Tag Archives: Penguin India

Shadow City: All about childhood, ancestral roots, heritage, culture and familial ties

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.

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“Beauty and creativity coexisted with all the difficult realities of the city!” – Taran N Khan

Team Kitaab is in conversation with Taran N. Khan, the author of Shadow City (Published by Penguin India, 2020) where we discuss Kabul, her love for the city and her fascination for it which led to this book.

Taran N. Khan is a journalist and non-fiction writer based in Mumbai. Her writing has appeared in GuernicaAl JazeeraBerfroisHimal SouthasianGulf News and Dagsavisen, as well as in leading publications in India like The CaravanOpenThe Hindu and Scroll.in. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Logan Non-Fiction Program, Jan Michalski Foundation and Pro Helvetia. From 2006 to 2013, Khan spent long periods living and working in Kabul. Shadow City is her first book.

Taran N. Khan’s Shadow City is a fascinating read on Kabul. Interestingly, the first thing, Khan, was told when she reached Kabul, was to never venture for a walk. And that is exactly what she did- explore the city through walks, which further led to this book.

From “I have a complicated relationship with walking…” to writing a book on exploring an entire city through a series of walks. Has writing this book redefined walks/walking for her, we wondered. To which Khan says, “The book was shaped in part by this complicated relationship, which is still evolving. During the recent lockdown in Mumbai, for instance, I was not able to walk as often as I used to. When I did go out, it felt like a different terrain. Emptied of its crowds, the bare bones of the metropolis emerged, and I could see features that had always existed, but had been invisible to me.”

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Book Excerpt: Shadow City by Taran N. Khan

Taran N. Khan takes us through the lanes of Kabul, creating an elegant cartography of poets, museums, archaeologists and local book markets.


Written on the City

The road to Kabul is made of stories. A fragment of a memory leads me to the afternoon when I first read about the city, in a book I found on Baba’s shelves. The adults were deep in sleep; the house filled with the kind of stillness in which fables begin. The short story I perused was written by the legendary Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore in 1892.

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Shishir Sharma: How the movie Raazi is better than Sikka’s book, Calling Sehmat

By Mitali Chakravarty

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Shishir Sharma

He is a well-known figure on television. He is a prominent actor in films… a good friend to famed actor Nasseruddin Shah and actress Ratna Pathak. He is kind to young filmmakers who start their career and does short films for them as he recently did in Singapore. He starred in Kitaab and Filmwalla founder Zafar Anjum’s first short film that has been shown to the public — a fourteen-and-a-half-minute movie called The Sacrifice with a talented actress from Singapore, Renita Kapoor.

And yet this man has a secret, a small office in Mumbai where he spends time by himself and writes. Meet Shishir Sharma, the character actor who can be seen on stage in theatre, on the silver screen, both in Indian television and cinema.

And what does the actor write?

You would think… it would be something for the screen or maybe about his life. But no, he writes about his parents and his father’s past. For spoilers, the story starts as a romantic one. Picture this: 1951 — in sepia tone — A young man in his early twenties goes off to get milk as does a fifteen-year-old girl. This would be a common thing but, wait, the story does not end there. The two meet and they travel in the opposite direction from their home on train to spend time with each other unbeknown to their families and, a few years later, they are married, and they have their first child — Shishir Sharma.

Talking to Shishir Sharma was not just a privilege but like a walk through the annals of Indian theatre and film history. His parents were involved with theatre and films, including the Leftists IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association founded in 1943 to bring cultural awakening among Indians during the independence struggle). Though his father earned a living through his small business, the interest in theatre and films stayed. He was even part of the production unit of NFDC (National Film Development Corporation) when the legendary film Garam Hawa was filmed in 1970s, says Sharma. Based on an unpublished story by the noted Urdu writer, Ismat Chugtai, this award-winning film gives a poignant telling on the impact of the 1947 Partition.

Living in Mumbai moving around with friends Naseeruddin and Ratna Pathak, Sharma was cajoled into theatre in 1974 by a person no less than Satyadev Dubey, an Indian theatre director, actor, playwright, screen writer and director and winner of numerous national awards ultimately crowned by the fourth highest civilian honour in India, Padma Bhushan. He had trained outstanding actors like Amrish Puri, Amol Palekar and, later, Nasseruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak and Neena Kulkarni, says Sharma. He was picked together with Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak. He tells a story of how Dubey came into Pathak’s house and found the three friends having a meal. He asked them to join his group. Sharma refused initially but eventually gave in.

From theatre he moved to television in 1993 with Swabhiman that came after Buniyad, both popular television serials in the early days of soaps in India. They were very well paid in those days, says Sharma.

Satyam, his first film was in Telugu. That came after some more years. Sharma started acting in a number of Telugu movies. And he actually has a Telugu tutor coming in to teach him the language. “All the characters I play are not really Telugu. They don’t want the pukka (pure) Telugu accent.”

 

Then came more films, this time in Hindi; among them, the national award-winning films, Uri and Raazi, and short films, like Roganjosh, where he and Naseeruddin Shah, were back together. Roganjosh, written and directed by Sanjeev Vig, won the Best Filmfare Award in the category of short films and is an emotional telling of how the terrorist bomb blast of Bombay Taj in 2007 destroyed the lives of everyday men and women. He was picked for this movie, Sharma says, because of his forty-four-year-old friendship with Naseeruddin Shah. Their mutual camaraderie was an asset to the film. Read more

India’s Book-Buying Habits Say A Lot About The Country’s Economy

By Iain Marlow

Controversial politicians. Celebrity cricket players. Spiritual gurus. India’s publishing industry, like the country’s broader economic story, has a lot to work with.

So it’s perhaps no surprise India’s GDP growth of 7.1 percent — the fastest among major economies — is fueling a boom in book sales. Indian publishing successes, in return, can help provide insights into the country’s growth and consumer confidence. It is a land where the travails of a saucy, soon-to-be-married Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker — in Chetan Bhagat’s fictional One Indian Girl — is a runaway best-seller.

Nielsen estimates the sector is now worth $6.76 billion. Led by educational books, the sector is set to grow at an average compound annual growth rate of 19.3 percent until 2020.  That compares to compounded growth of less than 2 percent for global book publishing over the next five years, according to PwC.   Read more

Source: Bloomberg

New Release: None Other by Krishna Baldev Vaid

none otherNone Other conjures a vivid portrait of a man who is old, alone and dying. Trapped in his house, consumed with lust, shame and loathing, he scribbles his frenzied ramblings in his notebooks. But what begins as a bitter tirade transforms into an anguished meditation on loneliness and the quest for solace. In Here I Am if I Am, translated into English for the first time, a hunchback at a desolate roadside contemplates the precariousness of his own existence even as his tormented mind unravels. Hypnotic and unsettling, Krishna Baldev Vaid’s highly innovative novellas expertly explore some of our biggest anxieties: the fear of abandonment, the treachery of memory and the imminence of death.

 

About the Author 

Krishna Baldev Vaid, born in 1927 in Dinga, now in Pakistan, is a major Hindi writer known for his iconoclastic and innovative work. He survived the horrifying carnage that accompanied the partition of the Indian subcontinent, and regards his involuntary transplantation to the Indian side of the border as his most traumatic existential experience. Vaid was educated at Punjab and Harvard universities, and has taught at Indian and American universities. He has published novels, novellas, short stories, plays, diaries, literary criticism and translations. Among the many great books that comprise his prolific literary career, perhaps his best-known and most-loved work is the extraordinary coming-of-age novel Uska Bachpan (published in Penguin Classics as Steps in Darkness). His work has been translated into and published in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Japanese and several Indian languages.

 

Penguin celebrates its 30th year of publishing in India

Leading publisher Penguin completes 30 years in India and to commemorate its journey, Penguin said it will unveil ‘Penguin30’, a selection of India’s most brilliant and visionary writing in the English language published over the years.

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Some of the thirty books include timeless classics like Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam and Nehru’s An Autobiography as well as much-loved fiction like Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate, Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth among others. “The beauty of these titles lie not just in the text but the distinctive cover design done up in a sumptuous colour palette to brighten up any bookshelf, and which will be a delight to possess and recommend,” the press note said.

Started in 1985, Penguin is currently the largest English language trade publisher in the subcontinent. It ban publishing in 1987 with the first six books. The company publishes over 250 new titles every year and has an active backlist of 3000 titles.

The anniversary festivities will kick-start at the Jaipur Literature Festival with the Keep Reading campaign – an idea to promote reading anywhere, anytime, and provide a variety of reading content across genres to reading enthusiasts. Being introduced in India as part of Penguin’s Keep Reading initiative, the Pop-up Cart will be a hub of 30th anniversary activities throughout the year, starting with the Jaipur Literature Festival. The 30th anniversary logo will be unveiled at the festival.

The publisher will launch a whole new range of Penguin collectibles and quirky merchandise – bookends, tea coasters, magnets, passport holders, mugs, and bags among others.

To keep updated on the year-long events visit: www.penguin30.com

 

The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Rabi Thapa

By Aminah Sheikh

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

It’s tempting to blame it on inner impulses that would devour me if I didn’t, but that wouldn’t be the whole story, especially with non-fiction. Simply put, I’m better at writing than I am at most other things I’ve tried my hand at (though not necessarily better at writing than most other people), and the act gives me pleasure of a laboured kind. That’s more than what you can say for most kinds of work, and believe me, the complete act of writing – from conception to execution to almost-perfection – is work.

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

Speaking Tiger has just published my second book, Thamel:Dark Star of Kathmandu, a biography of the tourist quarter that grew out of a medieval Buddhist settlement in Kathmandu. Writing about a place like Thamel is not, on the face of it, an urgently necessary task. At least not as obviously so as a book on our relationships with Nature (my next writing project). Nonetheless, I feel it’s useful to obtain an understanding of the totality of the environments we have spent significant time in – past, present and future. This is what Thamel means to achieve, as much as the book on Nature: to deepen our understanding of our built and natural environments, and thereby of ourselves, so we can reconsider and improve on our interactions with them.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I’m no fan of bald writing that means to drive home a social message, nor lazy writing dragged along by a pacy, racy narrative. With both fiction and non-fiction, I hope to provide serious reading pleasure, without being carried away by either the message or the medium.

Who are your favorite authors?

Those I haven’t read – names I know, names I don’t know, names that haven’t seen the light of day. They represent the titillating totality of my ignorance.

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New Release: Death Under The Deodars: The Adventures of Miss Ripley-Bean by Ruskin Bond

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In a brand-new collection of stories set in the 1960s -70s Mussoorie of a bygone era, renowned author Ruskin Bond brings to life a mystery and murder featuring the elderly Miss Ripley-Bean and her friends. The book titled, Death Under The Deodars: The Adventures of Miss Ripley-Bean is published by Penguin India.

The eight stories in the book are classic Ruskin style – full of wit and memorable characters, and will enthrall and delight children as well as adults. As the elderly Miss Ripley-Bean, her Tibetan terrier Fluff, her good friend Mr Lobo, the hotel pianist, and Nandu, the owner of the Royal, mull over the curious murders, the reader will be enthralled and delighted – until the murderer is finally revealed.

About the Author 

Ruskin Bond’s first novel The Room on the Roof was written when he was seventeen. He received the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. Since then he has published a number of novellas, short story collections, books of essays and articles, poems and children’s books. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1993, the Padma Shri in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014. Ruskin Bond was born in Kasauli, and grew up in Jamnagar, Dehradun, Delhi and Shimla. As a young man, he spent four years in the Channel Islands and London. He returned to India in 1955.

He currently resides in Landour, Mussoorie with his adopted family.

 

 

 

New Release: Six Minutes of Terror – The Untold Story Of The 7/11 Mumbai Train Blasts by Nazia Sayed and Sharmeen Hakim

In October, Penguin India will release ‘Six Minutes of Terror’, a first detailed investigative account of the 7/11 Mumbai train blasts that occurred in 2006. The book which marks ten years of the horrifying incident has been co-authored by journalists – Nazia Sayed and Sharmeen Hakim.

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The attacks orchestrated by the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (the ISI) were aimed to cripple the city by attacking its lifeline—the local train. A series of seven blasts in a span of only six minutes rocked the city at seven railway stations, killing 189 and injuring over 700. ‘Six Minutes of Terror’ gives an account of the events that led to the terrorist attack, it profiles the people involved and how the plot was unearthed by the police.

Presented by leading crime writer Hussain S Zaidi, the book also talks about boggling connection between the three attacks that happened that year – the 2006 Aurangabad Arms Hauls Case May, 7/11 train blast of July and Malegaon Blast case of September.

About the Authors:

Nazia Sayed is a crime reporter for over a decade now, with experience in television and print journalism. Currently working as a special correspondent with Mumbai Mirror, she is easily rated among the top crime journalists in the city.

Sharmeen Hakim is a legal correspondent with Mumbai Mirror, known for her impeccable court reporting and her law background.

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