In this no-holds-barred memoir, Devaki Jain begins with her childhood in south India, a life of comfort and ease with a father who served as dewan in the Princely States of Mysore and Gwalior. But there were restrictions too, that come with growing up in an orthodox Tamil Brahmin family, as well as the rarely spoken about dangers of predatory male relatives. Ruskin College, Oxford, gave her her first taste of freedom in 1955, at the age of 22. Oxford brought her a degree in philosophy and economics—as well as hardship, as she washed dishes in a cafe to pay her fees. It was here, too, that she had her early encounters with the sensual life. With rare candour, she writes of her romantic liaisons in Oxford and Harvard, and falling in love with her ‘unsuitable boy’—her husband, Lakshmi Jain, whom she married against her beloved father’s wishes.
Rakhi Dalal reviews The Flavours of Nationalism,(Speaking Tiger, 2018) analyzing how through this personal memoir, Nandita Haksar hopes for a future where every Indian will have Justice of Eating.
Nandita Haksar is a pioneering human rights lawyer, campaigner, teacher and writer. She is the author of over 15 books including: Framing Geelani, Hanging Afzal: Patriotism in the Time of Terror (2009); The Judgement That Never Came: Army Rule in North East India (with Sebastian Hongray, 2011); ABC of Naga Culture and Civilization (2011); Across the Chicken Neck: Travels in North East India (2013); The Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism from the Cold War to the Present Day (2015), Framed as a Terrorist (with Mohammad Aamir Khan) (2016) and the Exodus is Not Over: Migrations from Ruptured Homelands of Northeast India (forthcoming). The Flavours of Nationalism won the Book of the Year award at LF Epicurean Guild Awards 2020.
The introduction to the book is titled “The Justice of Eating”, which takes its name from the poem “The Great Table Cloth” by the Communist Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Through this poem, Neruda expresses his wish for a world free of hunger. Nandita Haksar quotes the poet to bring forward the still pertinent question of inequality, when it comes to accessibility of food in Indian society. That the farmers continue to commit suicide, that some of those unprivileged go without square meals for days, that the social fabric is still marred by discrimination and oppression practiced towards people with respect to their food choices because of their caste/class/religious/regional identities, are some of the questions that the author grapples with in this book.
A glimpse from A Bend in Time – Writings by Children on the Covid-19 Pandemic (Published by Talking Cub, children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger, 2020)
Introduction by Bijal Vachharajani
Right now, according to the good folx at UNESCO, globally about 1.3 billion children and youth are at home, as schools and colleges shut to try to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The children in this book’s pages are among them. As is most probably you, the reader.
These twelve children and young adults reflect so many thoughts, questions, narratives. The depth of their thoughts doesn’t astound me—children are way smarter than groan-ups. But not all children get to tell their stories. Not all of them have access to the Internet, to facilities, to online schooling, to socially distanced homes and neighbourhoods. While some are safe at home, so many have had to walk for miles to get to their homes. Inequalities have come to the forefront, and it’s vital that privilege be examined and challenged. And so many children in this book are thinking about that.
Turmeric Nation: A Passage through India’s Tastes by Shylashri Shankar
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books
Year of publication: 2020 / August
Price: INR 499
What exactly is ‘Indian’ food? Can it be classified by region, or religion, or ritual? What are the culinary commonalities across the Indian subcontinent? Do we Indians have a sense of collective self when it comes to cuisine? Or is the pluralism in our food habits and choices the only identity we have ever needed?
Turmeric Nation is an ambitious and insightful project which answers these questions, and then quite a few more. Through a series of fascinating essays— delving into geography, history, myth, sociology, film, literature and personal experience—Shylashri Shankar traces the myriad patterns that have formed Indian food cultures, taste preferences and cooking traditions. From Dalit ‘haldiya dal’ to the last meal of the Buddha; from aphrodisiacs listed in the Kama Sutra to sacred foods offered to gods and prophets; from the use of food as a means of state control in contemporary India to the role of lemonade in stoking rebellion in 19th-century Bengal; from the connection between death and feasting and between fasting and pleasure, this book offers a layered and revealing portrait of India, as a society and a nation, through its enduring relationship with food.
The fifty-odd poems in this collection all reflect the different hues of life as well as different stages of growth of a person. The poems find themselves divided naturally into four sections: Green (birth), Yellow (disillusion), Purple (rebirth), and Red (self-realization). The irrepressible current of life, in its various manifestations, runs through them all.
A preview of There’s a carnival today originally written by IndraBahadurRai in Nepali and translated into English by ManjushreeThapa (Published by Speaking Tiger, 2017)
The old couple could never forget their own wedding. They’d had an arranged marriage on the sixteenth day of the month of Falgun exactly thirty-one years ago today, with a nine-piece musical band in the wedding procession. Kaase Darzis had blown narsingh trumpets from a platform on the roof, sounding out the auspicious news of the wedding. Lamba Lama, Hukumdas Sardar and Doctor Yuddhabir Rai (the poor men had all since passed away) had danced all night to the sweet melody of the shehnai. Kaji Saheb had taken a photograph when Bagam Kanchha, who was home on holiday from the army, had dressed up as a maruni in women’s clothes and danced, spinning a plate in each hand. They’d had to set another pot of rice on the boil after eighty kilograms proved insufficient to feed the wedding procession. Nowhere in today’s Darjeeling would you see members of a wedding procession sitting in rows to eat in the courtyard while being attacked from all sides by chickens, which, when shooed away, raised clouds of dust with their wings.
“Why, I wondered, while watching the leaves change colour in the fall, were there very few serious yet engaging books on love, its many moods and multiple meanings?”
From book’s Preface by Debotri Dhar
Featuring essays from prominent writers like Makarand Paranjpe, Alka Pande, Malashri Lal, Rakshanda Jalil, Mehr Farooqi and Zafar Anjum, this collection of essays on love is a much-needed read at this time when the definition of love, is being challenged.
Published by Speaking Tiger, this book gives historical and cultural perspectives on Indian love (swayamvara, arranged marriages, and desi romance); the immortal love of Radha and Krishna that transcends theology; the story of a powerful, sexually desiring and desired courtesan/nagarvadhu. The essays explore various themes like inter-religious love, love-jihad, same-sex love, a Dalit’s journey to finding love in times of dating apps etc.
A preview of Long Night of Storm – a collection of stories originally written by Indra Bahadur Rai in Nepali and translated into English by Prawin Adhikari (Published by Speaking Tiger, 2018)
Morning came early in the jungle. Bullocks were put to the yoke again. The departure was full of more bustle than the grim march the day before. Duets were being sung since the morning. Jayamaya had joined that crowd. Wilful young boys wanted to shoot down any bird that settled on the crowns or branches of trees. If they hit a mark, they would stop their carts to go into the jungle to search for it. Nobody had any fear. Everybody was laughing. It seemed the journey of a merry migration—it seemed as if they were travelling from Burma into India for a picnic. ‘Is your name Jayamaya?’ A beautiful, thin boy who had had to abandon his studies to be on the road, and who had been blessed with his mother’s tender face, asked Jayamaya. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘My name is Jaya Bahadur,’ he said.
Gone Away: An Indian Journal by Dom Moraes (with an introduction by Jerry Pinto)
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Year of publication: 2020
Price: INR 294 (E-book)
One of the most unconventional travelogues ever written, Gone Away covers three months of Dom Moraes’ life spent in the subcontinent at the time of the Chinese incursions on the Tibetan border in 1959. In that short time, a remarkable number of memorable things happened to him, some of them the sort of fantastic situations that could only enmesh a poet, perhaps only a young poet—a visit to a speak-easy in Bombay; an interview with Nehru and an hour spent closeted with the Dalai Lama in Delhi; and a meeting with the great Nepalese poet, Devkota, whom he found already laid out to die by the side of the holy river Basumati. After a short stay in Calcutta, where he tried, with limited success, to investigate the lives of prostitutes, he went up to Sikkim, the north-eastern border state into which no visiting writer had been allowed for almost a year.
Gracy Samjetsabam reviews Bijaya Sawian’s latest novel, Shadow Men (Speaking Tiger Books,10 December 2019) introducing us to the ‘Angry Young Men’ of Shillong
Bijoya Sawian is a writer and translator who resides in Shillong and Dehradun. She did her schooling from Seng Khasi High School and Loreto Convent in Shillong, graduated in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College and has a Masters in English Literature from Miranda House, University of Delhi. Her contributions include writings on the life and culture of the Khasi community of North East India. The Sahitya Akademi and the Institute of Folklore Studies, Bhopal, are some of the institutes of repute that have published her short stories and critical essays. Some of her prominent translated works include The Teachings of Elders, Khasi Myths, Legends and Folktales and About One God. Her original works in English include A Family Secret and Other Stories. Shadow men, A Novel and Two Stories is her latest novel. It has three stories in which two take place in Shillong and one is set in Aizawl.