Book Review: Chickpeas to Cook and Other Stories by Nilanjana Sengupta1 min read
Shyamasri Maji reviews Nilanjana Sengupta’s Chickpeas to Cook and Other Stories (Penguin Books, 2022) and observes how it represents multiculturalism.
Nilanjana Sengupta is a Singapore based writer and community historian, whose major works include A Gentleman’s Word: The Legacy of Subhas Chandra Bose in Southeast Asia (2012), The Female Voice of Myanmar: Khin Myo Chit to Aung San Suu Kyi (2015) and Singapore, My Country: Biography of M Bala Subramanian (2016). Her recent work on the great Singaporean poet Edwin Thumboo—The Votive Pen: Writings on Edwin Thumboo (2020)—was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize 2022 and the Singapore Book Awards 2021.
Her Chickpeas to Cook and Other Stories unfolds a part of the multicultural tapestry of Singaporean society by representing community narratives of eight minuscule groups: the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims, the Nattukottai Chettiars, the Eurasians, the Jews, the Sikhs, the Theravada Buddhist-Burmese, the Chinese-Taoists and the Parsis. Each story is crafted through non-fictional and fictional forms. While the short history of the religions and the communities are furnished in informative prose, individual perspectives and experiences are presented through the stories of women belonging to these communities. The women-centric stance of these stories is manifested in the title that mentions ‘cooking’ and in a way reminds the reader of the kitchen, a space allotted mostly to women in patriarchal societies.
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