Category Archives: Katha Books

Two Novellas and a Story by Ambai

Two Novellas and A Story by Ambai Title: Two Novellas and a Story
Author: Ambai
Publisher: Katha Books
ISBN: 9788187649632
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translated Fiction, Women Writers
Pages: 112
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I started reading Ambai with this book. I had heard of her and her books in the past, but somehow never got around to reading her. There was always this preconceived notion of her writing being acutely feminist in approach and style, and honestly I was not ready for that kind of fiction or non-fiction then. I picked up, “Two Novellas and A Story” on almost a whim or rather an impulse and sometimes the time is just right for these kinds of books. For me, it was now I guess. The thing about Ambai’s writing is that she opens a world through silences. There are no gaps in her stories and if there are, then it is for the reader to discover what is hidden. She does not give it all away and that is the beauty of her stories.

“Two Novellas and A Story” has obviously two stories and a novella, but also a very interesting essay on space and longing in women’s literature. Ambai’s literature is not feminist in nature. She tries to create a balance between men and women and observes their relationship dynamics with a fresh perspective.

The first novella in this small book is called, “Wrestling” and it is an unusual way of looking at a marriage and how sometimes both perspectives are needed. It is about music and ego and love which mostly is hidden. The plot is not wafer-thin. It is well-layered, though it takes time to get used to the characters’ names and the relationships, but when you start and immerse yourself in it, you are in for a ride.

At the same time, “A Deer in the Forest” is a story of a woman – who is the center of her many nieces and nephews and stepchildren and perhaps their children (or so I assumed) and more children of the household. Just that she cannot become a mother. And she allows her husband to get married again. She spins stories for the children. She continues to live life exactly in the same way like she did before.

This is what I loved about Ambai’s writing. She blends the plot in the ordinariness of life. It is built around the daily acts of living. It is through this that her writing shines and is most relatable by readers, irrespective of borders or languages.

Ambai is not a feminist in the real sense of the word. She is definitely on a mission, but at the same time, it is done beautifully through her stories and characters, that live in the world, and blend in, only to emerge victorious through their choices and opinions. I am absolutely looking forward to reading more of Ambai, because I know this will not be the end of my reading journey with her.

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Book Review : Ismat : Her Life, Her Times : Edited by Sukrita Paul Kumar & Sadique

Ismat - Her Life Her Times Title: Ismat : Her Life, Her Times
Author: Sukrita Paul Kumar & Sadique
Publisher: Katha Books
ISBN: 9788185586977
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Biography
Pages: 300
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

When an author has had a kind of life which no one can match up to, that is when books such as these are needed. I think to a very large extent, only a few authors can rise to this rank from the plentiful in the literary sea, existing as of now. I have always felt this rare closeness to Ismat Aapa and I do not know why. I think to a very large extent (and I am only guessing here) is the marginalized context – of both of us that I am able to relate to her, the way I do. The bold texture of her life, the choices made against the grain of the norm and more than anything else, to fight for the cause of her work, is something worth admiring, perhaps a hundred thousand times over. Where else can one see this passion today? I may be getting ahead of myself here, but that is only because I love her so.

“Ismat: Her Life, Her Times” is a wonderfully constructed book. There is a lot in this book and I can recommend it to any Chughtai lover. Both, Sukrita and Sadique have managed to almost write a canvas of her work and the woman that she was. She is one woman who had so much to say and she always said it with a bite, with humour and emphasizing on the fact of breaking all barriers and boundaries. This book encapsulates her life the way she lived it – from a writer to her advent in the Indian Film Industry to her lens and the way she viewed everything with it.

What is even more enchanting is the range of contributors – who have written about her and are collated in this book – from Faiz Ahmad Faiz to Manto to Krishan Chander and Qurratulain Hyder, commenting on Ismat – the person and the writer.

“Ismat: Her Life Her Times” is a dedication to a writer beyond words. It is her life, through pictures, through letters, through her work and the personality she was. The book could be seen as a starter, as a guide to all her works (her vast body of work that is), and to encourage readers to go and read more of her books, her stories and if possible watch the movies she wrote for and acted in.

To me this book embodies the woman beautifully. Of course not as beautifully as Kaghazeen Hain Pairan, but it does bring to fore mostly everything about her. A book not to be missed out on. A book which takes the writer beyond everything else and gives her the due and credit she has always deserved.

Here is a forty seven long interview of hers, if you are interested and by the way you should be:

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Book Review: Pages Stained with Blood by Indira Goswami; Translated by Pradip Acharya

Pages Stained with Blood by Indira Goswami Title: Pages Stained with Blood
Author: Indira Goswami
Translator: Pradip Acharya
Publisher: Katha Books
ISBN: 9788187649113
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 168
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I do not know how to start this review. The words are a little difficult to come by but I shall try. “Pages Stained with Blood” is not going to be an easy book to talk about. It is about 1984 and what the country saw in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The riots were not an easy time. They never are. No tension is. It is the people who suffer ultimately. It is the people who pay the price.

“Pages Stained with Blood” is a fictional book, but at the same time, because of the nature of the plot, it always resonates as being non-fiction and rightly so. It is the human frailty which depicts itself so starkly, that as a reader, I did not know after a point how to react to it.

The book is about Delhi and its adjoining places. It is about the capital, through the lens of a young woman who is collecting material for her book. She meets people along the way – telling her stories, falling in love with her and showing her new aspects of the city. This leads to the connections with people and their stories during the riots and what happens thereafter.

The writing was originally in Assamese, translated by Pradip Acharya in English. The writing is lucid and also fragmented which gives it the linearity and over all atmosphere is lent to the book. Goswami describes a time and place, which is unknown to most of us of this or the past generation. We have not gone through it and I can only thank God for it. The book tells it the way it is. The author at most points becomes one with the book. The narrator cannot be differentiated as well. “Pages Stained with Blood” is a marvellous piece of work which otherwise would have been hidden, had Katha not published it.

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