Many Indian scientists, competent in their fields of specialization, know less about science as a form of knowledge, or the kind of reasoning involved in the scientific method that can also be applied to other forms of knowledge. This might explain their surprising and tacit acceptance of some of the more ridiculous statements made by non-scientists on the fantasy-based claims pertaining to science as supposedly practised by our ancient ancestors. This reduces their ability to recognize the difference between the remarkably impressive knowledge of premodern Indian thinkers in some of the sciences, and the infantile fancies that are often projected in their name by those ignorant of science in both premodern and in current times.
The bell in the old church rang five times to signify the hour of the day. Shweta’s granny had been up much earlier though. An early riser all her life, here at Shashank’s place, she found it difficult to lie in bed after five. Nonetheless, she forced herself to be under the bright maroon quilt, keeping her eyes closed, as she knew that if she switched on the light, Shashank, sleeping in the adjacent room, would be up as his sleep would be disturbed by the light.
“How come your hair is so silky?”
the black musician asked, and she,
half-asleep, said Hong Kong was full of gloss
and sometimes the place got into your hair.
He was a professional, and they were playing
games with each other, fine-tuned notes
on silken skin.
Because we forget that even words have childhoods, Nayan cannot be sure that he has heard it right. Then the phone line goes blank—it might have choked on his silence, or it might have been Kabir’s tempestuous indifference to the listener. Whatever it is, it is no longer new, his son’s disappearance for days, sometimes weeks, his unpredictable resurfacing before his restless migration into silence again.
Art is not an accident; it does not happen by mistake. It is a deliberate, conscious act of creating an art object; it is a willed human endeavour. Art does not depend on a general acceptance of attractiveness. In fact, subjective notions of beauty are entirely secondary to the act of art creation.
… let’s leave aside historical treatises, myths and accounts and move to the present. Step by step, brick by brick, walls of difference, discrimination and division were meticulously built. Thus, over the past 150 years, the Northeast has been kept aside not by people from the region but by successive governments in New Delhi, and earlier Calcutta (the former capital), first by the East India Company which was the wealthiest and most powerful corporate house in the world that ran the political system and economic life of a subcontinent. Company Raj was followed by British Raj and then by the government of free India. In his compelling book about the Company, The Corporation that Changed the World , Nick Robbins dwells on the vast extent of not just its riches but how it intervened to shape political history in India, China and Africa by dealing in cotton, tea and opium apart from spices and other goods. It was a model (albeit ultimately a failed one) for the modern multinational.
Gaurav Agnihotri was apoplectic with anger. The editor-in-chief of the News Tonight Network (NTN) paced up and down his office, as his deputy editor and production in charge quailed in their seats at the conference table in the corner. The bank of televisions that covered an entire wall was showing what was playing on all the other news channels. By now, every news network had managed to get their OB vans into AIIMS and was broadcasting from there. The only channel whose reporter on the spot was calling in on the phone was NTN. Apparently, there was some glitch in the network, which the technicians were working to fix.
The twelfth-century Gīta-govinda of Jayadeva has a reputation as the last great poem in the Sanskrit language. It holds two other distinctions. First, it appears to be the first full account in poetry of Radha as Krishna’s favorite among the gopis or cowgirls of Vrindavana. Secondly, it seems to be the first historical instance of poetry written with specified ragas or musical modes assigned to its lyrics. The poem-cycle occurs in twelve cantos with twenty-four songs distributed among them, about 280 stanzas in total. It presents the love affair of Krishna and Radha as an acutely human love affair, from initial “secret desires” and urgent lovemaking to separation — nights of betrayal, mistrust, longing, feverish anguish, strange Imaginings — and finally to a consummation as spiritual as it is carnal. Jayadeva’s birthplace is uncertain — some think Orissa, some Mithila, some Bengal. Accounts make it clear he had carefully trained himself as a poet in the Sanskrit tradition, learnéd and in command of classical metrics, when he took a vow to wander as a homeless mendicant, to sleep no more than one night under any tree.
Burning the Sun’s Braids is perhaps the first collection in English of new poetry from Tibet. As the blurb of the book states, the poems are ‘…cryptic, metaphoric, ambiguous or brutally straightforward’ resonating with ‘people’s resentment and defiance as well as speak to the violence – both visible and invisible – that they undergo everyday under occupation.’
Do We Not Bleed? Reflections of a 21st-Century Pakistani is a passionate, illuminating book about contemporary Pakistan. Comprising original profiles of diverse Pakistanis—some of whom are internationally feted and many others who are relatively unknown—as well as essays that examine the major fault lines in Pakistani society, the book offers the reader an insider’s perspective on the state of affairs in the country today.
CONSPIRACIES AGAINST PEOPLE PERCEIVED TO be in ‘power’ are meticulously planned and have a carefully orchestrated process. The perpetrators are efficient, stealthy, networked and rich. It is easy to go after unsuspecting innocents and paint them as criminals. With ample help from a blood-thirsty media, a gullible and inflammable public and the cynical adage that ‘politics is not about fact, it is about perception’, they always have an advantage.
On 22 June 2000, George Fernandes, Digvijay Singh and I were on a morning flight to Rajkot to attend a state Samata Party conference. The Times of India was at hand. On the very front page was a small column headed, ‘Jadeja fixes a good match’. It stated categorically that ‘cricket star Ajay Jadeja has married Aditi Jaitly, the daughter of Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly, in a secret wedding’ (see photo section). A ‘close friend from the ITC golf course’ is quoted as saying, ‘Jadeja confessed that he has married Aditi’ with additional information about him keeping it a secret because he planned to make a film with Sonali Bendre and it would ‘affect his star status’. We were stunned.
In incandescent prose, award-winning novelist Jeet Thayil tells the story of Newton Francis Xavier, blocked poet, serial seducer of young women, reformed alcoholic (but only just), philosopher, recluse, all-round wild man and India’s greatest living painter. At the age of sixty-six, Xavier, who has been living in New York, is getting ready to return to the land of his birth to stage one final show of his work (accompanied by a mad bacchanal). As we accompany Xavier and his partner and muse ‘Goody’ on their unsteady and frequently sidetracked journey from New York to New Delhi, the venue of the final show, we meet a host of memorable characters—the Bombay poets of the seventies and eighties, ‘poets who sprouted from the soil like weeds or mushrooms or carnivorous new flowers, who arrived like meteors, burned bright for a season or two and vanished without a trace’, journalists, conmen, murderers, alcoholics, addicts, artists, whores, society ladies, thugs—and are also given unforgettable (and sometimes unbearable) insights into love, madness, poetry, sex, painting, saints, death, God and the savagery that fuels all great art.
Narrated in a huge variety of voices and styles, all of which blend seamlessly into a novel of remarkable accomplishment, The Book of Chocolate Saints is the sort of literary masterpiece that only comes along once in a very long time.
The Bengalis are the third largest ethno-linguistic group in the world, after the Han Chinese and the Arabs. A quarter of a billion strong and growing, the community has produced three Nobel laureates, world-class scientists, legendary political leaders and revolutionaries, iconic movie stars and directors, and an unending stream of writers, philosophers, painters, poets and musicians of the first rank. But, bald facts aside, just who are the Bengalis? What is the community all about, stereotypically and beyond stereotype? In order to find the answers to these and related questions, the author (a Bengali born and steeped in his own culture but objective enough to give us a balanced reckoning of his fellows) delves deep into the culture, literature, history and social mores of the Bengalis. He writes with acuity about the many strengths of the community but does not flinch from showing us its weaknesses and tormented history. He points out that Bengalis are among the most civilized and intellectually refined people on earth but have also been responsible for genocide and racism of the worst kind. Their cuisine is justly celebrated but few remember the cause and effect of millions of Bengalis dying of famine. Renowned for their liberal attitudes, they are also capable of virulent religious fundamentalism. Argumentative and meditative, pompous and grounded, hypocritical and wise, flippant and deep… Bengalis are all this and much, much more. With erudition, wit and empathy, this book manages to capture their very essence. Unarguably, it is the definitive portrait of one of the world’s most vibrant and distinctive communities.
Weaving together the narratives of non-conformist women from real life with those imagined, An Unsuitable Womanintroduces you to the everyday heroines in the Indian society confronting patriarchy.
This book includes seventeen inspirational and touching contributions in the form of prose and poetry, from writers like Anand Neelakantan, Madhavi Mahadevan, Sukla Singha, Humra Quraishi and Mitra Phukan, among others. It offers fascinating glimpses of everyday rebellion against patriarchy by a handful of women—from Amrita Sher-Gil, the rebel artist to Leila Seth, the first female chief justice of a state High Court, and to Social Activist Chandraprabha’s unassailable belief in her reforms; the legendary Nangeli who severed her breasts to assert her dissent against an unjust social order to Jahnavi Barua’s nameless protagonist who renders all social stigmas.
Plunge into the world of these ‘unsuitable’ women and partake of their undaunted spirit.
Political assembly and protest are also performances of citizenship status and claims. While enactment of violence by protesting publics with non-Muslim identity markers are considered routine and normalised, an assembly of protesting Muslims is potentially just another site of their fatal targeting. Another important example that effectively illustrates the preceding analysis is the case of the ‘Sealing Drive’ in Delhi in 2006.
The importance of this instance in the recent history of Delhi unveils complex dynamics of the political economy of built environments, the material logic of segregation, contestations, and negotiations of elite circuits with the unorganized sector in claiming their vision of the city, and biopolitics of the state.
The case exemplifies a tussle between big capital and elite networks represented by RWAs on the one hand, and traders and small manufacturers on the other. Elite RWAs insisted in getting this case filed at the High Court of Delhi that their sense of security, peace of mind, tranquillity, and aesthetic sensibilities were being off ended by business establishments within residential areas (Ghertner 2011; Bhuwania 2016). An appeal for preventing mixed land use was in line with the vision of the Delhi Master Plan, and on the agenda of previous Delhi state governments headed by the BJP and the Congress. The judge presiding over the case, Justice Sabharwal showing keen interest in the case passed a verdict which effectively read as a mass eviction notice to lakhs of establishments which were ‘illegal’ (Mehra 2012).
Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician is the story of Urdu’s greatest contemporary poet – the man who wrote Sare Jahan Se Acha Hindustan Hamara and was later considered the national poet of Pakistan. On one hand, Allama Muhammad Iqbal is considered the Spiritual Father of Pakistan, while on the other hand his message of Eastern revivalism gets him on the list of the twentieth century’s major intellectuals. The book explores Iqbal’s evolution as a poet, philosopher and politician. The book highlights some of the lesser known aspects of his life from his transformation into a poet of Islamic revivalism to his life in Europe and his role in bringing about the Partition. This book is a must-have for those interested in the life and work of Muhammad Iqbal.
Singha Durbar: Rise and Fall of the Rana Regime of Nepal is one of the most important recent historical accounts about the kingdom nestling in the Himalayas that has been ravaged by violence in modern times. The author, a descendant of the Rana clan, presents a balanced and frank account of what happened in the years till 1951, an important period in the history of Nepal; he writes about family, historical facts and misrepresentation of facts regarding the Ranas of Nepal who ruled the country for a little more than a century, brought stability to the land but were also criticized for economic and religious excesses.
Set in Kashmir, Behold, I Shine focuses on the struggle of women and children in Kashmir, on what it means for them whose children are missing, who live the lives of half-widows; on what it means to stand up to authority, to ikhwanis and to the horrors unfolding everyday in their lives. It brings into focus activists like Parveena Ahangar who go through insurmountable losses yet fight back to start human rights organisations that help other women like her to fight for their rights. Behold, I Shine puts together the narratives of such women and their spirit in fighting against multiple odds.
With brutal honesty and poetic urgency, Ananda Devi relates the tale of four young Mauritians trapped in their country’s endless cycle of fear and violence: Eve, whose body is her only weapon and source of power; Savita, Eve’s best friend, the only one who loves Eve without self-interest, and who ha plans to leave but will not go alone; Saadiq, gifted would-be poet, inspired by Rimbaud, in love with Eve; Clélio, belligerent rebel, waiting without hope for his brother to send for him from France.
Eve out of her Ruins is a heartbreaking look at the dark corners of the island nation of Mauritius that tourists never see, and a poignant exploration of the construction of personhood at the margins of society. Awarded the prestigious Prix des cinq continentsupon publication as the best book written in French outside France, Eve out of her Ruins is a harrowing account of the violent reality of life in her native country by the figurehead of Mauritian literature.
Described as ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude kicked into another gear’, Beauty Is a Woundcombines history, satire, family tragedy, legend, humour and romance in a sweeping polyphony. The novel begins with the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, then a Dutch colony, during World War II. Dewi Ayu, a beautiful half-Dutch, half-Indonesian girl, is captured by Japanese soldiers along with twenty others and brutalized. After the US Army frees Indonesia—and Dewi—from the Japanese, Dewi finds her family untraceable and their mansion occupied by American soldiers. Struggling to survive, she turns to prostitution and soon becomes the most sought after prostitute in the land.
Dewi Ayu gives birth to three daughters, each as stunning as herself. Over the course of their lives, Dewi and her daughters are beset by incest, murder, bestiality, rape, insanity, monstrosity, and the often vengeful undead. However it is Dewi’s fourth daughter—named Beauty in a cruelly inverted joke—who draws them all together and brings this epic tale to its final conclusion.
Drawing on local sources—folk tales and all-night shadow-puppet plays, with their bawdy wit and epic scope—Kurniawan’s gleefully grotesque hyperbole functions as a scathing critique of his nation’s troubled past: the rapacious offhand greed of colonialism; the chaotic struggle for independence; and the mass murders of perhaps a million ‘Communists’ in 1965, followed by three decades of Suharto’s despotic rule. Kurniawan’s distinctive voice brings something luscious yet astringent to contemporary literature.
Faiqa Mansab’s accomplished and dazzling debut novel explores the themes of love, betrayal and loss in the complex, changing world of today’s Pakistan. Set in Lahore, This House of Clay and Water explores the lives of two women. Nida, intelligent and lonely, has married into an affluent political family and is desperately searching for some meaning in her existence; and impulsive, lovely Sasha, from the ordinary middle class, whose longing for designer labels and upmarket places is so frantic that she willingly consorts with rich men who can provide them. Nida and Sasha meet at the famous Data Sahib dargah and connect–their need to understand why their worlds feel so alien and empty, bringing them together.
On her frequent visits to the dargah, Nida meets the gentle, flute-playing hijra, Bhanggi, who sits under a bargargh tree and yearns for acceptance and affection, but is invariably shunned. A friendship—fragile, tentative and tender–develops between the two, both exiles within their own lives; but it flies in the face of all convention and cannot be allowed.
As the invader advances relentlessly and wins bloody battles in quick succession, as local rulers fall over each other to shake hands with the enemy, and as the students of Takshashila University break into open revolt, one young man is faced with a terrifying choice, a choice that threatens to tear his carefully constructed world apart. For Aditya is the boy from Pataliputra, the boy who was once a reckless and carefree aristocrat, but who has now been forced to become a man with a purpose—to fight for honour and love.
With a sweeping narrative and interesting everyday characters like the smelly, old dhaba owner Tanku; Philotas, the unlucky Greek soldier; the no-nonsense medical student Radha; Pandi, the hard drinking mercenary; and the lovely Devika, The Boy from Pataliputra is not just the mesmerizing story of a young man’s growth to maturity, but also, equally, a story about the rise of a nation.
In 1989, an adolescent schoolboy from downtown Srinagar watched as his elders extricated themselves from university campuses, high-school grounds, handloom machines and farms to bear arms and fight a war of attrition against the Indian state.
Twenty-two years on, Jaffna Street was born from his explorations of the human dimension of the conflict appositely termed the Kashmir tragedy. Combining anecdotes, personal memories and extended interviews, the author takes us behind the scenes and headlines into Srinagar city’s ‘notorious’ perpetually politically charged downtown as well as its upper cityside belt to create a panoramic portrait of recent Kashmir history. He profiles ordinary people—hitmen, insurgents, artisans, failed Marxist intellectuals, mystics, exiles, gangsters and ordinary individuals—who wouldn’t make it even to the footnotes of history but have been crucial first-hand witnesses, participants or victims of some of the important events that marked the tumultuous and violent years of the insurgency.
Jaffna Street attempts to trace these individual trajectories by exploring significant events in their lives within the wider adumbrate of history, without losing sight of the big picture.
War-torn Africa, a Middle East in crisis and post-Soviet Eastern Europe form the backdrop to the stories told in The Devil Is a Black Dog—stories based on the extraordinary experiences of acclaimed photojournalist Sándor Jászberényi. From Cairo to the Gaza Strip, from Benghazi to Budapest, his characters contemplate the meaning of home, love, family and friendship in the face of brutality.
Immersed in the societies he reports on and heedless in the face of war and revolution, Jászberényi observes mothers, martyrs, soldiers, and lovers who must confront the extremes of contemporary experience. In spare, evocative prose, he combines fact and fiction to create a profoundly true portrait of the humanity behind the headlines.
Across lives, cities, and continents, melancholy and its tentacles inhabit spaces that are often left unexplored. Through ten stories and ten main protagonists, this book paints a portrait of the universal emotion that strikes the deepest and lingers the longest—sorrow.A nuanced narrative of the eternal human existence, this collection embraces light, laughter,hope, and that silently pulsating craving called love, delivering a communal meditation on mortal failings and human stories traverse the length and breadth of the world picking up a train of melody from the sonorous sound of the Bosphorus to the resounding refrain of the Qawwali, from the quiet streets of Isfahan to a crowded city in Japan, from two lovers fraught with desire in Bombay to one man’s spiritual awakening in story, mired by the undercurrent of simple occurrences and profound epiphanies, also forms an unwitting part of a Sufi’s journey as he navigates the world in his mystic inquiry of the unknown.
In the three centuries that followed Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea route from Europe to India, European powers made a beeline for India’s fabled riches, its spices, gold and gems. Though they ostensibly came for trade and commerce and the thrill of discovering a new land, the lines between exploration and exploitation soon blurred.
The Theft of India documents the intense rivalry for spoils that played out between the British, the French, the Dutch and the Portuguese and the impact this had on Indians. It details the political intrigue, the agreements and the betrayals, the oppression, swindling and greed of these foreign powers as they each tried to strengthen their grip on this vast and ‘exotic’ land.
White Crane, Lend Me Your Wings is a historical fiction set in the breathtakingly beautiful Nyarong Valley of the Kham province of Eastern Tibet in the first half of the twentieth century. The book authored by late Tsewang Yishey Pemba is published by Niyogi Books.
Dr Pemba skillfully weaves a dazzling tapestry of individual lives and sweeping events creating an epic vision of a country and people during a time of tremendous upheaval. The novel begins with a never-told-before story of a failed Christian mission in Tibet and takes one into the heartland of Eastern Tibet by capturing the zeitgeist of the fierce warrior tribe of Khampas ruled by chieftains. This coming-of-age narrative is a riveting tale of vengeance, warfare and love unfolded through the life story of two young boys and their family and friends. The personal drama gets embroiled in a national catastrophe as China invades Tibet forcing it out of its isolation. Ultimately, the novel delves into themes such as tradition versus modernity, individual choice and freedom, the nature of governance, the role of religion in people’s lives, the inevitability of change, and the importance of human values such as loyalty and compassion.
Economic deprivation, insurgencies and deadly ethnic clashes have driven thousands of impoverished men and women from the Northeastern region of India to seek a better life in the towns and cities of mainland India and further abroad. Some find themselves working amidst the unimaginable opulence of five-star hotels, casinos and cruises. However, for many, their jobs in Delhi, Bengaluru, Goa and other metropoles make them targets of racism, sexual harassment and class exploitation.
In response, communities of migrants discover ways of reproducing their cultures in alien soil, to act as oases in a hostile environment. And in doing so, they build bridges between communities—Nagas, Kukis, Meitei—which have been at war with each other back in the Northeast.
The Exodus Is Not Over features first-generation migrant workers from Northeast India, especially Manipur—a young schoolgirl who comes to Delhi and works long hours in a series of restaurants; her brother, whose ambitions to be a professional singer remain unfulfilled while he tries to earn his livelihood; an ambitious waiter now proudly in charge of his own restaurant in Goa, and many more. They tell their own stories of resilience in the face of exploitation and discrimination for the first time in such intimate and harrowing detail.
Nandita Haksar’s detailed understanding of the histories of the Northeast and deep respect for the people she writes about lends these narratives an added depth. Written with passion and a committed engagement, The Exodus Is Not Over provides a revealing and necessary look at the lived experiences of migrant workers today. A significant addition to migrant studies, it is a pioneering effort to document the conditions of migrant workers both in their homelands and during their quest to find work elsewhere. It is equally a story about a changing India, where globalization and development have led to a rapidly increasing gap between the rich and the poor.
Nobody Killed Her is a literary thriller set around a court trial, following the murder of a female political leader, Rani Shah, in an unnamed Muslim country. The suspect on trial, Nazo Khan is her assistant and confidant who, surprisingly, escapes unscathed in the blast that rocks Rani to her death. The style is unusual–an experimentation of form- an attempt to involve the reader directly into the narrative. The writing is deliberately sparse and staccato; the plot- a fast moving page-turner.
The anti-hero, Nazo, is the main narrator. She is a young asylum seeker who escapes to America (where Rani is in political self-exile) after witnessing her family massacred by the Army in a dictatorial military coup. The experience has hardened her and she is keen to climb the political ladder to bring about change, especially for the women of her background who are treated worse than animals under the General’s dark regime. Although a hardcore realist, she is impressed by Rani Shah’s idealism and comes to work for her. With the course of time her skepticism turns to adulation which gradually turns into an obsession.
On the other hand, Rani has been thrust into the world of politics by circumstances. She carries the weight of the world’s expectations while still grieving for her father, a political leader killed by the General. When Rani returns from her self-exile to fight for democracy, Nazo is by her side. Together they take on the General fighting for free and fair elections till Rani does something that leaves Nazo feeling sidelined. She marries for love. As Rani moves into motherhood and her priorities change, Nazo’s paranoia increases.
As the novel progresses there are signs that Rani’s idealism is only skin deep and what she craves more than running a country is a simple life of domesticity. But for Nazo, that is nothing less than betrayal. Can a world leader be allowed such a concession as wanting the ordinary?
Dramas like ‘The Crown’ have explored this and this book takes it a step further by pitting female ambition against motherhood. Nazo has had to fight for even basic rights like education. She knows what it is like to be a poor, uneducated woman in an orthodox society and she begins to resent Rani for wasting her privilege and agency. With time Nazo’s own ambition begins to show, making the reader doubt her reliability. It is here the question lies-will the love of power surpass the power of love?
A surprise twist at the end lets the reader decide.
In the trial scenes intersecting the main narrative, we have conflicting points of view, which add to the tension in the story — thus making the reader question as to who is telling the truth. The unreliable narrator features a big part of this novel but it is up to the reader to choose who that is. The themes of love and betrayal are at once familiar and unknown.
Along with being a fast paced political thriller, it is a novel with depth and insight as to what it means to be a woman in a man’s world. It is not a story about politics but about people to whom politics happen. With Hilary Clinton’s recent defeat due to the binaries set by her gender, it is, finally, a novel about our times.
When a Jewish woman is killed on the steps of the Natural History Museum in New York, disparate lives are thrown together for one purpose: to bring about the downfall of the Don, the uncrowned king of Karachi.
The Party Worker explores the Machiavellian politics of Pakistan’s busiest city, where friends come bearing bullets, and enemies can wait patiently for decades before striking.
Gritty, disturbing, and compelling, this is Omar Shahid Hamid at his best.
Increasingly disturbed by the violence, hate, insincerity, greed and selfishness of her kind, the author is drawn to the idea of becoming a tree. ‘I was tired of speed’, she writes, ‘I wanted to live to tree time.’ Besides wanting to emulate the spacious, relaxed rhythm of trees, she is drawn to their non-violent ways of being, how they tread lightly upon the earth, their ability to cope with loneliness and pain, the unselfishness with which they give freely of themselves and much more. She gives us new readings of the works of writers, painters, photographers and poets (Rabindranath Tagore and D. H. Lawrence among them) to show how trees and plants have always fascinated us. She studies the work of remarkable scientists like Jagadish Chandra Bose and key spiritual figures like the Buddha to gain even deeper insights into the world of trees. She writes of those who have wondered what it would be like to have sex with a tree, looks into why people marry trees, explores the death and rebirth of trees, and tells us why a tree was thought by forest-dwellers to be equal to ten sons.
Mixing memoir, literary history, nature studies, spiritual philosophies, and botanical research, How I Became a Tree is a book that will prompt readers to think of themselves, and the natural world that they are an intrinsic part of, in fresh ways.
I want a unit of brave Indian women to form a “Death-defying Regiment” who will wield the sword which the brave Rani of Jhansi wielded in India’s First War of Independence in 1857.’ ¬– Subhas Chandra Bose
The Rani of Jhansi Regiment (RJR), the first all-female infantry fighting unit in military history, was created in Singapore in July 1943 by Indian nationalist and visionary leader Subhas Chandra Bose to liberate India from British colonial oppression.
His young recruits were girls from Indian families of the diasporas in Singapore, Malaya and Burma and consisted entirely of civilian volunteers lacking any prior military training. These soldiers, deployed to the steamy jungles of Burma during the last two years of World War II, were determined to follow their commander to victory. Seven decades later, their history has been forgotten, their service and the role played by Bose himself having remained largely unexplored.
Through in-depth interviews with the surviving Ranis – in their eighties and nineties – and meticulous archival research, historian Vera Hildebrand has uncovered extensive new evidence that separates the myth of the Bengali hero and his jungle warrior maidens from historical fact. The result is a wholly fresh perspective on the remarkable women of the RJR and their place in Indian and world history. The truth is every bit as impressive as the myth.
Welcome to a land called Dvarca. At the turn of the 22nd century, the world is a mess of warring factions (surprise!). The powers-that-be have fought insanity with an equal and opposite insanity. India has been remodelled under a new bicolour flag, and a State religion called Navmarg. Anyone who does not belong, is a threat.
Madhav Mathur’s Dvarca is a dark and humorous satire that follows the life of an ordinary family, struggling to get by, in this totalitarian regime. Gandharva, is a patriotic and pious low-level bureaucrat at the Ministry of Finance and Salvation, working hard on his status and overdue promotion. His dutiful and curious wife, Jyoti, works at Dvarca Mills and witnesses a ghastly act of terror, leading to perilous flirtations with dissent. Their two little children, Nakul and Mira, are model students in their predestined streams, indoctrinated and well on their way to becoming faithful and productive citizens.
The State religion and cutting-edge science combine to create new ways to make citizens safe, and to hound and hunt those who do not conform. Everything is ‘perfect’ in this controlled and policed system, until one fateful night, a man happens to break routine . . .
Over the course of two intense years Swati Sengupta spoke to dozens of surrendered Maoist soldiers. In this book she focuses on their complex individual narratives and examines the reasons for, and the methods and contexts of, their surrenders. The disquieting voices of these foot-soldiers of the Maoist struggle reveal a harsh, on-the-edge world.
Suman Maity gave up his family, friends and school at the age of thirteen to become an armed Maoist cadre. He quickly became a terror in the forested regions of West Midnapore but, ravaged by uncertainty and betrayal, he surrendered because he ‘did not want to die in an encounter’. Champa was shot in the arm when a police team swooped down and started firing while she was on sentry duty at her camp. She lost consciousness and woke up in a hospital under police custody. A portion of her arm is now simply a lump of flesh. When the police gave her the option of surrendering instead of facing arrest, she chose to surrender—and now survives with difficulty by running a tailoring shop. A disillusioned surrendered Maoist, whom the author met in Kondagaon, told her that the so-called ‘camaraderie’ displayed in the camps is often faked for the media and the real conditions—which are actually neither equal nor congenial—are hidden away like ‘family secrets’.
Out of War is an insightful, poignant and often disturbing book about an unrelenting conflict where, despite all the idealistic fervour, there is injustice, even brutality, on every side and the most vulnerable people pay the heaviest price.
The novel reintroduces a classic story, retelling Little Women from the point of view of its chief male character, in the context of Pakistan.
The Maliks live a life of relative freedom in 1970s’ Karachi. Four beautiful sisters—Maria, Ayesha, Leila and Bina—are warily watched over by an unconventional mother. Captain Malik is usually away and so the women forge the rules of their own universe, taking in a few men: Amir, the professor who falls in love with Maria, and Jamal or Jimmy, the neighbour who narrates this tale. The curious young man is drawn in by all four sisters, particularly rebellious Ayesha. But slowly, it becomes clear he will never completely penetrate their circle, just as they will never completely move with the tide that swirls so potently around them.
In the quietly seething world of This Wide Night, Little Women meets The Virgin Suicides in Pakistan. Moving from Karachi to London and finally to the rain-drenched island of Manora, here is a compelling new novel from the subcontinent—and a powerful debut to watch.
One of the pillars of Indian democracy who played a pivotal role in shaping the Indian Constitution, Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is also known for his radical, no-holds-barred views on the discrimination against the backward classes, particularly the Untouchables, and the caste politics practised by Hindus. His path-breaking ideas, most of which are relevant even today, are reflected in his writings.
In The Essential Ambedkar, the finest extracts from Ambedkar’s impressive body of work have been selected and thematically arranged, covering issues such as caste and untouchability, the philosophy of the Hindu religion, the making of the Indian Constitution, the emancipation of women, India’s education policy, the Partition and much more. Both a handy reference guide as well as a useful introduction to readers unfamiliar with Ambedkar’s works, The Essential Ambedkar is a befitting tribute to the legacy of Babasaheb.
Named after a tragic figure in Indonesia’s and India’s shared mythology, Amba spends her lifetime trying to invent a story she can call her own. When she meets two suitors who fit perfectly into her namesake’s myth, Amba cannot help but feel that fate is teasing her. Salwa, respectful to a fault, pledges to honour and protect her, no matter what. Bhisma, a sophisticated European-trained doctor, offers her sensual pleasures and a world of ideas.
In this devastating novel of love and redemption, empathy and forgiveness, Amba, Bhisma and Salwa attempt to undo the ancient legend of the Mahabharata—that timeless allegory of war within a family—with tragic consequences, as the story moves from rural Java to Europe and to the prison camps of Buru Island, where approximately 12,000 alleged communists were incarcerated without trial during the Suharto dictatorship. Through its memorable cast of characters—each of them a metaphor for the vast diversity that is Indonesia—the novel asks us not to see history in terms of ‘black’ and ‘white’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’, but highlights, instead, the grey zones of human existence and the human spirit. It also shows us ways in which men and women often attain their highest humanity at the point of destruction.
From the acclaimed author of Maps for Lost Lovers and The Blind Man’s Garden, a brave, timely, searingly beautiful novel set in contemporary Pakistan about a community consumed by religious intolerance.
When shots ring out on Grand Trunk Road, Nargis’s life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud—a fellow architect—is caught in the crossfire and dies before she can confess to him her greatest secret. Under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer who demands that she pardon her husband’s American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about her past will soon be exposed. For weeks someone has been broadcasting people’s secrets from the minarets of the city’s mosques and, in a country where the accusation of blasphemy is currency to be bartered, the mysterious broadcasts have struck fear in Christians and Muslims alike.
Against this background of violence and fear, two outsiders—the young Christian woman Helen and the mysterious Imran from Kashmir—try to find an island of calm in which their love can grow.
In his characteristically luminous prose, Nadeem Aslam reflects Pakistan’s past and present in a single mirror—a story of corruption, resilience, and the hope that only love and the human spirit can offer.
After losing all his family in a terrible famine, a man leaves his village with just the clothes on his back, never once looking back. For endless miles he walks through a landscape as desolate as his heart. Until two ancient women who have waited for rain for four hundred years lead him to the Village of Weavers where a prophecy will be fulfilled. A single drop of rain will impregnate the tiger-widow and her son will slay the spirit-tiger. The traveller will help the woman bring up the boy. He will witness miracles and tragedy and come close to finding a home again. And he will learn that love and life are eternal.
In her new novel, Easterine Kire, winner of the Hindu Prize, combines lyrical storytelling with the magic and wisdom of Naga legends to produce an unforgettable, life-affirming fable.
It took nearly five minutes for her ashes to cool down. Afterwards, someone held out a handful. “Here she is, your Lara. Take her.” The agony stuck within me like an iceberg for one thousand days shattered without warning and drowned me in a flood of tears.
A man sits before his wife lying comatose in a refrigerated chamber and tells her the thoughts he had never dared express when she was conscious; ‘When the Gods Left’ follows Rajula Dip, a carrion-picker, as he goes about his business and himself becomes carrion; in ‘Fragments’, a woman takes a bus to her rapist’s house to speak to him and to his family; God himself appears in court to give testimony in a case where justice has been miscarried; and in ‘The Hunt’, after a tiger kills a shepherd, the entire village turns on the victim’s family in revenge.
One Thousand Days in a Refrigerator includes fourteen stories of great power and beauty, startling in their variety and ambition. It showcases a writer at the very peak of his considerable abilities.
The son of a penniless refugee from Lahore, Arjun Bhatia has worked his way up from being an arms smuggler in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh to the most influential power-broker in Delhi.
But when the shadows of the past – of a friend he has lost forever and a woman he can never be with – finally catches up with him, Arjun finds himself fighting the biggest battle of his life. For at stake is not just his iron hold over the government, but something even greater – his family … and his soul.
Spanning five decades and two generations, Sultan of Delhi: Ascension is an explosive saga of ambition, greed, love and passion.
Gandhi on Non-Violence brings together the political and moral philosophies central to the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi, pared down to their essentials. Philosophies which have influenced generations and inspired some of the world’s most transformative leaders and its greatest movements; from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Steve Biko to Václav Havel and Aung San Suu Kyi; from the Civil Rights movement in America and anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa to non-violent battles for democracy in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
The principles of ahimsa and satyagraha as practised by Gandhi were selected for this volume by Thomas Merton, theologian, social activist, and one of the most influential religious thinkers of the twentieth century. In his comprehensive introduction, Merton describes ahimsa and satyagraha as not merely political tools, but a response to evil itself. Which, if followed with truth and faith, can bring men—and nations—to their ‘right mind’ and free them forever from violence. And emphasizing the universality of ahimsa and satyagraha, Merton describes how they are linked to the traditional concept of Hindu dharma, the teachings of the Greek philosophers Socrates and Plato, and to Christian thought, especially the act of forgiveness.
Challenging, provocative and eternally valid, Gandhi’s principles are, as Merton himself puts it, ‘required reading for anyone who is seriously interested in man’s fate in the nuclear age.’
Things to Leave Behind follows the intertwined story of spirited Tilottama Uprety, whose uncle is hanged during the ‘Mutiny’, her troubled daughter, Deoki, missionary Rosemary Boden and Deoki’s husband, Jayesh Jonas, into Boden’s utopian Eden Ashram where artist William Dempster seeks out new Indias. At its heart lies one singular painting: a portrait of love, longing and courage.
Set in the years 1840 to 1912, Things to Leave Behind chronicles the mixed legacy of the British Indian past and the emergence of a fragile modernity. The book is published by Penguin.
Illuminated with painstaking detail, told with characteristic narrative skill, this compelling historical novel—the final one in the Himalayan trilogy, after A Himalayan Love Story and The Book of Shadows—is Namita Gokhale’s most ambitious work yet.
The Book of Dhaka: A City in Short Fiction is an unique anthology inspired by the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The book features 10 stories by some of Bangladesh’s finest writers, all translated from the Bengali into English for the first. The authors include; Wasi Ahmed, Moinul Ahsan Saber, Shaheen Akhtar, Salma Bani, Bipradash Barua, Akhteruzzaman Elias, Parvez Hossain, Syed Manzoorul Islam, Rashida Sultana and Anwara Syed Haq. The book is edited by Pushpita Alam and Arunava Sinha.
The Indian Government has repeatedly described Maoist guerrillas as ‘the biggest security threat to the county’ and Bastar in central India as their headquarters.
This book chronicles how the armed conflict between the government and the Maoists has devastated the lives of some of India’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens, starting from 2005 when a government- sponsored vigilante movement killed hundreds and drove thousands of villagers into camps to the present day when it is the most militarized region in the country. It is not a coincidence that Bastar had some of India’s biggest mineral reserves.
Based on extensive filed visits, court testimonies, government documents and an active participant role in the events she write about, Nandini Sundar also tracks the responses of political parties, the media, human rights activities and the judiciary to the ongoing crisis.
An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India originated from a speech made by Shashi Tharoor at the Oxford Union in 2015, that went viral across digital platforms clocking 3.5 million hits.
In this explosive book, the author reveals with acuity, impeccable research, and trademark wit, just how disastrous British rule was for India. Besides examining the many ways in which the colonizers exploited India, ranging from the drain of national resources to Britain, the destruction of the Indian textile, steel-making and shipping industries, and the negative transformation of agriculture, he demolishes the arguments of Western and Indian apologists for Empire on the supposed benefits of British rule, including democracy and political freedom, the rule of law, and the railways. The few unarguable benefits—the English language, tea, and cricket—were never actually intended for the benefit of the colonized but introduced to serve the interests of the colonizers. Aleph Book Company will serve to correct many misconceptions about one of the most contested periods of Indian history.
Emperor Chandragupta is the story of a youth who must fight against all odds – within and without – to become one of the greatest emperors ever known. This is the story of Chandragupta Maurya.
Building an empire is not easy, especially when there are enemies everywhere and no one you can trust. India, 326 BCE. The world’s greatest conqueror, Alexander, the Greek emperor, is at its doorstep, having arrived at the Indus seeking to establish his dominion over the entire known world. In the east lies Magadha, ruled by the Nandas, a dynasty driven by greed, lust and hunger for power. From the embers of that lust and avarice a boy has been born, raised by a tribe of peacock-tamers – a boy named Moriya forced by the Nanda clan to be on the run. Aided by Chanakya, a political strategist at odds with his former rulers, who trains him in the ways of the world and christens him Chandragupta, the young man ventures across the vast Magadhan empire to form an army of his own and seek out the foreign invader. But being a warrior prince, he finds, comes at a heavy price – assassins appointed by the Nanda kings will stop at nothing to eliminate him, a rival prince seeks revenge through cruelty and friends are no longer what they seem…
Stained is British Asian lawyer turned writer Abda Khan’s debut novel. The novel was published in October 2016 by Harvard Square Editions in the USA.
The novel revolves around an 18-year British Pakistani girl who is raped by a trusted friend of the family. After the attack, she goes to extreme lengths to prevent bringing what she perceives as shame to her widowed mother’s door, and to avoid tarnishing the family’s honour and reputation. However, this leads her down a dark dangerous path from which there may be no return.
The Truth Seekers @ Haji Lane is a romance novella about a Singaporean girl, Sufiah, who was seeking her vocation in life as well as her imam or Mr Right. Raised in a Malay/Muslim family, Sufiah, the youngest of three children was schooled in a madrasah for ten years, before she chose to continue her education in the polytechnic, just because of the dress code. In the polytechnic, she was able to don the hejab unlike the junior college, eventhough this meant she had to enter a less prestigious institute of learning. As a teenager, she also had girly ambitions, one of which is to find love – a husband whose taqwa-metre (piety to Allah) is higher than hers.
This November, Inkshares published Quincy Carroll’s debut novel, Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside, which tells the story of two Americans living and teaching in rural China (Trade Paperback; $15.95). The first, Thomas, is an entitled deadbeat, content to pass the rest of his days in Asia skating by on the fact that he’s white, while the second, a recent college graduate named Daniel, is an idealist at heart. Over the course of the novel, these two characters fight to establish primacy in Ningyuan, a remote town in the south of Hunan, with one of their more overzealous students, Bella, caught in between. Quincy Carroll’s cleverly written debut novel examines what we bring from one country to another.
This book is a study of participation of the Muslim communities, with their intra-community socio-economic stratifications, in the politics of India’s eastern province, Bihar, during colonial and post-independence period. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in the resistance against the Bengali hegemony, the Urban educated middle class of Muslims along with their Hindu counterparts, more specifically the Kayasthas (the Hindu community of scribes), organized themselves along the lines of ‘regional patriotism’ or ‘subordinate nationalism’ and succeeded in creating province of Bihar out of the Bengal in 1912. The Congress made its significant headway in Bihar only after that. Gandhiji’s intervention (1917) in the Champaran Satyagraha (which had intermittently been manifesting since the 1860s under the leadership of local intelligentsia, and had re-intensified since 1907), and the subsequent Khilafat-Non Cooperation Movements (1920-22) galvanized the Bihar people in anti-colonial popular struggle once again, after the movement of 1857.
by MOHAMMAD SAJJAD
This study attempts to explore the social features, political behaviour and economic conditions of the Muslims and the way the Muslims of this locality were negotiating for their share in the power-structure. Also, what are or were their anxieties, problems and prospects in this regard? The monograph attempts to enquire as to whether or not the localities mirror the regional and all-India setting. The regional and local studies would enable not only a ‘greater approximation to reality but also a more searching analysis’.
by SUDHA MENON
I arrived for my 6.30 pm meeting with Zia Mody, possibly India’s best-known corporate dealmaker and legal eagle, expecting that she was going to be at the end of her working day and relaxed for a long chat with me. I was mistaken. Read More
by MEGHNA PANT
We enter a narrow muddy path with jhopadpattis on both sides. Lalit apologetically turns his head towards me; the car can move no further. Seven or eight dusty children in ragged clothes surround our car, their noses pressed flat against the windows, their teeth white through the tinted glass. If we leave the car here they’ll scratch the silver-grey paint, sit on the hood or steal the rear-view mirrors, so I tell Lalit, ‘I don’t trust these slum people. I think you better stay in the car.’
‘Memsahib, I can take you to Mary’s house,’ he says gently.
‘How would you know the way around this kachra place?’ I ask. Read More
by RITU LALIT
“Guruji, they are all gathering,” twelve-year-old Sumant, his cheeks covered with a fuzzy growth of beard, peered through the flap of the tent and informed the old man. He was skinny and looked as though he had recently shot up in height, and his clothes had not kept up.
The man addressed as Guru, or Teacher, sighed and stood up, his old bones aching. There was a time when he had considered the weather a non-issue. It had just been a matter of mind over body. But age had caught up, and he realized that even Japas could feel cold. It was freezing in the desert; he peered out of the tent at the full moon. He had read somewhere that the full moon in January was known as the Wolf Moon. How apt, he thought as he stepped out, his aged joints creaking. He felt a slight unease arising from his base chakra. He inhaled deeply and said, “I smell danger. This peace among them will not last the night, I know it.” Read More
by SULTAN SOMJEE
I was born in Nairobi on the day when the colonial soldiers opened fire on the crowd protesting against the imprisonment of Harry Thuku. Harry Thuku, a soldier in the Kings African Rifles, the star battalion at the legendary parades of the British army in Nairobi, had just returned home to Kenya from the war in Burma. He now defied the governor’s order on the wearing of the hated kipande. The kipande itself was just a numbered metal identity pass that all native casuals in the Indian business streets and plantation labourers in the White Highlands had to wear with a chain around the neck. But it was because of the memories of chained slaves that were not so distant from the workers’ minds that they could not but see their new metal ID as a symbol of slavery. Thus it did not surprise anyone when the bazaar folk talked cagily about the growing numbers of disgruntled workers around the country who objected to the wearing of the pass. “But,” they would argue, “it’s the law of Kenya Colony that all native subjects of the king must be seen with the metal ID at work.” What they did not know was what I learnt much later in my adulthood, that if the law was not peacefully obeyed, it would be brutally enforced. The Empire needed to recover from the war by developing its colonies as quickly as possible so it would be ready for another war. And for that a disciplined African labour force like Indian commerce and skilled builders, was essential. Read More
The Bliss and Madness of Being Human
by ANKUR BETAGERI
In this post-post-modern world without a discernible centre, personal becomes the political. In his poetry, Betageri attempts to connect personal with the universal. In the cosmological sense of the word. “The centre of the universe is where my/consciousness begins to throb…” he says in the poem entitled ‘At the Centre of the Universe’: “… I fling myself like a handful of sand/ over the sad limited space of the earth/ and begin to grow unchecked, unrestricted, uncontrolled.”
1. I Am Water
2. At the Centre of the Universe
3. The Quiet and Rising Tension in the Jaw of the Common Man
4. Walking in and out – of Apparitions
6. Evening at Tagore Park (Birdsounds)
This set contains 6 sounds, total time: 10.25
A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna
by AMITAVA KUMAR
Alef Book Company
This was the 18th March of 1974. It was the day after my eleventh birthday, and I stood on the roof of my parents’ home in Patna, along with my family and some visitors from Arrah and faraway Saharsa, who had been unable to leave because of the curfew imposed all over Patna. There were reports that police had fired into the crowds of rioting students who had marched on the state assembly. We were playing antakshri, in our small group, because one young woman with us, a distant relative, was a wonderful singer. She had light brown eyes, and her hair curled over her forehead in the manner of a Hindi film-star of that decade. The horizon was grey with smoke rising from burning buildings.
The Black Coat
by NEAMAT IMAM
March 17, Wednesday. Hundreds and thousands of my countrymen are on the road today. They are marching toward the city’s central public square where the Awami League – Sheikh Mujib’s party – has organised a massive open-air ceremony for his birth anniversary. The Awami League government, which has declared him Father of the Bengali Nation, has deployed an extravagant number of security personnel to maintain order. They are guarding local street corners, nearby highway intersections and strategically important rooftops, and stopping vehicles to look for dangerous goods. Hundreds of party workers are assisting them; they are carrying rods, pipes, batons and bamboo sticks, and are regularly applying them to anyone who appears to be unruly and suspicious. Dozens of loudspeakers mounted on electricity poles are announcing the arrival of national leaders and intellectuals as well as acclaimed singers and musicians who will perform after the speeches.
As I sit at the Shaheed Minar stairs and look at the posters, festoons and banners I think back on a different time. I hear a distinctively trenchant voice: ‘You have betrayed us! You have betrayed us!’ It was thirty-five years ago. He was a part of my soul – a brilliant man, an immaculate heart.