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Book Review: Rohzin by Rahman Abbas

Reviewed by Nabina Das

(This review was first published in India Book Review. Re-published here with the author’s permission.)

Rohzin

 

Title: Rohzin
Author: Rahman Abbas
Publisher: Arshia Publications & Mumba Books India
Pages: 354

 

A book of eight chapters, Rohzin or The Melancholy of the Soul, by Rahman Abbas is a veritable feast for the mind. In Urdu ‘rohzin” is a word that the author coins to signify the souls of people hurt by witnessing the betrayal of their parents with their partners. What ensues is a story of love, lust, belonging, rejection and identity spread lush across the city of Bombay. The core setting, as described in the novel, is a space in the throes of monsoon, perhaps the most defining of seasons in this city by the Arabian Sea.

Rohzin, the author’s fourth novel, has been translated into English by Sabika Abbas Naqvi, and is soon to be published. Its German translation by linguist Almuth Degener has been published in January 2018 by Draupadi Verlag and Literaturhaus (Zurich, Switzerland) has organized its release function on 23 February 2018.

One might recall that Marquez — who is quoted at the novel’s outset — has said in his “The Art of Fiction No. 69” interview with The Paris Review:

‘It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.’

Speaking of imagination and reality readily transmigrating into each other’s realms, Rahman Abbas’ craft could perhaps be called Marquez-esque, but that would be too easy a deliberation. Even then, the vision of Konkan that he evokes is of ‘wildest imagination’. This is juxtaposed with scenes of reality and fantasy jostling together in the deep urban underbelly of Bombay.

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Beyond the tyranny of ‘performed’ gender

Nabina Das is a Hyderabad-based poet who teaches creative writing.

Poets young and old from the North-East have, for a while now, been talking about gender fluidity and being trapped by pre-assigned roles

In her book Politics of the Female Body (2006), Ketu Katrak writes about the typically patriarchal claim that women are the “guardians of tradition”. Katrak says claims like these are aimed at controlling female sexuality and fertility. There’s a perception that Northeast India is more gender-sensitive than the rest of the country. While one may easily debate this, there certainly are poets and writers from the North-East who challenge stereotypes by writing about the female body — its wants and wantonness, its contextualisation as well as abstract valence, its position vis-à-vis the dominant gender, and its graceful and seamless transition to the un-gendered space.

Naga poet Monalisa Changkija’s long years in journalism and activism manifest in her direct, no-nonsense lines. She is the sole editor, publisher and proprietor of the newspaper Nagaland Page. There were violent protests in Nagaland recently against reservation of seats for women in the legislative assembly — even after the Supreme Court directed the State government to implement the decision. In the coverage of this and other urgent issues, Changkija’s voice has been unflinching. During a recent interview at Indian Cultural Forum, she said: “In Naga society, women are always expected to play the subservient role and inevitably women do so. The patriarchal ethos are dominant and embedded in women’s psyches. It is sad that ‘keeping the peace’ within the home and the tribe becomes more important and imperative than gender justice.”

 

 


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Kitaab review of Nabina Das’ The House of Twining Roses: When Maps are More than Homes

By Tikuli

NabinaTHE HOUSE OF TWINING ROSES: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped

Author: NABINA DAS

Paperback 2014

INR 250.00

LiFi Publications Pvt. Ltd.

 

The House of Twining Roses: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped is a fine-layered collection of 17 short stories by Nabina Das, a Guwahati-born author with one novel and two poetry collections to her credit. Apart from the rich imagery that lingers on like a good melody, Das’ stories show a unique depth of plot and control of her characters. The reader feels the intensity of the stories through the complexities of the situations or characters.

Geographically, the stories are on a diverse map, sometimes a warped one. Das’ home state Assam features prominently. And although other places such as Bihar, Kerala, Bengal, New Delhi and the USA are also geographical markers for the stories, one feels a continuous movement, a search for belonging, and a need for anchoring throughout this book. The stories flow past their topographical signposts and boundaries and converge as one whole signifier of a place inhabited by common people the world over.

It’s a journey, like that of a flowing river. There is no restriction of time and space. The protagonists are always seeking a territory of the possible. They are exploring the unmapped as they chart the path of their evolution.

Twining Roses is definitely a book about coming of age, the cycle of life and death, and the fragility of events between a breath begun and ended. The stories especially probe girls and women trying to find themselves in the personal and communal histories and contemporary affairs of their times—ranging from Partition, the Assam student’s agitation, the tragedy of 9/11, etc. Their lives are woven around friends, families, passions and their relationship to each other going back and forth in time. Continue reading


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Review: Blue Vessel by Nabina Das

Review by Shaily Sahay for Kitaab

Blue_VesselA crucible, blue with solitude, holding half-music, half-poetry, and everything in between.

Mumbai rains were at their swollen best, slashing my windows as I read through the first section of poems, Water on Ink. And these stanzas, the first and the last, from the poem by the same name,

“Shadows quarter the rain

You’re wrapped in yourself

The street flows on.

Slivers.

…..

All sketches on water by ink

All words on lines by language

All these un-fairy faces are I. Me.” Continue reading