Brent Urdu Poetry Group – starts today

To mark the auspicious occasion of the birthday of the late philosopher and famous poet, Sir Allama Iqbal, Brent Libraries in partnership with ALAG are proud to launch the first ever Brent Urdu Poetry Group.

The group will meet at Wembley Library from 2.30 – 4.30pm today and then at the same time on the 1st Sunday of each month. The event will be hosted by renowned Wembley Urdu poet, Mr Aqueel Danish. More details and information can be found on the poster below:


Light refreshments will be available. Attendance is FREE and all Urdu poetry lovers are welcome!

The ALAG Team


Did India benefit from British rule?

This years marks 400 years since the British first arrived in India in 1616.

dr-kusoom-vadgamaDr Kusoom Vadgama, prominent historian and advocate of Indo-British history and founder of the Indo-British Heritage Trust was instrumental in organising a debate on whether or not India benefited from the British Raj? You can find out which famous people took part in this debate and the final outcome by clicking on the links below:

Read about the debate here 

Watch the debate on YouTube here

Share your views by leaving a comment / reply below

Shakespeare in India

Shakespeareby Poonam Trivedi

The most striking aspect of Shakespeare in India today is that it seems to have at last got over its colonial hangover. It is well known that Shakespeare was first introduced to Indians under the aegis of colonialism: first as an entertainer for the expatriates, then soon incorporated into the civilizing mission of the empire. This resulted in Indians being awed by Shakespeare, taking him too respectfully, especially in academia. Although the productions of the Parsi theatre in late nineteenth and early twentieth century treated the bard in a cavalier fashion, mixing and mashing up his plays into hybrid and melodramatic versions, they were considered populist travesties and an embarrassment by Indian academics. After this there was a period of faithful translation and performance, followed by one of creative adaptation and assimilation in indigenous theatre forms, to the current moment when an irreverent attitude is to be found, which feels free to bounce its own concerns off his works and ‘play’ around with them.

Globalisation and the increasing accessibility of the Internet is a strong contributory factor in creating a new post-colonial confidence, particularly in the young, for doing it their way. An arts foundation in Chennai holds an annual festival called ‘Hamara (our) Shakespeare’ seemingly eliding the past and asserting a new affinity with the poet. ‘Scenes from Shakespeare’, an annual short play competition held by the Shakespeare Society of India in Delhi, is going from strength to strength: it had so many entries last year that the performances had to be staggered over two days. Even as I write, a ‘Re-imagining Shakespeare’ Festival is scheduled at another university: adaptation, translation, pastiche and parody all seem to gel with the words of Shakespeare. The most telling example of this freedom of approach towards Shakespeare was seen in the ‘Great Indian Shakespeare Festival’ organized by students of an Engineering and Technological University in August last year where I was the plenary speaker. They performed a version of Julius Caesar set in the cut-throat board rooms of the corporate world which lead to some surprises – like Caesar being deposed as CEO but spared the knife. When asked ‘Why Shakespeare?’ The group leader, a mechanical engineer, said he that he wanted to ‘dig deep into the words and metaphors coined by Shakespeare.’

The transnational success of Vishal Bharadwaj’s trilogy of Hindi films, Maqbool (Macbeth, 2003), Omkara (Othello, 2006), and Haider (Hamlet, 2014) has also given fillip to the acculturative impulse. All three films have kept quite close to the original text while relocating it in contemporary India. More and more, the local seems to be able to converse with Shakespeare.

Stage productions too are not lagging behind. Rajat Kapoor has produced two unconventional versions: Hamlet the Clown Prince in which a group of clowns discuss and then enact, in their own inimitable manner, the challenge of performing the greatest tragedy in the world, Hamlet; and Lear, in which an aging actor recounts his life in an effort to make amends with his daughter. A Merchant of Venice performed in English, directed by Vikram Kapadia, was set among contemporary Mumbai stock brokers. The most distinctive has been Piya Behrupiya (Beloved as Trickster), an adaptation of Twelfth Night directed by Atul Kumar, which was commissioned for the Globe to Globe festival of 2012. Taking a cue from its most famous line ‘if music be the food of love…’ it reconceived the play as a musical (not many known operatic versions) playing up the comic confusions of identity and love.

The levels and types of engagement with Shakespeare in India are diverse and increasing. Purists may be appalled at the post-modernist piecemeal encounters, but they need not be seen as desecrations of a literary icon. Rather, they reveal a truth which has to be universally acknowledged that Shakespeare is now a world author, and in the Indian context, detached from the colonial baggage, he continues to speak in strange and wondrous forms to newer generations.


Poonam Trivedi has edited India’s Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation and Performance (2006) and Re-playing Shakespeare in Asia (2010); and is currently working on Shakespeare and Indian Cinemas. She was Associate Professor at University of Delhi, India.


Reading reminder

Take pleasure in reading and cast away the winter blues. The Asian Readers’ Group will be meeting again soon. See the poster below for details:

ARG poster Feb 030216

Light refreshments will be available. All welcome.

New Year – new reading group

IMG_2328The ALAG Reading Group will be resuming its monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of the month on Wednesday 6th January 2016. For those of you who like to read in Urdu, Hindi and / or Panjabi this is a great way to share your love of reading with facilitator Gulshan Iqbal.

The group will be meeting at Slough Library from 1.30 -2.30pm. Attendance is free and open to everyone. Light refreshments will be available. Bring your friends and enjoy!

Asian Readers’ Group starts at Slough Library

ALAG is proud to share some great news with you. Following on from activities which took place during Cityread 2015, members have been working in partnership with staff at Slough Libraries to provide a regular,  free reading group for those members of the local Slough community who choose to read in Urdu, Hindi and / or Panjabi.

The group will meet once a month on the first Wednesday starting on Wednesday 2nd December 2015 from 1.30 – 2.30pm. ALAG Chairperson, Gulshan Iqbal will facilitate the group whose first task will be to choose a new name and what they plan to read.

Anyone who reads or speaks the above languages is welcome to attend and light refreshments will be available. Poetry, fiction and author biographies will be just a few of the things open to discussion. Come along and join in the fun!

Asian Readers' Group 021215

Many thanks  to Simon Smith, Head of Slough Libraries and Audience Development Office Gaby Koenig for their help and support throughout the planning process and beyond.







Lord Noon: Ready-meal entrepreneur and philanthropist whose vast empire earned him the nickname “Curry King”

Lord Gulam Noon, who has died aged 79, emerged from an impoverished upbringing in Mumbai to make his fortune in the UK – and ascend to the House of Lords.

Dubbed the “Curry King”, he headed the world’s largest factory for ready-made Indian and ethnic food, which today produces 564 different recipes and prepares 2.4 million meals a week for supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Ocado and Waitrose, as well as for its own label. He is also credited with making chicken tikka masala Britain’s favourite dish.

pg-46-noon-paDespite his immense wealth, estimated at £75m, Lord Noon never forgot his Indian roots – but was dedicated to the country that gave him his chance in life. “I always quote the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that you must be loyal to the country in which you live,” he explained. “I have always said that this is the best country in the world.” He was a supporter of numerous charities and good causes, and his philanthropy led to him being appointed a life peer, Baron Noon of St John’s Wood, in January 2011.

Sadly, Lord Noon passed away on 27th October 2015 – ALAG members send their condolences to his family and know that his generosity, determination and universal appeal will be greatly missed but will continue through the many projects that he sponsored both in India and the UK, through the Noon Foundation.

Cityread 2015 – final events

As Cityread 2015 comes to an end – what a busy month it has been! We would like to share pictures and reports from the final two events that ALAG has been involved with.

BTG 250415AFirstly, Brent Tamil Group (BTG) members pictured here held a delightful discussion based upon the book Rivers of London and the Tamil translated synopsis. Dr Murugesan Muthu used both films and presentations to bring the book to life. BTG member Yamuna Thamendiran had this to say:

“Dr Murugesan did an excellent session including using video clips between reading from the BTG 250415Bsynopsis. We had 21 attendees. Many of us enjoyed the story and Dr Murugesan’s hard work and effort has made this event a great success. His additional work along with the actual translation has given a clear understanding of what Cityread London is all about.”  ALAG would like to thank Brent Libraries and the BTG for all their support of the ALAG translation and Cityread London. Dr Murugesan is pictured below with author Ben Aaronovitch.

Kilburn Lib _ City read event - 20Apr2015ALAG’s final Cityread event was held in association with Redbridge Libraries on Tuesday 28th April at Redbridge Central Library. ALAG members Aruna Shah and Kamaljit Bedi facilitated using the Hindi and Gujarati synopses and this is what Aruna had to say about the event:

Kamaljit and I enjoyed the reading and very lively discussion that followed. The audience participation was humorous and ALAG Redbridge6 280415involved. Each one of the attendees had a story or an anecdote to tell. Some of them relating to magic and supernatural experience and incidents from their past. A couple of ladies recounted their own families’ experiences about a haunted house in Kent, by the river and how they appeased the spirit by carrying out a ceremony on the river.” [Sound familiar?] The group used the ghosts, spirits and rivers as a platform to delve back into their lives back home, culture, customs and traditions. Kamaljit read most of the translation but we steered the discussion and audience participation quite early on, which made it very lively. The group received us very well and stayed on for more than an hour. In fact, a number of them asked us to come back to their next meeting!

Rhonda and her colleague, Saima had put in a good effort both in coordinating the group and distributing the translations. The group was mainly Urdu speaking women with a couple of Gujarati speaking women and a lone Gujarati man, who was very vocal with hilarious stories loved by all. We were very impressed by the group dynamics and a truly multilingual and ALAG Redbridge8 280415multicultural event. Given the group’s involvement, we didn’t  discern any language barriers. We were very inspired by the whole experience and ready for next year!”

Very many thanks to Rhonda Brooks, Development Librarian at Redbridge Libraries and Saima for organising this wonderful event. This is what Rhonda had to say after the event:

Your ALAG colleagues Aruna and Kamaljit have recently left following a very enjoyable and successful session. 19 attended – mainly Urdu speakers – but they all managed to communicate well and had a very lively session. Thanks for sending Aruna and Kamaljit to lead the group – it was lovely to meet them and have them at the library – and they did an excellent job of leading the group“.

Click on the link below to read some of the feedback from the attendees. Comments are written in Urdu, English and Gujarati:

NRRG ALAG event Quotes 280415

Ben Aaronovitch entertains at Kilburn Library

Cityread Kilburn Monna and Ben 200415Ben’s visit to Kilburn Library entertained and enthralled attendees. His wit and humorous take on the many questions fired at him made the audience laugh out loud and gain a valuable insight to what inspired him to write and create such wonderful characters as Peter Grant, Mama Thames and Beverley Brook, to name a few.

ALAG Secretary, Monna Rizvi is pictured with Ben during the book signing at the end of the wonderful evening. To find out which library Ben will be visiting next check out the official website for Cityread 2015:

and for those of you who choose to read in Tamil – don’t forget the Cityread event where Rivers of London will be discussed on Saturday 25th April at Ealing Road Library, Brent with Dr Murugesan Muthu and the Brent Tamil Reading Group.

Cityread 2015 – Balham, Tooting, Hillingdon and Brent

As Cityread 2015 moves along at a fast and furious pace, ALAG want to keep you up-to-date with latest events where the translated synopsis of Rivers Of London has been read and much more.

First of all here is some paraphrased feedback from Balham Library Urdu Group, kindly submitted by Ayesha Hafeez who regularly runs the group. ALAG Chair, Gulshan Iqbal facilitated this exciting event on behalf of ALAG:

Cityread 2015 Balham 280315On the 28th of March 2015, Balham Library hosted an open event in the hall for Urdu speakers in the community. Posters were put up advertising this event in Balham Library and others such as Tooting and Battersea Libraries. A translated synopsis of Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch in Urdu was used to facilitate the event – it is a very fascinating story that hooks people immediately. 13 adults and 10 children attended. Afterwards we received a lot of positive feedback and some who were not part of the Urdu reading group in Balham Library signed up for it as they were so enthusiastic. After the reading everyone discussed the story which was hugely popular between the members as they said that the plot entangled them in its mystery. Furthermore the importance and benefits of reading were discussed followed in true Asian tradition by refreshments – delightful dishes, brought in by members, mostly home-baked. Everyone said that they really enjoyed the event and met a lot of new people that they could share their views with. I also encouraged Urdu speakers to come to the library regularly and read the books available in English and Urdu – attendees commented that if more of these events happen they will certainly attend!

Cityread Tooting 110415A similar experience was had by Dr Murugesan Muthu (pictured second from left) of the Brent Tamil Reading Group. Not only did he translate the synopsis in Tamil but also facilitated the Tamil event at Tooting Library on behalf of ALAG. This event took place on 11th April and this is what Dr Murugesan had to say afterwards:

Again, thank you for offering me an opportunity to meet some new people and helping me to refresh my old memories because I lived in Tooting for a few years. The event went nicely and received a very good response from everyone who attended. I also invited one of my friends to the event – he is editor/owner of a Tamil newspaper in London and will be publishing an article about Cityread and this event in Tooting Library. I took along my laptop and projector and showed the group some videos about the Cityread launch event in Covent Garden, Ben’s interview and short biography and also the Rivers of London promo video. All of these helped to engage attendees and set the scene for an interesting and lively discussion

ALAG would like to thank Librarian Therese Rajadurai who runs the Tamil Reading Group for organising and promoting this wonderful event to the local community – read her account here:

Cityread ALAG 2015 Hillingdon 140415Last but by no means least, ALAG Treasurer and Gujarati translator Aruna Shah facilitated the Cityread event at Botwell Green Library, Hillingdon showcasing her linguistic skills by facilitating the event using the translated synopsis in Hindi. The picture shows Aruna with the 7 attendees, one of whom resonated with the story by commenting:

Hindus appease the rivers by scattering ashes in water so that the soul can peacefully flow away in running water. Rivers have great significance for us.

Look out for author Ben Aaronovitch at Kilburn Library, Brent  appearing today (20th April 2015) from 6.30-7.30pm and Brent Tamil Reading Group will be discussing Rivers Of London on Saturday 25th April at Ealing Road Library from 2 to  4.30pm. See the poster below for more details and contact information:RoL Tamil event in Brent 250415 

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

Blog Stats

  • 6,021 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.