Speaker: Gurcharan Das & Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Moderator: LSG President Madhulika Kanoria
Venue: Harikunj, Kolkata
Date: 23rd January, 2019
Amidst the serene and enchanting setting of the lush lawns of Harikunj, Ladies Study Group proudly hosted two eminent authors to discuss New Stories from Old Scriptures in conversation with Malavika Banerjee, Director, Kolkata Literary Meet.
Malavika welcomed the acclaimed authors and introduced them to the audience as writers who have engaged with scriptures and epics for the last fifteen years, before which the scriptures have engaged them for a lifetime.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an author, poet and the Betty and Gene McDavid Professor of Writing at University of Houston, Creative Writing Program. Her pen is mighty, yet mirthful; she candidly spoke about the inspiration she derived from the stories recited by her grandfather in a village in Bengal, under the light of a kerosene lamp, surrounded by her cousins. She stated, “Stories of our epics are fascinating, filled with all kinds of story elements. Their characters are amazing and they play out in a magical world.”
Chitra candidly confessed, “Ramayana is very nuanced, more nuanced than when I read it in popular texts, like the Amar Chitra Katha and watching it in the serial.”
Gurcharan Das, author, commentator and a public intellectual, in his latest book Kama: The Riddle of Desire, examines human desires across civilizations. Gurcharan started with his journey as an undergraduate in Harvard University, studying philosophy, where he met the greatest Sanskritan alive, Daniel Ingalls. Malavika pointed out the way some of our scriptures have changed with the times and have various interpretations with a special mention to the age-old scripture, Kama sutra. Gurcharan candidly stated, “Kama sutra is a book of not only sexual positions but that of good manners. To be socially successful in society, one must talk the language of the people, which is Prakrit.” He went further by saying that in Mahabharata and other texts- including Kalidas and Shakuntala there is a conflict between Dharma and Karma. “Dharma is a duty to the others whereas Karma is a duty to yourself,” opinioned author Gurcharan.
The two acclaimed authors of great repute enthralled the audience with their talk of their life journeys, writings, scriptures and their understanding which left the LSG members enlightened.