Esplanade Presents | Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts


Kalaa Utsavam Book Club with Meira Chand

19 Nov 2017Sun
1hr 30mins

How do the stories of individuals create a collective history that shapes our identity as a community and a nation? Join internationally acclaimed local author, Meira Chand, in the second edition of the Kalaa Utsavam Book Club as she discusses two of her most recent novels, Sacred Waters, set against the dramatic sweep of India’s anti-colonial struggle in the 1940s from rural India to modern-day Singapore, and A Different Sky, following the lives of three families caught up in tumultuous times of colonial and post-colonial Singapore. This discussion-based session will see Meira leading conversations on the novels, with her insights facilitating discussions between readers.

Readers are encouraged to have read both novels prior to attending the session. A Different Sky and Sacred Waters are available at all major bookstores.

About Meira Chand
Meira Chand is of Indian-Swiss heritage and was born and educated in London. She has lived for many years in Japan and India. In 1997, she moved to Singapore and is now a citizen of the country. Her multicultural heritage is reflected in her eight novels, which explore issues of identity and belonging. In the UK, her latest novel, A Different Sky was a book of the month choice by the bookshop chain Waterstones, and was also long listed for the IMPAC Dublin literary award 2012. In the US, the novel was on Oprah Winfrey’s recommended reading list. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Western Australia and in Singapore is a board member of the National Arts Council. She is involved in programmes to develop the literary arts and to nurture and promote young writers. The LKY Musical, the recent smash-hit Singapore production based on the life of Lee Kuan Yew, was developed from her original story.

About Sacred Waters
Orphaned as a child, and widowed at 13, Sita has always known the shame of being born female in Indian society. Her life constrained and shaped by the men around her, she could not be more different from her daughter, Amita, a headstrong university professor determined to live life on her own terms. While trying to unravel the mysteries of her mother’s past, Amita encounters a traumatic event that leads her down the path of self-discovery.

Unfolding simultaneously, their stories are set against the dramatic sweep of India’s anti-colonial struggle in the 1940s, and move between past and present, from rural India to the chaotic Burmese battlefront where Sita experiences life as a recruit in the Indian National Army, to modern-day Singapore. Richly layered and beautifully evocative, the novel is a compelling exploration of two women’s struggle to assert themselves in male dominated societies of both the past and the present.

About A Different Sky
Beginning in Singapore’s first communist riot in 1927, and set against the years before the colony achieved full independence, the novel follows the lives of three families caught up in tumultuous times. From a traditional Chinese world of female foot binding and submission, Mei Lan seeks to become a modern woman in a male orientated society. Unable to fulfil ambitions to study abroad, Eurasian Howard is filled with anger against his colonial masters who ignore a man’s merit and hold him to his place, limiting hopes of betterment.

During the Japanese occupation Howard is forced to flee into the jungle, living with communist guerrillas. In contrast Raj Sherma’s wheeling and dealing under the Japanese allows him to prosper while his sister, Leila, and her husband, Krishna, become infatuated by the charismatic Subash Chandra Bose and join the Indian National Army. Once the war ends communism spreads its roots throughout South East Asia, and the urge for nationhood grips those countries in the region still under British rule. Howard becomes enmeshed in the violent birthing of politics in a country that has previously known only British Rule. Mei Lan, her life blighted by the effects of imprisonment and torture under the Japanese, become an iconic figure in the struggle for women’s rights.

Later the growing violence of post war Singapore, where history sits on the knife-edge of communism, sweeps up Mei Lan’s young teenage relative, Greta. The explosive era of the ’50s, where workers strike daily and Chinese school children, full of revolutionary ideas, join in vicious communist backed riots, involves everyone.

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