Tuesday 28 December 2021

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

 The Ministry of Utmost Happiness - A Novel by Arundhati Roy

General Observations about the Novel - 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a curious beast: baggy, bewilderingly overpopulated with characters, frequently achronological, written in an often careless and haphazard style and yet capable of breathtakingly composed and powerful interludes. The idea that the personal is political and vice versa informs its every sentence, but it also interrogates that assumption, examining its contours and consequences (Alex Clark, The Guardian).

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey across the Indian subcontinent—from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war. Braiding together the lives of a diverse cast of characters who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, patched together by acts of love—and by hope, here Arundhati Roy reinvents what a novel can do and can be (Penguin Random House).
Is novel the right word, though? I hesitate. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, hulking, sprawling story that it is, has two main strands. One follows Anjum, a hijra, or transwoman, struggling to make a life for herself in Delhi. The other follows Tilo, a thorny and irresistible architect turned activist (who seems to be modeled on Roy herself), and the three men who fall in love with her (Parul Sehgal, The Atlantic).

Intertextual references to other writers in the novel

The novel is divided into twelve chapters of varying lengths, unevenly distributed into six sections, each introduced by a short epigraph. The six quoted authors were all poets or writers who held strong, dissident political views, who rebelled against persecution, who refused submission and compromise. Tormented by institutional violence, censored, imprisoned, some were forced to flee into exile, and some were killed. Others were discriminated against for their skin colour, and/or their sexual orientation and gender “indeterminacy”. All were resolutely insubordinate.
They can all be counted among the “Unconsoled” to whom the novel is dedicated, and whose “Minister”, Hazrat Sarmad Shaheed, symbolises the refusal to submit to any authority other than one’s conscience, one’s intellectual and spiritual integrity.
1. The first epigraph (“I mean, it’s all a matter of your heart”) was taken from Nâzim Hikmet’s poem “On the Matter of Romeo and Juliet”. [ यानी सारा मामला दिल का है... नाज़िम हिकमत ]
2. The second epigraph quotes Pablo Neruda’s last book, Libro de las Preguntas (The Book of Questions), published posthumously in 1974 - “In what language does the rain fall / on tormented cities?”
[ बारिश किस भाषा में गिरती है
यातनाग्रस्त शहरों के ऊपर ? - पाब्लो नेरुदा ]
3. The third epigraph (141) quotes the first line of one of Agha Shahid Ali’s Kashmiri poems, “Death flies in, thin bureaucrat, from the plains”, a fit frame for the third “section”, narrated by “The Landlord”, a cold and somewhat cynical servant of the State.
[ मौत एक छरहरी नौकरशाह है, मैदानों से उड़कर आती हुई - आग़ा शाहिद अली ]
4. The fourth epigraph is by Jean Genet, whose novel Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs (written while its author was serving a prison sentence in Fresnes, in 1942) is quoted three times - "Then, as she had already died four or five times, the apartment had remained available for a drama more serious than her own death." (Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet, translated by Bernard Frechtman).
[ क्योंकि वह पहले चार या पाँच बार मर चुकी थी,
अपार्टमेंट उसकी मृत्यु से भी ज़्यादा गंभीर
किसी नाटक के लिए उपलब्ध था। - ज्याँ जेने ]
5. The fifth epigraph is quoted from James Baldwin’s essay entitled “Down at the cross. Letter from a Region in my Mind”, which offers a set of reflexions on race relations in the USA, many of which, alas, would still be relevant nowadays. When read in the light of caste relations in India, many of those reflexions also seem perfectly relevant - "And they would not believe me precisely because they would know that what I said was true." - from The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.
[ और वे मेरी बात पर सिर्फ़ इस वजह से यक़ीन नहीं करते थे की
वे जानते थे कि मैंने जो कुछ कहा था वह सच था। - जेम्स बाल्डविन ]
6. The final epigraph used by Roy is a quotation from Nadezhda Mandelstam’s first volume of memoirs, Hope Against Hope, in which Osip Mandelstam’s widow narrates his tragic fate. -
"Then there was the changing of the seasons. ‘This is also a journey,’ M said, ‘and they can’t take it away from us.’ - (translated by Max Hayward) [ फिर मौसमों में परिवर्तन हुआ। 'यह भी एक यात्रा है,' एम ने कहा, 'और इसे वे हमसे छीन नहीं सकते।' - नादेज्दा मान्देल्स्ताम ]

About the Characters and Summary of the novel 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

Part 1 | Khwabgah

Part 2 | Jantar Mantar

Part 3 | Kashmir and Dandakaranyak

Part 4 | Udaya Jebeen & Dung Beetle

Thematic Study of 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

Symbols and Motifs in 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

Check your understanding of the novel - Click here to open online test on 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

Additional Reading Resources:

Friday 24 December 2021

Kota Factory

Kota Factory is an Indian Hindi-language web series created by Saurabh Khanna and directed by Raghav Subbu for The Viral Fever. The story is set in KotaRajasthan, an educational hub famous for its coaching centres. The show follows the life of 16-year-old Vaibhav (Mayur More) who moves to Kota from Itarsi. It shows the life of students in the city, and Vaibhav's efforts to get into IIT by cracking the JEE Advanced examination. It also stars Jitendra KumarAhsaas ChannaAlam Khan and Ranjan Raj in prominent roles.[1]

Saurabh Khanna, the creator of the show, said that he aims to change the popular narrative surrounding Kota and IIT preparation in Indian pop culture to a more positive one via the show.[2] The series premiered simultaneously on TVFPlay and YouTube from 16 April to 14 May 2019. The series received a generally positive response from critics, praising its monochrome setting, realism, and the major technical aspects of the series.[3]


 Revolution Twenty20


“Once upon a time, in small-town India, there lived two intelligent boys.

One wanted to use his intelligence to make money.

One wanted to use his intelligence to start a revolution.

The problem was, they both loved the same girl.”

Revolution 2020 – a story about childhood friends Gopal, Raghav and Aarti who struggle to find success, love and happiness in Varanasi. However, it is not easy to attain these in an unfair society that rewards the corrupt. As Gopal gives in to the system, and Raghav fights it, who will win?” (Blurb on the last cover-page)

Revolution 2020: Love, Corruption, Ambition is a 2011 novel by Chetan Bhagat. Its story is concerned with a love triangle, corruption and a journey of self-discovery. R2020 has addressed the issue of how private coaching institutions exploit aspiring engineering students and how parents put their lifetime's earnings on stake for these classes so that their children can crack engineering exams and change the fortune of the family. While a handful accomplish their dreams, others sink into disaster.

The author stated that the novel is based on the "rampant corruption" apparent in the Indian educational system (Firstpost)

Characters in the Novel:

1. Gopal Mishra - One who wanted to use his intelligence to make money - who ultimately joins hands with corrupt politician to walk on the path of corruption and starts private engineering college, Ganga Tech College in Varanasi.
2. Raghav - One who wanted to use his intelligence to start a revolution - who ultimately runs his own news paper 'Revolution 2020' to bring in change in society and make nation free from corruption. He has cracked JEE and AIEEE and joins BHU-IT instead of famous IITs or NITs so he can pursue journalism along with engineering. He follows his passion to be a journalist who can bring in 'change' in society rather than opt for an easy job in multination company or public sector company like his father who was IITian and works as engineer in BHEL.
3. Aarti - daughter of IAS office who is District Magistrate of Varanasi and love interest of both, Gopal and Raghav.

Thematic Study:

The novel 'R2020' deals with the theme of Love, Corruption, Ambition and Revolution.

Click here to read in detail about these themes.

Narrative Technique:

Chetan Bhagat narrative technique has a sort of method which he follows in most of his novels. His signature style is to stat with Prologue and end with Epilogue. He himself appears in these prologues-epilogues and listens story from one of the characters of the novel - and then allows him to tell the story in fist-person narration.
Can we apply

Gérard Genette

's narratology to this novel? 

Popular Literature

UndoubtedlyRevolution Twenty20 belongs to the genre of 'Genre Fiction'. It is part of popular literature. It represents popular contemporary culture of India.

Additional Resources

1. An online talk by Prof. Om P. Juneja on 'Chetan Bhagat'

Sunday 5 December 2021

Parkinson's Law

 What is Parkinson's Law of Productivity?

If you want to read more on time management and Parkinson's Law, click these links. . . 

A Beginners Guide To Parkinson’s Law: How To Do More Stuff By Giving Yourself Less Time

One more interesting video on Parkinson's Law

Monday 29 November 2021

Introduction to Digital Humanities

Introduction to Digital Humanities

Prof. Dilip Barad


Video Recording of the session with the students of Amity University, Jaipur


Admin, Dhai. “Nirmala Menon on Marrying Technology and the Humanities.” DHARTI (blog), October 9, 2020. https://dhdharti.in/2020/10/09/nirmala-menon/.

“Arts and Humanities Research Computing.” Accessed November 26, 2021. https://digitalhumanities.fas.harvard.edu/.

“Bichitra :: Online Tagore Variorum :: School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University.” Accessed November 25, 2021. http://bichitra.jdvu.ac.in/index.php.

“Course | Electronic Literature | EdX.” Accessed November 26, 2021. https://learning.edx.org/course/course-v1:DavidsonX+D004x+3T2015/home.

DHARTI. “DHARTI.” Accessed November 25, 2021. https://dhdharti.in/.

Medium. “DHARTI India.” Accessed November 25, 2021. https://dharti-india.medium.com.

Dr. Kalyani Vallath. Cultural Studies Terms: Digital Humanities NEW AREA IN RESEARCH IN ENGLISH DEPARTMENTS, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VcXXgmY9Rg.

Elijah Meeks. An Introduction to Digital Humanities - Bay Area DH, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvZToQSX244.

“Events – Arts and Humanities Research Computing.” Accessed November 26, 2021. https://digitalhumanities.fas.harvard.edu/events/.

INDIAN MEMORY PROJECT. “HOME - INDIAN MEMORY PROJECT - FAMILY PHOTOS & NARRATIVES.” Accessed November 25, 2021. https://www.indianmemoryproject.com/home/.

edX. “Introduction to Digital Humanities.” Accessed November 26, 2021. https://www.edx.org/course/introduction-to-digital-humanities.

Joe Bray, Alison Gibbons, and Brian McHale. “The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature.” Routledge & CRC Press. Accessed November 29, 2021. https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Companion-to-Experimental-Literature/Bray-Gibbons-McHale/p/book/9781138797383.

Koehler`, Adam. “Composition, Creative Writing Studies, and the Digital Humanities.” Bloomsbury. Accessed November 29, 2021. https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/composition-creative-writing-studies-and-the-digital-humanities-9781472591968/.

“Mendeley Chrome Extension - Google Search.” Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.google.com/search?q=mendeley+chrome+extension&oq=mendeley+chrome+extension&aqs=chrome..69i57j0i512l2j0i22i30l2j0i390l3.6881j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8.

Moral Machine. “Moral Machine.” Accessed November 29, 2021. http://moralmachine.mit.edu.

Partition Archive, 1947. “Www.1947partitionarchive.Org |.” Accessed November 25, 2021. https://in.1947partitionarchive.org/.

“Project Madurai.” Accessed November 25, 2021. https://www.projectmadurai.org/.

“Projects – Arts and Humanities Research Computing.” Accessed November 26, 2021. https://digitalhumanities.fas.harvard.edu/projects/.

Ryan, Marie-Laure, ed. Cyberspace Textuality : Computer Technology and Literary Theory. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1999. http://archive.org/details/cyberspacetextua0000unse.

Serious Science. Digital Humanities - Jeffrey Schnapp, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYRExzsRC9w.

T, Shanmugapriya, and Nirmala Menon. “Infrastructure and Social Interaction: Situated Research Practices in Digital Humanities in India.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 014, no. 3 (September 25, 2020).

Wolfreys, Julian. “Introducing Criticism in the 21st Century.” Accessed November 29, 2021. https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-introducing-criticism-in-the-21st-century.html.

Sunday 21 November 2021

Metaphysical Poetry

Metaphysical Poetry

1. Metaphysical Poets:

Metaphysical poet, any of the poets in 17th-century England who inclined to the personal and intellectual complexity and concentration that is displayed in the poetry of John Donne, the chief of the Metaphysicals. Others include Henry VaughanAndrew MarvellJohn Cleveland, and Abraham Cowley as well as, to a lesser extent, George Herbert and Richard Crashaw.

Their work is a blend of emotion and intellectual ingenuity, characterized by conceit or “wit”—that is, by the sometimes violent yoking together of apparently unconnected ideas and things so that the reader is startled out of his complacency and forced to think through the argument of the poem. Metaphysical poetry is less concerned with expressing feeling than with analyzing it, with the poet exploring the recesses of his consciousness. The boldness of the literary devices used—especially obliquity, irony, and paradox—are often reinforced by a dramatic directness of language and by rhythms derived from that of living speech.

Esteem for Metaphysical poetry never stood higher than in the 1930s and ’40s, largely because of T.S. Eliot’s influential essay “The Metaphysical Poets” (1921), a review of Herbert J.C. Grierson’s anthology Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the Seventeenth Century. In this essay Eliot argued that the works of these men embody a fusion of thought and feeling that later poets were unable to achieve because of a “dissociation of sensibility,” which resulted in works that were either intellectual or emotional but not both at once. In their own time, however, the epithet “metaphysical” was used pejoratively: in 1630 the Scottish poet William Drummond of Hawthornden objected to those of his contemporaries who attempted to “abstract poetry to metaphysical ideas and scholastic quiddities.” At the end of the century, John Dryden censured Donne for affecting “the metaphysics” and for perplexing “the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy when he should engage their hearts . . . with the softnesses of love.” Samuel Johnson, in referring to the learning that their poetry displays, also dubbed them “the metaphysical poets,” and the term has continued in use ever since. Eliot’s adoption of the label as a term of praise is arguably a better guide to his personal aspirations about his own poetry than to the Metaphysical poets themselves; his use of metaphysical underestimates these poets’ debt to lyrical and socially engaged verse. Nonetheless, the term is useful for identifying the often-intellectual character of their writing. (J.E. Luebering)

The term Metaphysical poets was coined by the critic Samuel Johnson to describe a loose group of 17th-century English poets whose work was characterised by the inventive use of conceits, and by a greater emphasis on the spoken rather than lyrical quality of their verse. These poets were not formally affiliated and few were highly regarded until 20th century attention established their importance. (Click here to read more)

2. Explore Metaphysical Poetry

3. Video Resources


About John Donne


4. Analysis of Poems

Saturday 13 November 2021

Academic Writing - Essay Type Descriptive Answers

 Academic Writing in English for Examination Purpose

In this post, you will find two videos. These videos are prepared for the students of English Studies. These students are supposed to write descriptive essay type answers in their term-end university examinations. With an objective to improve the quality of their essay type descriptive answers, these guidelines from suggested.

Video 1: Qualitative Error Analysis and Suggestions to Improve the Quality of Writing Essay Type Descriptive Answers

In this video, teachers are discussing common errors made by students in writing essay type descriptive answers. 

Following topics are discussed in this session:

Error Analysis & Suggestions to improve the quality of Essay Type Descriptive Answers. 1. Correctness of English Language: (i) No grammar errors. (ii) No spelling errors. (iii) Apt vocabulary. (iv) Apt sentence structure. (v) Apt punctuation marks 2. Content of the Answer (i) Quotes from original text. (ii) Quotes from critics. (iii) Apt illustrations from the text. (iv) Do not write summary 3. Organisation of the Answer (i) The question is properly justified and exemplified. (ii) The trajectory of the answer is very well worked out. (iii) The arguments are well justified with illustrations from the text. (iv) Logical sequence is maintained. Introduction to conclusion – all well synced. (v) Apt connectors used for the ease of flow of thoughts from one para to another. 4. Handwriting (i) Cursive, larger, clearly visible, clean and tidy. (ii) Legible. No difficulty in identifying alphabets.

Chapterization of Video 1:

0:00 Introduction 4:35 Vaidehi Hariyani 26:30 Dilip Barad 1:16:09 Suggestions to Improve the Quality of Writing

Video 2: Quantitative Analysis: How Much Shall I Write in Essay Type Descriptive Answers?

Quite often, the students come with the question - How much are we supposed to write in essay type descriptive answers? or - How many words shall an essay type answer consist of? or - In how many pages an essay type answer is supposed to be written?

In this video, we have reviewed several guidelines and have suggested a sort of 'golden mean'.

Chapterization of Video 2:

0:00 Introduction 2:18 The Context - Students' anxiety - How much shall we write? 5:26 Quality matters . . . so also quantity. 6:48 Murray and Orii's Automatic Essay Scoring 8:22 Perelman criticized over-privileging length of answer 10:04 Average speech of hand-writing 12:48 Length of answer does have some association with marks 17:35 Calcutta Uni - Pattern 18:40 Students' sample write-ups 22:55 Final Outcome and Recommendations 34:35 Conclusion 35:30 Students responses
Following points are taken into consideration in this video:

Tom Benton [Cambridge Assessment, Research Division]: “I remember this question being asked by someone in the class nearly every time… Despite the ubiquity of the question, clear answers are hard to come by.”
Previous research has shown that the length of responses does have some association with achievement and also provided some norms around the possible writing speed.
Tom Benton’s study shows that –
“Nearly all responses of fewer than 200 words resulted in a grade U, suggesting that whilst very long answers are not necessary for a good mark, candidates must write enough to make sure that the examiner can recognize their knowledge at all.”
With this in mind it would be a good advice for all candidates, even those who are not expecting to achieve the highest grades, to ensure that they write at least a significant number of pages in response to an English Literature exam question allowing 30 minutes to write descriptive answer.
But exactly how long shall a student write?
How many words shall an answer consist of?
How many pages or lines shall be produced in writing descriptive answer?


It is expected that these videos will help students in qualitative as well as quantitative analysis of their academic writing for the purpose of essay-type-descriptive answers. If students will work on the guidelines and suggestions discussed in these videos, we are hopeful that our learning objective i.e. improve the quality of answers and academic writing, shall be achieved.

Video recording of live session: 8 Dec '23

Video recording of live session: 23 April '23

Work submission form:

After watching the instructions in above given video, submit your work in this online form: https://forms.gle/7oceL5ztxEH8cyFF8

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Introduction to Research Methodology

 Introduction to Research Methodology

Points covered in this session are:

  • Research Attitude & Aptitude
  • Research Method & Methodology
  • Review of Related Literature – The Backbone of Research
  • Deciding on a Research Topic
  • Turning a Topic into an Argument
  • Research and Publication Ethics

Presentation with embedded Videos on Literature Review:

Video Recording of the Session with the students of Auro University:

Video Recording of the session (Amity University, Jaipur, Rajasthan)

Auro University, Surat, Gujarat
Amity University, Jaipur, Rajasthan