NEW RELEASES FROM ASIA- October 2020


The Curse: Stories by Salma ( Translated by N. Kalyan Raman)

  • Publisher: Speaking Tiger
  • Year of publication: 2020 / October
  • Pages: 192
  • Price: INR 350

Book Blurb:

In The Curse, acclaimed author and poet Salma blasts through the artifice of genre an language to reveal the messy, violent, vulnerable and sometimes beautiful realities of being a woman in deeply patriarchal societies. Loosely rooted in the rural Muslim communities of Tamil Nadu, these stories shine a light on the complex dramas governing the daily lives of most women moving through the world.

In the title story, a young spinster is caught between her desire for marriage and a dark family history that haunts her like a curse. In ‘Toilets’, a woman recounts in stunning, visceral detail how access to the most basic human space has been regulated by trauma, shame and the male gaze. In ‘The Orbit of Confusion’, a daughter writes a heartbreaking letter, struggling to come to terms with her anger and love for the woman who raised her. In these and five other emotionally charged stories that are at times humorous, even spooky, Salma crafts exquisite and contradictory inner worlds like Alice Munro with the playfulness and spirit of Ismat Chughtai—in a voice that is entirely her own. Available together for the first time in English—in a lively, nimble translation by Kalyan Raman—these stories will grab you by the throat and leave you fundamentally changed.

Author Bio:

Salma is a writer of Tamil poetry and fiction. Her novel, Irandaam Jaamangalin Kadhai (2004) was considered a landmark achievement in Tamil; and was later translated into English as The Hour Past Midnight (2009) by Lakshmi Holmstrom. She was the recipient of the fourth Mahakavi Kanhaiyalal Sethia award for poetry in 2019.

Translator Bio:

N Kalyan Raman is a translator of Tamil short stories, poetry and novels. His works have been short-listed for several literary prizes in India, including the JCB Prize, Crossword, Hindu and Atta Galatta. He was recipient of the Pudumaipithan Award in 2018 for his contribution to Tamil literature.


The Battle Of Belonging: On Nationalism, Patriotism, And What It Means To Be Indian by Shashi Tharoor 

  • Hardcover : 462 pages
  • Publisher : Aleph Book Company
  • Year of Publishing: 31 October 2020
  • Price: INR 799

Reviews

‘This is a refreshing, vigorous, and humane contribution to thinking about India’s identity, and building a nation that can at once do justice to India’s deep history, its constitutional promise, and its extraordinary diversity’—Pratap Bhanu Mehta 

Book Blurb

There are over a billion Indians alive today. But are some Indians more Indian than others? To answer this question, one that is central to the identity of every man, woman, and child who belongs to the modern Republic of India, eminent thinker and bestselling writer Shashi Tharoor explores hotly contested ideas of nationalism, patriotism, citizenship, and belonging. In the course of his study, he explains what nationalism is, and can be, reveals who is anti-national, what patriotism actually means, and explores the nature and future of Indian nationhood. He gives us a clear-sighted view of the forces working to undermine the ‘idea of India’ (a phrase coined by Rabindranath Tagore) that has evolved through history and which, in its modern form, was enshrined in India’s Constitution by its founding fathers. Divided into six sections, the book starts off by exploring historical and contemporary ideas of nationalism, patriotism, liberalism, democracy, and humanism, many of which emerged in the West in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and quickly spread throughout the world. The author then summarizes India’s liberal constitutionalism, exploring the enlightened values that towering leaders and thinkers like Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore, Ambedkar, Patel, Azad, and others invested the nation with. These are contrasted with the narrow-minded, divisive, sectarian, ‘us vs them’ alternatives formulated by Hindutva ideologues, and propagated by their followers who are now in office. Today, the battle is between these two opposing ideas of India, or what might be described as ethno-religious nationalism vs civic nationalism. The struggle for India’s soul has heightened, deepened, and broadened, and threatens to hollow out and destroy the remarkable concepts of pluralism, secularism, and inclusive nationhood that were bestowed upon the nation at Independence. The Constitution is under siege, institutions are being undermined, mythical pasts propagated, universities assailed, minorities demonized, and worse. Every passing month sees new attacks on the ideals that India has long been admired for, as authoritarian leaders and their bigoted supporters push the country towards a state of illiberalism and intolerance. If they succeed, millions will be stripped of their identity, and bogus theories of Indianness will take root in the soil of the subcontinent. However, all is not yet lost, and this erudite and lucid book shows us what will need to be done to win the battle of belonging and strengthen everything that is unique and valuable about India. Firmly anchored in incontestable scholarship, yet passionately and fiercely argued, The Battle of Belonging is a book that unambiguously establishes what true Indianness is and what it means to be a patriotic and nationalistic Indian in the twenty-first century.

About the Author

SHASHI THAROOR is the bestselling author of over twenty books, both fiction and non-fiction, besides being a noted critic and columnist. His books include the path-breaking satire The Great Indian Novel, the classic India: From Midnight to the Millennium, the bestselling An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India, for which he won the Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Books (Non-Fiction), 2016, and, most recently, The New World Disorder and the Indian Imperative (co-authored with Samir Saran), The Paradoxical Prime Minister: Narendra Modi and His India, and The Hindu Way: An Introduction to Hinduism. He was a former Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and a former Minister of State for Human Resource Development and Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India. In his third term, he is the longest-serving member of the Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram and chairs Parliament’s Standing Committee on Information Technology. He has won numerous literary awards, including the Sahitya Akademi Award, a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and the Crossword Lifetime Achievement Award. He was honoured as New Age Politician of the Year by NDTV in 2010, and in 2004 with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, India’s highest honour for overseas Indians.


Quiet Flows the River JHELUM by Jajabor

  • No. Of Pages: 92 pages 
  • Price: INR 250 
  • Publisher : Niyogi Books Pvt Ltd
  • Year of Release: 4 September 2020

ABOUT THE BOOK 

Quiet Flows the River Jhelum ( Jhelum Nodir Tirey) recounts the thrilling tale of how the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir acceded to India, under the threat of invasion by Pakistan-supported troops. The role of leaders and administrators such as Lord Mountbatten, Pandit Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Maharaja Hari Singh, the last King of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the political, military and social issues of the time are lucidly narrated by the author. Highlighting the heroism of brave warriors, such as Lt. Col. Ranjit Rai, Brigadier L.P. Sen, Brigadier Osman and Major Somnath Sharma, the author describes how the Indian Army and Air Force were able to thwart the Pakistani invasion of 1947–48. This book takes you back to a tumultuous time in modern Indian history and sheds light on the causes of the Kashmir issue. Succinctly depicting political manoeuvring, palace intrigue and valiant battle tactics, the critically acclaimed Bengali original is presented to a wider audience in this contemporary English translation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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 ‘Jajabor’ was the pen name of the author Binoy Mukhopadhyay (1909–2002). Born in East Bengal (presently Bangladesh), he completed his Masters in Commerce from Calcutta University. He started his career as a journalist in a number of Bengali dailies, and subsequently joined the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. He was the Deputy Secretary of the British Press Information Bureau when his first novel Drishtipath (1946) burst into the literary scene to the wide acclaim of the readers. It was followed by several other novels, short stories, essays and dramas, including Janantik and Laghukaran. He has also written two books on cricket, which was another of his passions besides Rabindra Sangeet. Jhelum Nodir Tirey, a politico-historical narrative on the transfer of power in Kashmir, was published in May 1954.  

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

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 Sujit Kumar Das graduated in Arts from the University of Calcutta and joined the West Bengal Civil Service. At present, he works as the Joint Commissioner of Revenue, Government of West Bengal. Apart from reading, his other hobbies include travel to the mountains and jungles, especially if it’s on a driving holiday. The present translation of Jajabor’s Jhelum Nodir Tirey is a labour of love, meant to bring readers of the new generation in touch with an old favourite, and to revive the memory of those who have been through the classic.  


Fractured Forest, Quartzite City: A History of Delhi and its Ridge by Thomas Crowley

  • Publisher: YODA Press – SAGE Select
  • Year of publication: 2020 / October
  • Pages: 368
  • Price: INR 795

Book Blurb:

A sprawling megacity of nearly twenty million people, Delhi has forgotten its ecological history, a key part of which is the Ridge, often referred to as Delhi’s ‘green lung’. At various points, Delhi has been a crucial hub of politics, warfare, trade and religious expansion on regional and global levels. Placing Delhi’s environment at the front and centre of its unique history, the book tells the tale of the Ridge, which resonates far beyond the boundaries of India’s capital. The Ridge offers a crucial vantage point for viewing these historical and geographical interconnections. Its trees can’t be separated from the stones below them, nor the cities that rose and fell around them. Only with this perspective does a clear picture of the Ridge—and Delhi as a whole—emerge.

Author Bio:

Thomas Crowley has spent over a decade researching and writing about environmental politics and history in India. From 2010 to 2017, he conducted intensive research on the Delhi Ridge for the NGO Intercultural Resources, as well as for the “City as Studio” fellowship program at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi.

Crowley received his B.A. in Philosophy from Yale University in 2007, completed a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Pune from 2008–2009, and served as a Social Science Fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany from 2016–2017. He has written extensively on Indian politics for Jacobin magazine. He has also written for Kafila, as well as for peer-reviewed academic journals, including Emotion, Space and Ecology and Ethics and the Environment. He is currently researching the politics of water and caste in Maharashtra as a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography, Rutgers University (USA).


Mistress of Melodies Stories of Courtesans and Prostituted Women by Nabendu Ghosh (Edited by: Ratnottama Sengupta)

  • Publisher: Speaking Tiger
  • Year of publication: 2020 / October
  • Pages: 208
  • Price: INR 350

Book Blurb:

In Mistress of Melodies, Nabendu Ghosh traverses the streets of the ever-changing city of Calcutta to tell the stories of women—courtesans and those who engaged in sex-work—across generations. There is the innocent Chhaya, a widow who elopes and remarries only to be duped by her new husband. The gritty Basana, who sees the highs and lows of life after being drawn into prostitution as an adolescent. Hasina, the alluring baiji, who auctions her adolescent daughter’s virginity to the highest bidder and lives to regret it. The fierce Tagar who is abandoned when pregnant and is drawn into the world of prostitution, but leaves it to give love another chance. Fatima, a brave mother, who would rather sell her body than let hunger drive her and her son to their deaths. And finally, Gauhar Jaan, the songstress who enchants every man she meets but yearns for a true love who will accept her for who she is. 

Poignant, evocative and intensely human, Mistress of Melodies features some of the strongest women in Indian fiction created by Nabendu Ghosh, the legendary screenwriter who scripted immortal classics such as Abhimaan, Devdas and Bandini, among others. 

Author Bio:

Nabendu Ghosh (1917-2007) was a dancer, novelist, short-story writer, film director, actor and screenwriter. He was the recipient of numerous literary and film awards, including the National Film Award for Best First Film of a Director.

About the Editor:

Ratnottama Sengupta has written Krishna’s Cosmos, a biography of the printmaker Krishna Reddy. She has been a member of the Central Board of Film Certification, served on the jury of the National Film Awards, and has herself won a National Film Award.


Kuknalim by Nandita Haksar & Sebastian M. Hongray

(Longlisted for the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Award 2020)

  • Paperback : 464 pages
  • Publisher : Speaking Tiger Publishing Private Limited
  • Year of Release: 10 June 2019
  • Price: INR 460

Book Blurb

This first-of-its-kind book tells the story of the Naga national movement from the inside. Based on extensive interviews of the Naga nationalists, conducted in the late 1990s in Bangkok, Kathmandu, Dimapur and Delhi, it explains why the Indo-Naga conflict has lasted more than seven decades, and why successive prime ministers of India, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Narendra Modi, have personally met the Naga leaders and tried to resolve the conflict.

In Kuknalim, leaders and members of ten Naga tribes spread across India and Myanmar speak directly to the reader about their childhood experiences, reasons for joining the armed struggle, and their personal triumphs and tragedies. They recount their journeys from small impoverished mountain villages through the jungles of Myanmar to China—from where they carried back arms to fight for an independent Nagaland—and finally the journey to the negotiating table. These stories relate to the period of the Naga movement from World War II to 1997, when Naga nationalists under the NSCN (IM) entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Indian state and began peace talks. And in the introduction to the book and the different sections in it, the authors also write about subsequent events, besides providing the political context for each interview.

A ground-breaking work, Kuknalim offers invaluable insights into the world of Naga insurgency and its geo-political significance. Without asking the reader to agree or disagree with the people and movement it profiles, the book also examines complex questions of identity politics; the role of religion in nationalism; and the sentiments that drive men and women to take up arms and endure extreme hardship in pursuit of their dreams.

About the Author/s:

Nandita Haksar and Sebastian M. Hongray began working full time in the human rights movement in the 1980s. They filed the first cases against the Indian Armed Forces, for committing human rights violations, in the Supreme Court and before the Guwahati High Court. They have been involved in the Indo-Naga peace process, and represented NSCN leaders internationally. Their publications include The Judgement That Never Came: Army Rule in North East IndiaABC of Naga Culture and Civilization: A Resource Book (Nandita Haksar); Across the Chicken Neck: Travels in Northeast India (Nandita Haksar) and The Exodus Is Not Over: Migrations from the Ruptured Homelands of Northeast India (Nandita Haksar).

Haksar and Hongray are married and live in Goa and Delhi and sometimes in Ukhrul.


Piece of War: Narratives of Resilience and Hope by Meha Dixit

  • Publisher: SAGE Select / SAGE Publications India
  • Year of publication: 2020 / September (month-end)
  • Pages: 284
  • Price: INR 450

Book Blurb:

Throughout history war has affected civilizations in many ways. In contemporary times, Afghanistan, the Kashmir Valley, parts of Middle East and Africa continue to be embroiled in conflict. It makes you ask the question: Is there an ‘ordinary’ life beyond violence in these conflict zones? Through the real-life stories of people, the book attempts to uncover the human aspect of war, and how individuals and communities make sense of and cope with the pain and uncertainty. In this book, narratives of people who have either lived or are living in conflict zones are presented in an anecdotal manner, highlighting the extraordinary resilience humankind possesses and its ability to survive amidst despair and destruction. Documenting the author’s first-hand experience of confronting the realities of conflict-affected and ‘post-conflict’ regions of the Middle East, South Asia and West Africa (Afghanistan, Afghanistan–Pakistan border, Lebanon, Lebanon–Syria border, Sierra Leone, Indo-Pakistan border, Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Rohingya refugees along Bangladesh–Myanmar border), the book is a raw and bleeding portrayal of hope and strength.

Piece of War will be a heartfelt and introspective read for all readers, and an analytical read especially for psychologists, anthropologists and journalists.

Author Bio:

Meha Dixit has a PhD in international politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her thesis is titled Human Security and Post-conflict Reintegration of Child Soldiers: Disarmament Demobilisation Reintegration (DDR) Programmes in Mozambique and Sierra Leone.

She has conducted field research in various conflict and ‘postconflict’ zones such as Afghanistan including Afghanistan–Pakistan border, Lebanon, Lebanon–Syria border, Sierra Leone, India–Pakistan border, Kashmir, Maoist insurgency regions in India (Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh–Odisha border) and northeastern states in India (Manipur and Assam) and on the Rohingya issue in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and Bangladesh–Myanmar border.

She has worked with Amnesty International and Save the Children. She has also taught at Kashmir University.


Who Killed the King of Bagan? by Jame Dibiasio

About the Book

Unravelling the greatest mystery of Myanmar by uncovering evidence through time and place

Who Killed the King of Bagan? is a deep dive into the rich and well-guarded history of Myanmar through the device of a murder mystery. According to the Myanmarese chronicles, Bagan’s most important king was Anawrahta who died under suspicious circumstances, and contemporary Burmese writers surmise he was assassinated. But why, and by whom? The answers are tepid and unconvincing.

Here is a book that will not only attempt to tease out a possible culprit but also capture the history and achievements of the great temple city of Bagan woven around a true murder mystery. A rare read that will give readers a pop introduction to Myanmar’s founding capital, all wrapped in a thrilling and exciting narrative.

About the Author

Jame DiBiasio is the author of The Story of Angkor, which was published by Silkworm Books in 2013, and was also an extensively researched history for tourists. He has also published two novels: Gaijin Cowgirl (Crime Wave Press, 2013) and Bloody Paradise (Water Street Crime, 2016). Jame has been living in Asia since 1997. He is an award-winning financial journalist and the founding editor of Asian Investor.


Waiting for the Dust to Settle by Veio Pou

  • Publisher: Speaking Tiger
  • Year of publication: 2020 / October
  • Pages: 224
  • Price: INR 399

Book Blurb:

Ten-year-old Rakovei watches the army convoy rushing daily past his house in Senapati town and dreams of the day when he too will be a soldier. It is only when tragedy strikes his family that he comes to see the truth behind the glamour of military uniforms…. 

Set in Manipur during the 1980s and 90s, this novel follows the shared destinies of Rakovei and his family and community. Life is peaceful in the Naga villages around Senapati, until the spring of 1987, when cadres of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) attack the Assam Rifles outpost at Oinam Hill, and brutal retaliation follows—codenamed Operation Bluebird. Village after village is occupied, and young Rakovei, visiting his native village of Phyamaichi, witnesses the horror—ordinary men and women tortured and executed; homes and shops ransacked and burnt down. Deep disillusionment sets in as Rakovei begins to understand how his people suffer, caught in the war between the Indian Army and the Naga underground. The only chance of even basic security seems to lie far away, in the ‘mainland’, but it comes with the dark shadows of prejudice and racism. 

Waiting for the Dust to Settle provides a poignant, often searing, glimpse into the realities of life for ordinary Nagas in the turbulent final decades of the twentieth century, even as it chronicles with great sensitivity the resilience of these men and women caught between hope and despair.

Author Bio:

Veio Pou teaches in the Department of English, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi. He reads moderately, writes occasionally, and lives in New Delhi with his wife and two daughters. Waiting for the Dust to Settle is his first novel.


Nomad’s Land by Paro Anand

  • Publisher: Talking Cub (the children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger)
  • Year of publication: 2020 / October
  • Pages: 256
  • Price: INR 350

Book Blurb:

Shanna and Pema, two girls growing up in a big city, meet at their new school. They come from displaced communities—people who had to flee their land to escape persecution. Shanna is a Kashmiri Pandit, and Pema comes from a nomadic tribe whose people called the high mountains beyond India their home. 

Shanna is dealing with the aftermath of a violent act that has forever changed her life. Pema was born in the city, but all around her are people who cling to the old customs. 

As Shanna and Pema become friends, they get to understand their own and each other’s stories. They discover new wells of strength within themselves and start to deal with the sadness and confusion of the adults around them. But when they embark on a plan that is as brave as it is audacious, will the forces of history allow them to succeed? 

Searing and tender, Nomad’s Land talks about the effects of terrorism and displacement, and about the healing powers of hope, friendship and reconciliation.

Author Bio:

Paro Anand writes for children, young adults and adults. She won the Sahitya Akademi Bal Sahitya Puruskar in 2017 for her anthology Wild Child (now published as Like Smoke). She has spoken about and written extensively on children’s literature in India. She headed the National Centre for Children’s Literature, The National Book Trust, India, the apex body for children’s literature in India. She also runs a podcast on HubHopper called Literature in Action, and was an invitee to the India Conference at the Harvard Business School in 2018. She was awarded the Kalinga Karubaki Award for fearless writing in 2019. 

She is well-known for her work with children in difficult circumstances including those impacted by violence in Kashmir and has written extensively on the subject.

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