The Calligraphed Poetry Book

Every time I write after a long hiatus, I feel guilty and helpless. Guilty of not being able to write with the same passion and purpose that I did a year back. And helpless with the feeling of a writer’s block-even before I have written anything.

There are a few thoughts which I want to write on in the coming month or so.  I recently read – The difficulty of being good by Gurcharan Das. It is an interesting premise and I was wondering if being successful and being good can co-exist. But all this I will expound at a latter point of time.

Similarly reading Gandhi’s – Experiments with truth, made me wonder on the costs of success. Gandhi has been successful in public service but the delivery of household service to his wife and children is questionable.  I tried reading experiments with truth some ten years back but did not enjoy reading it and gave it up mid way. Now I picked up the book in a more conscious attempt to understand Gandhi – the person. The honest description of his thoughts, actions and most important his multiple experiments with vegetarianism, unshakeable faith in God, experiments in Brahmacharya are a window to understand the steel resolve of the person. A friend recently pointed out that all ‘ great men ‘ have screwed up personal life. The dogmatic pursuit of their belief makes them succeed in one and fail in another. All this again for a much latter date.

This time I will write about something which fascinated me.  I have always felt passionately for the hundreds of men and women who are able to transcend work from a normal activity to a more devotional form. May be because I never thought of my job in a similar fashion and am always in awe for someone who can.  A month back Krishnan Narayan caught the fancy of the nation with his kitchen which feeds the destitute in Madurai -

This week an obituary caught my fancy. I read about Purushottam Lal in two editorials and started researching about him. The love and the fondness with which everyone wrote about him made me yearn to know more about him.

A Blog carried this excellent introduction to P Lal-

In the homes of Indian writers of a certain generation, there’ll always be the Writers Workshop shelf, given over to hand-bound books, the cloth borders taken from Orissa saris, the title often hand-calligraphed. You don’t find them in bookstores that often these days, but there was a time when Writers Workshop represented, in effect, the sum total of the aspirations of Indians writing in English.

Professor P Lal, the man behind Writers Workshop, and perhaps the last of the dying breed of “gentleman publishers”, died this weekend at the age of 81 in Calcutta, where he had lived and worked most of his life. In the fifty years since he had started Writers Workshop, Indian publishing had changed beyond recognition. There were now a multitude of publishing houses, literary festivals, book launches—all the infrastructure that was missing when he and a group of friends began Writers Workshop.

< more can be read from the hyperlink above >

The Economist also carried an obituary of Prof Lal. What of course fascinated me was the pure dedication and devotion with which each book was carved out, right from the elaborate cover to the calligraphed inner pages. I am definitely going to look out for one these when I visit Kolkata next.


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