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.
Namrata reviews One Drop of Blood by Ismat Chugtai based on the battle of Karbala.
Published by Women Unlimited (An Associate of Kali for Women), 2020
Featured in Hindustan Times as one of the interesting books early this year, One Drop of Blood by Ismat Chugtai is a unique book in many ways. Firstly, it is the last work of Ismat Chugtai and secondly, it so different from her usual line of work.
One drop of Blood is based on the battle of Karbala fought in 680 A.D. in present-day Iraq between Yazid, the reigning Caliph and his mighty soldiers and Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad with his small army. According to the Islamic calendar Muharram is the first month of the year and the second holiest month, after the month of Ramzan. Muharram is also a period of mourning the martyrdom of Imam Husain and his family (including his infant grandchild) in the battle of Karbala.
Namrata looks at Krishna Udayasankar’s new novel set in Mumbai in the backdrop of the dark underbelly of the city amidst the world of Saimhas (werelions)
Released in : March 2019
An urban fantasy set in the mega city of Mumbai, Beast by Krishna Udayasankar reminds you of the folklore of Lord Narsimha and Prahalad. The description of one being ‘Neither a man, nor an animal’, is the common thread between the two.
Kitaab has appointed Mumbai-based writer Namrata as its new Editor with immediate effect.
Namrata is not new to Kitaab and she has been writing for the website for a while now.
She replaces Mitali Chakravarty who recently announced her departure from Kitaab to found an online journal of her own. Kitaab wishes her all the best in her new venture.
Namrata is a published author who enjoys writing stories and think pieces on travel, relationships and gender. She is a UEA alumni and has studied travel writing at the University of Sydney.
She is also an independent editor and a book reviewer. Her writings can be found on various sites and magazines like the Asian Review of Books, Contemporary South Asia Journal of King’s College-London, Mad in Asia, The Friday Times, The Scroll, Feminism in India, The Brown Orient Journal, Inkspire Journal, Moonlight Journal, The Same, Chronic Pain India and Cafe Dissensus.
Her short stories have been a part of various anthologies and has also published two short story collections of her own. She is currently working on her debut novel. She loves travelling the length and breadth of the world and enjoys capturing the magic of life in her words. She is always in pursuit of a new country and a new story. She lives in Mumbai.
Book Review by Namrata
Name: The Merman and the Book of Power- A Qissa
Author: Musharraf Ali Farooqi
Publisher: Aleph Book Company, 2019
The Merman and the Book of Power is the retelling of a qissa, a classic storytelling form in Urdu. This epic novel combines myth with history to give us a glimpse of the evolution of civilisation.
Author Musharraf Ali Farooqi works have been critically acclaimed and have been a finalist for both, Man Asia Literary Prize 2012 and DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2008 apart from being longlisted for IMPAC/Dublin Literary Prize. Along with being a writer, he is also an editor, translator and founder of the Storykit Program.
As Farooqi says in the Author’s Note, “This book merges the parallel histories, myths and multiple personas for Apollonius of Tyana, Hermes Trismegistus and Alexander the Great in the Western and Eastern literary canon, and the various religious, occult and apocalyptic traditions associated with them.” Read more
Book Review by Namrata
Title: Coming back to the city, Mumbai Stories
Author: Anuradha Kumar
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books, 2019
‘She’s from Amrika, your new tenant, Pooja. A gori.’
Thus, begins the interwoven tale of lost souls living in the city of dreams, Mumbai by Anuradha Kumar.
The city of Mumbai is as mysterious as it can be. On one hand it is called the eternal city of dreams, meaning a place where people come with their dreams and work hard to get them fulfilled. While on the other hand, it is also known as the city which never sleeps. So, either the dreams you have are the ones you see wide awake or it is a contrast, signalling at the sleek chances of your dreams coming true. Whatever be the deeper meaning, it has never stopped people from aspiring and dreaming to live in this city.
Bringing together her experiences of living in Mumbai for 14 years, Kumar creates a moving tale from the great metropolis with stories both heard and unheard. Read more
Book Review by Namrata
(Book sourced by Kitaab Bangladesh Editor-at-Large, Farah Ghuznavi)
Title: In Search of Heer
Author: Manjul Bajaj
Publisher: Tranquebar Press, 2019
Manjul Bajaj’s In Search of Heer is a retelling of the historical tale of Heer Syal and Deedho Ranjha, the star-crossed lovers from Punjab. In her poignant narration, Bajaj manages to highlight some unknown aspects of the centuries old epic love story and leaves a reader content after reading what is otherwise, a sad story.
Before becoming a writer, Manjul Bajaj worked in the field of environment and rural development. Both her previous works, Come, Before Evening Falls and Another Man’s Wife were shortlisted for Hindu Literary Prize. She has also written two books for children.
We are in the year 2020 and yet the sheer number of cases of honour killing, especially in South Asian countries is horrifying. While the debate of who is to be blamed for this remains, the end result barely has altered since centuries. Taking the case of Heer Syal from the epic love story of Heer-Ranjha — she was supposedly killed by her own brothers for having fallen in love with Ranjha after both of them had decided to elope due to opposition from their families. Unbeknownst to them, death followed them to the end. Eventually they were united in death. Sadly, if you were to look at any of the honour killing cases since time immemorial, the story doesn’t differ at all. The fate of the lovers from different backgrounds remains the same to date. Centuries later today, when we are redefining love in various ways, one wonders how long will it take for such killings to stop. Read more
Book Review by Namrata
Title: Rethinking Good Governance — Holding to Account India’s Public Institutions
Author: Vinod Rai
Publisher: Rupa Publications, 2019
“Here is a hugely important book for India and Indians, especially those who should be guardians of the nation and rulers delivering good governance.”
– Baron Meghnad Desai, British economist and Labour politician
Bringing together his experience of heading various public institutions for the Government of India, Vinod Rai gives us a glimpse into the workings of these organisations through this book.
Vinod Rai is a man who needs no introduction. An IAS officer from the 1972 batch, he went on to head many important chair positions all through his illustrious career. Starting with being the Comptroller and Auditor General of India followed by being the chairperson for Banks Board Bureau and finally currently being the Chairman of the Supreme Court-mandated Committee of Administrators of the BCCI. Out of the many accolades he won, the most prestigious one has to be the Padma Bhushan awarded to him in 2016 by the Government of India in recognition of his services for the nation. He has previously authored two books, one where he shares ideas and reflections looking back at seven decades of independence and second where he shows us his diary, as the nation’s conscience keeper for being the symbol of anti-corruption movement within the country. Read more
Book review by Namrata
Title: The Prospect of Miracles
Author: Cyrus Mistry
Published by: Aleph Book Company, 2019
The Prospect of Miracles revolves around the life of Pastor Pius Philipose or rather, his death. Interestingly, in this long-awaited novel, author Cyrus Mistry’s primary character is a dead man. His seemingly natural death is perceived as unexpected to his adorners while his wife experiences the opposite. The rest of the story is about what everyone including his wife think of him.
Mistry — the novelist, needs no introduction. His novel Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2014 while his other works have also won many awards and accolades. However, it must be noted that this is the first time, he has moved beyond writing about the Parsi community. Almost all his previous works revolved around the culture, with primary characters also being Parsi. His early works were clear reflection of all his observations of growing up as a Parsi in Mumbai. Few years ago, he moved to a non-descript location in South India which seems to have largely inspired him to write this story.
Set in Kerala, the story has the fragrances of that state neatly wrapped within. From lush cardamom farms, to the coconut trees swinging in the air. From the delectable flavours of the local delicacies cooked in coconut oil to the festive celebrations throughout the year — this story has it all in the backdrop while the core story unravels for the reader. While talking about the culture and traditions of Kerala, he also talks about the oppression and the staunch belief system prevalent there.
Reading Cyrus Mistry’s work is like walking through years of patriarchy prevalent in our society. Clearly reminiscent of one the many characters from Anita Nair’s literary gem Ladies Coupe, this book promises to leave a reader perplexed. With a complex array of characters and a non-symmetrical plot line, Mistry invites you in a world which is so similar to the real world and yet so different. Read more
Book Review by Namrata
Title: The Doctor and Mrs. A.: Ethics and Counter-Ethics in an Indian Dream Analysis
Author: Sarah Pinto
Publisher: Women Unlimited
Year of Publication: 2019
“How does one remember the future?”
Thus, begins The Doctor and Mrs. A by Sarah Pinto. Based on ethics and counter ethics in an Indian dream analysis, this book is an inspired example of thinking beyond the known.
Just before independence, somewhere in early forties, a young Punjabi woman identified only as Mrs. A decided to be a part of an experiment by a psychiatrist, Dev Satya Nanda, for his new method of dream analysis. Unbeknownst to him, she was in an unhappy marriage with a strong urge for freedom from all the bondage. Through this experiment they discovered hidden layers of her personality which included different reflections on sexuality, trauma, ambitions and marriage. Pinto revisits this conversation and explores it in the context of late colonial Indian society. Juxtaposing the past with the present, she delivers a thought-provoking analysis on gender and power.
The author, Sarah Pinto is a Professor of anthropology at Tufts University and has also authored a few books on women and inequality in contemporary India. She won the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize from the Society of Medical Anthropology for her work Daughters of Parvati: Women and Madness in Contemporary India published in 2012. Read more