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Meet the Author – Esther David

Sahitya AkademiSahitya Akademi cordially invites you to Meet the Author – Esther David, on 3rd April 2016 in Ahmedabad.

Time – 6 pm

Venue – Gujarat Sahitya Parishad, Govardhan Bhavan,

Behind Times of India, Ashram Road,


Since 1987, Sahitya Akademi, periodically arranges a programme called “Meet the Author” in which a distinguished writer is invited to speak on his life and works so that other writers and scholars have a deep and personal understanding of the writer and his writings. The speech lasting for about 40 minutes is usually followed by a lively discussion for another 30 to 40 minutes. The programme is open for all.



Memorial Service

In Gujarat, the word Besna or Besnu means getting together for the memorial service of a person who has recently died. As a rule, announcements of a death appear in newspapers, along with a passport size photograph of the deceased. Besna, also means to sit down, but the larger connotation of the word Besnu is with death. This is when people are invited to meet the grieving family for a few hours, a day after the funeral. Normally, for the Besna ceremony mourners dress in white, as the Besna ceremony, either inside or outside the house is in white, where mattresses covered with white sheets are spread on the floor or chairs are kept aside for the aged. Except for family members, we do not stay for more than five to ten minutes, as we express our condolences by offering flowers at the photograph, then offer condolences to the family with folded hands, stay for a while; and leave in silence.

During the last few years, I have never been to a Besna, as I prefer to meet the family on some other day or write a letter expressing my grief.

But, this week, I went to a Besna, when a dear friend’s mother died and I received a sms saying, ”Our beloved mother left for her heavenly abode  on…. the Besna is arranged on…at…from 4 to 6 p.m. So, I decided to go for the Besna and what I saw was totally different from what I had known in the past. It was in a prayer hall inside a temple, but instead of silence, there was a bhajan group; singing old Gujarati songs, like,”…after all we are toys of ash…” With such songs, the entire atmosphere was charged with emotion and it was with great difficulty that I could control my tears…

Courtesy : Speaking Tree


Letter from Paris (Part 2) – Esther David

Death…we all deal with it in different ways. Here, in Paris, after the terrorist attacks and after the names and stories of those who died emerged, we realized that most of them were young people. There is no chest beating, no wailing, no lamentations, but a silent stream of people standing in silence at the sites of the shootouts, which are not cordoned off. Tears flow, but are immediately wiped away or hidden behind dark glasses, as the police personnel stand on guard around them. The flowers offered at these sites, as memorials to the dead never wilt, as new bouquets are added everyday, candles are lit and messages left there. The newspapers publish portraits of the dead. The Eiffel Tower and monuments from some countries were lit up with the colours of the French flag. A friend from New York sent me a link of the choir of the Metropolitan Opera singing the French national anthem.. Some school girls expressed their shock, protest and anger by making an installation of three brassieres with the colours of the French flag. A week later after the attacks, at 9.15 p.m. people were out in the streets, bonding with strangers, in a show of solidarity. The last victim was identified as a 17 year old girl, whose father had accompanied her to the concert at the Bataclan concert hall and lost her there, only to receive her body much later; for her funeral. A homage to the dead was paid by president Francoise Hollande in a moving ceremony in the plaza around monument of Invalides. We choke and hear the names of the dead, mostly young people, as their loved ones break down in their interviews to the media.

Every single person seems to be making efforts to lead a normal life, even if there is a slight sense of fear and suspicion as one walks in the street, being in an enclosed areas, just sitting in the sun having coffee in a café, although the police and military constantly patrol the streets. And, as they say, violence is infectious, the sudden explosion of anger during the Climate Conference proved the point. In such situations hope for peace is the only solution.

Part – 1


Letter from Paris, November 2015 – Esther David

I arrived in Paris from Ahmedabad on Wednesday, instead of Sunday for a family event. Yes, we live in the 11th district of Paris, where the terrorists struck on Friday the 13th. Before the attack, that night I stayed home, but my family, went to a nearby café with their friends to watch the football match between France and Germany on a television set installed there. It’s the done thing, to watch a match over a couple of drinks, chatting, laughing, joking and cheering. Soon, they were back, earlier than expected, saying; ¨Terrorists.¨ Then, while watching the news, we heard gunmen armed with AK47’s had killed several people and were on a rampage in the streets around our house. They were also at the stadium in the North where the match was held and the Bataclan concert hall nearby, where many people were trapped with the gunmen shooting at a young audience happily watching the Rock group Eagles of Death.¨

It was a night of horrors. The next morning, we came to know that a suicide bomber had blown himself up at a café near our house, injuring a waitress, a baker and another client sitting there and having a coffee. The ambulances, helicopters, police vans, military vehicles were all over the city, as numbers of the dead and injured were pouring in, even as some people had not been able to locate their loved ones, much to their anguish.

But, life goes on. That afternoon, some shops were open and most Parisiens were out in the streets to establish a certain amount of normalcy in their lives.

That night, we went to the café, where the shootout had started. People were gathering there in large numbers; to offer flowers, candles and messages. My teenage grandson placed a drawing with three question marks amidst the flowers. The crowd stood there in tears and silence; as a tribute to the innocent people who had laid down their lives for no fault of theirs, as suddenly a long shadow of death had cast a spell of darkness over the City of Light, love and life…

… Part – 2