Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik needs no real introduction. He has been the chief minister of Odisha since 2000, and is known for leading a transparent and corruption-free government. A latecomer in politics, Patnaik joined politics only in 1996 after the death of his father Biju Patnaik. The Chief Minister’s genteel ways, strong stand against corruption and pro-poor policies have won him a huge support base in Odisha, which has voted him to power in the last four consecutive elections. Among the best performing chief ministers of the country, Patnaik has steered Odisha onto the path of progress and development by deft administration and statesmanship and the support of a very efficient bureaucracy. Apart from being a politician of unflinching integrity, Patnaik is also a man of letters and culture. He has authored three critically-acclaimed books, A Second Paradise: Indian Country Life 1590-1947; A Desert Kingdom: The People of Bikaner; and The Garden of Life: An Introduction to the Healing Plants of India, and is a founder-member of Intach.
A prominent politician, Dharmendra Pradhan is the Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Petroleum and Natural Gas. A social worker from the start, Pradhan has worked for the development of backward classes and rehabilitation of farmers. He was honoured with the Best Legislator Award and the Utkalmani Gopabandhu Pratibha Samman, 2002-2003. A devoted social worker, Pradhan is committed to tackling issues that concern the youth, such as unemployment and the lack of skill-based education. He also works for the rehabilitation and resettlement of farmers, displaced persons and other backward classes. Pradhan has played a major role in mobilising the youth in politics and is actively working to create better leaders for tomorrow. He is interested in reading books on history and politics and in tracking the ever-changing social trends.
Anirban Ganguly is the director of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi, where he works as a scholar of civilisation, history, politics and culture. He is a member of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), Ministry of Human Resource Development, the National Policy Research Department and Library & Documentation Department of the Bharatiya Janata Party. From 2011 to 2013, he was a research fellow at Vivekananda International Foundation, where he focused on studying India’s neighbourhood, Indian nationalism, the Indian nationalist movement and civilisational issues. Ganguly has authored and edited The Modi Doctrine: New Paradigms in India’s Foreign Policy, Redefining Governance: Essays on One year of the Narendra Modi Government, Debating Culture, Swami Vivekananda: Buddha & Buddhism, and Education: Philosophy & Practice. He has also authored numerous papers, chapters and monographs on civilisational, political, educational and cultural issues. After his early education at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry, he defended his doctoral thesis from Jadavpur University, Kolkata on the early nationalist education movement in India. He is a visiting faculty at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
Bibek Debroy is an economist and a permanent member of Niti Aayog, of which he has been a part since its conception. As the head of the panel on restructuring railways, he has brought out a final report seeking to appoint an independent regulator while doing away with Rail Budget altogether. He has served as the director of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies at Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, New Delhi. He has also worked as the director of UNDP project on legal reforms in the Ministry of Finance. He began his career as an academic, teaching at his alma mater, the Presidency College, as well as the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Delhi, and National Council of Applied Economic Research, Delhi. Debroy was educated at Ramakrishna Mission School, Narendrapur, Delhi School of Economics and Trinity College, Cambridge. He has been a visiting honorary senior research fellow at Institute for South Asian Studies in National University of Singapore and has authored and edited several books, papers and popular articles. Between 2010 and 2014, he authored a ten-volume unabridged English translation of The Mahabharata. He was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India, in 2015.
Devdas Chhotray is an Odia author, poet, administrator and academic, who writes short stories, poetry, lyrics, musicals and screenplays. He has written lyrics for over 75 films and television musicals. He wrote the screenplay for the Odia film, Indradhanura Chhai (Shadows of the Rainbow) that was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995. His notable works include the collection of stories, Lal Machha (Red Fish), Nila Saraswati (Blue Muse), Hati Saja Kara (Order the Elephants), and Ret Ki Sidhi (A Staircase of Sand). His work has been translated into several Indian and foreign languages. Chhotray has served as the director of the Orissa Film Development Corporation and the chairman of the publications committee for the fifth International Children’s Film Festival. He was the vice-president of the governing council of the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune from 1999 to 2001. Chhotray was educated at Ravenshaw College (now Ravenshaw University) and Cornell University. After joining the Indian Administrative Service in 1971, he worked in West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and New Delhi. In 2006, he became the first vice-chancellor of Ravenshaw University and obtained UGC approval for the school within six months. He has received the Prajatantra Bisuv Milan and Utkal Samaj Centenary (Gangadhar Meher Samman) Awards and the 2008 Rajdhani Book Fair Award 2008 for poetry.
Divya Prakash Dubey is a bestselling author and is often called ‘India’s first Hinglish writer’. His books, Musafir Cafe, Masala Chai and Terms And Conditions Apply have earned him a long list of loyal readers. It won’t be incorrect to say that the works of this young author, who writes in Hindi and promotes it in a big way—through talks and his storytelling project Storybaazi and Sunday Wali Chitthi—is a promise that vernacular language writing will not just never go away, but shine. “If you ask me about Storybaazi in one sentence, I’ll say it’s a coming together of short stories, poems and chitthi, peppered with light music,” says the writer. Dubey tells stories that evoke nostalgia but are modern enough for even young people to relate to. Storybaazi, in his own words, is standup comedy with a literary soul. “I call it standup kahani,” he says. He is also credited with having delivered the first Tedx talk in Hindi. He has penned several poems, short stories, radio stories and screenplays. Dubey did his engineering from College of Engineering, Roorkee and MBA from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune.
The former journalist and columnist calls himself a born cinephile, someone who’s hopelessly in love with films. His first book, Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna is the first full-length biography of the actor dubbed the original superstar of Hindi cinema. In 2015, Chintamani contributed an extensive essay on Majrooh Sultanpuri, the first lyricist to be honoured with the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award for Legends of Indian Silver Screen, a compilation of Phalke awardees published by the Publications Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. Chintamani was on the panel of the National Film Awards on the three-member jury for Best Writing on Cinema this year. His latest book, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak: The Film That Revived Hindi Cinema explores the impact of the modern classic on popular Hindi cinema. He is also an accomplished documentary filmmaker. His documentary film, S.R.I. - Challenging Traditions, Transforming Lives explored the positive impact of System of Rice Intensification on Indian farmers. The film has travelled to over 20 film festivals across the globe and won the Best Documentary Award at the maiden Asia-Pacific Rice Film Festival, Malaysia. His trilogy on children with special needs and their parents, Janam-Aagazh-Parvaaz, was screened at International Film Festival of India in 2011. He has also written Siddhanth, a TV series that was nominated for an Emmy Award in the International Drama category, a first for an Indian TV show.
Manu S Pillai is the author of The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore (HarperCollins, 2015). Educated in Pune and London, he is Chief of Staff to MP Shashi Tharoor, and has worked at the House of Lords in Britain and with the BBC on their Incarnations Indian history series. Written over six years and researched in three continents, The Ivory Throne is Pillai’s first book and tells a social and political history of Kerala through the life and times of the last female Maharajah of Travancore. He is also the text contributor to Serena Chopra’s Bhutan Echoes (Tasveer, 2016), and has written for several premier Indian publications.
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of five books, most recently a collection of short stories called Before, And Then After and a young adult novel called Split. She is also a columnist, writing extensively about gender for The Week and posing as an Feminist Agony Aunt called Aunty Feminist for Youth Ki Awaaz. In addition, she sometimes writes about books and relationships. She has just finished writing her next book–the first in a series retelling The Mahabharata as young adult literature.
Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee taught English literature at Gauhati University from 1976 to 1985 and Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University from 1993 to 1997. In between, he worked as the Secretary of Sahitya Akademi’s Eastern Regional Office at Kolkata. In 1998, he was appointed Director of the National Book Trust. During his four-year tenure he conducted the celebration of the Year of the Book (2001), declared by the Government of India, and served on the panel of many national and international bodies. Bhattacharjee rejoined the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi in 2002 and worked as Editor, Indian Literature, Akademi’s bi-monthly journal, till his retirement from government service in 2007. For a brief period, he also held the post of Adhyaksha of Rabindra Bhavan at Visva Bharati, Santiniketan. After retirement he worked as Director, KK Birla Foundation (2007-2013), a philanthropic trust devoted to the cause of art, literature and philosophy. In 1993, Bhattacharjee visited the United States of America and researched the field of ancient manuscripts as an Associate Fellow of the Bienecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library in the Yale University. In 1996, he led a delegation of Indian writers to Moscow during the Festival of India in Russia. He also led a research project entitled ‘Towards an Integrated History of the SAARC Literature’ and worked at the British Museum and India Office Library in 1997 under an ICCR Grant. In 2004, he was invited by Tokyo University to speak at their comparative literature advance course. Since August 2013, he has been working as the Editorial Director of Niyogi Books, a publishing house based in Delhi. Bhattacharjee has been associated with respected banners as advisor/commentator/script-writer for literature-based documentaries and features. An accomplished translator from Bengali into English and vice-versa, Bhattacharjee’s English translation of Mahasweta Devi’s Armani Champar Gachh published by Seagull Books of Calcutta has been critically acclaimed.
Piyush Mishra wears many hats. He is a film and theatre actor, music director, lyricist, singer, and scriptwriter. Growing up in Gwalior, he wrote his first poem in school without any inkling that he would one day become a poet and an actor. “Today, if you ask me how I wrote that poem, I will not be able to tell you. Poetry comes from within,” he says. After graduating from the National School of Drama, Delhi in 1986, Mishra established himself as a theatre director, actor, lyricist and singer within a decade. He says he is very comfortable switching between acting and writing. He has written lyrics, screenplays and dialogues for over 30 films, including Black Friday. His acting in Maqbool, Dil Se, Gulaal and Gangs of Wasseypur have earned him a huge fan following. His loyalty to Hindi and Urdu is well-known. He feels that Hindi has been corrupted. “You can’t change or blame others. The only way to keep a language alive is to keep yourself pure,” Mishra says.
Prabeen Singh, who lives in New Delhi, has had a varied career and many incarnations. A child of the 1950s, she belongs to the earliest generation of independent India, lead by visionary leaders who dreamt of creating a utopian state for its citizens. Brought up in a politically-inclined Sikh family, she went on to work as an activist in Saheli; as a development consultant, working with international agencies and later in the field of HIV/AIDS in North-East India; as a founder-member of the artisans’ collective Dastkar; and as a columnist on etiquette and food. Her first book, Life Was Like That Only, appeared earlier this year. It records episodes from her life, inter-linked with historic events, and describes the ups-and-downs of the Indian state from a personal point of view.
A writer, critic and translator, Radha Chakravarty has translated a lot of Rabindranath Tagore’s works. She co-edited The Essential Tagore that was nominated Book of the Year 2011 by Martha Nussbaum. She has edited Shades of Difference: Selected Writings of Rabindranath Tagore and Novelist Tagore: Gender and Modernity in Selected Texts. Her translations of Tagore’s works include Gora, Chokher Bali, Boyhood Days, Farewell Song: Shesher Kabita and The Land of Cards: Stories, Poems and Plays for Children. She has also written Feminism and Contemporary Women Writers and translated Bankimchandra Chatterjee’s Kapalkundala, In the Name of the Mother by Mahasweta Devi, Vermillion Clouds: Stories by Bengali Women, and Crossings: Stories from Bangladesh and India. She has edited Bodymaps: Stories by South Asian Women and co-edited Writing Feminism: South Asian Voices. Her poems have appeared in Journal of the Poetry Society of India, The Fib Review, The Skinny Poetry Journal and Indian Poetry Through the Passage of Time. Chakravarty is a professor of Comparative Literature & Translation Studies at Ambedkar University, New Delhi.
For over 28 years, Radharani Mitra has been telling stories around brands, social norms, attitudes and behaviours that need changing. Her work in the advertising industry won her several awards but she quit it to join BBC Media Action in February 2007. Mitra loves ideas and hates messaging and believes you have to be a ‘sponge’ to be in the business of ideas. As Global Creative Advisor at BBC Media Action, she weaves strategies and ideas to create real communication for real impact. She has spearheaded several pioneering campaigns, including the Condom ringtone (which received nearly 800,000 downloading requests) and the ‘Kabbadi’ TV ad on condoms that was exhibited at the Pompidou Centre in Paris as part of a major retrospective of contemporary Indian art. She also created the TB Superhero Bulgam Bhai (Mr Sputum), which was reproduced frame by frame in the Dominican Republic (without permission of course!). Mitra is also the creative force behind AdhaFULL, the new ‘coming of age’ whodunit TV drama on Doordarshan. The storyteller’s work at BBC Media Action has won several prestigious global awards at Cannes, GSMA World Mobile Congress, Global Health Awards, FICCI Healthcare Awards, the Vodafone Mobile for Good Award and the mBillionth Award, to mention a few.
Rakshanda Jalil is a multi-faceted woman. She is a writer, translator, critic and literary historian. Her love for literature, art and architecture was instilled at a young age, growing up in a family known for its literary achievements. Jalil translated her first Urdu short story, Premchand’s Mandir Masjid in 1991. She has translated several works since then, including short stories and a seminal novel by Intizar Husain titled The Death of Sheherzad and The Sea Lies Ahead. Her own books have all been very well received, be it her debut collection of short stories, Release & Other Stories, a biography of Urdu feminist writer Dr Rashid Jahan, A Rebel And Her Cause or her PhD on the Progressive Writers’ Movement as Reflected in Urdu Literature that was published by Oxford University Press as Liking Progress, Loving Change. Her penchant to bring forth hidden gems led her to write Invisible City, a book on the lesser-known monuments of Delhi. Her love for Hindi and Urdu literature can be gauged from the fact that she has started Hindustani Awaaz, an organisation devoted to popularising Indian culture and literature. Jalil has received the Kaifi Azmi Award for her contribution to the Urdu language.
Ravinder Singh is the bestselling author of I Too Had a Love Story, Can Love Happen Twice?, Like It Happened Yesterday, Your Dreams Are Mine Now and This Love That Feels Right. He has edited and compiled two crowd-sourced anthologies named Love stories That Touched My Heart and Tell Me A Story. Considered the ‘king of romance’ in Indian publishing, he is among the three highest-selling authors in this country. After having spent most of his life in Burla, a very small town in western Odisha, Ravinder is currently based in New Delhi. He has an MBA from the renowned Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. His eight-year-long IT career started with Infosys and came to a happy ending at Microsoft where he worked as a senior programme manager. One fine day, he had an epiphany that writing books was more interesting than writing project plans. He called it a day at work and took to full-time writing, with happy results. Singh has also started a publishing venture called Black Ink
(blackinkbooks.in), to publish debut authors.
Salman Khurshid is an eminent politician, designated senior advocate, author and a law teacher. He studied at St. Xavier’s High School, Patna, and, later, at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and St. Edmund Hall, Oxford. He started his political career in 1981 as an officer on Special Duty in the Prime Minister’s Office under Indira Gandhi, and went on to hold various portfolios in the Union Cabinet. Khurshid has been writing and acting in plays since his student days in Delhi and Oxford. He edited The Contemporary Conservative: Selected Writings of Dhiren Bhagat, which was published in 1990. In 2011, he authored the play Sons of Babur, which was staged, with Tom Alter in the lead role, at the Red Fort in Delhi. His latest offering is At Home in India: The Muslim Saga. It is a comprehensive book that highlights the fact that Muslims feel at home in India and provides insights into their thought processes, aspirations and problems.
Samuel Berthet is a historian. He was born in France in a cosmopolitan environment and started studying in India at the age of 19. He taught in Visva Bharati and after getting his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has coordinated the research of two series of documentary film on Indian Maritime History. He was the director of Alliance Française in Chittagong for a period of five years. Currently, he teaches history and sociology at Shiv Nadar University. He has authored and edited quite a few books and numerous articles on South Asia.
Kolkata-born Soumyadip Chowdhury is a chartered accountant by training and a corporate banker with one of the leading global banks. His passion, however, is quizzing. As a quizmaster, he has travelled and conducted quizzes across India in various institutes and in open quizzes. This includes a sports quiz for corporate houses organised by Sony Max, which he co-hosted with Kapil Dev. He remains an active quizzer and was a participant in BBC Mastermind India in Season 2002. Beyond banking and quizzing, Soumyadip is a shutter bug and an intrepid traveller. He writes blogs and photo features on his travels.
For three decades, Odia writer Susmita Bagchi’s readers have never had a dull moment. Bagchi’s stories have unusual themes told in clean narratives. When she wrote her first short story in 1982 for the Odia magazine Sucharita (started by her mother Sakuntala Panda), she made an immediate connect with the readers. Bagchi has not looked back since then. She received the State Sahitya Akademi award for her first book, a collection of short stories. After a decade of writing short stories, Bagchi entered the world of novels and went onto write eight novels and a travelogue. The Sahitya Akademi awardee has received Utkal Samman, Prajatantra Award, and Gangadhar Rath Foundation Award. Much of her work has been translated and published in Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi and Malayalam. Recently, Bagchi switched gears again and decided to write a novel in English. Beneath a Rougher Sea is based on mental health, with the story being told through a psychiatrist. Her Odia novel, Deba Shishu that was translated into English and published by Penguin India as Children of a Better God was about children with cerebral palsy. On her blog, Dandelion Days, Bagchi writes on topics such as travel, health, poverty and illiteracy.
Bangalore-based historian, Vikram Sampath is the author of three acclaimed books of non-fiction: Splendours of Royal Mysore: the untold story of the Wodeyars, My name is Gauhar Jaan!: The life and times of a musician and Voice of the Veena: S. Balachander, a biography. The book on Gauhar Jaan won him several laurels including the Sahitya Akademi’s first Yuva Puraskar in English literature and the ARSC International Award for Excellence in Historical Research in New York and has been adapted to a play directed by Lillette Dubey. Sampath is an Electronics Engineer and Mathematician from BITS-Pilani, and has an MBA in Finance from SP Jain, Mumbai and a PhD in history from the University of Queensland, Australia. He has worked in leading multinational companies like GE Money, Citibank and Hewlett Packard and with the Government of India’s Ministry of Culture heading the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. He currently serves as Director of Symbiosis School of Media and Communication. A trained Carnatic vocalist, he has established the Archive of Indian Music, India’s first digital sound archive for preserving vintage gramophone records. He co-founded India’s second largest literary conclave, the Bangalore Literature Festival in 2012. A visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, he serves on several state and central government bodies.
Karthika VK joined Penguin Books India in 1996 after an M.Phil in English Literature from the University of Hyderabad. She worked there for ten years, acquiring and editing works of fiction and non-fiction and overseeing rights and contracts as well as a nascent children’s publishing programme. In 2006, she joined HarperCollins Publishers India as Publisher and Chief Editor. During her decade long stint there, Karthika has published some of the biggest names in the Indian literary world, including Kiran Nagarkar, Nayantara Sahgal, Aravind Adiga, Anita Nair, Anuja Chauhan, Manu Joseph, Hartosh Singh Bal, Rana Dasgupta, S Hussain Zaidi, H.M. Naqvi, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Raghu Karnad, Rohini Mohan and Karthika Nair, among others. She oversaw the launch of a dedicated literary imprint in Fourth Estate and Harper Sport, the only imprint dedicated to sport in India, which most recently published the autobiography of Sania Mirza. She has also built a vibrant and sustained poetry publishing programme at HarperCollins, as well as publishing some of India’s finest graphic novelists, including Sarnath Banerjee, Vishwajyoti Ghosh and Amruta Patil
Yashodhara Mishra started writing in her student life beginning with short stories. In her illustrious career spanning several decades as an author, poet and fiction writer, Yashodhara Mishra has published five collections of short stories, three novels, and a collection of poems. Her work has been translated in Hindi and English. Hailing from Sambalpur, Mishra has written extensively on her home-state and researched on Kalahandi loka katha and narijibana. A known figure in Odia literature, Mishra has won Sahitya Academy Award, Odisha Sahitya Akademi award and Odisha Book Fair award. A Ph.D in American Literature, Yashodhara Mishra has worked as a Professor of English under the government of Madhya Pradesh. She has been invited to literary programmes in the UK, the US, France, Germany and Mauritius. She has studied at prestigious Ravenshaw University, Cuttack and Utkal University, Bhubaneswar.