Eating Books -A Cosmopolitan Cuisine: Anjum Hasan and Nilanjana Roy in conversation with Jerry Pinto

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Under a weak winter sun, amidst a festival of smells, deliciously provocative smells of food attractive enough to make even the most dedicated come off their diet is where we witnessed Anjum Hasan in conversation with Nilanjana Roy and Jerry Pinto.

The talk started off with a presentation and book reading, exploring the origins of Anglicised literature in pre-Independence India. Let us go through the key publications that Nilanjana spoke of…

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The Tranqueval Printing Press became one of the preeminent printing presses of the country, capitalising on the Portuguese’s unwillingness to print in vernacular languages. The importance of the Tranqueval Press is that it was the first to publish the bible in an Indian language, namely Tamil. Then came Hickey’s Bengal Gazette, where this is important is that is Bengal’s first serious newspaper. Soon after, we began to witness a shift, from news to personal account publication in India, the first coming from Dean Mahomet. Mahomet wrote as an idea to appease the British, and his aim was to open his own coffee house. While this idea crashed and bombed, he did go on to become the “Shampooing surgeon to the King.” Other writers were Henry Vivian Derozio, Toru Dutt, Romesh Chunder Dutt, and Benhramji Malabar.

What the speaker noted was, that while Indians began writing in a manner of servitude, they started challenging the British over time as well. These anglicised writings became a mode of resistance.

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Moving on from the conversation about the history of Anglicised history, Anjum moved on to what she looks for in writing about life and the country today. Here she spoke about all that is important in life in cities, about how the history of a city comes out in personal accounts of its people. She spoke on how consumption has become the raison d’etre for most people.

Going ahead once more, she spoke on our need for English in India as well.

“English is the language of empowerment today.”

Asking open-ended questions are, for Hasan the main reason to be in publishing today.

“I’ve discovered that book reviewing is not necessarily a criticism.”

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The next being what it means to write about literature and who are writers and what they are writing about today.

“A book should be pure pleasure.” Ending an engaging talk with a flurry of quotable lines, we’ll leave you with some of the best. “A book should be pure pleasure,” stated Roy.

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“It doesn’t matter in what form you read, as long as you read.”
– Anjum Hasan

“You can call a person a writer if they treat writing sacredly, he rewrites and puts their best self forward in their writing.”
– Jerry Pinto

A delightful conversation among three writers, and more importantly, lovers of literature it evolved in an hour from a study of the origins of English literature to its evolution in India, to question on what is the perfect form of writing today. A truly lovely start to the day.

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