Today is the 15th. Of June. On the 15th of May, Vidisha ki Vidhushi Malti Joshi, veteran writer and poetess popularly also known  as Malwa ki Meera,  passed away after a period of illness. Her eyes  saw much in the almost 90 years she was on planet earth and her smile said it all.

Vidushi Malti Joshi

A quintessential grahini – householder- she brought up her two sons Rishikesh and Sachchidanand Joshi  with same solid and sensible values she lived by. One of humility and hospitality; service and selflessness. Prose and poetry. Hers is also the story of women and children, ordinary and extraordinary. She takes us to the golden days of Dharmayug and Sarita; Manohar kahaniyan and more.

Padmashri awardee no less, Vidushi Malti Joshi wrote short stories, long stories, story stories and neo historiesin Hindi. She wrote poetry, prose, books and essays. She wrote while attending to all her household responsibilities. Born to a father who was a judge no less – in the princely Gwalior state – she was never judgemental . She married fellow traveller pt. Somnath Joshi and together they raised two children in small town India, where real stories abound. Metro India is a nightmare! Not a nice story.

At her celebration – bhavanjali  – in IIC hosted by the Joshi parivar, the warmth and love all had for the family came through in the homage paid by some of the worthies like her bahu Malavika Joshi, who being a theatre artiste, recited her poetry with feeling and correct intonation. Her years of looking after her saasuma earned her affection of many and love of most present. Kumar Gandharva ‘s daughter Kalapini Komkali sang choicest bhajans and one DU talent next provided an insight into ouvre of vidhushi Malti Joshi. Hasya poet Ashok Chakradhar, whose smile itself starts it all, regaled with choice wit and kavit. Prasoon Joshi, the hugely gifted and happening lyricist- poet (of Bollywood fame now),  focused on the emotion that’s Ma, connecting to his own popular song from Taare Zameen Par….andhare se darta hun ma… tujhe sab kuch pata meri ma.

Having lost my own mother two years ago, precisely two days ago on June 13,  I would have  shared that ma word is very short but its import is vast. It is easy to fathom the depth of  a scripture like Gita or an ocean but not a mother. When I lost my mother, despite almost 62 years of constant company with her from my birth to her death, I felt orphaned. Not so when father passed away 25 years ago. But when mother passed away it was like the roof of our house had gone. A mother protects from wind and storms, rain and strong sun. Basic safety net. Fathers are like walls. They are first line of defence against snakes and scorpions that attack. Without walls one can still survive but without a roof? Brothers and sisters are akin to doors. They walk in and walk out! Friends are like windows – they bring good cheer, fair winds , sunshine and often provide a good view to life. Colleagues are like celling fans or AC. Or heaters. Often they don’t work without electricity! Above sounds like Gita Gyan of life in a nutshell. Try on yourself and your life and see if it fits.

Dushyant on dadi Malti Joshi

Hailing from Vidisha, Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel laureate no less, reminisced about how while growing up the stories of Vidushi Malti Joshi opened up a whole new world to him. Regarding welfare of tender age children and humanity. This became his life’s mission. Sonal Mansingh  highlighted how well the mother Malti, though  just ten years older to her, brought up a good pariwar with values for all to see and it was left to the only present grandchild Dushyant, to bring in the innocence of youth, unrehearsed lines spoken from-the-heart on his grandmother lying on sofa with him and telling him stories, when electricity often went. He shared that his dadi was very updated with trends and tales of young ones. He is as is where is basis fellow. You get what you see. Nothing artificial. Dushyant also put up a meaningful display of her books, letters and more, in a mini montage in the foyer if IIC ‘s multi purpose hall, with a blow-up of letter PM Modi wrote on May 17, just two days after Vidushi Malti Joshi took leave of planet earth. That he made time in busy election time, shows what a man of detail he and his office are. That he, Her son, himself a poet and author of note, Sachchidanand Joshi thanked all and invited all to partake her favourite mithai Balushahi brought by bus from Indore! So much for good taste.

Here’s just a taste of her tales in form of anthology, short stories, poems and more. I’ve given the closest English translation since this column is in English and read far and wide in that language, even abroad, especially abroad. Hindi titles here , in which Vidushi Malti Joshi wrote will be lost even to  most of the South or North East Indians! But read all must.

Anthologies: Stone Age, Midpoint, Joy of Dedication, A Mind Not Split in Many.  

Stories : A Home of Dreams, Saga of Faith, The Final Condition, Dye My Scarf, The Last Accusation, A Meaningful Day, Cursed Childhood, Fragrant Relationships, The Pain Unknown to My Love, Father’s Home, A Woman is a Night, Million Dollar Note, A Small Heart, Big Sorrow, Accidents and Courage.

Children’s Stories Collection: Grandma’s Clock, The Path to Live, Exams and Rewards, Tones of Affection, True Adornment

Novels: Closure, Companion, Grand Procession, Melodies and Dissonances

Satire: Harley Street.

Her range and outreach was vast. 50 or so books in her lifetime. I was lucky to have met her five, seven times, last being on my birthday, February 29, this year.  I was in Delhi and wanted her blessings in person because she was now the eldest in our circle and who knew on my next leap year birthday due 2028 she’d be there or not, being 90. She blessed smilingly and her eyes said it all. In her story- style she must have said : jiska naam hi Ashish usko anek ashish.  


Reading used to be our favourite summer holidays feat.  Books, not Facebook! Real, printed stories, not WhatsApp forwards .  Lying under a mango tree in our Chandigarh or Jalandhar family homes, the idea of even possessing a Chandamama for ₹5/- was a big treat. Most stories began : ek gaon mei ek dampati sampati rehte thhe…

Summer is here and how.

Hot, hotter, hottest. Everywhere. Except for the mountains and one metro – Bangalore. Most of India burns through summer heat, with this year being exceptionally hot. Temperatures beyond 50 degrees Celsius is normal in many parts of India and many have wondered if this not part of climate change, what is.

Summer is also a time to read and books were aplenty. From Gayatri Keshavan’s superbly brought out Adavus to Shubhi publications’ many books that vie with each other for attention. Foundations supporting art and culture like the Infosys or Ambanis; India or Japan should buy bulk copies and gift to poor students and sister organisations.

Who buys books these days? With most millennials who can’t even spell beyond their own name and most colleges teaching not much but how to pass, where is the culture of books? Biggest libraries in India have no takers. Only few esteemed ones have committed members coming and sitting there like Jolly in Delhi, spotted daily@IIC doing some serious research or Sugata in Teen Murti.

Like alphabets are to a language, Adavus are to south Indian dance form, Bharatanatyam. These form unit of language that help make a word, phrase or sentence. From that follows paras that becomes a story.

Gayathri Keshavan has come up with a lavish book on Adavus and continued her illustrious parents’ guru TK Narayan (born in Hassan) and mother guru Jayalakshmi Narayan – work diligently. Setting up base in Hyderabad then Bangalore, she has trained many dancers, some were seen at the Bangalore International Centre (BIC) World Dance Day on 5/5. Like dolls they all danced identically and their costumes too reminded of a bygone era bommai natyam! Her current book on Adavus is rich of paper and production, with sketches by student Aakash Narasipure. Printed by Notion press, it adds to ones knowledge pool. Mohan Khokar – the father figure of Indian dance heritage and history – had done a book on Adavus 40 years ago for BVB that’s Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. Mohan Khokar and TK Narayan remained dear dance friends till their end.

Gayatri Keshavan’s Adavus book

No book or text is greater than the Natyashastra for artistes. That it is still an important reference material and memory of art is natya – drama, dance and music – codified was again reiterated by one and only Padukka as Dr Padma Subrahmanyam is fondly known.

In Pondicherry, at invite of IGNCA regional centre, headed by painter-artist Jayaram Gopal, who has revitalised the centre and made it happening with activities and events, including a gallery where old leather puppets, salvaged from a Padmashree award artiste Rajamani no less, Gopal has shown how art can touch many.

Dr J Gopal , artist-administrator

In her address at Alliance Francaise Puducherry, housed in a fine old residence gifted by a do-gooder French returning home post the colonial rule, Padukka engaged the audience with a detailed explanation of tenets of the Natyashastra. How was chapter delineated kernel truths about type of space, content and context and characters, even chief guest! Her content that this treatise actually would’ve impacted Eurasia also, made newspaper headlines the next day saying France should  also own it up as its own. If there is one brilliant mind in Indian dance today, it is Dr Padma Subrahmanyam. She has no parallel. Her grand niece, Mahati Kannan, ably showcased some of the typical structural movements that are often mistaken by most for postures or poses but are actually  language of motion of dance in stone.

Dr Padma Subrahmanyam in Puducherry

Stone carving is not easy. Ask the craftsmen. One crack and the whole sculpture has to be redone. One fault and the whole thing can be junked. Master cutters select stone sensibly because it becomes double the work when they have to redo.

Redoing a work of art is never easy. A painting or an art work. It can’t be done the same way, unless one is forging! That itself is an art form best left alone, for if caught then free food for long in jail without bail, is assured!

Life is like art! Art is life.


Ashish Khokar uses humour to make serious points on our culture and society. A historian by training, artiste by disposition and organiser by nature ,in his spare time he has also published /authored 50 books; over 5000 articles in mainstream media in the last 45 years and served many cultural institutions in India and abroad, making him a renaissance man. He is also a pioneer in arts administration and international culture education since the 1980s. He is hailed as the gold standard of archiving, documentation and dance history.  For full bio :


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