Author : Vikas Datta


Unconventional but alluring heroes

Unconventional but alluring heroes

May 28,2017 , 01:12 AM IST | Sunday Hans
In human affairs, things exist before they are formally named and continue to thrive even when people don't know or forget the name. Take this type of literary character, who continues to hold a strange fascination for us – the "hero" (or rather, the anti-hero or even villain) who is passionate but flawed, charismatic but behaves outrageously, holds unshakeable beliefs while internally-conflicted
The wounded poet

The wounded poet

May 21,2017 , 01:05 AM IST | Hans
Like the sun outshines other celestial bodies, literary figures are liable to find that their contribution to popular forms of mass media will obscure all their other work, no matter how much better they consider it. 
Why Steve Jobs didn't let his kids use iPads and other digital dangers

Why Steve Jobs didn't let his kids use iPads and other digital dangers

May 16,2017 , 10:08 PM IST | Hans
Human reactions can be inconsistent. There was a time, if you were found reading a book in company, you could be shouted at by your parents or even have it snatched and flung away, but now if you are eagerly checking your smartphone, no one is likely to say anything -- for they might be doing the same too.
A saga of love, sex and danger in ancient India

A saga of love, sex and danger in ancient India

May 14,2017 , 12:49 AM IST | Hans
For keen readers, the point where texts transform into literature is always interesting. The protagonists are more likely to be fallible humans than deities, the prescriptive and didactic approach wanes to show the world as it is, not as it should be. 
Literary links

Literary links

May 07,2017 , 01:36 AM IST | Hans
Involving traversing fairways bounded by roughs and hazards for the unwary, a progressive set of goals to achieve through varying levels of difficulty, and performers of varying calibre and skill, golf might be the sport most approximating our life. But strangely, golf's appearances in fiction have not been commensurate with the resemblance – though it has not been entirely absent.
A priest-detective and his cases

A priest-detective and his cases

Apr 23,2017 , 12:24 AM IST | Hans
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" The Shadow, the mysterious narrator of a 1930 American radio show, knows – as he told us with his eerie laugh – but he wasn't the only one. 
TV shows needed as books too

TV shows needed as books too

Apr 16,2017 , 12:45 AM IST | Hans
The egg or the chicken paradox doesn't seem difficult to answer in its literary version – the printed word undoubtedly predates the moving image. Many much-loved books, across genres, have become acclaimed films or TV shows – with varying degrees of fidelity. Unfortunately, the reverse, though not unknown, does not happen as often.
Lawmakers and gallant rescuers

Lawmakers and gallant rescuers

Apr 02,2017 , 12:28 AM IST | Hans
Mowgli, the wolf-raised child in a central Indian jungle, and Kim, the orphan drawn into the ‘Great Game’, may be his most enduring child characters, but Rudyard Kipling is responsible for other irrepressible young heroes too. Changing literary politics have, however, regrettably obscured the tales of the children who could influence the Viceroy's council or view an unprecedented natural spectacle
Bad words

Bad words

Mar 26,2017 , 01:35 AM IST | Hans
Literary legacies can be strange and unpredictable. Most popular and best-selling in his time, this 19th century British writer coined phrases like "the pen is mightier than the sword" and "the almighty dollar", influenced both theosophists like Annie Besant and Nazi mystics but is now remembered for writing the most pilloried and parodied opening line of any English literary work and inspiring a
The course of a Greek myth

The course of a Greek myth

Mar 19,2017 , 01:01 AM IST | Hans
Does only economic status determine social class, or do other determinants – speech patterns, apparel, mannerisms and the like – play a part? And if so, will changing them mean upward – and irreversible – social mobility for all (across gender)? These questions have been much debated, but never so entertainingly as in this play, named after a mythological Greek character, and its numerous adaptati
Sun of Indian wisdom and his arduous task

Sun of Indian wisdom and his arduous task

Mar 12,2017 , 12:40 AM IST | Hans
Confusingly complicated family relations, logical puzzles for intellectual betterment, problem-solving by, and through, imagination, the importance of choices, and the spinning on a basic tale through a number of episodes have a long pedigree in India. One of their best examples can be found in this ancient but still popular story.
Also for your eyes only

Also for your eyes only

Mar 05,2017 , 01:18 AM IST | Hans
His name is synonymous with the exploits of the most famous, though fictional, secret agent ever, but apart from this irresistible mixture of fantasies expertly served – and a last-ditch demonstration of British power – Ian Fleming had other literary skills up his sleeve. Unfortunately, he had very limited time and opportunity to exhibit them.
Famous Viking and his entertaining exploits

Famous Viking and his entertaining exploits

Feb 26,2017 , 01:17 AM IST | Hans
The Vikings, who were distinguished by a startling adjective after their name, may have long lost their specific identity in the modern world, with the only of these epithets surviving (and flourishing) into our times being "Bluetooth". But not all of them have vanished, with one of their fierce warriors, and his unlikely family and associates, continuing to regale newspaper readers around the wor
Love’s tortured course in Cold War

Love’s tortured course in Cold War

Feb 19,2017 , 12:51 AM IST | Hans
Truth is the first casualty in wars, but so is romance. The conflict doesn't even need to be a shooting war - even undeclared conflicts like the Cold War can be daunting and hazardous for lovers - particularly if they are on opposing sides.
Fairytale that launched India's literary renaissance

Fairytale that launched India's literary renaissance

Feb 12,2017 , 01:48 AM IST | Hans
A whirlwind tale of romance, adventure and magic, it is no ordinary fable – and not due to its genre. The first Indian prose fiction, or even the first novel, ‘Bagh-o-Bahaar’ is a largely neglected pioneer of what is now a thriving, multi-lingual literary tradition, but it still holds prominence due to its language and motifs of loss, mortality, courage, faith, hope and redemption.
Partisans and observers

Partisans and observers

Feb 05,2017 , 01:36 AM IST | Hans
It seems ironically heartless, but somehow the best literary creativity is inspired by tragedy, especially those in conflict situations, and can reflect its nuances and effects better. 
A forbear of legacy

A forbear of legacy

Jan 22,2017 , 01:40 AM IST | Hans
Among the outstanding American statesmen (and one stateswoman) to never become President, Daniel Webster never let ambition, pride or popularity deflect him from his inalienable political principle: his country's preservation, even by tactical compromises over policies that might be personally detestable, and negotiations over force. But he is chiefly remembered as a polished, powerful and persuas
Altruistic Arabian prince & his legendary quests

Altruistic Arabian prince & his legendary quests

Jan 08,2017 , 01:05 AM IST | Hans
In our contemporary, high-tech world where a range of inventions and devices once thought magical are common, it is easy to understand why fairy tales have gone out of fashion. 
Solving crime the Scotland Yard way

Solving crime the Scotland Yard way

Dec 11,2016 , 02:08 AM IST | Hans
The London policeman, a member of the modern world's first professional law and order enforcement force, has long been a model for his counterparts and a subject for crime novelists. 
A humorous insight

A humorous insight

Dec 04,2016 , 02:05 AM IST | Hans
Exuberant Americans, reserved Englishmen, orderly Germans, fatalistic Russians, unorganised Italians, charming and chic French, impenetrable Japanese, laidback Australians, gregarious and feckless Irish... are these descriptions a valid guide to these nationalities, and are there any such universal national characteristics at all? Do they just stem from personal, subjective experience or are mere
The Soviet spy who foxed Nazis

The Soviet spy who foxed Nazis

Nov 20,2016 , 02:55 AM IST | Hans
Spy fiction we have been used to for years had Soviet/Russian agents as the bad, ruthless guys. Though there were exceptions - the KGB chief in Frederick Forsyth's ‘The Negotiator’, in some James Bond films, Ilya Kurakin in ‘The Man from UNCLE’ and even Vladimir Putin (initially), they were in supporting roles. 
A different perspective of life

A different perspective of life

Nov 13,2016 , 01:36 AM IST | Hans
All religions are based on fate, or some divine design and control over humans, and so are some philosophies (the universe conspiring to help you attain something you want, as Paulo Coelho says in ‘The Alchemist’). 
A heroic tale

A heroic tale

Oct 30,2016 , 01:32 AM IST | Hans
It is a rare country that remembers all its heroes, let alone recognises their contribution – even war heroes, otherwise lionised for political benefit and as a conveniently vicarious symbol of service and sacrifice.
A toast to the original creator of Superman

A toast to the original creator of Superman

Oct 23,2016 , 02:22 AM IST | Hans
Humankind's capacity to comprehend pales before its ability to misinterpret or misappropriate – and neither prophet nor philosopher is immune. For the latter, none can beat this lonely, tragic but most misunderstood philosopher, sought to be owned by both extremes of the political spectrum (and many others), but still going on to influence a large swathe of the cultural and intellectual history to
Love in shadow of Nirbhaya episode

Love in shadow of Nirbhaya episode

Oct 16,2016 , 01:53 AM IST | Hans
Love, the most mysterious of human emotions, can be immensely uplifting or devastatingly destructive, but never static. As times change, so do its contours, and expected roles and responsibilities in a love story can be most fluid and unexpected. 
The Saint and the Pope

The Saint and the Pope

Oct 09,2016 , 12:30 AM IST | Hans
The venerable sages of India, the Buddha, Jesus, Prophet Muhammad, Guru Nanak – the founders of all major religions – were all known to spurn material comfort and stress compassion for the weak and safeguarding nature, but not many of their followers emulated them. 
Rising to power

Rising to power

Sep 25,2016 , 01:04 AM IST | Hans
There is one country that has militarily defeated the US and that too on its own soil – stolen a march on both the US and USSR in space travel, severely dented American capitalists' confidence in their own capability, and finally saved the Western world in the aftermath of the 1970s energy crisis. But the name of Grand Fenwick doesn't occur in any history book, or show up in any atlas, unless it a
One last bright spark of glorious tradition

One last bright spark of glorious tradition

Sep 18,2016 , 12:58 AM IST | Hans
Any literary tradition demonstrates its virtuosity and vitality in how even its last proponents keep up its standards, even as the style itself is declining due to changes in the political and social millieu and norms. The Lucknow School of Urdu Poetry was no exception. But even as we acknowledge change in times and tastes, is inevitable, it seems unfortunate for a promising poet so eclipsed.
The plight of former soldiers

The plight of former soldiers

Sep 11,2016 , 12:50 AM IST | Hans
The memorial at the Kohima War Cemetery, where lie dead of a World War II battle termed "Stalingrad of the East", asks us: "When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today." It's no less true for soldiers now, but do we consider it in our attitudes to them in peace and to ex-servicemen? And it is an old poet, now deemed a standard-bearer of imperialism, who can draw ou
Lucknow’s shining star

Lucknow’s shining star

Sep 04,2016 , 01:00 AM IST | Hans
Do you have to be born in a place renowned as a cradle of poetry to be considered a part of its tradition, or is its ethos so strong and pervasive that it can encompass even those who settle there? The second seems more likely going by the example of this gifted representative of the Lucknow school of Urdu poetry who could even enshrine life's small things in polished language in his memorable ver