Trust Me, I'm a Storyteller

December 22, 2013

Compliments of the Season

Wishing everyone a Merry Yuletide and a safe and happy holiday.


It’s been a busy year with several highlights, including but not limited to:

  • Graham’s book in production for release in 2014;

  • Only Connect: tales of Technology and Us from Australia and the Indian subcontinent’ ,  which I co-edited with Meenakshi Bharat, due for release in 2014 – it has intrigue, suspense, romance and humour – stories from some of the best emerging and established authors on both continents;

  • Gondwanalandings at the Victorian State Library;

  • The UTS Postgraduate Conference; mindfulness-research-program-2013

  • Book launches and events – fabulous books were launched this year, some have appeared on this blog – including: Dancing to the Flute (Manisha Jolie Amin), After Love (Subhash Jaireth), Poetic Connections: Australia and India (ed Tamaso Lonsdale),  Letter to George Clooney (Debra Adelaide), A Country Too Far (Ed. Rosie Scott & Tom Keneally) and Susanne Gervay’s Gracie and Josh and  ‘I Am Jack’ translations; Meenakshi Bharat A House for Mr Biswas: Critical Perspectives;

  • Theatre events, including opening nights at ‘Rapture Blister Burn’ at The Ensemble and ‘The First Garden: Olive Pink’ at the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens; ‘Short & Sweet’ at Newtown and Nautanki Theatre.

  • The UTS Writers’ Alumni continuing to expand and our fabulous team at Writers Connect;

  • Interviewing authors, publishers and reviewers for my research. Many thanks to all who participated and contributed their views and valuable insights;

  • Catching up with friends when in Sydney—including Susanne Gervay, Wendy Ashton, Libby Sommer, Devaki Monani, Devika Brendon, Sunil Badami, Louise Porebski, Shashi Sharma, Manisha Amin, Roanna Gonsalves, (when she is in Sydney), Chris and Natasha Raja, Ali Atkinson-Philips (when they are in Sydney) and all at the South Asian-Australian Writers’ Network (SAAWN).

I’m now eagerly anticipating a Merry Yuletide with my family who I don’t see nearly often enough. After that I’m looking forward to the New Year with more book releases; conferences, cultural programmes and keynote series  (including Kerala & Delhi); and continuing my research at UTS.

Watch this blog for the call out for stories for the fourth Indo-Australian anthology sometime in 2014.



March 21, 2013

First Garden: Olive M Pink at Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens

Opening Night in Sydney

The opening night of the First Garden Olive Pink was held on the Band Lawn of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney on International Women’s Day.

The play, written by Chris and Natasha Raja, was first performed in Darwin and Alice Springs.

After heavy rainfall earlier in the week in Sydney, the first night of the First Garden was balmy and the gardens looked spectacular. It provided the perfect setting for the story of Olive M Pink’s First Garden in Alice Springs. A warm welcome from the Gadigal People set the tone for the play.

Living in the Watagan Mountains opposite Yengo National Park, I am in awe of the way of the indigenous people managed this land. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for the first European settlers who arrived out here with little more than a pick and shovel and a few provisions. The clash of concepts of someone belonging to the land and the land belonging to someone was always going to be a disaster. This clash is made starkly evident in the First Garden. Olive Pink was more enlightened and empathic than most of her contemporaries but, even so, the misunderstandings and sensitivities come alive in the First Garden.

Natasha Raja as Olive M Pink is convincing and quite brilliant at playing this fiercely independent and resilient woman with a quirky streak, who could be both formidable and compassionate. Natasha is strongly supported by the sterling performances and interpretations by Eshua Bolton, in dual roles as Johnny Tjampitjinpa and Tasman, and by Scott Fraser in dual roles as Captain Harold Southern and  Henry Wardlaw. An inquisitive magpie unexpectedly joined the cast and almost stole the show for a few minutes.

We are lucky to have playwrights such as Chris and Natasha to bring us the stories of our past. We are also lucky to have Arrernte custodians Auntie Doris Stuart and Aunty Elaine as advisors.


First Garden Opening Night Soiree

It was a great pleasure to meet Chris again and to meet Natasha, Eshua, Scott, Doris and Elaine at the buzzing opening night Soiree afterwards.  A display of the botanical artwork and collections of Olive Pink, as well as some of her possessions, showed the importance of her work.  At the Soiree, hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens in a room inside, we were served delicious refreshments as we listened to Professor David Mabberley, followed by a board member from Alice Springs Botanic Garden. A representative of the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens also spoke. The congenial atmosphere and the obvious enjoyment of all present made it a magical night in the enchanting Royal Botanic Gardens. It was great to see so many there, Manisha Amin and John, Ian Brittain, Lesley Branagan, Sunil Badami and April, Roanna Gonsalves, Devaki Monani, Devleena Ghosh, Gaye Follington and all who joined us to celebrate the Sydney opening night of The First Garden and support Chris and Natasha, Eshua and Scott and everyone involved with the production.

 Prof David Mabberley’s speech after seeing The First Garden

Reviews, YouTube videos, trailers and interviews.

ABC Books & Arts Daily: The life of Olive Pink

Aliceonline: Replanting Miss Pink

 Alice Springs News: Garden of Delight

Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney Event: First Garden

ABC: Alice Springs Trailblazer, Olive Pink remembered


First Garden Facebook Page

A series of youtube video uploaded by Chris Raja:

More youtube

When you visit the Royal Botanic Gardens you can visit the ‘permanent exhibition called Cadi Jam Ora, which is a garden display that tells the story of the Gadigal people, the traditional Aboriginal owners of the Sydney city area, and features plants that originally grew on the site of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

To get to the Botanic Gardens, walk to the Sydney Opera House and through the gates on the opposite side of the forecourt’.

If you can, visit the Alice Springs Botanical Gardens and see Olive Pink’s First Garden for yourself.

August 14, 2012

UWS Literary Lunch with Kiran Nagarkar

What an absolute delight to meet Kiran Nagarkar at the at UWS Literary Lunch on Tuesday 7th August, organised by Mridula Chakraborty.

Kiran Nagarkar must be one of the most under-rated Indian novelists despite his fine narratives, one of whichCuckold’ won the Sahitya Akademi Award. Kiran thinks deeply about any number of topics. He is a novelist with questions, rather than answers.

His writing is probably not as rewarded as it might be because Kiran is not an author who feels moved to fit the mould expected by many publishers. Another of the challenges that Kiran faces as an author from Mumbai is the current call for Indian authors to write in their local language, such as Marathi rather than in English. “Marathi papers and magazines and critics completely reject me because I switched to English; and in a very offensive kind of way.”

Nevertheless, I’m glad that Kiran writes in English as I admire his novels immensely. His books make the reader think and interact with narrative and author, they also have humour and a sense of the absurd.

My co-editor Meenakshi Bharat and I were fortunate enough to persuade Kiran Nagarkar to let us publish an extract from his novel ‘God’s Little Soldier’ in our collection of stories from Australia and the subcontinent ‘Fear Factor Terror Incognito’. The extract, titled ‘In Search of Essar’, revolves around a plot to carry out the fatwah on Rushdie. Unfortunately Zia, the protagonist, though he has unwavering belief in his calling is not so confident in the practical aspects. His frustration and bewilderment at his ineptitude allows for some very comical moments.

Kiran is a marvellous speaker. He was an international guest at this year’s Byron Bay Writers Festival. It was such a pleasure to hear him speak about his narratives, his perspective on the world and India, in particular, and about the ‘god of life’. He held the audience in his hands the whole time.

The relatively small number invited and the setting made this a rather special literary lunch with a chance to chat to Kiran in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Roanna Gonsalves, Devaki Monani, Ivor Indyk, Nicholas Jose,  Aashish Kaul, Shanti Napier, Ian Bedford and Susanne Gervay  were among those at the UWS literary lunch organised by Mridula Chakraborty.

Kiran’s books are difficult to get in Australia but I recommend that you try. His latest book is ‘Extras’ a sequel to ‘Ravan and Eddie’, and is set in Bollywood.

Kiran Nagarkar’s Books: Extras, Ravan and Eddie, Cuckold, God’s Little Soldier.

Story ‘In Search of Essar’ in ‘Fear Factor Terror Incognito’ published PanMacmillan Picador India 2009 & Picador Australia 2010.

For interviews with Kiran Nagarkar in print, podcast and video:

 Political intolerance limits authors: Kiran Nagarkar (youtube)

Kiran Nagarkar, best known for his seminal English novel, ‘Ravan and Eddie’, is out with a sequel called ‘The Extras’, once again starring Ravan Pawar and Eddie Coutinho.

Books and Arts Daily ABC RN Podcast

Conversation with Kiran Nagarkar

Rediff Interview with Kiran Nagarkar

Good Reads Kiran Nagarkar

Many thanks Mridula and UWS for a memorable meeting with Kiran Nagarkar. Thanks also to Devaki Monani for taking the photos (which means she isn’t in the group photo). It was very kind of you, Devaki.

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