By Monica Arora

Baaz by Anuja Chauhan
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins; 1 edition (1 May 2017)
Language: English

Anuja Chauhan has emerged as one of the most reliable contemporary writers of pop-fiction in recent years, with her effervescent love stories being set against the back drop of cricket in The Zoya Factor or the great Indian election in Battle for Bittora, the third estate in Those Pricey Thakur Girls or as a middle-class drama for property in The House that BJ Built.

The latest to emerge from the keys of her laptop is Baaz, a roaring and riveting love story set against the backdrop of the 1971 war when India helped the Mukti Vahini in East Pakistan (Bangladesh at present) in their war for independence. India joined the war on 3 December 1971, after Pakistan launched preemptive air strikes on North India. The formidable Indian Air Force took control of the eastern theatre of war and eventually the Allied Forces of Bangladesh and India left Pakistan with no choice but to surrender in Dacca on 16 December 1971. The pro-Pak bias of the then US President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was revealed when recently de-classified papers of the 1971 war describe how the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had orders to target Indian Army facilities. Baaz draws its climax by citing an episode of the Cold War and makes it a delightful mix of patriotism, romance, drama, cold-blooded action and much comic relief amidst the gritty setting.

The Tree with a Thousand Apples
The Tree with a Thousand Apples

By Manisha Lakhe

The Tree with a Thousand Apples

Author: Sanchit Gupta

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Pages: 284

Price: Rs 350

Order your copy here 

You’d pick up The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta simply because of the stunning cover art by Misha Oberoi. It helps that the cover has a sticker that announces that the script based on the book is longlisted at the Sundance International Screenwriters’ Lab 2017. But also, you can’t wait to get embroiled in Kashmir. There are too many displaced Kashmiri poets in town and you want to know more about a book that talks about the tormented land.

For the first sixty pages or so, you will be impatient. The introduction to the characters, Bilal, Deewan and Safeena goes on and on. You get no feel for the colours of the Chinars, you don’t shiver from the cold breezes, you don’t picture the wooden homes, their creaking stairs. You only understand that the Bhats and the Maliks are neighbours, you understand how Deewan can fight for Bilal, and that Safeena is beautiful and that her tears are like diamonds and emeralds. The story takes its own sweet time to take shape, and that could be a negative for the book.

But then the action begins and the Bhats have to hide in their neighbour’s home from the burning and the pillaging. It is here that you begin to worry, to care for the characters. You realise how young they are and how the innocence of the city is systematically torn apart.

Charmaine Leung, memoir writer
Charmaine Leung, memoir writer

“17A Keong Saik Road is a memoir of my childhood growing up in the red-light district, Keong Saik Road, in Singapore, where my mother ran a brothel. I wrote this as an attempt to come to terms with my ignoble identity of being the daughter of a brothel operator—I wanted to be rid of the shame that I had felt growing up, and embrace the past that made me the person I am today.”

by Aminah Sheikh

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Writing is first and foremost a form of expression for me. I started journaling when I was a teenager—it was my way of airing the rumbling thoughts in my mind. As I grew up, the daily journals became monthly journals, and they eventually dwindled down to annual entries. Now, I just put down interesting thoughts as and when they come into my mind, it has become a lot easier with technology and easy access to apps for me to store these thoughts quickly. I’ve come to realise the spontaneous thoughts of the moment would become lost if I waited for a dedicated time to put them down, and I don’t want to lose them.

I write also because I have stories to tell. In addition to having an unusual childhood growing up in a red-light district in Chinatown in Singapore, and being surrounded by people who had interesting life experiences, I am a curious observer who enjoys putting down my observations in words. I believe everyone has a unique story.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I have just published my first book, a creative non-fiction work titled 17A Keong Saik Road. It is a memoir of my childhood growing up in the red-light district, Keong Saik Road, in Singapore, where my mother ran a brothel. I wrote this as an attempt to come to terms with my ignoble identity of being the daughter of a brothel operator—I wanted to be rid of the shame that I had felt growing up, and embrace the past that made me the person I am today.

I also wanted to share a part of Singapore history that is not commonly known, and give a voice to the things, and the people, who may have long been forgotten, or left unknown in the past.

By Aminah Sheikh

Each of the authors interviewed for Kitaab’s Lounge Chair have been unique, and this email interview with Irwin Allan Sealy was no different. Along with his responses he sent us a note which we’ve decided to retain as part of his interview. You’ll see why…

His note:

i sense a distinct persona here but a reluctance to lower the mask. i’m not sure you can use “let’s” and at the same time absent yourself but i’ll take your questions seriously; there’ll be some loss if you automatically adapt my answers to your house style. for example i prefer not to use the capital i for me, or for that matter capitals of any kind, but fight a losing battle with autocorrect. it’s your call!

Yours ias

(Editor’s note: We decided to publish the interview without editing the manuscript for capital letters).    

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

i write to sort out impressions accumulated in my body and ideas formed in my head over a lifetime; the two camps are perpetually at war. i write to ward off that madness, but equally for the pleasure of making something out of nothing. i write for the delight certain patterns yield. i write to make sense of an apparently barbarous world. i write to explain the persistence of goodness. i write for a living. i write to escape my fate, to step out of myself. i write to rescue the past, to examine alternative worlds. i write to explore an assigned topic (like this), to assess my motives, to plan a course of action, to understand last night’s dream (there was a marsh), to scrutinize loose notions, to reach out to persons far away in space and time, and because i detest the telephone.