Category Archives: Zubaan

Foxy Aesop: On the Edge by Suniti Namjoshi

Foxy Aesop Title: Foxy Aesop: On the Edge
Author: Suniti Namjoshi
Publisher: Zubaan
ISBN: 978-9385932427
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I love Suniti Namjoshi’s books. They are not what you expect or have been conditioned to expect and that’s the primary reason I love what she writes. Her works are heady, over the top, campy even, but above all honest and feminist to the core. She doesn’t mince her words and that’s the only way to write in my opinion. “Foxy Aesop” reminded me of her Fabulist Feminist tales, but more than anything I was drawn into her world so strong that I just didn’t want it to end. Her world is weird (and all weird works for me in more than one way), intriguing and mind you she is one writer who will not let you have it easy. Her prose evokes thoughts but naturally and that’s that.

“Foxy Aesop” to me was everything rolled into one – a fantastical story, a story so quirky that I laughed straight out loud in so many places, a satire as well – something that crescendos into something unusual, only leaving the reader with the hope that she will write something similar. “Foxy Aesop” may suggest that the book is about Aesop, but it is actually about Sprite, a fabulist from the future who transports herself to the century of Aesop and that’s where the book begins. Aesop, on the other hand is busy writing his fables and trying to make ends meet. The book is about fables at the core – what they do to the moral fabric of our society and do they play any role in it at all or not. Sprite and Aesop make for delightful characters in this fantastical piece by Namjoshi.

Namjoshi’s writing is irreverent and that is another quality I love about her prose. She has literally taken the concept of fables and turned it on its head. She makes you rethink and evaluate those morals all over again in light of our world and what we think of them at all – if we do that is.

“Foxy Aesop” is a book that is witty, unusual, full of quirk and life. Suniti Namjoshi has done it again, as always, and not just in storytelling but creating it in a dimension probably unheard of to many. Read it for its fabulousness. Just go read it.

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Squiggle takes a Walk : All about Punctuation by Natasha Sharma

Squiggle Takes a Walk by Natasha Sharma Title: Squiggle Takes a Walk : All about Punctuation
Author: Natasha Sharma
Publisher: Penguin Books, Zubaan Books
ISBN: 9789383074013
Genre: Children’s Book, Knowledge and Learning
Pages: 70
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Squiggle wants to belong. Squiggle does not know where she fits in. She is confused. So she decides to find herself in the pages of a notebook and discovers the world of punctuation, until she finds someone her own kind. That is the plot of “Squiggle Takes a Walk” by Natasha Sharma – a delightful tale of Squiggle and her introduction to punctuation.

Squiggle Takes a Walk  - Image 2

I wish we had such books while we were growing up. A book that would talk to us about punctuation and the English language without being a bore like those Wren and Martin books. Natasha Sharma makes punctuation fun through the story of Squiggle and also the easy to understand concepts for children, not to forget the activities at the end of the book. The format of the book is delightful, as it is in the form of a notebook, which will only generate more excitement among kids.

Squiggle Takes a Walk  - Image 1

“Squiggle Takes a Walk” is the kind of book that can be read by children in less than half an hour but stays in the memory and the punctuation uses and points stick. Natasha Sharma has also with this book reached out to an adult who always had a problem with punctuation and still does. I plan to change that soon enough. Read it and so will you.

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Squiggle Takes a Walk: An Adventure in Punctuation

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Shikhandi and Other Tales they Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik

Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don't Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Zubaan and Penguin Books
ISBN: 9789383074846
Genre: Mythology
Pages: 176
Source: Pubisher
Rating: 5/5

There is so much to Indian Mythology that remains hidden. There is so much which no one speaks of. Of hidden desires (maybe), of stories that somehow do not surface, because we are too civilized for our own good. We are full of shackles and intimidation and fear and to top it all ego, which do not let us realize our true selves. Somewhere down the line, perhaps, we have also been too apologetic of our traditions and culture – first to the British and Europeans and then to ourselves. The stories need to be told to change perspectives. The answers need to be out there with the questions, so people can decide for themselves without being brainwashed. “Shikhandi and Other Tales they don’t Tell you” by Devdutt Pattanaik is one such attempt.

“Shikhandi” is a book of stories. Stories that have been forgotten – mostly intentionally I would think. Stories that celebrate the queer, the ones that do not differentiate between the masculine and the feminine, where form does not matter as much, where it is about fluidity and not rigidity of gender and where clearly it is about celebrating life. Devdutt tries to uncover stories in mythology about men and women, about gender bender, about situations where roles were reversed for good reason and sometimes for no reason at all.

To me, “Shikhandi and Other Tales they don’t tell you” is all about liberation. While reading it, I felt liberated and maybe that is the purpose of this book. From Narada who forgot that he was a man, to Indra who took the form of a Brahmin to make love to his wife when he was away, to Krishna who cross-dresses in time of war and peace for various reasons to more Gods and Demons and Kings and Queens who are not rigid about sexuality and gender, “Shikhandi” is a work that transcends orientation and gender.

The writing is precise and concise. The stories can be read in a day and yet how can one understand Queerness for all that it is, in a day or a week or even a fortnight? To then connect it to mythology is another matter altogether. To then not be judgmental about it is far beyond another issue. Devdutt’s stories are not about intrigue. They are not about provoking for the sake of it. They are provocative because it is time we drop the blinders and look at the world different, away from our myopic vision and conditioning of what is wrong and what is right. The illustrations and foot-notes are trademark Pattanaik and work wonderfully in this book.

“Shikhandi” is a paean to the marginalized, to the differences (seemingly so), to the unseen and the not spoken about tales. After interviewing him for Jaya and after reading Jaya, I thought there was nothing like that book. I was wrong. In my opinion, it is “Shikhandi and Other Tales they don’t tell you” which is his best work. Go broaden your thinking. Read this book for sure.

Here is the book trailer:

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Book Review: Suki by Suniti Namjoshi

Suki by Suniti Namjoshi Title: Suki
Author: Suniti Namjoshi
Publisher: Zubaan/Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9789383074105
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 132
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A new year should always ring in with a new book – read and cherished and thought after for a very long time. Books that start the year on a great note are the ones that are fondly remembered as the year ends. For me, the year began with Suniti Namjoshi’s latest book, “Suki”.

Suki was the name of Suniti’s beloved cat and this is what the book is about – her memories with her cat – dear ones and sometimes the irritable ones, but memories nonetheless. The book is about Suki’s 4803 days and how each one mattered to Suniti. The book is structured in the form of conversations that Suniti has with Suki – on love, life, meditation, their relationship, other animals, morals, philosophy and a varied range of topics. The character sketch of Suki is so strong that at times, while reading the book, I actually wished she were a talking cat. To also be fair, maybe she did speak with Suniti in her own manner.

Why did the book interest me and why did I like it?

To begin with, the way the book is written. There is no linear narrative and that I loved. I mean, for how long should one read the same old style of writing? Something new is always welcome. The way Namjoshi speaks of her life in England and integrates with that of her cat’s is quite charming. The book then veered to the loss of Suki and how the writer came to cope with the loss of a loved one, through meditation.

“Suki” in my opinion celebrates life and its moments. It is not soppy. It is not preachy. It is not even sentimental. It is just an honest book – full of tenderness, of energy, of biting dialogues and more than anything else of relationships of every kind and nature.

Next Up: The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

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Book Review: Eating Women, Telling Tales : Stories about Food by Bulbul Sharma

Eating Women, Telling Tales by Bulbul Sharma
Title: Eating Women, Telling Tales: Stories About Food
Author: Bulbul Sharma
Publisher: Zubaan Books
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories, Women’s Literature
ISBN: 9789381017890
Pages: 115
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

You come across fiction all the time. You also tend to pick up a lot of which is highly recommended and then sometimes as a reader you are disappointed and do not know what to do with the person who recommended a book to you. Should you be honest enough in letting the person know that you did not like the read? Or do you not talk about the book or the author ever again to that person? But there are also times when people ask you to read a specific book and you love that book beyond anything that you might have read recently. This happened to me after I finished reading, “Eating Women, Telling Tales” by Bulbul Sharma.

“Eating Women, Telling Tales” was first published by Zubaan in 2009 and now to mark their 10th anniversary, they have reprinted this classic with a new cover. There are 9 such titles as well to the collection. Now to talk about the book. The book is beautifully and poignantly written. There are about seven women who come together to cook a meal for guests on the occasion of their male relative’s death anniversary. They cook and while they cook, each of them tells a story. These stories are either of themselves or of women they know and somehow food is integral to each and every story.

The vignettes are beautifully written – from tragic to funny to sometimes a satisfying turn at the end, each story is about food and women. Bulbul’s writing is clear, sparse and illuminates almost every aspect of life and what it takes sometimes to be away from home or to try too hard to be loved. Her women are traditional, grappling with the modern, trying to fit in and at the same time do not understand the new. They rather be embraced with their thoughts and mindsets, which but of course the only way it should happen. Even though in one story, a man takes the center stage, it is but the wife who is the strongest in it. Bulbul’s writing is playful and also mostly shows the mirror to the society and its inhabitants, who formulate such rituals which ultimately have no meaning and it is human life which is of most importance. A read to be reveled in and cherished for a long time to come.

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