Category Archives: Aleph Book Company

The Parrots of Desire: 3,000 Years of Indian Erotica: Edited by Amrita Narayanan

The Parrots of Desire Title: The Parrots of Desire: 3,000 Years of Indian Erotica
Edited by Amrita Narayanan
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9383064090
Genre: Literary Fiction, Erotica, Anthology
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

If anything, we have to acknowledge that we are the land of the Kamasutra – the ancient and divine art of lovemaking and that would perhaps be the first step toward a more progressive future than a regressive one. This thought came to mind after I finished reading yet another supremely brilliant anthology from Aleph Book Company, “ Parrots of Desire: 3,000 Years of Indian Erotica”, edited by Amrita Narayanan. Amrita Narayanan is the one who has written “A Pleasant Kind of Heavy and other Erotic stories” which I loved, so I wasn’t surprised when I loved this anthology.

According to me, it takes a lot to edit an anthology. It isn’t as easy as it seems. To be able to pick the right pieces that fit with the theme is a lot of intelligence, empathy and hard-work at play, which reflects in this collection, maybe more so because it is erotic. It does what it must – the pieces liberate, titillate, make you want to engage in erotica, they make you want to be with someone in bed and explore each other’s bodies and maybe even read pieces from this collection today, before or after coitus.

The entire book is divided into 12 sections – right from why bother with sex to the art of seduction to men’s wish to be women (that’s India for all the regressive people) right to suspicion and confusion when it comes to bodies, Narayanan’s selection of pieces is also unique. The book covers parts of Kamasutra (but obviously) and writers such as Nagarkar, Kamala Das, Ismat Chughtai (Lihaaf but of course), Tarun Tejpal, Tagore, and so many more make this collection delightful.

What I found amusing at times was the looks I got on a bus or also while travelling in a rickshaw, at a signal as I was reading this one. Perhaps only when it generates curiosity will people bother to read and educate themselves on the art of erotica and love-making and not see it as a taboo.

As I said earlier, this collection wouldn’t have been what it is if not for the editor. Props to Narayanan for tracing erotica in India to 3000 years ago and collecting it piece by piece for this anthology. The writing is only richer because of the pieces and also the varied kinds of emotions – sexual and sensuous that are evoked through it. Read it for sure. Tease yourself a little. Give in to desire.

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365 Stories: Day 7: Sandalwood by Tejaswini Apte-Rahm

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Sometimes a story just does nothing for you. Sometimes it does so much that you cannot handle it. Tejaswini Apte-Rahm’s story “Sandalwood” falls in the latter category. An unnamed narrator, a lady is told by her husband that he is homosexual after 17 years of their marriage. They have two teenage kids. He has decided that she cannot live with them anymore and that his partner Chandan (Hindi for Sandalwood) is moving in with them. The children also want to live with their father. Thus begins the story. There are no spoilers. So don’t you worry.

Apte-Rahm’s writing is brilliant. It doesn’t cut corners. It says what it has to and is stark and clean – like a knife after being cleaned. I loved the narrator. I wish there was more from her perspective – sure it seemed enough, considering it is a short story but more could have been said. Inner lives and thoughts are well-handled by the author and I love that in a good story.

People – His Finest Portraits by Raghu Rai

people-cover1 Title: People: His Finest Portraits
Author: Raghu Rai
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9383064137
Genre: Photography
Pages: 184
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A picture does say a thousand words and sometimes even more. No one better than Raghu Rai to demonstrate that through his brilliant photographs of people over the years. The portraits in this collection are mostly black and white.

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It is not a book which can be read in the technical sense of the word – but yet it is something you read. You read the faces of common people, the faces of celebrities and common people – people who come to his house, his family and people who you and I wouldn’t look at twice. Raghu Rai, being Raghu Rai manages to capture each and every face so beautifully that is feels surreal and almost magical.

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Most people might think that it would be easy to read (sic) a book of this nature. It is a fast page-turner literally and then you forget about it. If you one of those who would forget about it, then perhaps this book isn’t for you. I don’t mean it in a condescending manner. I just mean it as a matter of fact.

“People” are portraits that will leave you stunned and I am not just saying it because some of them look nice or glossy or pretty or all of them. Most of them are also just caught in the moment and you can see that – the sense of imbalance of the picture, of what it hides and what it conveys and mostly the gaze of the master photographer at work.

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I am not a fan of books such as these but this book has changed it for me. I also have his other book “Picturing Time” with me and I will get to it soon. But for now, I will bask in the skill of this book and how it has managed to convert me. And you must most certainly read the foreword by him on making pictures. It is a concise piece on what photography means to him.

Upon an Old Wall Dreaming: More of My Favourite Stories and Sketches by Ruskin Bond

Upon an Old Wall Dreaming - More of My Favourite Stories and Sketches by Ruskin Bond Title: Upon an Old Wall Dreaming: More of My Favourite Stories and Sketches
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9384067472
Genre: Anthology
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

There is no way that Ruskin Bond can ever go wrong when it comes to writing. There isn’t. I don’t say that just because I adore what he writes, but because it is true. Ruskin Bond writes with charm and grace that is very rare to find in writers today. So even if a compilation of his stories and non-fiction pieces comes out, and even though you might have read most of it before, you still reach out and read it, because it is way better than what is doing the rounds right now in the book business.

“Upon an Old Wall Dreaming” is the second anthology of Mr. Bond’s fiction and non-fiction pieces, published by Aleph Book Company. This anthology has once again some of the finest pieces, handpicked by Mr. Bond with a wonderful and most surreal introduction by him. The stories (if you haven’t read them before) will most certainly warm the cockles of your heart and make you want to live in times that were calmer, more serene and stress-free. The non-fiction pieces were my most favourite in the book, only because a life this rich just keeps you in awe and makes you want to live this way.

I love how Ruskin Bond intertwines life and fiction and also the way he writers about life endlessly. “Upon an Old Wall Dreaming” is a collection that stays and lingers on with you. It is the anthology that everyone must read to keep the child in them alive and know that there is so much of the world we still have to see and discover. I would also recommend the first anthology of Mr. Bond from Aleph titled “A Gathering of Friends” – it is just as good as this one.

99: Unforgettable Fiction, Non – Fiction, Poetry & Humour by Khushwant Singh

99-unforgettable-fiction-non-fiction-poetry-humour by Khushwant Singh Title: 99 : Unforgettable Fiction, Non – Fiction, Poetry & Humour
Author: Khushwant Singh
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 9789383064755
Genre: Anthology
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Writers live on forever. There is this immortality which is attained when you write a book. The concept of death is then cheated on and rightly so. When Khushwant Singh passed away, there was this surge of emotions in the country and outside of the country as well. India had lost its beloved writer. I started reading Khushwant Singh when I was in school. It began with his jokes (in those days, we called them non-veg jokes). We were boys, driven by testosterone and Mr. Singh’s jokes just added onto what we were experiencing as teens. As I grew up, I realized that the man had written a lot more than just jokes. Those were just additions off-handedly thrown in for teenagers like me.

I experienced a portion of “Train to Pakistan” in the eighth grade and since then I have not stopped reading him. This according to me is one of India’s finest novels – written about the time of partition, when nothing was certain and yet all what the residents of Mano Majra wanted was peace and calm. I then moved on to his short stories, starting with “The Mark of Vishnu” and then my most favourite one, “The Portrait of a Lady” and the stories never stopped being read. His columns about the world and the way it was, clubbed with humour just had to be the thing to make me stop feeling gloomy.

And then there were other books and stories I read written by the man. And then one fine day, just like that he passed away. What he did leave behind is this body of work that speaks volumes about the man he was and the writer that we all loved. Aleph Book Company has published his body of work, parts of it, samples of it, across 99 pieces, each for the year he lived – 99 pieces of sheer joy for the reader to take in. This collection has everything in it that he ever wrote (well not whole of it but mostly covers all forms of writing) – from fiction to short stories to columns to jokes to poems and stories from his life.

“99” was published on Khushwant Singh’s birth anniversary. The book provokes thought and a whole lot of entertainment. “99” takes you to a place where you want to read more of Khushwant Singh. This book is perhaps the best tribute paid to the man who entertained us with his writing, made us relate to his characters, made us see Delhi in a different light, and also made us contemplate about death as much as he reveled in living. Read “99” if you love what Mr. Singh has written over the years. Read “99” if you want to know what he wrote and want to start off with his writing. Read “99” to see and understand what great and simple writing is all about. It is but true: Writers do live on through their writing and there is no better example than this.

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