Vishnu Vardhan


Another year has gone by. And with it was brought in a generous dollop of shamefully unreadable garbage literature whereas few and far between lay some gems. Here’s to the hits and misses of 2012-13.

The Good

1.       Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

After already winning the Booker prize for her first book in the Cromwell trilogy, Wolf Hall, Mantel made it two-in-two by bagging the Booker Prize for 2012 with its sequel. With bookies going all out on her winning an unprecedented three in a row when the last part comes out next year, this is one author that comes well recommended from everywhere. Grand tales of grand people with a language generously sprinkled with quips and wisecracks, Mantel is probably the best of the best.

 2.       The Yips –Nicola Barker

Also on the shortlist for the Booker prize this year was this latest of Barker’s yummy novels after her earlier nominated Darkmans and the more recent Burley Cross Postbox Theft. Her odd-ball sense of using language and interesting plotlines together mingle to tingle your sensory nerve endings to delight. Barker doesn’t ever to fail to amuse a reader and if you haven’t discovered this brilliant author, who unfortunately isn’t the most well-publicised of writers, now is your chance.

3.       NW –Zadie Smith

The much acclaimed author of White Teeth has come out with a novel after what would seem ages and is stirring interest among literary circles everywhere. This tragicomedy tells the tale of four Londoners and by extension of London itself. Get your copy nowand it’ll be one the better decisions you make after reading this newspaper.

 4.       Narcopolis – Jeet Thayil

Shortlisted for the Booker and winner of the DSC Award at Jaipur Literature Festival, Thayil has been the name on the lips of many. Marketing his material better, he even visited DU’s own IP College for Women. His story about opium, intoxication and other effects, set in Bombay, which has provided an immaculate location for novels like Midnight’s Children before, will make your rack look all the better. Book-rack, that is.

5.       Em and the Big Hoom – Jerry Pinto.

It’s once in a long time only that someone from this oh-so-great nation of ours ventures to write uninspired by Chetan Bhagat. Pinto creates a story of a household in turmoil, with a mentally unstable and ill mother in charge of the house, bidi in one hand. Refreshing and rejuvenating, it’s a sign of good things to come from the debut author.


The Bad

1.       The Casual Vacancy- J. K. Rowling

As most of the Potterheads would have been, your humble reviewer too was tempted to pre-order this latest offering from the magical Rowling who gave us The Boy Who Lived. Damnation and despair is all this temptation brought. Rowling tries too hard to write an “adult” novel, as she claimed her next would be after Hogwarts’ tales, and in the end falls flat on her face with book. Unexciting and reeking of desperation for recognition as an author who could do more than write fantasy fiction,  unexpectedly albeit, Rowling is a foremost disappointment that 2012-13 had for readers.

2.       The Shiva Trilogy – Amish

Contrary to popular perception, I refuse to see merit in this trilogy and would say that if this is what’sinitiating so many in India into reading, given Chetan Bhagat was the first to do so, it tells a sad tale for the readers here. What this set off was a series of bad fiction from people like Ashwin Sanghi,who then spewed trash like The Krishna Key and the Chanakya’s Chant and one more which I refuse to remember the title of even.

3.       What Young India Wants – Chetan Bhagat

Thankfully, this wart didn’t publish fiction this year, but equally horrible are his attempts at writing essays and his view of, as the title unimaginatively says, what young India wants. I would say we would like you to stop writing, much obliged. And maybe try doing what you went to IIT and IIM for, Mr. Bhagat, instead of polluting the literature scene of this country which rarely sees bright days after the legacy that actual greats like R. K. Narayan left for us.


The Ugly

While there could be a possible million titles in this usually most-populated segment, I thankfully didn’t witness them all too much, for various reasons. However on obnoxious presence was that of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades series, which go from one horror show to another. What’s more, her fansite even advertises the various, ahem, “toys”, her novels make oh-so-generous use of. Inspired from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series and originally written as fan-fiction, the story of Anastasia Steele is also slated for a movie version, which Mila Kunis seems too eager to be a part of. Then came the numerous pieces of trash which were spawned by James’s “mommy-porn” novels, making it the bestselling genre this past year, to which I wonder how the protagonists from Anthony Burgess’s classic A Clockwork Orange, with their ultra-violence, might have responded. Alas they’re fictional too. Maybe Apocalypse 2012 would have been appreciated?

Spurred on by the success of the first edition, the Annual St. Stephen’s Conference-Festival was back between 15th and 17th February, 2013. With a start-studded array of speakers and panelists, the event was an immense success in this installment too. Here’s the list of panels, their Chairs and speakers and the research papers that they presented. Day 1, 15th February, 2013 Keynote Address by Prof. Michael McKeon, Rutgers University  “The Origins of the English Novel in the Parody of Family Romance” Panel 1- Monsters, Marquez, Modernism, and Love Chair: Michael McKeon Rapture: Carol Ann Duffy at the (he)art of rupturing the sonnet SohiniBasak / B. A. Honours English IIIrd Year / St. Stephen’s College Modernism and Romance/Anti-Romance: Time, Travel and Love in Virginia Woolf’s novels Deeptangshu Das / M.Phil 1st semester/ Dept. of English, University of Delhi Stranger in a Strange Land: The Case of the Monster-Lover AratrikaChoudhury /Jadavpur University /Department of English Agape and Eros in Gabriel GarcíaMárquez’s Romance: The Short Circuit PavelTomar / M. Phil/ Jawaharlal Nehru University Panel 2- Harry, Holmes and the Homoerotically Inclined Chair: Akhil Katyal Coming out of the Shoebox: The Remus/Sirius ship in Harry Potter fan fiction Achala Upendran Questioning Romance: The Modalities of Same-sex Desire in Early Modern Urdu Poetry Rafiul Alom Rahman/ BA (Hons.) English, 4th Semester/ Zakir Husain College (Evening) (Homo-) Erotically Inclined: Reconfigurations of the Holmes-Watson Relationship in Popular Culture Sameer Chopra / M.Phil. English / Delhi University Panel 3- KitneAadmi the?Makhmalbaf, Kiarostami, SRK and Campus Romance Chair: Karen Gabriel The Romance of the Campus: Genre, Affect and Political Subjectivity in Malayalam “Campus Films” Aparna Nandakumar / PhD Scholar, Dept. of Cultural Studies, English and Foreign Languages University / Hyderabad. A Moment of Innocence: Romance in the Realist Cinema of Makhmalbaf and Kiarostami Soumashree Sarkar/ Jadavpur University, / Department of English,/ Masters, First Year. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi? SRK and the cult of Romance Anubhav Pradhan/ M.Phil English / Jamia Milia Islamia Day 2, 16th February Keynote Address by Prof. Richard E. Miller, Rutgers University “Romance of the Apocalypse” Panel 4- Trash, Tragic, Tardis and Trans Romance Chair: Richard E. Miller “We Are All Stories in the End”: The Romance of Space and Time Travel in a Blue Box Urna Mukherjee, III B.A. (Hons) English, St. Stephen’s College Do Trash-Collectors Dream of (dis)Interested EVEs?: Wall-E, Robot Love, and the Dialectics of Redemption Arnab Chakraborty & Sujaan Mukherjee/ PG II/ Department of English/ Jadavpur University “The Love that dare not speak its name”: Forbidden Love and Tragic Romances in Fantasy Fiction Parvathy Rajendra/ Dept. of English/ University of Hyderabad Transhuman Romance Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay/ Kultrans, University of Oslo Panel 5- Devoted to Tradition: Riti, Devodaxi and TV Chair: Soofia Siddiqui ‘But I must keep my tryst’: Nayika in the medieval Riti poetry Ruchika Sharma / Asst. Prof. Dept. of History / Kamla Nehru College The Unheard Euphony of the Devodaxi Romance: A study of the Devodaxi Tradition of Assam Prerana Choudhury /School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Rini Barman /English Department, Jamia Milia Islamia Romancing the Disabled Body: Re-Thinking Corporeality in the Televised Articulation of Desire and Pleasure in India Vinita Singh/ M.Phil, Department of English, Delhi University Panel 6- Staging Romance Chair: Bhaskar Ghose Readings from “Salt”, a collection of short stories. Racquel Goodison / City University of New York: Borough of Manhattan Community College Puppet Mediates the Popular: Bollywood Bandwagon Manpreet Kaur / Asst. Prof. Dept of English / St. Stephen’s College The Crafting of Love (and why we shouldn’t do it) Paper: Somak Mukherjee (PGII) and Trisha Ray (PGI) / Jadavpur University Department of English. The performers are: Somak Mukherjee (PGII), Jayeeta Saha (UGII), Soumashree Sarkar (PGI), Aratrika Choudhury (UGIII) Mediated Perversion of Romance in Othello: Iago morphed on stage and cinema Nigitha John, Ann Susan Aleyas, Rishi Sood, Anisha Angellina Victor, Sameer Gardener, Anna Thomas, Twinkle Lal, Rizowana Hussaini , Aunnesha Sen, St. Stephen’s College “O re piya: The Woman and Romance” Ann Daisy Kavitha, Kavita Joseph, Laetitia Warjari, Priyanka Das Saharia, Urna Mukherjee St. Stephen’s College Day 3, Feb 17th Keynote address by Radhika Alkazi “Romancing the Stage: An Interactive Session” Panel 7- Love Notes: Mozart, Hindi Film Music, The Bandish and Thumri Chair: Giti Chandra Isharon Isharon Mein: Romance of Allusion in the Hindi Film Song Babli Moitra-Saraf / Indraprastha College Hori with Banwari: The Bandish, the Thumri and the Anxiety of No Influence Sonali Barua Mozart: Romantic and Anti-Romantic Sunit Tandon Panel 8- Politics and Romantics Chair: Tapan Basu Unmensch or Ubermensch?: A Commoner’s romance of Napoleon Supurna Dasgupta/ M. A. Eng. / Delhi University Valentine’s Day in India: Political Potentials of Romance? Kanika Sharma and Sakshi Dogra/ M.phil (English Literature) / Jamia Millia Islamia A Re-reading of African American Slave Narratives as a Discourse of the Romantic Ideal Shimi M Doley/ Asst. Professor/ Dept. of English/ Jamia Millia Islamia]]>

The annual commerce fest of Shri Ram College of Commerce, Biz Street, was hosted by the commerce society of the college in its latest edition. The final day of the festival was on the 15th of February and saw sundry events taking place. While some were standalone events, others witnessed their final rounds taking place as the fest drew to a close. Anamnesis, the case study competition, aimed to enable the participants to put their analytical skills and business acumen to test by requiring them to formulate the most pertinent solutions to hypothetical business related problems. Next on the day’s list of events was Market Mafia, an most unique business simulation event, where the participants needed to sell their product by minimizing cost, manufacturing the best product possible, planning the market and selling their entire stock but at the most competitive prices. The 100th Percentile was the event next in line and this was aimed at finding out who among the participants had both the percentile and the personality to make the cut. While the initial round had a test to rank participants by their marks, the final round saw them taking part in the interview to see finally who lasted longest. Calvin Pinto was the winner, scoring highest considering all three- aptitude test, group discussion and stress interview. The fest closed with the final event of the day, Mystic Trial: The Hunt Begins. This was a clue-based treasure hunt around campus and lived up to its billing by being exciting and also witnessed enthusiastic participation from the students. Biz Street now opens next year, so all you fans keep your wits sharpened until then!]]>

  Jesus and Mary College hosted their annual literary festival, Literati, on the 12th of February. The competitions on the day varied from those focusing on a literary background, to those that demanded a sense of art. Some others were based on performance, while yet others seemed to be a challenge to one’s wit. The day’s action began early, right at 9 a.m., rather unconventionally at that. With Pictionary, Creative Writing, Humorous Poem Recitation, Book-cover Designing and Comic Strip Making all running parallel, participants were forced to go for what most interested or them or otherwise, be as good as possible to multitask, albeit without Hermione Granger’s Time Turner. Each of these events witnessed a decent turnout with regard to number of participants and was conducted smoothly, without much delay, as is usually experienced at fests. The drama society performed two acts during a break from competitions; the first being Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, followed by a musical based on Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market. Other competitions on the day were Turncoat Debate. The event was concluded with an entertaining Ad-Mad contest which saw active participation from various colleges, even as the teachers took the day off of pedagogics to enjoy the same as a part of the audience which thronged the venue. There was however a seeming lack of events and competitions pertaining to the literary field, as no paper-presentations or panel discussions were on the itinerary. The conspicuous absence of a lit-quiz too was a point that went into the wrong end of the score-sheet for the event in general.]]>

Movie – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Director – Peter jackson

Music – Howard Shore

Rating – 4/5

Afficianados of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series mostly would have been familiar with the prequel to the events of that series which are chonicled in The Hobbit, the tale of Bilbo Baggins’ journey to ‘there and back again’. For them, and for those who find themselves hearing of it just about now, Peter Jackson’s cinematic adaptation of Tolkien’s earliest work, presents an enthralling 169 minutes of Middle-Earth fantasia, a compelling watch for hobbits and men alike.

The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins (the uncle of Frodo, hero of the  LOTR franchise) as he is taken, most unwillingly so, aboard the Dwarves’ expedition to the Lonely Mountain to recover their home and treasure form the terrible fire-breathing dragon, Smaug. Gandalf, the pyrotechnics expert and wizard of fame, handpicks Bilbo as the official burglar for the team of the Dwarves, who are led by their prince Thorin and it remains to be seen whether the timid and reclusive hobbit will make himself of use for them, or be a liability, and whether the Dwarves, a most exclusive race among  themselves will accept him into their fold.

While it seemed implausible at first that Jackson could make a nearly three hour-long movie while still covering effectively only the first six chapters of the book, in his bid to make three full length movies out of only a 300 page novel, this first installment in Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy pans out as a very well structured film. With the constant action occurring throughout, there is no dull moment, nor does the entire movie seem forcefully elongated. In addition to Tolkien’s own ingenuity, the director has lent the movie generous dollops of his own ingenuity by creating new and parallel storylines and a certain authenticity to the battles in the tale, which in the novel seem to read as juvenile.

This brillanct example of directorial intervention is further embellished by the convincing performances of Ian McKellen as Gandalf, a character to which he has lent expert performances over four movies now. Martin Freeman as the bumbling, timid, constantly bemused, yet guileful in his role as a burglar makes an impressive first appearance in the series of movies revolving around Middle-Earth. Richard Armitage, as Thorin, the leader of Dwarves puts in a comprehensive execution of his role, charismatic and confident. Howard Shore, who already gave us the award-winning music for the LOTR series once again is spectacular, providing the exact strain of music as every scene demands individually.

By way of summing up, we suggest that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the perfect film to watch to sign of 2012 on a high, with the promise of a 2013 that promises much to us by way of cinema lurking right around the corner.

Vishnu: Hey!
Urvi: Hello there!
Vishnu: So what’s happening around University these days?
Urvi: Actually, quite a bit has been happening around DU these days.
Vishnu: Really? Tell me about these sundry happenings across University.
Urvi: Well, for starters, freshers have come in; examination results have not received the typical brouhaha that is normally associated with them; and the election campaigning has gone into an overdrive.
Vishnu: And then there are the myriad colleges getting repainted, renovated, decking up their buildings. It’s a rebirthing of sorts, come to think of it.
Urvi: Exactly. So when you think about it, a lot has been happening in DU these days.
Vishnu: But someone has been forgetting washrooms, you know.
Urvi: Specially the girls’ washrooms. Some of them are quite abysmal, really. One can’t possibly enter them without visibly cringing.
Vishnu: I think it’s time someone at least stopped turning a blind eye to all that goes wrong on campus and takes proactive measures to curb such happenings and indeed better the quality of life for students at the Varsity. One needs to look back only to the year gone by and they would recollect the many protests and immolations regarding the issue of the Tibetan students. And that is but only one of the issues that shook DU and rattled many. And then there was the great ordeal by semesterization which had stymied the pedagogues and their pupils almost alike, furor over which was only short-lived and barely skimmed the surface of the issue. This of course was succeeded by one of the worst scams in the history of the University as marks of the first batch of semester students were said to inflated by percentages as high as 13.
Urvi: Furthermore, in a futile attempt to restore peace and order, DU then proceeded to veil the contentious issue of the inflated semester results by removing them entirely from public eye. Obviously the scheme backfired. In fact, it added fuel to fire and instead of nipping the discontent in the bud, it has led to cold displeasure which isn’t any less lethal. It almost seems as if DU thrives on the flak it receives.
Vishnu: You could not have spoken a truer word, I say. There is a good deal to be hashed out about the happenings in this premier of Universities of the country. But where is the voice given to the people, to the students is the question that leaps to the mind readily.
Urvi: On paper, the system is almost Utopian. But then, when one reads the fine print, there is almost a tangible weight of wrongdoing in the air. Take for instance the exorbitant amount charged for getting an exam paper re-evaluated. If that is not blatant discouragement from seeking information, then I don’t know what is! This entire charade makes the transparency measures look hypocritical in the extreme.
Vishnu: Coupled with this is the rather readiness of the students and indeed the multitudes of others concerned when the time comes to act for their own rights, their freedom to expression, and even their own security. A Wodehousean state of idyllic bliss encapsulates these otherwise always attentive neo-activists, and they seem to be lulled into inaction as if mesmerized by the mercurial Pied Piper himself.
Urvi: Well, we have the power to make the flaws public. We’ll lay the bare facts before all and sundry. Let the bureaucracy play defense for as long as it can. The discontentment shall eventually overpower. To make or mar, the ball is in their court now.

Mutiny In March, a metal-rock band, were the first to perform. Though their performance was laden with synchronised head-banging by the band members, their music seemed to not rouse the audience a great deal. They were followed by the rock group which calls itself Uncertainty Principle, who started a teeny bit shakily with their Nescafe jingle but their subsequent songs were immediate hits with audience, with many standing up even on their seats. [caption id="attachment_3611" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="The Uncertainty Principle"][/caption]

Swarantara was next in line, and they had a large ensemble of musicians with guitarists, tabla players, a drummer, pianist and both Indian and Western singers. They performed the popular Bollywood number, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’. However, they too failed to enrapture the hordes of students who had been in their element for the previous band.

The last band to perform in the competition was aptly titled as regards their order of appearance as they were called Better Late Than Never (BLTN). BLTN performed a cover of a popular Arctic Monkeys song among their other items and concluded with a self-composition – ‘Come Back Home’.

[caption id="attachment_3612" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="The much-enthralled audience who was rocking along with the performers."][/caption]

The judges, who were the members of the celebrated Indian rock band, Parikrama, who were to perform later that night, came up with the results soon thereafter. It came as no surprise as Uncertainty Principle bagged the award for ‘Best Drummer’, ‘Best Guitarist’ and eventually they were named the ‘Best Band’ of the night. Mutiny In March was declared the runners-up.


Ensuing soon after the declaration of the Semester 1 results by Delhi University for their course, was the row over the preternaturally high scores that the students had managed to achieve this time around, raising question marks over the veracity of these scores and their value.

In a recent development, teachers from the Department of Economics and the Department of Germanic and Romance studies have filed protests in the office of the Controller of Examinations against these apparently bloated results. The results in the Economics (H) exam went up to as high as 99% and in the Germanic and Romance studies exams to 96.6% and 86.6% in the respective papers

“We strongly protest against this un-academic way of moderating results that has diluted academic standards and has made a mockery of the evaluation process undertaken seriously and sincerely by us,” the letter reads.

These reports have been confirmed by Saikat Ghosh, DUTA Executive Member who goes onto explain that the crux of the problem with these results lies that they have been moderated to such an extent that they have not been deemed correct and thus is in fact detrimental to the faith placed in the result evaluation procedure of DU.

He expounds that usually, the moderation as a process is a meticulous and intricate one, which involves the tabulation of marks in the primary step of the evaluation ladder which is followed up with identification of the ‘border- line’ cases. Once the red- ink separates these results from the hordes of the other scores, the marks that these particular exam- takers had secured in their Internal Assessments is taken into account and if the student is found worthy of a couple or more of grace marks, then they do get added on to his or her result. It is not a blanket formula, applied to all and sundry, something that the results this semester end seem to contradict. Also the principle for moderation has to be adopted by the Academic Council of the University of Delhi and only then is credence accorded to it.

As Mr. Ghosh informs us, the issue with the moderations this time has been that the tabulation had never been done and the teachers seem to have been told to moderate results freely by the Controller of Examinations, Dr. Jaggi, who in turn has passed the buck onto the Vice- Chancellor saying that the order had indeed come from higher quarters. “We have ample reason to believe that the results have been fudged” asserts Mr. Ghosh.

The DUTA has demanded an impartial probe into this matter and will adopt a resolution regarding the same in its General Body meeting on 31 January, 2012.