Over the past couple of months, The Brown Critique and AURA have been hosting thoroughly engaging and fascinating events. Organized by writer–publisher Gayatri Majumdar, who is a part of the Sri Aurobindo Society’s Auro Publications team and founder-editor of the critically acclaimed journal – The Brown Critique, the first event was held on the evening of 23 July 2022 at AURA Experience Store, Beach Road, Pondicherry. Co-hosted by Pondicherry Poets, seven poets read their work – with the exceptionally talented Aneesh Raghavan reading his Sanskrit poems which he translated into English, besides regaling the audience with his Rabindrasangeets; then there were other Pondicherry-based poets with eclectic backgrounds such as Dr. Rita Nath Kesari, Associate Professor of English, Tagore Arts College, Pondicherry, Dr. Amoolya Kamalnath, Anandan Sankaran (both medical field), Gayatri Majumdar, Sushrut Badhe, who apart from being the CEO of KVM Research Laboratories (of Ayurvedic products), holds the record for writing the Isha, Kena, Mandukya and Sri Aurobindopanishad in rhyme, and of course the indomitable Dr. Sehdev Kumar, who is renowned for his translations of Kabir’s dohas and other books. The latter along with Dr. Beloo Mehra (Senior Academic Mentor at AuroBharati, SAS and editor of the monthly journal, Renaissance) launched Brown Critique Books’ Home (co-edited by Ms. Majumdar), which features 50 remarkable Indian and international poets. Attended by over 20 people, the evening left everyone wishing the magic would never end.
On 5 August, we were treated to an exposition of the book – Ravana's Kingdom: The Ramayana and Sri Lankan History from Below (forthcoming from Oxford University Press) presented by its author, Dr. Justin Henry. A Lecturer in Religious Studies at Georgia College & State University, Dr. Henry was visiting Pondicherry as a research scholar at the EFEO under a grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies. His research focuses on literary exchange between Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka in the pre- and early modern periods. According to Philip Lutgendorf, author of Hanuman’s Tale: The Messages of a Divine Monkey, “Countering a common misconception that the Ramayana epic’s wide appeal did not extend to the island nation that figures so prominently in its mythic geography, Justin Henry details the surprisingly deep history of Rama and Ravana lore in premodern and colonial Sri Lanka.” Needless to add, the presentation with its accompanying videos and photographs, elicited tremendous response from all those attending.
Finally, on the evening of 19 August, we had Narendra Murthy, who is currently a full-time volunteer at the Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry, read from a gem of his book, Eating His Money – The Antics of a Metaphysical Clown (Alcove Publishers, Gurgaon). The book contains Murthy’s commentaries on 25 stories of Mulla Nasrudin, the enigmatic clown. According to its author, it is not commonly known that Mulla Nasrudin is actually a teaching method devised by the Sufi masters. His outrageously funny stories have deep layers of meaning and they were used as meditation exercises in the Sufi tradition. The Nasrudin stories treated in the author’s work are studies in Philosophy, Spiritual Wisdom and Psychotherapy. Once again, the reading sparked some lively reactions from all those present.
Both the Brown Critique’s Home Anthology and Narendra Murthy’s Eating His Money: the Antics of a Metaphysical Clown are available at AURA Experience Store in Pondicherry and online.