Namrata explores Kabul through Taran N Khan’s Shadow City which according to her isn’t just about a city.

Stories in Kabul begin with the phrase ‘Yeki bood, yeki na bood.’ There was one, there was no one.

Taran N Khan (Shadow City)

Taran N Khan’s first book, Shadow City takes us around Kabul highlighting the varied experiences the city and its people have been through over years. It is neither a memoir, nor a travelogue. Lying somewhere in between, Khan has found the perfect voice to depict a place which has been through so much and yet continues to thrive in various ways.

Growing up in Aligarh, Khan grew up with a fascination for Afghanistan due to her Pashtun background. After completing her education in Delhi and London, she has now decided to call Mumbai her home for the time being. Her works have been widely published in India and internationally, including in Guernica, Al Jazeera, the Caravan and Himal Southasian. Her writing has also received support from the MacDowell Colony, the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, among others.

Rituparna Mahapatra in conversation with Avni Doshi talking about her journey, the writing process and the future plans.

Photo credit: Sharon Haridas

The first sentence came to me as a revelation, within it was the shape of the whole story. I wanted to begin with something powerful!

Avni Doshi, writer of Indian Origin, longlisted for Booker 2020.

Not many can claim their debut novels to make it to the list of the World’s most prestigious literary awards. Dubai based Indian novelist Avni Doshi has done that; her debut novel ‘Burnt Sugar’ has been long-listed for the 2020 Booker prize. The novel made it to the ‘Booker Dozen’ after judges assessed 162 novels, published in the UK  or Ireland between October2019 and September 2020. 

Burnt Sugar’  was earlier released in India under the title ‘Girl in White Cotton‘ to critical acclaim. The judges at the Booker panel called it an “‘utterly compelling read’ that examines a complex and unusual mother- daughter relationship with honest , unflinching realism” it is “emotionally wrenching but also cathartic, written with poignancy and memorability”. 

Turmeric Nation: A Passage through India’s Tastes by Shylashri Shankar 

  • Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books
  • Year of publication: 2020 / August
  • Pages: 336
  • Price: INR 499
  • Releasing Soon

Book Blurb

What exactly is ‘Indian’ food? Can it be classified by region, or religion, or ritual? What are the culinary commonalities across the Indian subcontinent? Do we Indians have a sense of collective self when it comes to cuisine? Or is the pluralism in our food habits and choices the only identity we have ever needed? 

Turmeric Nation is an ambitious and insightful project which answers these questions, and then quite a few more. Through a series of fascinating essays— delving into geography, history, myth, sociology, film, literature and personal experience—Shylashri Shankar traces the myriad patterns that have formed Indian food cultures, taste preferences and cooking traditions. From Dalit ‘haldiya dal’ to the last meal of the Buddha; from aphrodisiacs listed in the Kama Sutra to sacred foods offered to gods and prophets; from the use of food as a means of state control in contemporary India to the role of lemonade in stoking rebellion in 19th-century Bengal; from the connection between death and feasting and between fasting and pleasure, this book offers a layered and revealing portrait of India, as a society and a nation, through its enduring relationship with food. 

For the longest time I took pride in the fact that I would listen to only Begum Akhtar and the like. I took pride in naming several world movies and having remembered their directors. But what is not on record is that I started reading fairly late into my teenage years and started out with a railway copy of Bhagat’s Two States during my high school years, which I discreetly disposed of on my bookshelf in my later years. 

My journey to develop a ‘refined taste’ was a rather self-imposed one; the one where I decided not to listen to certain genres of music, or avoid watching certain films. This intent to culturally ‘polish myself up’ was my regular homework, which was led by an unconscious need to fit into certain sects of society and a need to appease an imaginary audience. 

No one can claim the name of Pedro
nobody is Rosa or Maria
all of us are dust or sand
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas
of Chiles and Paraguays
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it has no name

PABLO NERUDA

I call him Dumri. I tie one end of my worn out gamchha to the iron fence of the Gas Office by the footpath and the other end to a municipality dustbin hook to make a swing cot. I place him there. Dumri loves to be pushed in the swing. He bursts into laughter. The passengers of double-decker buses stuck in the traffic give us a curious look. I feel amused. It makes me feel like a queen. I leave him on the makeshift swing to pick up a cigarette butt left by someone on the footpath for one last puff or to halt a hasty passerby for a dime or two. Dumri turns his head to follow every move of mine. He is still a few months short of becoming one, yet he seems to understand everything. Such a smarty-pant!

Singapore Literature Prize is considered to be Singapore’s top literary award. For the first time in the history of these awards, they will be held online on August 28th, 2020 at 8 p.m.

The shortlist includes 52 works in 12 categories across three genres, fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. Furthermore, it also includes works in four languages Chinese, Malay, English and Tamil. The top award in these categories includes a cash prize of S$3,000 and a special plaque. Interestingly, more than half of the writers have been shortlisted for the first time, while five will contest in two different categories.