Tag Archives: indian literature

And Gazelles Leaping by Sudhin N. Ghose

5184UiT-1TL Title: And Gazelles Leaping
Author: Sudhin N. Ghose
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
ISBN: 978-9386338228
Genre: Indian Literature, Literary Fiction
Pages: 216
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

And Gazelles Leaping is the kind of book that will take you some time to get into. It is not going to be an easy read but I strongly recommend that you continue reading it, because the experience will be worth it, every turn of the page.

I don’t know what I went through while reading this book – there is so much happening in it that you lose yourself in it. It is an immersive experience like no other. To cut the long story short, the quartet (of which And Gazelles Leaping is the first book) is about a young child who is full of awe and wonder growing up to be a disillusioned adult. But let me also tell you about this book.

“And Gazelles Leaping” is about childhood. It is about dreams that can be dreamed and there is no one telling you otherwise. The book is about an orphan and his pet, a Manipuri elephant who along with their friends (children and their pets) fight a corporation to save their school and the orphan friend of theirs.

I am perhaps not doing enough justice in telling you the story of this delightful book but what I can say for sure is that you must read it one of those lazy, rainy days when life almost seems idyllic. That to me is the best time to pick up this unknown work which thankfully Speaking Tiger has brought to front.

Sudhin N. Ghose’s writing is marvellous, charming and sometimes even witty – which I am sure was quite intentional. At the same time, the writing is only complex because of the number of characters but once you get a hang of them, you will be just fine. “And Gazelles Leaping” is the kind of book that will make you think and yearn for your childhood. So please, do read it.

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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: Gopallapuram by Ki Rajanarayanan

Title: Gopallapuram
Author: Ki Rajanarayanan
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 9780143067757
Genre: Indian Literature
Pages: 144 pages
Price: Rs. 199
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Gopallapuram takes you places you never imagined you could go to. The short vignettes in this wondrous book teach you about humans – the experience through a few characters living in a village, like most villages, unknown to civilization. I had not heard of Gopallapuram, the book before stumbling on to it at the Penguin India website and come to think of it, it is a contemporary classic. I am very glad that Penguin is taking the step to publish translated works and make readers aware of what gems do we have in our trove of Indian Literature.

Gopallapuram is a tough one to write a review of and not because of anything else, but because of the way the stories are layered. The people and their pathos can be felt through the pages of this book. The stories while holding your attention also make you think a lot. For instance, what about the highway robber who murders the pregnant woman for her jewellery? Does he have a family somewhere as well?

Or the fact that a group of people can come together to transform a barren land to a blooming village – I mean who can even think of writing something like this. It is then no wonder that he won the Sahitya Akademi Award as well.
To me Gopallapuram was a revelation. Almost something that was unexpected and hit me from the blue. I love that when books do that you. The ability to take you to lands and times forgotten.

Ki Rajanarayanan has the unique ability to make the reader feel emotive even towards his so-called anti-heroes. There are only shades of grey to his writing, which in effect is brilliant as it gives the reader the opportunity to think and ponder.

This Is Not That Dawn by Yashpal

 

Jhootha Sach was serialized almost 50 years ago, by the most popular Hindi magazine then, called Dharmyug. The effect it had was huge: People looked forward eagerly for the next installment. Much of the Hindi reading populace of the country had for the first time read an authentic and humane narration of life in Lahore and the trauma of the exodus that had struck Punjab. The author, till then better known as a revolutionary and a writer, instantly carved a niche for him among literary giants.

Today, for those of us who are aware of the trauma that the partition of the country inflicted upon them or their grandparents or their parents for that matter, Yashpal’s Jhootha Sach, christened as “This is not that Dawn” in its English avatar, is not just a novel dealing with the cataclysmic event. It is rich in its writing and vision – it takes you to the same places with a new perspective. This, according to me is the only definitive fictitious account of the Partition and its aftermath.

I still remember as a child watching Buniyaad – a serial about the partition and wondering: Is this what my grandparents went through? My Nani (maternal grandmother) used to tell me endless tales of the life she led before Partition and it almost seemed unreal to me. Her world was cut into two – Pre and Post Partition and she like many countless humans would live like this. We tend to take everything for granted, well almost, including freedom. Our right to express and our right to do what we wish to. It is almost like we have no value for it, and may be we don’t. Our grandparents would think differently though.

It is not easy for me to chronicle a huge masterpiece such as this into a single review of close to a 1000 words even – considering the book is close to 1119 pages long, and not once did I get bored reading it.

Jhootha Sach narrates the events of Partition through the lives of the people who suffered a thousand deaths before they were actually torn away from their motherland to become sharnarthis (refugees). The story of their transformation from sharnarthis to purusharthis in the second volume is equally riveting, more so because the author, like his characters, is hard-pressed to provide some moral moorings to an increasingly amoral society in the new nation. It does not place a judgmental value to decisions made in those times – probably because they did not seem best in such a situation, nor does it try to evoke feelings of any volatile nature. What it does best is present the truth.

Jhootha Sach is a huge canvas that needed not only large brushes with huge strokes but also the delicate handling of a watercolour artist. It is a sad movie that runs into reels and the one that you so riveting that you don’t want it to end.

Thus, he deals with the politics of Partition wherein the dubious role of the much-lauded Khizir Hyat government and the British bureaucracy in Punjab is exposed as also deftly examining the socio-economic composition that gave birth to inequities and consequently the need felt by Muslims to have Pakistan. As Pakistan begins to emerge as a distinct reality, many of the Hindus remain baffled, clutching at straws of hope, arguing that since 80 per cent of the property of Lahore was held by Hindus and the vast majority of the industrial workers in Amritsar, Jalandar and Ludhiana were Muslims, the creation of Pakistan was an unrealistic goal.

Yashpal breathed life not only in the characters of Bhola Pandhe’s Gali but also brought alive a life, where the neighbours demonstrate their solidarity and concern in matters of both life and death. The first part of the novel, Homeland and Nation, narrates the lives, hopes and fears of the characters in the shadow of the powerful tempest that was about to strike and when it does overwhelm Lahore and the rest of the Punjab, it fathoms the pits of degeneration and depravity that mankind descends.

This is Not That Dawn; Yashpal; Penguin Modern Classics; Penguin India; Rs. 599

Litanies of Dutch Battery by N.S. Madhavan; Translated by Rajesh Rajamohan

There is a charm knowing about places through the protagonist when one is reading a novel. I guess the only reason being – human touch. In about almost everything – right from the boring geographical descriptions, which suddenly become interesting as the narrator takes us through them (be it through a repository of memories or otherwise), or the history of the place (either through the protagonist’s ancestors or neighbours) or to the culture of the place – through its peculiarities or about its people and their eccentricities. The bottom line is: It makes you feel differently at the end of the book. About wanting to visit the place and know more of it. To sink in and become one with the place. This is the feeling that hit me the first after I finished reading, “Litanies of Dutch Battery” by N.S. Madhavan.

At first I wondered (most readers would have on reading this book) about the title – what a strange title, till I realized that Dutch Battery was a place – one of the many islands of Kochi Waters. The tale is of Edwina Jessica – born on the island. She watches the world turn and events occurring in the island – the births, the deaths, victories, failures and redemption of its occupants – some who are connected and some who aren’t. Some who stick on and some who leave the island every night on the last ferry boat.

There a lot of layers to this book – some real and some not. There are myths created, fantasies that the author has allowed himself to wallow in and he intends the reader to feel the same. To be able to read the book with an open mind.

Madhavan opens the window to the 50s political history of Kerala through this book (or at least attempts to). The Christian and Nair communities are fighting their battle against the regressive communist government – they elected for to begin with. Jessica is not left untouched and is influenced as well. Amidst all this, one can sense the deprivation and rebellious instinct of the Kochiites and how it translates to other ways of expression – from mural paintings to painting, carpentry to drama and cooking. With this again, N.S Madhavan introduces us to a plethora of characters – who are intrinsic to the plot – the carpet seller Shiraz, Santiague the singer, Saradamma – the small pox vaccinator and many such.

There were times I was bored out of my wits while reading the book. I do not care for the political bits, may be that is why. However, when the events unfurl themselves throughout the book and connect at the end is what exhilarates the reader. I loved the translation – it was bang on and Rajesh Rajamohan has done wonders with it. This is just the book I would recommend for a rainy day with a tall mug of hot chocolate.

 Litanies of Dutch Battery; Madhavan, N.S; Penguin India; Rs. 350