Riverwood-Reflections in Fall-2017

2017-10-10-Riverwood-Red Trail

“A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet.

It can be meaningless. Or it can be part of a great meaning.”

Words in a Jewish Theological seminary-quoted by

Anne Lamott in her book-

Traveling Mercies- Some thoughts on Faith.

As fall comes, the last phase of the year, when one can go and read in the open is drawing in. Have been discussing with my son, some great works and life lessons from them. As part of that series, we went through the basic premise of Professor Fears, in his Great Course, that a great book should

1-Have a great theme

2-Be in Noble language

3-Speaks across the ages

4-Talks to you individually

RIVERWOOD REFLECTIONS..Applying the above criteria to “Requiem” of Frances Itani, which was the book chosen for the One-Book-One-Mississauga to observe Canada 150, it does have a great theme and talks to you individually, with characters addressing sensitive themes.

The One Big Question:

Frances Itani was in the Central library of Mississauga, discussing and reading from her book. She told of how she started preparing for the book by interviewing persons who had been part of the internment of Japanese Canadians. She listened to Beethoven for four years. Her son is a professional musician who helped her in choosing the musical themes. She told of how she put a neighbor’s dog- Basil in the book and her research on stroke, which was what Lena died of.

Each work should have one big question, which will guide the different themes.

The one Big Question for Requiem was- Where is the Anger going?

The creative process

Another interesting insight she shared was of a fellowship she did in a castle in Italy.    The fellowship is given only to creative people.

She had 4 writers, 4 composes and 4 artists in her group.

A MEASURED ACT- BY NORMAN TAKEUCHI- The individual pieces in A Measured Act include five life-sized, shaped paper kimonos that incorporate photo transfers, acrylic painting, and Conté and oil pastel drawings. Kimonos are an iconic emblem of Japan, where the wide-sleeved garments have a long history as cultural artifacts, fashion items and works of art. Takeuchi’s paper versions combine dark, abstract forms with text and photo transfers of historical images and documents related to the internment of Japanese-Canadians, persecuted because of Japan’s role as an aggressor in the Second World War.http://www.warmuseum.ca/media/canadian-war-museum-acquires-internment-themed-work-by-japanese-canadian-artist-norman-takeuchi/


RIVERS…The book tells about the travels of the artist. Following water bodies.



2015 Balkans
The meeting of Danube and Sava rivers-two of the great rivers of Europe. This was taken from Kalemegdan park, in July 2015. Having lived worked in Libya, I had friends from the Balkans who gave many interesting perspectives on the Ottoman times, the war in the former Yugoslavia and also the NATO interventions in Libya-2011..we walked along some water bodies and found different ways of looking at things.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalemegdan_Park


From Requiem:  The young man was following the great rivers of Europe.He had a sketch pad in his pack, the usual supplies, and he was trying to capture something he could not quite put a name to, some understanding of the rivers he encountered. Something lost, perhaps, or something not yet found.


Reading group questions

1-Relate to some rivers –water bodies which have had an impact on your life

2-What was the big question in Requiem

3-Discuss Requiem under the headings of Professor Fears’ criteria of a great work

4-How did Itani bring out the greater meanings of Bin’s life in the book? Discuss this under the theme- of the quote in the beginning of the blog “A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet.It can be meaningless. Or it can be part of a great meaning.”



Garam Hava

Around our independence day-formation of the nations-India and Pakistan, we spent some time seeing some movies-which tell about our society and civilization. We had initially started with some movies related to the main protagonists of the Indian freedom struggle, -Gandhi-Patel-Bhagat Singh, and the movies showed the different aspects of the Indian freedom struggle. Then we widened our scope by including representations from popular literature which go into the many human aspects which are not conveyed in official histories.


This national Award winning movie, directed by M S Sathyu, with dialogues written by Kaifi Azmi, based on a short story by Ismat Chugtai, shows the struggles of a family of Muslims in United Provinces-Agra region- when they decide to stay back in India

garam hawa



Khushwant Singh’s famous novel- brought alive characters like the ruffian Juggat Singh, the communist idealist Iqbal Singh, the corrupt district Magistrate Hukum Chand who has pangs from his conscience.

train to pakistan


In 2013-Tripoli Reading Group- had discussed some works related to Indian independence

See blog- https://prashantbhatt.com/2013/08/11/on-our-independence-day-part-1/

Partition which came with independence is still a very emotive topic in the subcontinent. The summer of 1947 was unlike any other in Indian history, seeing the migration of around 15 million people and murdering of around 1 million. Nehru’s “Tryst with Destiny” speech does not address these aspects which were dealt with by writers
such as Khushwant Singh in “Train to Pakistan”, Bapsi Sidhwa in
“Ice-Candy Man” or Salman Rushdie -“Midnight’s children” in different

The village of Mano Majra in Khushwant Singh’s -Train to Pakistan
and the inner life and voice of the character -Juggat Singh -is unraveled in many layers through the narrative.

The narrative voice of the silenced subaltern acts as textual force


A Reading Journal