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Liberating Reads for this August

August is here and along with the new month comes some fun liberating reads!  Our list of new books includes memoirs, biographies, research and case studies. Whether you prefer fiction, non-fiction you’re sure to find something to suit your taste here.
So take a look at our bookshelf for August, and tell us which book you’d like to pick up first!

  1. The Beauty of all My Days


Each chapter of this memoir is a remembrance of times past, an attempt to resurrect a person or a period or an episode, a reflection on the unpredictability of life. Some paths lead nowhere; others lead to a spring of pure water. Take any path and hope for the best. At least it will lead you out of the shadows.
 

  1. The RSS: A View to the Inside


The RSS is the most influential cultural organization in India today, with affiliates in fields as varied as politics, education and trade. Backed by deep research and case studies, this book explores the evolution of the Sangh into its present form, its relationship with the ruling party, the BJP, their overseas affiliates and so much more.
 

  1. Kama: The Riddle of Desire


Here, in his magnificent prose, Gurcharan Das examines how to cherish desire in order to live a rich, flourishing life, arguing that if dharma is a duty to another, kama is a duty to oneself. It sheds new light on love, marriage, family, adultery and jealousy as it wrestles with questions such as these: How to nurture desire without harming others or oneself? Are the erotic and the ascetic two aspects of our same human nature? What is the relationship between romantic love and bhakti, the love of god?
 

  1. The Kipling File


Narrated by Kay Robinson, The Kipling File is a moving story of doomed friendship and difficult love recounted against the powerful backdrop of Anglo-Indian life in a Punjab that has begun to stir with anti-colonial sentiment. Through his eyes unfold the turmoils that shaped the author of beloved classics like The Jungle Book and Kim.

  1. Polite Society


Keenly observed, sharply plotted and full of wit and brio, Polite Society reimagines Jane Austen’s Emma in contemporary Delhi to portray a society whose polished surface often reveals far more than is intended.
 

  1. Staggering Forward: Narendra Modi and India’s Global Ambition


Analysing Prime Minister Modi’s foreign and military policies in the context of India’s evolving socio-political and economic milieu, this book offers a critical perspective that helps explain why India has not progressed much towards becoming a consequential power.
 

  1. The Last Englishmen: Love, War, and the End of Empire


Dense with romance and intrigue, and of startling relevance to the cross-cultural debates and great power games of our own day, The Last Englishmen is an engrossing and masterful story that traces the end of empire and the stirring of a new world order.
 

  1. Notes of a Dream: The Authorized Biography of A.R. Rahman


Featuring intimate interviews with the soft-spoken virtuoso, as well as insights and anecdotes from key people in his life, this balanced, uplifting and affectionate book is the definitive biography of A.R. Rahman–the man behind the music and the music that made the man.
 

  1. Not Quite Not White


At the age of twelve, Sharmila Sen emigrated from India to the US. The year was 1982, and everywhere she turned, she was asked to self-report her race. Part memoir, part manifesto, Not Quite Not White is a witty and poignant story of self-discovery.
 

  1. Imagining Lahore


An anecdotal travelogue about Lahore – which begins in the present and travels through time to the mythological origins of the city attributed to Ram’s son, Lav. Through the city’s present – its people, communities, monuments, parks and institutions – the author paints a vivid picture of the city’s past.
 

  1. Kartikeya and his Battle with the Soul-Stealer


Surapadma’s reign of terror flourishes and the fate of all creatures-mortal and immortal-hangs in the balance. Shiva’s son, Kartikeya, must destroy several formidable asuras before he can confront the Soul Stealer and salvage the dying, gasping universe…
 

  1. The Man Who Saved India


Sardar Vallabhai Patel saved India. The very shape of India that we recognize today was stitched together by Patel, the Iron Man of India. The Man Who Saved India unravels the personality of one of the greatest men in Indian contemporary history.
 

  1. Love, Take Two


When Vicky Behl and Kritika Vadukut meet on the sets of the period drama Ranjha Ranjha, everyone agrees they have serious chemistry–and not just on screen. But will the pressure and scrutiny of Bollywood allow them a happy ending or will there be a twist in the tale?
 

  1. Feminist Rani


Feminist Rani is a collection of interviews with path-breaking and fascinating opinion leaders. These compelling conversations provide a perspective on the evolving concept of feminism in an age when women are taking charge and leading the way.
 

  1. Glow


Build strength and immunity, brighten and clarify your skin and obtain peace of mind with these potent Indian remedies. These combinations, recipes, home-made face masks, oils and morning infusions will transform not just your skin but also your body and mind. After all, outer beauty is only a symptom of inner health.
 

  1. When Coal Turned Gold


In When Coal Turned Gold, former chairman and managing director of CIL, Partha Sarathi Bhattacharyya, tells the story, warts and all, of how he dealt with the Dhanbad coal mafia, how he changed the way the industry was perceived, how he dealt with the trade unions and the government and, most importantly, how he was able to script one of the greatest success stories the country had ever seen.
 

  1. A Game Changer’s Memoir: Ex-SEBI chief recalls defining moments of his tenure


A masterful strategist, Bajpai, in this book, recounts his truly inspiring journey as he weaved through complex rules and frameworks in his efforts to turn SEBI into an effective financial regulator for the country.
 

  1. Ways of Being Desi


Ways of Being Desi is a brilliant, provocative and deeply honest exploration of the ingredients that make us who we are. It is not a simple listing of food, films or even the universal importance of ‘Aunties’ in South Asian culture; it is a meditation on the subcontinent’s recent past and all that happens when we decide to forget our shared histories.
 

  1. The Perfect Us


They’ve been together for ten years, surviving everything… Now Avantika wants to take the next step. But will Deb be able to catch up? Or will it rip them apart? No matter how hard he tries, Deb can’t convince Avantika that he’s the one for her. The Perfect Us is love’s struggle to find the happily ever after. . .
 

  1. Ninety-Seven Poems


This is a book of pictures—of a park bench and a prescription. And a toothbrush in a mug. It’s got half-lit cigarettes and broken geysers. And a cute apartment in Prague. There’s a fortune cookie, some pigeons in cages and stars tumbling from the sky. There’s the usual traffic, a digital wristwatch and a violin from Uncle James—we can go on, but you’d rather see for yourself.
For we think this book has pictures. But some say it’s full of poems.
 

  1. The Sage’s Secret


What if the legend of Kalki, the tenth avatar of Vishnu, is an elaborate hoax created by Lord Krishna? In the year 2025, twenty-year-old Anirudh starts dreaming of Krishna. But these visions that keep flashing through his mind are far from an ordinary fantasy-they are vivid episodes from the god’s life. Through these scenes, as Krishna’s mystifying schemes are revealed, Anirudh slowly comes to terms with his real identity . . .
 

  1. Not Just Grades


Not Just Grades is about schools that have proved that it is possible to weave positive personal development together with academic excellence. Innovative and full of creative ideas, these schools have a made in difference in imparting education in the absence of extensive resources or capital.
 

Bihar Diaries – An Excerpt

Bihar Diaries narrates the thrilling account of how Amit Lodha arrested Vijay Samrat, one of Bihar’s most feared ganglords, notorious for extortion, kidnapping and the massacre of scores of people.
The book follows the adrenaline-fuelled chase that took place across three states during Amit’s tenure as superintendent of police of Shekhpura, a sleepy mofussil town in Bihar.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
———————————————————————
My back and hip started hurting all of a sudden. ‘Shit,’ I grumbled before getting into the blue Gypsy.
I asked my driver to take me to the Kasar police station.
An unshaven man, his skin darkened by constant exposure to the sun, was waiting for me just outside the police station. Ranjan Kumar, the former SHO of Kasar police station, had been put under suspension by the Police HQ. It seemed as if he had aged a decade in the last week. The second massacre had taken place in his jurisdiction. I hobbled out of the Gypsy and somehow managed to stand straight. Ranjan was in civil clothes, because a policeman is not allowed to wear the uniform when suspended. He was in the police station to hand over charge of the maalkhana, the police depository, and all the cases.
Ranjan saluted me by whipping to attention, impressing mewith his sense of discipline even in adversity. I feebly managedto return the salute.
I signalled to my bodyguard and my driver to leave–Ineeded to talk privately to Ranjan. Barely able to control mypain, I stood by the bonnet of the Gypsy. Ranjan was a little tense. Why would the SP come to see a disgraced, suspended SI?
‘Ranjan, I want to know the exact reason for the massacre ofRam Dular and his family, every single detail.’
‘Sir, I don’t know much about it. It happened out of theblue.’
‘I know that Krishna and Raju had beaten up Lakha a fewdays ago. The murder of five of Vijay’s men was the tippingpoint. That angered Vijay enough for him to commit the cold-blooded murder of Ram Dular’s family. Look, the governmenthas posted me and the DIG here only to arrest Vijay Samrat. Itis our top priority. You have to help me in this mission.’
‘But, sir, what can I do? I am just an ordinary SI, that too,suspended,’ a resigned Ranjan muttered.
‘Ranjan, I know your competence. You’re a very capableofficer with an excellent network of spies. And I know that youare on good terms with Raju and Krishna.’
‘No, no, sir. Why would I know shady characters like Rajuand Krishna?’ Ranjan denied vehemently.
‘I have been in the service long enough to know thatcertain people have to be developed as sources. If not a criminalbackground, these people will at least have dubious antecedents. I, too, have engaged such people to get information aboutcriminals in my previous postings. Come on, do you think anormal, decent person would become a police informer?’
Ranjan kept staring at the ground, unwilling to speakfurther.
It was time for me to come up with an ace.
‘Ranjan, you are under suspension. Strict disciplinary actionwill be taken against you. Your career is at stake. If you help menab Vijay Samrat, I promise you that I will get your suspensionrevoked and you will get your job back. With full honours.’
Ranjan’s eyes lit up for the first time. I knew that he wasshort of money and his wife was suffering from depression.People around him had changed after his fall from grace. Who could know that better than me? I had gone through almost thesame experience just a while ago.
‘Okay, sir, I am with you. I hate Vijay Samrat anyway andI know your reputation of standing by your subordinates. Tellme, what can I do for you?’
I just smiled and made a call to M.A. Hussain, the IG of theBhagalpur zone. A strict, no-nonsense but idiosyncratic officer,he was known for taking tough stands.
‘Sir, this is AmitLodha, calling from Shekhpura. Yes, sir,I’m on the job. I assure you that Vijay Samrat will be behindbars soon. Sir, I would be very grateful if you would accede to one request. I’m going to use the service of one officer to catchVijay. In the times to come, I might require a favour for him.’
M.A. Hussain listened to me intently. There was a longpause.
‘Okay, Amit. I hope the favour you are seeking won’t bebigger than the arrest of Vijay.’
‘Certainly not, sir. Quite a trivial matter.’ I smiled asHussain disconnected the line. Both Ranjan and I knew thatM.A. Hussain was a man of his word. Reputation travels fast inpolice circles.
‘I want to meet Raju and Krishna. Get them to my house ina day or two,’ I told Ranjan.
‘Sir, are you sure? I mean, they have dubious reputationsand your meeting them might sully your image.’
‘I know it’s a risk. But I have no choice. Loha hi lohe ko kaat sakta hai (Only iron can cut iron)!’

The Three Ghosts your Child will Love!

The Curious Case of the Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop by Nandini Nayar is a spooky story packed with curious characters, a hilarious hero and a super-fun plot. While reading this book, your child will be in for a double treat- witnessing witty family relations and discovering the magical world of sweets!
Most ghosts are super scary but here are 3 ghosts your child will absolutely love:
Bhagwandas Mithaiwala
Plump man with hair cut short, Bhagwandas was dressed in a full sleeved shirt in his portrait. While looking at the portrait, this was a man, Laddoo thought, who probably enjoyed eating the sweets he made and sold. The post-master and Bhagwandas were best friends. The postmaster remembered Bhagwandas as a cheerful man, with cheeks like his famous gulab jamuns and a voice as thick and caramelly as the best sugar syrup!
Ramcharandas Mithaiwala
Vishnu’s grandfather, Ramcharandas was a serious looking man. A man with curly grey hair, that clustered around his head, he had a droopy moustache over his lips and looked serious. He was famous for being incredibly suspicious! He was convinced that people were trying to steal his recipes. So he built the sweetshop— without a single window. He wanted to make sure that not even a whiff of the fragrance of the sweets could escape the room.
 Girijakumar Mithaiwala
Vishnu’s great-grandfather was a thin man with a melancholy expression on his face. He was the one who set up the sweet shop. He built his house and the sweetshop under it because he believed that no sweet maker should live far away from his shop.
 

Storytelling as Life and Art – By Usha Alexander

Usha Alexander  grew up in Pocatello, Idaho, as the second of three children. She has lived in four countries and continues to visit as many as she can. Her first novel, Only the Eyes are Mine, was selected as a Semi-Finalist in the Multicultural Fiction category for the 2006 Independent Publishers Book Awards.
She is the author of three books, the newest of which is The Legend o f Virinara. The book is set in ancient India and is a thrilling tale of adventure and political intrigue that stirs up timeless questions about war and peace.
In this piece written by Usha Alexander, she talks about how we each tell ourselves the story of our own life, whether in large ways or small.


‘It was only some twenty years ago that I finally returned here to my ancestral lands, called back by the need to remember, to gather up the fragments, to reconstruct the cracked vessel of my life and pour from it my own story. I don’t know if any good will come from this exercise, whether there’s any wisdom to be had from it, but I feel compelled to put down my tale. Who knows why one feels this human urge to preserve and perpetuate ourselves, our visions and desires? Who knows why this need for art, this brazen denial of death and emptiness?’ ~ Shanti, The Legend of Virinara, page 5

 
Like Shanti, the primary narrator of The Legend of Virinara, most of us have moments when we reflect upon our own lives. We reckon with our choices, good or bad, to understand how we became the person we are today. We look for a coherent thread of cause and effect, of consistency in our own personality, of personal growth running through the events in our memories like beads. Perhaps we need to understand our own drives or desires—or explain to others why we’ve done what we’ve done. We might wonder what it all means—the sum of our life, thus far—or whether we can draw any lessons from it to teach others, to do better ourselves, or to build our sense of connection with others.
So we each tell ourselves the story of our own life. We do it in large ways and small. It may be a boy marvelling that he survived a war in which his parents perished. Or a mother wondering at her decision to take a job that brought her overseas and made her children’s lives unrecognizable from her own. It may be a young graduate trying to understand why she didn’t get that job or promotion she was surely qualified for. But however great or small or even petty our questions loom, compelled by a need for connection, continuity and meaning within the vagaries of life, we may tell ourselves almost anything to create a story that suits our needs, up to and including the grandiloquent and absurd; we even invoke the supernatural.
Consider two famous historical examples: Joan d’Arc was a French girl who led an army into battle against the British in 1429. As a teenager, she presented herself to the king of France, saying she’d been in conversation with several Christian saints since childhood and now god instructed her to lead an army; the king believed her. But soon after her battles, Joan’s story became less convincing to others; she was burned at the stake for heresy. Later, her version of events was re-evaluated and deemed sensible, so she was labelled a martyr and a saint. Similarly, in 1881 a lawyer, Charles J. Guiteau, assassinated the American President James Garfield, a champion of equal rights for the former slaves. Guiteau said that god told him he must get rid of this President to change the course of national politics and so—he insisted at his trial—what he’d done wasn’t murder. But Guiteau was hanged for his crime. His version of events was discounted as a symptom of an undetermined illness.
However else we might characterize the accounts d’Arc and Guiteau gave of their own actions, we must also recognize that their self-narratives gave them courage, absolved them of guilt, and helped them sift through or bind together their understanding of themselves in the world. As such, they remain testaments to our common human need to impose story upon our individual experience. And while theirs may differ vastly from our own self-narratives in details and biases or maps of belief, perhaps they are less different in their richness and force, in their essential creative impulse to find meaning and purpose.
We are inventive with our personal narratives: We build chronology, connecting the dots of cause and effect, usually reasonably, but not always. We imbue actions and outcomes with meaning. We select which facts and feelings to include. Our fears and egos shape our perceptions. We embellish facts to make ourselves feel good. Or to make ourselves feel bad. We disregard information that doesn’t fit our biases. We forget or misremember what makes us uncomfortable. We bridge the unknown with presumption, deduction or imagination, even fabricating details or whole events, adjusting the story to our needs.
It is in this very shadowland between ‘truth’ and imagination, a realm of uncertain borders, where each of us actually lives, alone. It’s here, among the shadows and flickers of our incomplete understanding and our desires, that we fashion narratives of our lives and our world, hoping to communicate it to those around us. We come up with stories that are always part ‘fact’ and part ‘fiction’. So every one of us is actually a storyteller, a world-builder, whether or not we’re aware of our own powers or how we wield them. And this innate storytelling impulse, which we use to bind together our inner and outer lives, is a seed of general human creativity.
As a novelist, I try to excavate this, to understand how we use storytelling, how it works for us, how it works against us—for it provides a broad and ever-astonishing view into what it means to be human. The power of storytelling serves as a theme in The Legend of Virinara, which depicts, in part, how stories are used to create realities. But understanding the foundations of our self-narratives can also enrich the creation of intentional fiction. Some of the richest characters and most deeply moving novels seem to stick close to the writer’s own emotional life, applying the same perceptive and imaginative facility they’ve surely used to shape their own life stories in order to imagine the lives of others.
One example that jumps immediately to mind is V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas, with its heartbreakingly wry pathos. Though the details of the story are altered, one feels acutely that Naipaul is writing a paean to his own father, his struggles and triumphs, through the lens of a loving but troubled son. Something similar is discernible in Harper Lee’s late-published first novel, Go Set a Watchman, which, despite all its flaws, reveals her tormented struggle to understand the corruption of those whom she dearly loved and admired as a child. At moments, the distinction between young Lee, the author, and Jean Louise, her character, seems to disappear.
As readers, too, we bring our own sense of story to make sense of a creative work. The novels we often enjoy the most are those we recognize as uncannily ‘true’ and familiar through the questions, metaphors or feelings they generate, perhaps mapping in some way onto our own shadowlands. Jane Austen confined her writing to the very small world of British landed gentry of the late eighteenth century; none of us readers have lived in her time and place, yet she was able to mine the dissatisfactions and pleasures of the heart in a way that’s almost universally relatable. Arundhati Roy pulled up something similarly universal about the vulnerabilities of childhood in her first novel, The God of Small Things.
As Chinua Achebe said, ‘Art is and was always in the service of man. Our ancestors created their myths and legends and told their stories for a human purpose.’ Storytelling is, above all, the art of social beings. A novelist’s greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that she has connected with a reader, touched another human heart or mind and illuminated a patch of their world, in resonance with her own.

The One Story and the Many – by Anjum Hasan

Anjum Hasan is the author of several books including Lunatic in My Head, The Cosmopolitans, Neti, Neti, Street on the Hill and Difficult Pleasures. Her latest book, A Day in the Life, is a collection of fourteen well-crafted stories that give us a sense of the daily life of a wide cast of characters.
Her books have been nominated for various awards including the Man Asian Literary Prize, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, the Hindu Best Fiction Award and the Crossword Fiction Award.
In this special feature written by her, Hasan tells us about her relationship to the form of the short story.
————————————————————————————————————————————————
Anjum Hasan
The first short story that haunted me was Anton Chekhov’s The Bet. Till then, I believed that narrative resolution meant happy endings. Rip van Winkle might find, when he wakes up, that twenty years have passed, or Sinbad will see that his only hope of survival after the shipwreck is to hang on for life to one leg of the giant roc, but these disruptions are only delicious means to redress. Whereas all the dark prefigurings of The Bet end in nothing – the hero simply vanishes on the last page.
The story is the case study of a philosophical question – is life imprisonment better or worse than the death penalty? The young lawyer who stakes fifteen years to prove his point does not emerge triumphant from the cell where he has been living out his self-imposed solitude. He decides – following on a decade and a half of the most voracious bibliomania, hundreds of books consumed and discarded – that human concerns don’t matter one whit, and then he slips out of the garden gate and disappears. To where? And why does he forgo all that money, two million roubles, that he is to get for winning the bet? As a ten or eleven-year-old, immune to irony, this tortured man’s strange renunciation and sudden disappearance, not to speak of that unclaimed cash, bothered me. Chekhov, master of enigmatic endings, provides no answer. I had to learn to live with my discomfort, accept the slippery nature of the modern short story, understand that its author might open a wide window on time and then leave it ajar for all eternity.
But the special pang that accompanies the reading of a good – that is essential yet elusive – story remained through the years of my coming of age as a reader. I experienced it with Tagore’s Kabuliwallah in which the unlikely friendship between a vagrant man and a radiant child can, once time has passed, never be recovered – no matter that the author, unlike Chekhov, does provide recompense in the form of a few banknotes to temper our sadness with. I felt it too with DH Lawrence’s The Rocking-Horse Winner where money itself is the object of lust and there can never be enough of it. Yet indulge too avidly in this passion and it can turn against you.
Over time I also realised that I wanted to do the same – not so much play with mutability as a literary device as snatch half a moment from the flow and give it life in writing. The short story is the ultimate temporal – and secular – form. There are no earlier incarnations and no hereafter. Now is the sum total of the aeons and this is all there is to the expanse. Anything can be a story and everything actually is. I’m always charmed by that anecdote about the demonically prolific Saadat Hasan Manto boasting that he could write a story on any subject. Someone knocked at the door of his office when he worked at AIR, Delhi, and asked “May I come in?” Manto was challenged to write a play by that name which he promptly turned out.
But this carpe diem spirit means that the older traditions of storytelling with their familiar tropes, their indeterminate locations, their shared myths, have to be put aside. For the short story is also the locus of a progressive imagination, one for which the people matter but the person matters more. In most Indian languages the break from the literature of the past resulted in the flowering not just of the short story but literary movements around it – ranging from the Nayi Kahani writers in Hindi and their championing of interior life to the hard-boiled urbanism of the Manikodi group in Tamil Nadu. Exploring the genesis of the form in his essay ‘The Indian Story’, Amitav Ghosh records its journey from the late 19th century to a good hundred years on. He writes that “the story was the chosen instrument of the subcontinent in the spring time of its nationhood.”  But it is no more our weapon of choice, suggests his essay, which was published towards the close of the previous century. The short story has, perhaps, had its day.
This might explain our contemporary ambivalence about it. Modernism has passed some of us by and our paradigms for the short story are still Saki and O. Henry, rather than Manto and Carver. Then there is the growing occlusion of telling of a story with storytelling – not all writers of the short story are aiming to be campfire entertainers in this sense but the tag is hard to escape. One is either a great storyteller or a self-indulgent aesthete; nothing, it seems, can bridge literary pleasure with pleasure taken in literature. One is always tempted to quote Nirad C Chaudhuri to those who insist on the distinction between style and substance. “There is no such thing in literary works as good substance spoilt by a bad style, or poor substance undeservedly accompanied by a good style. To believe in such theories is to have the stupidity which is dead to matter and the vulgarity which is dead to form.” But Chaudhuri himself, precisely because of his English hauteur, the proud certainty of that tone, can seem hopelessly old-fashioned.
We are quick to dismiss values that seem out of date, always on guard against nostalgia in our reading of literature but curiously, because of our growing obsession with specifically Indian narratives and a singularly Indian identity, have taken to refurbishing antiquities in our fiction. We want to retell rather than tell, and our retellings are informed less by ideas about the past and more by the desire to just invoke it. The popularity of these invocations makes me ask if we really have lost our appetite for the here and now. Was it misplaced, this desire we once had to cleave to the short-lived, the fragmentary, the unresolved? Are we in search of the one story that will capture it all – the overarching explanation, rather than the numerous small ones? Is that a genuine need and if so can the short story address it?
I happened to find something of an answer in a marvellously metaphysical essay by John Berger on the nature of time and, thereby, the nature of stories. In older, more religiously inclined cultures, the timeless was a constant presence but this conception of a realm beyond human time has been edged out of today’s worldview, he argues in ‘Go Ask the Time’. And yet, despite this dominant, two-century-old, positivist European image of time, we can’t quite suppress our longing for that which goes beyond it. We’re made that way. “A need for what transcends time, or is mysteriously spared by time, is built into the very nature of the human mind and imagination.”
If we turn away from the European lens we will find a conviction underlying many traditions of storytelling – many discourses – that everything to happen has already happened before, says Berger. This is a realisation that the writer like me, trying to compose that one unique if microscopic narrative, that one telling that has not been told before, wants to stave off. But perhaps the most long-sighted of the storytellers have always known it. Talking about the prose of realist fiction and its gradual seeping into Indian writing, Ghosh in the essay I mentioned speaks of it as “a form of address that creates the illusion of objectivity by distancing itself from its subjects; it is a style of narrative in which the machinery of narration is a source of embarrassment that must always be concealed.” This struggle is still evident in Indian fiction, he says. So perhaps it is this – the embarrassment with the modern rather than the insight into the mythological – that makes us want to go back to a time before realism.
AK Ramanujan, that great theorist of Indian narratives, has described in his ‘Is there an Indian Way of Thinking?’ how till the 19th century no Indian text came without a framing narrative; every story was encased in a meta-story. Berger would have loved, for its effortless scrambling of linear time, one of Ramanujan’s examples. When the Pandava brothers are exiled in the forest, and Yudhishthira is despondent because he has lost wife and kingdom, a sage visits him and tells him the story of Nala. Nala too has had to forfeit wife and kingdom but then he fights his brother and gets everything back. “Yudhishthira, following the full curve of Nala’s adventures, sees that he is only halfway through his own, and sees his present in perspective, himself as a story yet to be finished.”
So it could be that Chekhov’s hero, when he runs away from his cell, is fleeing the paltriness of the short story itself, seeking a cosmic vista that no worldly thing, least of all money, can offer. Chekhov cannot follow him because that is not his business. His writ runs only in that arena where each tiny, ordinary, human detail is so mesmerising a story there appears to be no point asking for more. And that’s where I hope to remain too, in the grip of the strangeness and wonder of this present time.

 

Rain + Books = The Perfect Monsoon

This monsoon we have a great list of new books for you! Whether you enjoy literary classic, thriller, fiction or mythology, we’ve got you covered with books by authors such as Devdutt Pattanaik, Premchand, Alex Salkever and Vikram Sood – to name a few.
So this summer, cuddle up with a cup of tea and a good read!
Take a look at our list of July books!
Acid

Two striking women, Kamala and Shaly, helm an unusual household, fuelled by their intense, tempestuous romance in a rapidly changing Bangalore. Acid unravels the secrets that lurk beneath the surface of our lives, and marks the entry of a searing new voice in the Indian literary landscape.
 
Bihar Diaries

Bihar Diaries narrates the thrilling account of how Amit Lodha arrested Vijay Samrat, one of Bihar’s most feared ganglords, notorious for extortion, kidnapping and the massacre of scores of people. Bihar Diaries captures vividly the battle of nerves between a dreaded outlaw and a young, urbane IPS officer.
 
Premchand Short Stories (Volume 1-5)

Munshi Premchand’s prolific writing contributed largely to shaping the genre of the short story as we know it in India. His range and diversity were limitless as he tacked the themes of romance, satire, gender politics and social inequality with unmatched skill and compassion and this miniseries brings together some of his most celebrated short stories.
This miniseries brings together some of his most celebrated short stories on the themes of women, caste, the city, village life and animals.
 
Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jehan

Acclaimed historian Ruby Lal uncovers the rich life and world of Nur Jahan, rescuing this dazzling figure from patriarchal and orientalist clichés of romance and intrigue, while giving a new insight into the lives of the women and the girls during the Mughal Empire, even where scholars claim there are no sources. In this book, Nur Jahan finally receives her due in a deeply researched and evocative biography that awakens us to a fascinating history.
 
How India Manages Its National Security

In this authoritative and comprehensive survey of the challenges a changing global security environment poses to India, former deputy national security advisor Arvind Gupta outlines the important aspects of the country’s security apparatus and how they interface to confront internal and external conflicts.
 
India Moving: A History of Migration

To understand how millions of people have moved-from, to and within India-India Moving: A History of Migration embarks on a journey laced with evidence, argument and wit, providing insights into topics like the slave trade and migration of workers, travelling business communities, refugee crises and the roots of contemporary mass migration from Bihar and Kerala, covering terrain that often includes diverse items such as mangoes, dosas and pressure cookers.
 
Daughters of Legacy: How a New Generation of Women Is Redefining India Inc.

What are the challenges and perks of handling age-old legacies?
If you come into a position of power through a position of privilege, how do you make sure that you earn respect, more so if you are a woman?
These and many more questions are what Daughters of Legacy seeks to answer through the stories of twelve successful women who grew up with strong business lineages.
 
Mandodari: Queen of Lanka

Borrowing from Sanghadasa’s Jaina version of the Ramayana, Mandodari-one of the least known characters of the Hindu epic-is finally given a voice.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful apsaras, she was married off to the mighty Ravana, the legendary king of Lanka. In her story, she speaks about her struggles after her marriage, her insecurities and her pious nature that challenged her husband’s growing aspirations. She narrates the rise of Ravana’s power and the blunders he made that ultimately caused the downfall of Lanka.
 
The Unending Game: A Spy’s Insights into Espionage

As a country’s stature and reach grow, so do its intelligence needs. This is especially true for one like India that has ambitions of being a global player even as it remains embattled in its own neighbourhood. The Unending Game tackles these questions while providing a national and international perspective on gathering external intelligence, its relevance in securing and advancing national interests, and why intelligence is the first playground in the game of nations.
 
The Dhoni Touch: Unravelling the Enigma that is Mahendra Singh Dhoni

For over a decade, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has captivated the world of cricket and over a billion Indians with his incredible ingenuity as captain, wicketkeeper and batsman. Bharat Sundaresan, author of The Dhoni Touch tracks down the cricketer’s closest friends in Ranchi and artfully presents the different shades of Dhoni-the Ranchi boy, the fauji, the diplomat, Chennai’s beloved Thala, the wicketkeeping Pythagoras-and lays bare the man underneath.
 
Master Growth Hacking – The best kept secret of new age Indian startups

Full of riveting stories, Master Growth Hacking lets you learn from the pioneers of growth hacking in India. There are interviews with the founders of Zomato, IndiaMART, ShopClues, UrbanClap, Paisabazaar, Furlenco, FusionCharts, WittyFeed, UpGrad and a lot more.
Growth hacking is the new growth mantra that start-ups are using and don’t want you to learn about!
 
Frontiers

Aurangzeb’s aim is to conquer the kingdoms of the Deccan and expand the great Mughal empire to include hitherto uncharted, rebellious territories. Raja Shivaji, a jagirdar from the hills of western Deccan, dreams of Swaraj and has raised his sword against all those who stand between him and his goal.
Theirs is a battle of wit and might-one in which neither will give up. Frontiers, a historical saga, brings to life the complex and ever-shifting dynamics between these two arch nemeses.
 
Chanakya and the Art of Getting Rich

Chanakya’s Arthashastra is an unrivalled political treatise that has been used by scholars, academics and leaders across the world. In Chanakya and the Art of Getting Rich, Radhakrishnan Pillai brings out the inherent lessons from Arthashastra to present a strategic and practical way of wealth creation. This is a holistic study, written for anyone and everyone.
 
Your Happiness was Hacked

We’ve become a tribe of tech addicts, and it’s not entirely our fault.
But we can reclaim our lives without dismissing technology. The authors of Your Happiness was Hacked explain how to avoid getting hooked on tech and how to define and control the roles that it plays and could play in our lives. This profound and timely book turns personal observation into a handy guide to adapting to our new reality of omnipresent technology.
 
Shyam: An Illustrated Retelling of the Bhagavata

The Bhagavata is the story of Krishna, known as Shyam to those who find beauty, wisdom and love in his dark complexion.
Shyam: An Illustrated Retelling of the Bhagavata seamlessly weaves the story from Krishna’s birth to his death, or rather from his descent to the butter-smeared world of happy women to his ascent from the blood-soaked world of angry men.
 

The Literary Renegade Whom No Force Dared Stop

Saadat Hasan Manto is the most widely read and controversial short story writer in Urdu. A pre-eminent practitioner of the genre, he produced twenty-two collections of short stories. The prevalent trend is to classify Manto’s work into stories of Partition or stories of prostitutes but neither Partition nor prostitution gave birth to the genius of Saadat Hasan Manto. They only furnished him with an occasion to reveal the truth of the human condition.
On Manto’s birthday, we delve deeper into factors that moulded Manto’s creative world and showcase him as an astonishing writer who truly was unstoppable.


Sources:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/11/saadat-hasan-manto-short-stories-partition-pakistanhttp://www.academia.edu/35301622/Biography_of_Saadat_Hasan_Manto

How To Go About Dealing with Feelings? Here are Lessons You Shouldn’t Miss!

A unique series focusing on the well-being of young readers, Dealing with Feelings by Sonia Mehta feature Foggy Forest, a tiny forest inhabited by many fun little animals. These quirky creatures are always there for one another – helping each other overcome fear, anxiety, shyness and anger, together dealing with all the different feelings one goes through every day.
Here are some lessons we learnt from the books.
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Ten Things You Didn’t Know about Taslima Nasrin

Taslima Nasrin is an award-winning novelist, poet, celebrated memoirist, columnist, physician, secular humanist and human rights defender. She has written 44 books out of which some have been translated into thirty different languages. Taslima Nasrin’s works have won her the prestigious Ananda Puraskar in 1992 and 2000. Her new, bold and evocative book, Split: A Life, opens a window to the experiences and works of one of the bravest writers of our times.
Here are ten facts you didn’t know about her.
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Author Nanditha Krishna on the close relationship between Hinduism and Nature

There is a close symbiotic relationship between Hinduism and Nature. The basis of Hindu culture is dharma or righteousness, incorporating duty, cosmic law and justice. Every person must act for the general welfare of the earth, humanity, all creation and all aspects of life. Dharma is meant for the well-being of all living creatures. The verses of the Vedas express a deep sense of communion of man with god. Nature is a friend, revered as a mother, obeyed as a father and nurtured as a beloved child. In Vedic literature, all of nature was, in some way, divine, part of an indivisible life force uniting the world of humans, animals and plants.
Five thousand years ago, the Vedic sages showed a clear appreciation of the natural world and its ecology. There is a hymn to the rivers (Nadistuti Sukta) in the Rig Veda and a hymn to the earth (Prithvi Sukta) in the Atharva Veda. Throughout the Vedas there is a deep respect for life which is an important manifestation and expression of the gods. The need to protect and conserve biological diversity is exemplified in the representation of Shiva, Parvati, their two sons Karttikeya and Ganesha and their vahanas or vehicles – bull, lion, peacock and mouse respectively – who live in close harmony.
There is a very strong and intimate relationship between the biophysical ecosystem and economic institutions which are held together by cultural relations. Hinduism has a definite code of environmental ethics and humans may not consider themselves above nature, nor can they claim to rule over other forms of life. Every aspect of nature is sacred for the Indic religions: forests and groves, gardens, rivers and other waterbodies, plants and seeds, animals, mountains and pilgrimage centres. The sacred is still visible in modern India. All creation is a manifestation of the divine with no dichotomy between humanity and divinity. Religious practices are influenced by local environmental and festivals coincide with a natural phenomenon.
I fell in love with sacred groves attached to Hindu temples, where not a twig may be broken and which are the remnants of ancient forests where sages lived in harmony with nature; with rivers that gush from the hills and meander through the land; with the sacred tanks attached to each temple, the sacred plants and the animals respected by my religion; with the awe-inspiring mountains which reach up to the skies and where the Gods live. Every festival reminds us of the importance of nature in our lives. As the author of Sacred Plants of India and Sacred Animals of India I explored the divine relationship between human beings, plants and animals, which are an essential part of every Hindu prayer.
“The Earth is my mother and I am her child,” says the hymn to the Earth in the Atharva Veda. The human ability to merge with nature was the measure of cultural evolution. Hinduism believes that the earth and all life forms – human, animal and plant – are a part of Divinity, each dependant on the other for sustenance and survival. All of nature must be treated with reverence and respect. If the forests, clean water and fresh air disappear, so will all life as we know it on earth.
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A historian, environmentalist and writer based in Chennai, Nanditha Krishna has a PhD in Ancient Indian Culture from Bombay University. She has been a professor and research guide for the PhD programme of C.P.R. Institute of Indological Research, affiliated to the University of Madras. Her latest book, Hinduism and Nature delves into the religion’s deep respect for all life forms, the forests and trees, rivers and lakes, animals and mountains, which are all manifestations of divinity.