid.

    Everywhere she went, she logged the stories of the worst off among us. These stories are deeply human and capture the essence of how we cope when nature turns against us.

    The medical fraternity cared for the living. Barkha met people who cared for the dead. People who put their own religions behind them and even temporarily adopted the faith of those who needed to be cremated. They gave the dead the dignity that the pandemic had taken from them.

    At one point this journey turned deeply personal for Barkha. She lost her father to COVID. But she soldiered on and the result is this compelling book. A historical account, oral histories of the most disadvantaged; their grief, sometimes their hubris, often their humanity.

    As a journalist Barkha has covered some of the biggest stories in the nation. Of the many, she mentions that her eventful career was bookended by the war in Kargil in 1999 and the Covid crisis in 2021.

    In what was a staid and almost pedagogic profession—as journalism in India used to be—she was one of the new breed of TV journalists, aggressive with an eye on one prize alone...the story.

    I had the privilege to host a live session with Barkha at the recent Bangalore Literature Festival and doubly my privilege now to welcome her as my guest today.

    ABOUT BARKHA DUTT
    Barkha Dutt is one of India’s foremost broadcast journalists. After two decades with NDTV, she is now the Founder-Editor of Mojo Story, an independent digital media platform. A columnist for The Washington Post, she has received more than fifty national and international awards, including the Padma Shri.

    Buy To Hell and Back: Humans of COVID: https://amzn.to/3urdvgH

    WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
    Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting word, "DEADLINE".

    WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
    Reach us by mail: theliterarycity@explocity.com or simply, tlc@explocity.com.
    Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
    Or here:  https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

    • 39 min
    The Compelling Book Of Bihari Literature With A Poet-Diplomat Abhay K

    The Compelling Book Of Bihari Literature With A Poet-Diplomat Abhay K

    The ability to write well used to be a necessary qualification for high office. Whether prose or poetry, literature was important as a tool of communication.

    It all makes sense. The more skilled you are in the medium of instruction, the better the instruction. The highest thinkers of the realms were always great writers. The founding fathers of the USA—such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams only to name two very good examples. They pursued letters and learning as a necessary part of their ability to create law and to govern effectively. Before them, we have learned of several of the ancient Greeks and Roman senators who were men of letters. And not to forget some famous Chinese emperors who wrote their edicts in verse.

    The mandarins and panjandrums of yore morphed into the present day bureaucrat. Of particular relevance to us today, the diplomat.
    My guest today is Abhay K. He is the Deputy Director General of the Indian Council For Cultural Relations. He was India’s Ambassador to Madagascar and is a career diplomat. He is what is called a poet-diplomat.

    Poet-diplomats are poets who have also served their countries as diplomats. The best known poet-diplomats are perhaps Geoffrey Chaucer and Thomas Wyatt; the category also includes recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature: Gabriela Mistral, Saint-John Perse, Miguel Asturias, Pablo Neruda, Czesław Miłosz  and Octavio Paz.

    Abhay K is one of a few contemporary poet-diplomats. In his words, “Diplomacy is generally conducted in short sentences which reveal as much as they hide. Poetry is no different".

    Abhay is the author of several tomes of poetry and through those has discovered so many cultures of the world through their poetry. His latest book is titled The Book Of Bihari Literature. This book opened up a world that I had only suspected existed. With every page.

    The biggest revelation I got from reading the book was how humane the text and adult the sentiment. It is the sort of maturity that does not characterise any but the best of Indian writing in English. And this book alone would stand testimony to the need for more translations of not only Indian literature but those of so many cultures.

    Abhay’s understanding of the space and his skill in translating verse and curating these anthologies came rushing out the pages of the book. It is an understanding that—not surprisingly—goes beyond literary constructs, abstractions and devices, straight into the heart of the culture whether it is Brazil or Bihar.

    And this whole definition of poet-diplomat started to make complete sense. I am eager to talk to him and so here he is, joining me from his hotel room in the Andamans, where he is currently on a work trip.

    ABOUT ABHAY K
    Abhay K. is a poet, diplomat, editor and translator. He is the author of a dozen poetry books including ‘Monsoon’ (Sahitya Akademi) and the editor The Book of Bihari Literature (HarperCollins India). He received the SAARC Literature Award 2013. His poem-song 'Earth Anthem' has been translated into over 150 languages.

    Buy The Book Of Bihari Literature: https://amzn.to/3VidKqq

    WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
    Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting word, "LIMERICK".

    WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
    Reach us by mail: theliterarycity@explocity.com or simply, tlc@explocity.com.
    Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
    Or here:  https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

    • 38 min
    The Amazing Reign Of Raja Raja Chola With Kamini Dandapani

    The Amazing Reign Of Raja Raja Chola With Kamini Dandapani

    There’s much interest of late about the Chola empire.

    For many reasons. The reason that looms large is the recent blockbuster movie, Ponniyin Selvan, which, is all about the most famous of the Cholas, Raja Raja.

    The Cholas were one of the longest running empires in history. The earliest historic references to the Cholas dates back to 300 BC and the empire was disestablished in 1279 AD. That’s just shy of 1600 years. By comparison the Mughal empire ran from 1526 - 1857—that’s under 350 years.

    While the Indian region was invaded and occupied variously for thousands of years, the Cholas were significant in their thalassocratic—or maritime—escapades in South East Asia. Their trade routes extended to Guangzhou in China and the silk route on the other side.

    They ruled the Maldives and Sri Lanka and clearly they knew where to sail to and where to fight.

    And there was no greater time in all the Chola years than during the rule of Raja Raja Chozhan that ran from 985 to 1014, about three decades. If you made a list of all the stuff he achieved from infrastructure and construction to military campaigns across the south and overseas, you would find it hard to figure how someone could do so much today, leave alone over a thousand years ago.

    My guest today is Kamini Dandapani. She is a New York based corporate executive—Chase Manhattan Bank and McKinsey consulting. She does not call herself a historian. As a hobby she started a blog writing about historical places she visited in the south of India. There’s a link to her blog in her bio below. She says that Aleph, the reputable publishing house, called and asked to write a book.

    And she did. This book is titled Raja Raja Chola, King Of Kings. I chose this book to present on this podcast because it is a wonderfully structured book.

    The book is broken down into easily digestible chapters and Kamini strikes no elegant postures in her recounting the rule of one of the most respected kings of the world. In the parlance of the present, a man we might refer to as woke, efficient and progressive.

    Kamini’s biography brings us closer to the history of the south in a way that cannot be replaced by comic books and movies.

    She is a writer, a historian, a Carnatic singer, A Bharatanatyam dancer, a trained western classical pianist and she joins me now from her home in Manhattan.

    ABOUT KAMINI DANDAPANI
    Kamini Dandapani lives New York. She has had training in Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam and Pianoforte, She moved to the US to study and work, Her blog, Tales of South India resulted in the writing of her book about Rajaraja Chola, published by Aleph.

    Buy Rajaraja Chola, King Of Kings: https://amzn.to/3OrTuQg

    WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
    Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting phrase, "GIVING AN INDIAN ANSWER".

    WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
    Reach us by mail: theliterarycity@explocity.com or simply, tlc@explocity.com.
    Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
    Or here:  https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

    • 39 min
    Huma Abedin The Indomitable Peace Within

    Huma Abedin The Indomitable Peace Within

    There’s something about Huma. Something happens a few seconds after you meet her. You fall in love with her.

    Now, this immediate attraction is not for the typical reasons—of which admittedly there are many. And it has nothing to do with things like innate goodness, inner light and such other syrup. Well, I'm putting it down to some “cannot tell what it is x-factor” and I’m moving on.

    My guest today is Huma Abedin. She works with Secretary Hillary Clinton. Huma is former Deputy Chief Of Staff of Hillary Clinton and at present, something even more central, I’m assuming.

    Huma has worked with Hillary Clinton in this job for over 25 years. It isn't an easy job. I imagine that it would take not only a tough internal spirit, and a strong work ethic of course, but requires something more deeply intellectual to be able to comprehend the meaning of such a job and do it well.

    It was not the simplest thing for Huma Abedin to have lived in the Venn diagram overlap of being BOTH an American AND a Muslim whilst living in the penumbra of the Clintons and the White House.

    This, more than anything, summarises the ethic, the plurality, the dualism if you like, of her book Both/And, that I will discuss today with her.

    Both/And is a 500-page memoir of Huma’s life…till date. It has her life from childhood, her parents, her growing up years in Saudi Arabia and then in the United States of course, and all her years working for Hillary Clinton.

    Reading all the reviews of her book in the international press, I found the central theme that ran ran through much of the world's press—newspapers, TV—reviewing Both/And tending towards the trivial and reductive—rather than her as an author, a thinker, her faith and her pivotal role as an assistant to one of the most powerful women in the world. One who was this close to becoming the first woman president of the United States.

    But when I read Both/And, I discovered in it, a woman, a writer, a polyglot, a diplomat, and a sponge to knowledge and—I repeat—something more deeply intellectual that helps her comprehend the true meaning of her job.

    With Both/And Huma steps out from stage left, right into her own spotlight…and maybe a career in politics? I am privileged to be able to ask that and other questions of her today.

    ABOUT HUMA ABEDIN
    Huma Abedin has spent her entire career in public service and national politics, beginning as an intern in First Lady Hillary Clinton’s office in 1996. After four years in the White House, she worked in the U.S. Senate as Senior Advisor to Senator Clinton and was Traveling Chief of Staff for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. In 2009, she was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of State. Huma served as Vice Chair of Hillary for America in 2016, resulting in the first woman elected nominee of a major political party. She currently serves as Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff. Born in the United States and raised in Saudi Arabia, Huma moved back to the U.S. in 1993. She lives in New York City with her son, Jordan.

    Buy Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds: https://amzn.to/3EpDlHY
    WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
    Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting origins of the word, "PABLUM"

    WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
    Reach us by mail: theliterarycity@explocity.com or simply, tlc@explocity.com.
    Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
    Or here:  https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

    Music credits: Daddy_s_Music and ArtSlop_Flodur - Pixabay

    • 44 min
    Jerry Pinto, His Muse And The Education Of Yuri

    Jerry Pinto, His Muse And The Education Of Yuri

    The way I read the book, the story is about the travails of a young Indian who must make the long and labyrinthine transition from boy to man.

    A difficult job when a large offset of one's opportunities in middle class India is being beholden to family, with conservative family elders and conversations in a minefield of verbal taboos.

    It is hard to hold down an adult conversation with elders—always an uncomfortable thing—and incurably hard to avoid.

    To wit, when you are spoken to as a perennial child right into your adulthood, there is little scope for quiet and confident assertiveness and individualism. Personas must change to suit whatever pleases the current conversation.

    And all this while there's the business of growing up to contend with. Sometimes so difficult a job that many don't ever fully make it to what might be considered manhood—at least by the the stereotypical norms of the rest of the world.

    An ethic that is skilfully captured by my guest today the author, Jerry Pinto.

    You might say that Jerry understands the Indian middle class. His book The Education of Yuri is what people in literature would call, a bildungsroman—which is a novel about the growing up years.

    It is a story of a feckless 15-year old middle class Indian teen who must make decisions about where his life is headed in the time of changing goalposts, moods and largely predictable hormones.

    Jerry Pinto’s narrative sucks you into the story.

    The Education Of Yuri captures the college ethic of the 70s and hits you with a litany of cultural references from the decades. Those who grew up around then would smile at references like…

    “Ground Control to Major Tom”

    James Hadley Chase's "No Orchids For Miss Blandish"

    Hotel California… "Bring your alibis"

    The 70s also were a time when the contrasting pressures of what someone wanted to do and what was good for them could be hard to handle.

    So Jerry places his protagonist in a situation where he is largely free of oppressive family pressures and through Yuri’s experiences, he allows the reader a view of how society was structured.

    Yuri’s decision to abandon his course in the sciences in favour of the liberal arts being an example.

    And then Jerry captures the disposition of the 70s English language major and empties out his literary arsenal in this book and uses these artfully in his descriptions of Yuri’s normal life of friendships, tawdry sexual escapades, romance and inevitably, poetry.

    I've been a fan of his writing—his columns and books—for many years. And it is therefore my pleasure to present him on my show.

    ABOUT JERRY PINTO
    Jerry Pinto is a writer and poet based in Mumbai. His books include the novels Em and the Big Hoom (winner of the Hindu Prize and the Crossword Book Award) and Murder in Mahim (winner of the Valley of Words Award, and shortlisted for the Crossword Award); the non-fiction book Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb (winner of the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema); and two books of poetry, I Want a Poem and Other Poems and Asylum. Jerry Pinto received the Windham-Campbell Prize and the Sahitya Akademi Award.

    Buy The Education Of Yuri: https://amzn.to/3DJ9Ejl

    WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
    Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the interesting origins of the word, "FECKLESS"

    WANT TO BE ON THE SHOW?
    Reach us by mail: theliterarycity@explocity.com or simply, tlc@explocity.com.
    Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
    Or here:  https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/

    • 39 min

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