Books


Here are a couple of blogposts listing the earliest known printed books in different languages. I found the following entries for the Indian languages.

Tamil. Thampiraan vaNakkam (Goa, India: Henrique Henriques, 1578).

Bengali. Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, A Grammar of the Bengal Language (Hugli, India, 1778).

Hindi. A Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language (Calcutta, India: Chronicle Press, 1796).

Oriya. Mrtyuñjaya Bidyalankar, trans. [New Testament] (Shrirampur, India: Serampore Mission Press, 1807).

Malayalam. [New Testament] (Bombay, India: Courier Press, 1811).

Assamese. William Carey, et al., trans. [New Testament] (Shrirampur, India: Serampore Mission Press, 1813).

Telugu. Grammar of Telugu (Shrirampur, India: Serampore Mission Press, 1813).

As is clear, nearly after a century of the printing of the first English book, we see a Tamil book being printed in Goa (while the other Indian languages were printed nearly two centuries after Tamil). This accidental blessing of the printing press in Goa, and the role of missionaries in setting it up, as well as the Tamil connection is discussed in a recent article by Babu K Verghese in the Hindu:

It was Christian missionaries, who wanted to produce the Bible in the several languages of the country, who introduced printing and publishing in India. In fact, we got the first printing press as a happy accident: As early as 1542, Francis Xavier, a Spaniard, was teaching the Bible in Tharangambadi (Tranquebar), Tamil Nadu. Also, when the Viceroy of Goa, on behalf of King Joan III of Portugal, opened schools for Indians, books had to be provided. Thus, pressure was put on Portugal by Francis Xavier to dispatch printing presses to India, Ethiopia and Japan. Meanwhile, the Emperor of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) requested the king of Portugal to send a press along with the missionaries. Thus the first batch of Jesuit missionaries left for Ethiopia on March 29, 1556. En route, they arrived in Goa on September 6, 1556. But, while they were preparing to proceed to Ethiopia, news reached them that the Ethiopian Emperor was not keen to receive the missionaries. Thus, as luck would have it, the press stayed in Goa and was set up at the College of St. Paul in Goa. Today, the huge arch of the St. Paul’s College gate, restored by the Archaeological Survey of India, stands as a witness to this pioneering effort.

In this regard, I should also mention the Italian priest Veeramamunivar, who compiled several dictionaries and composed literary and grammatical works in Tamil in the early 1700s.

PS: Do not take the dates given above to be the final word on the subject; the author of the posts agrees that some of the dates are educated guesses. So, if you know that the dates are wrong, or if you know of any other Indian language and the year of first printing in the same, leave a note.

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Shame

I know many don’t understand when I keep raising this issue. Why is it so important?

It’s important to me because thousands of my countrymen have died for those lines. It’s our nations boundaries. Please respect it.

I can understand if foreigners can’t accept it but what about Indians?

Look at the cover of this book, Reintegrating India with the World Economy,  by T. N. Srinivasan and Suresh D. Tendulkar.

Well done guys, give it way. I guess it’s just rocks and sand for you.

I’m not that well into reading novels. But that doesnt mean that i havent read any novels. Thanks to the (in)famous Hosur Road for igniting the reading talent in me. Though i have read only a handful of novels, this novel is worth commenting and appreciating.

Its simply – WOW !!!

Christopher Paolini’s Eragon(ISBN 0-375-82668-8) and Saphira are the new heros of the block. Scintillating and magical, i have never been glued to a book for so long that i finished it in record time. Its 4 weeks and that is a personal best for me ;) . Even my friends were amazed that i finished the novel so fast, not to mention i’m still stuck up at the 200th page of Bourne Identity for the past say 5 months. That novel is going no where.

Paolini has already come out with the 2nd book of the ‘Inheritance Trilogy‘(as it is called) Eldest(ISBN 0-375-82670-X) and its already a runaway success.

Its a must have book in your shelf if u loved Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein.

I happened to see the movie Eragon(The Movie), but i would suggest not to go for it. Its no way near even the tail piece of the novel. Though Saphira has been elegantly portrayed in the movie. That gave me a better picture of her.

So just read the novel, enjoy and Let your Swords Stay Sharp.

Atra esterní ono thelduin (May good fortune rule over you)

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It was another eventful week in Mutiny, and here is a categorized summary!

  1. Music: Jo began the week with some cool news about the availability of teasers from BlogSwara and followed it up later with the news of the launch of the site.
  2. Science: Cakerfare discussed the idea behind genetically modified malaria resistant mosquitoes in tackling malaria, while Vishal followed the story of the discovery of 3.8 million year old rocks and the relevance of the discovery to geological theories of plate tectonics.
  3. Cricket: While Chacko was optimistic about the chances of the Indian team and did some number juggling, later in the week, Sridhar Kondoji felt that the products endorsed by Indian cricketers need to be boycotted as a mark of protest against the abysmal performance of the team India.
  4. Pseudo-religion: Gentledude admonished Indians for their blind faith in godmen with specific reference to Baba, and followed it by another post on the paradox of Lord Balaji being the second richest god in the world, while half of India is languishing below poverty line.
  5. Education: Polite Indian wonders if corporate punishement is needed at all, and concludes in the negative.
  6. Society: While Nita wrote for the need of sensitivity on the part of all of us in the wake of Sikh community taking exceptions to Sardar jokes, Guru pointed to Andre Beteille’s article which argued caste to be an Indian socio-economic institution.
  7. Justice: SwethaIyer’s confidence in the Indian judicial system is reinforced after the verdict of guilty for the accused in the killing of Manjunath Shanmugam.
  8. Management: Vishal, while narrowing down on the reasons for the dumb decisions that managers make, also identifies five signs that indicate trouble in an organization.
  9. News and Media: While Guru laments the dearth of “real” news, Nita finds that the marriage of Liz and Arun Nair is still the hot selling item on the streets.
  10. Tips: While Jo tips us about the free phone call service Fone Mine, Sridhar Kondoji tells you what to do when the markets are down.
  11. Issues: Guru felt that the Mashelkar committee should be terminated, and (in a follow-up post on brain drain) indicated that brain drain is not that bad after all; and, Jo dedicated a song to the victims of Nandigram.
  12. Interview: Ujj interviewed Vinod George Joseph, the author of Hitchhiker (shortly after his review of the book).

Hope you enjoyed reading mutiny and voicing your opinions on issues as much as we enjoyed our writing and hearing from you.

Hope to see you in these parts of the blogosphere soon, again!

vinod_new.jpgLike we promised, we have with us today Mr Joseph, the author of Hitchhiker which has created quite a buzz on the blogosphere. Our earlier story on Hitchhiker.

Vinod is a solicitor based in London and was kind enough to spare some time for us, in fact, kind enough to wake up at 5:00 am London Time in the morning to have a chat with us 🙂 Now thats someone we do not interview everyday !

Ujj: So Vinod do you normally wake up this early or is it just because of me bugging you for an interview?

Vinod: I am a morning person and I try to swim in the morning before going to office. So, this is my usual time. Just 30 minutes of swimming in the slow lane. What about you?

Ujj: uh .Ahem. me too. Ok so lets hear something about you. Birth place, education and how did a lawyer end up writing a book?

Vinod: I was born in Kerala and my mother-tongue is Malayalam. I grew up at a place called Virudhunagar in Tamil Nadu. My Dad used to work as a lecturer at a polytechnic there. My mother used to teach at a local school. I went to National Law School in Bangalore to do a 5 year law degree after which I worked in Mumbai as a corporate lawyer for 4 years. After that I came to the UK to do a masters course at the London School of Economics. I completed my LLM in 2003, during which time I took an exam called the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT), which allowed me to qualify as a UK solicitor. I have been working as a solicitor with a commercial law firm since January 2004. My parents have retired and now live at our ancestral home in Kerala. I have been married for the last 4 years (almost). Nisha is a software engineer and works for a telecom company in the UK.

Ujj: Yes she must be really proud of you, so were you the lawyer by the day and the writer by the night…

Vinod: Sort of. I wrote Hitchhiker while I was doing my LLM. When I finished my LLM in September 2003, I had completed my first draft. I took me a few more months to find a job, by which time I had finished editing it. My day job involves long hours and so I don’t manage to write for more than a few hours every week, mainly on week-ends.

Ujj: Novel moves around delicate topics like conversions, caste reservations, inter caste marriages, riots but all from the perspective of a kid and then a financially insecure man. Did you yourself ever face any identity crises or anything?

Vinod: Many people have asked me this question. Some even ask me if it is an autobiography. The answer is No. Hitchhiker is based entirely on what I have seen and not what I experienced. For the record, I’ve had a relatively privileged life. I belong to a caste which is quite high up on the caste/social ladder. I went to good schools and colleges. I have never really experienced discrimination, neither in India, nor in the UK.

Ujj: did you always know that a kid with identity problem was going to be your protagonist..

Vinod: Not really I decided to base my novel on issues I am familiar with, am very interested in Ebenezer was the end result, but even when I started writing, I had no clue how Ebenezer would turn out to be.

Ujj: Do you think Ebenezer would have done better for himself if he could avail reservation even after converting? cause even after converting his father could not offer him anything special? reservation in fact would have landed him in the IITs?

Vinod: Yes, he would. At the end of the day, a reservation, despite its inefficiencies and collateral unfairness, is a huge boon to the one who actually benefits from it.

Ujj: I know many people must have asked you this but I want to hear it from you, will Hitchhiker have a sequel? Are there any more works in the pipeline?

Vinod: I seriously doubt it. I want to leave Ebenezer’s future to the reader’s imagination. I have been writing a collection of 10 short stories which are based in a fictional village in Kerala. I hope to complete them soon.

Ujj: cool ! thatll be something to look forward to. So how did you hook up with books for change? Is this publishing house like an NGO?

Vinod: Books For Change (BFC) is the publishing division of Action aid India, which is an NGO. BFC publishes books which have a high social content.

Ujj: A ok…some time back I read a survey done by the time group that concluded that more than 60% of the youth of our country like to keep friends with the people of the same religion and more than 65% would like their parents to chose their brides for them..I for one felt quite sick about this..

Vinod: It is a good thing that it is only 60%

Ujj: phss.. 🙂 . but seriously don’t you think the youngest country in the world ought to be a little more progressive.

Vinod: It would be nice if people were a little less bigoted

Ujj: One last thing, what stand would you take about reservations? in the book one of the characters believe that the one thousand year old suppression and stigma cant go without a sustained reservation? what do you think? Or lemme put it this way, what was your reaction when you saw doctors and engineers facing water cannons while protesting against reservations?

Vinod: I feel that reservations do serve a purpose. It is no easy task to undo the damage caused by caste divisions which have existed for many centuries. Providing good schools, hospitals etc to the weaker sections of society will go a long way in creating an egalitarian society where all children go to school and every one has the opportunity to eke out a decent livelihood. However, providing reservation is still the most effective way to move a marginalized caste up the social ladder.
It must also be recognised that reservations do result in a lot of collateral unfairness. Even though reservations make sense in a broad way, there will be many individual instances where deserving candidates lose out on account of reservations. The higher the percentage of reservation, the greater the collateral unfairness. It is very difficult to say what would be the optimum percentage of reservation. I feel that total reservations should not exceed 20% or at the most 25%. Also, economically prosperous sections should not have reservations, even if they belong to a marginalised caste. Creamy layers should definitely be skimmed off. Also, I would not support reservations for promotions.
What I have stated here is my personal view. While writing Hitchhiker, I did my best to ensure that my personal view did not affect any of the characters in it.

Ujj: well thats enlightening. Vinod we really thank you for this and sorry for having eaten away your swimming time. I am sure our readers are going to enjoy this conversation.

Vinod: Thanks a lot 🙂

Ebenezer is a converted, slightly above average student in a missionary school, belongs to a lower middle class family with dreams of making it to an IIT, in short, he is a nobody with fairly reasonable dreams. His life is shaped by the fact that his father has converted to a member of a church which makes him ineligible to benefit from caste reservations. When the rest of the world around him receives special coaching and training for entrance exams of whatever kinds, Ebenezer self tutors himself. A typical story would gift his hard work and make him successful, in this story he ends up getting a diploma from a make shift training center. He is not the hero of the book but merely a protagonist and this is what makes Hitchhiker special. His future is blurred, not just to the readers but to Ebenezer himself. An obvious question would be then what is so great about his life that makes one want to write a book about it, the answer is, exactly that. It is a humanist story of a character who can actually exist, like I said he is no hero, he does not make difficult choices, he is not overtly loyal in fact given a chance he will get the heck out of the politics of the church. He is in love but his mixed identity becomes a problem there as well. He is a sum total of people around him and situation posed in front of him. The crises that he faces in life are hardly a result of his choices. The fact that he bears them without complaining is what makes Ebenezer interesting.

Hitchhiker is a brilliant title for the book, in fact it is ironic as Ebenezer never gets a real free ride anytime in his life! His right of hitchhiking was taken away by his father even before he was born. The story goes on with the of religious conversions, religious disharmony, cultural hegemony and language superiority as the undertones. The main story is however very simple, something that a high school kid would relate to.Vinod Joseph, the author of the book, is very observant, he notes simple expressions of children and has produced them very effectively. How a child wants to view his/her result if he/she has done well in the exams, the ability of kids to make and break plans in the matter of minutes and the broken consciousness of human beings, at one second Ebenezer is depressed and hopeless about his job and the other he is enjoying an expensive meal as a treat by his girl friend are some of the things that immediately come to my mind.

Hitchhiker is sheer enjoyment. It is not a reading exercise, it is more about exploring how simple things are note worthy and lovely to remember. Some may think it is a sad story, I for one think it is simply a typical Indian story. You do not get everything you want and that is not too bad a thing, is something I realize while reading it. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys learning more about conversions, delicate issue of reservations or just wants to read something good. Its a great read for Italian neo-realism fans too.

Vinod Joseph is a solicitor based in London. Hitchhiker is his debut novel. We at mutiny have contacted Mr Joseph and he has agreed for an interview. We will be back with him on Monday, so stay tuned. 🙂

Hitchhiker
Rs350/-; US$22.00; 406pp
ISBN: 81-8291-023-6
Authored by Vinod George Joseph

The story is told from the point of an old woman, Bhima, who works in a wealthy household as a maid. She has a granddaughter for whom she wants nothing less than extraordinary things. But, her granddaughter ends up pregnant and, in Bhima’s eyes, smashes any hopes for a bright future. Bhima has worked for Serabai for decades and is essentially part of the family – but she isn’t allowed to sit on the chairs or sip tea from the same cups as the rest of the family. The reason: She’s of a different class, and cannot taint the belongings of Serabai’s house. Serabai still treats her with respect, but it’s simply understood that Bhima cannot take liberties in the house as though it is her own. I can see how this would annoy some readers, because discrimination based on class seems and is completely absurd; however, this is often the case in India, where even though the maid eats at the house, cleans it, and sometimes even sleeps in it, there are utensils, clothes, etc reserved for her that noone else uses. Is it wrong? Yes, but it still happens. I remember when we lived in India, our maid refused to eat at the table with us even when we asked her to because she wasn’t used to doing it at other houses that she had worked at. She looked at us like we were crazy, and one time got so angry that we were asking her that she stormed out.

In any case, the story is also told in Bhima’s boss, Serabai’s voice. Serabai’s daughter, who is expecting a baby in a few months, and Viraf, a successful, “dashing” young man, both live in Serabai’s house. Serabai has been through her share of shitty times (to put it eloquently lol), and now is looking forward to her only daughter’s first child. Her past is told in alternating chapters with Bhima’s story, and it’s fascinating to see how these two women, one of them with her fancy dinner plates and another with her shabby, leaky straw hut, have been through more tears than laughs, and even though they are nothing alike, they coexist in the same household and share their worries, yielding a surprisingly therapeutic effect on each other. This novel dives into the silent struggle between classes and heart-wrenching marital predicaments. Not necessarily a thrilling read, and I wouldn’t call it a page-turner, but I really liked it. The story is not action packed, but there’s a way that Umrigar slowly unravels the details of each character’s life that makes the novel compelling.

Cross posted here 

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