| “Stealing Gods"
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Heart of stone
Ila Pal, author of 'Stealing Gods' set against the backdrop of the illagal trade of antiques.
Society may take too lax a view of corruption, but author Ila Pal would rather understand than condemn
A painter and author, with a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology, what is a genteel woman doing camping with dacoits and visiting smugglers in their safe houses? For Ila Pal, it is not just in service of her novels, the latest of which is “Stealing Gods” (Pilgrims Publishing) about the clandestine international trade in antiquities sourced from India.
There is a deeper reason. “I do get into situations which are very strange,” she admits. “I would say I do like to flirt with danger.” She takes many years, even decades to research her novels, meet the people involved in the violence-ridden and morally controversial subjects she writes about, who eventually turn into fictional characters. Her background in psychology makes her interested in “why they become what they become.” Back in the 1970s, when she met the dacoits — on whom the novel is only now ready — she even invited them home to dinner, sending her children scurrying for cover.
In “Stealing Gods” her protagonist Pashan hails from an aristocratic Varanasi family from whom he has inherited not only a large collection of antiques and a love of history but also an inability to relate to other human beings. Add to that his augmenting his riches by illegal sourcing and sale of artefacts, and Pashan seems — at least to today's urban educated woman — the kind of husband best done without. His wife Anupama, though, brought up in Mathura, with a knowledge born more of traditional wisdom and empathy than book learning, perseveres, turning her dead marriage into a vibrant relationship, and this slow development, which reads almost like a case study, seems the strongest point of the novel.
One can't help noticing that — while she shows both Pashan and Anupama struggle to meet each other halfway — Pashan seems to be absolved of his culpability in the illegal trade, both in the eyes of his wife, who goes to lengths to help him manufacture evidence, and the narrator, who remains steadfastly noncommittal in her reporting. The author points out that every day such people do escape the law and retain exalted positions in society. This is sad for the country, but even when they admit their own wrongdoings to themselves, they can never be expected to change overnight or change completely. Besides, she says, “Even in real life I'm not able to condemn a person.”
Though she does not practise as a psychologist, this is where her skills are channelled. At her recent exhibition in Mumbai where the book was released, a reader asked her to “find him an Anupama”! The author, one presumes, advised the young man appropriately, since she has shown how painstaking steps can sculpt a ‘pashan' (Hindi for ‘stone') into a human and humane figure.
Sunday Hans - Stealing Gods pdf
- “You have landscaped the story of Stealing Gods. Kudos to you.”
M.F. Husain, renowned Indian painter
- “Evocative and simple, moving seamlessly back and forth in time, Ila Pal still grips the reader with the skill of a born story –teller.”
Anil Dharker, literary critic
- “With uncommon protagonists, unusual backdrop of clandestine trade in antique Indian sculptures, dramatic conflict between a woman and the feudal man she is married to, Stealing Gods is a sensitive exploration into the nuances of a relationship generally described as love... reading this beautifully layered novel is an insightful experience.”
Govind Nihalani, noted Film maker
- “With words Ila creates images…the reader feels he is seeing a film.”
French writer Jean Pierre Angel, author of ‘Le peine En Ecaille’
- “An artist known for the unabashed use of vivid colours, Ila convincingly paints a story while conveying to the reader the importance of antiques and their significant role in resurrecting history”
Femina, Times of India
- “The canvas of Stealing Gods stretches from the advent of British to the many bye-lanes of Indian history to a decade of Independent India. This makes for a highly convincing backdrop of an intense story of a man –woman relationship, its breathless blossoming”
Ila has nurtured writing with as much passion and dedication as painting in the last few decades.
In 1994 INDUS, an imprint of Harper Collins published e book. It was hailed as the most insightful biography where ‘Pal strips away the public persona to confront the reader with the man behind all the publicity.’ Having had a ringside view of Husain like few have had, plus the fact that she is a painter herself, made her the perfect choice to write the first ever authorized biography of Husain. Ila is currently updating the biography. The new chapters capture those shades of Husain’s persona which are seldom talked or written about, adding a greater dimension and depth to the protagonist’s portrait.
Returning… An Indian Odyssey by Ila Pal (Ilaa Dev Pal) was published by Pilgrim Publishers in 2006.
In Returning… An Indian Odyssey, the painter poet Ila Pal has gone well beyond the usual coffee-table books, portraying an honest and moving picture of the country with wit, passion and rare incisiveness. Through words and images, she has captured the ethos of to-day’s rural and urban India and the tenor of the times, giving an opportunity to readers to gain an insight into to-day’s India… feel its pulse”
- Christopher Burchett, Editor, Pilgrim Publishing
Several renowned people from the world of art
and literature have been deeply struck by their uniqueness.
- While describing them as ‘Poetry to be seen and images
to be read M. F. Husain writes, “The artist has created
a unique combination of written word and painted image on a sheet
of paper. Their presence together on the surface mysteriously
enhances the visual impact”.
- Late Dr Mulk Raj Anand commented, “I feel that after Rabindranath
Tagore, there are few artists who have gone against the conventional
words and pictures. Pal has dared and very successfully indeed.
- Ashok Vajpeyi, the eminent poet writes in his foreword to the
book “We are at the threshold of a new kind of artistic
experience leading us to wonder and mystery”.
- Tyeb Mehta, the renowned painter wrote, “It is indeed
a gift to be able to bring together painting and poetry in such
a wonderful fusion. Neither medium imposes on the other and since
both flow from the same artist they compliment and enhance each
other. Going through the book is like taking an artistic look
at the very soul of India that has been captured beautifully on
paper and bound together by words and images that linger on even
after putting it down”
Prominent Press excerpts
- ‘Each of the 127 pages of ‘Returning…An Indian
Odyssey’ is a singular insightful story, which reminds of
the many realties of India’
Times of India, Mumbai
- ‘The book is a landmark in the English poetry scene of
Afternoon Despatch & Courier Mumbai
21st April ’06
- ‘Ila Pal ’s travelogue is an artistic experience,
Indian Express, 14th April ’06
- ‘Intensely thought provoking! Through every poem there
is a constant quest.’ Loksatta,
Mumbai 6thApril, ‘06
- ‘Breaking free from the shackles of contemporary art,
noted painter Ila Pal ’s new book Returning… An Indian
Odyssey combines the genres of painting and poetry to create unique
June 7, The Hindustan Times, New Delhi
- ‘With thought –provoking poems on social issues
Pal’s book traces the evolution of her thoughts, both as
an artist and a painter.’
June 6 The Indian Express, New Delhi
- ‘Book captures beauty of real India. The poems in the
book are both “furiously inaudible and silently audible.
They would help the reader (and also the viewer) to retrieve,
return and reflect” June 7, June
6, The Asian Age, New Delhi
- ‘Ila Pal ’s book launch was a treat in all respects.
While launching the book officially Ashok Vajpeyi , being a poet
himself good naturedly confessed being “jealous” of
Ilaa and her book.’
June 7, The Times of India, New Delhi
- Starting her journey with Banaras, the painted poems not only
describe her emotional experiences but have a biting satire of
a kind that is possible only when it comes from an artist of Ilaa’s
calibre: sensitive, sympathetic, skilled and mature. There is
also an undercurrent of deep pain which runs through almost all
the poems and gives a mysterious and mystical meaning, hitting
at one’s sensibilities, sometimes gently and at other times
Navbharat Times, Mumbai
- Through her very unique style and by combining the genres of
painting and poetry, Pal presents to her readers an insight into
multiple realities of India with which many of us have lost our
connection. Her humour, wit and satire make even the most revolting
of realities easier to admit. Her spontaneous intimate musings
highlight in some way or the other, the social issues prevalent
in our society and indeed touches the soul in a deep way. Returning…
An Indian Odyssey, truly is a quest to return to India’s
Abha Gupta, Jetwings October 2006
- The content! The heart brims over with love, pride, awe for
this magnificent land. All the ironies, the contradictions, the
tragic consequences of centuries old social weaknesses merely
add to the richness and depth of the experience of Indian reality,
your wry humour making even the most painful of realities easier
to admit. And it is all so unpretentious; I think I know you already!
Mainly, I just want to thank you for taking a perfect stranger
like me along on your journeys. For reconnecting me to the multiple
realities of India so intimately I can actually feel their pulse.
P.S. - I wish we wouldn’t speak of this book and coffee
tables in the same breath. This is a real work of art if there
ever was one, and never mind what those publishing people tell
Three painted poems with titles are reproduced below. To enlarge
each of the pages take the hand on the page. (Click for teh enlarged
|Title: Udaipur P: 1
|Title: Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary P:1
|Title: His Daughter after all P: 1
|Title: “Stealing Gods" P: 1
“Stealing Gods" was published by Pilgrims Publishing in 2012
Currently I am editing a work of fiction
Synopsis of ‘Until…’
Set against the backdrop of political intrigue and violent caste-ridden society of central India, Until…’ recounts the story of a young passionate writer and an educated bandit who kidnaps her. As the journey lengthens, as fear takes a back seat and the past melts away in a hazy oblivion, the pragmatist in her takes over determined to benefit from the unexpected vacation from her stifling marriage.
Ironically, she herself becomes the protagonist around whom the entire socio-political drama begins to revolve. And the bandit whom she thought was an arresting character to create in her future fiction becomes a real life hero with whom she wants to spend the rest of her life.
A hard rub with the social and political reality of the unforgiving heartland of India, this is an imaginative and intense love story permeated with rapture, restraint and lyrical eroticism, so uniquely Indian.
Didi – A true story of woman empowerment (A short story in Hindi)
Born as twins in a little village of Central India, Geet the boy narrates the moving story of his sister Geeta– Didi - who is married by the time she is seventeen, is a mother at 18 and is widowed at 25. Shortly thereafter she is packed off to her parent’s home with her two daughters; punished for not having presented a male child to the family. As the brother watches his sister, already crippled by conventions, turned weak, voiceless and helpless, he cannot help but reminiscence how brave and self-reliant she was, ahead of him in everything, whether it was sports, studies or leadership qualities.
Accepted with open arms by her parents, she restarts her studies and pursues higher education. Unstoppable, she finishes her B.S. C, then M.S. C, topping the University all the way, her daughters following their mother’s footsteps. On completing her education she takes up a job in a pharmaceutical factory in a nearby town to support her daughters and the aging parents, simultaneously teaching women in the neighborhood, until the entire neighborhood is galvanized to unshackle themselves from age-old darkness and ignorance. Alive to the people’s movement, the Government starts a high school in the vicinity.
Geet the brother, narrates that fateful summer night when while sleeping outdoors, a panther picks up his young son and runs away. Fearless, Didi chases the predator, and in saving her nephew, gets grievously injured. The next day people from that village and the surrounding ones are all there to salute his sister – Didi - to play their last respects to a girl who endowed such stature and self-esteem to women, the face of the village changed forever. The quiet revolution which had started in her lifetime, takes the grip of the village and in no time a woman becomes the head of the village council. Soon, a woman is elected for the state assembly.
And when Geet visits the village the next time what does he witness? A widow Remarriage.