Tag Archives: Indian Writing

The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad by Twinkle Khanna

the-legend-of-lakshmi-prasad-by-twinkle-khanna Title: The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad
Author: Twinkle Khanna
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
ISBN: 978-9386228055
Genre: Short Stories, Novella
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I remember reading “Mrs Funnybones” last year and loving it to bits. I was floored by Twinkle Khanna’s writing and just couldn’t stop turning the pages. In fact, I finished the book in a couple of hours and the same happened while I was reading her second book “The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad” – a collection of three stories and a novella. It is fiction – some of it is inspired by real life as well, but the gravitas in these short stories is something else. They are not screaming for attention from the rooftop. They are subtle and graceful and extremely affable.

This collection of stories could take place anywhere. You could meet their characters while walking on the road. They are common people and some extraordinary things happen to them. This is one of the reasons I love fiction. Big things happen to so-called small people and Twinkle does a fantastic job of bringing it to life in the pages of her book. At the same time, before picking up this book, I was very skeptical of how she would be at writing fiction and lo behold, she surprised me. I was wrong to even be a bit cynical. The book is fantastic and I am not just saying this because I have loved “Mrs Funnybones” or because I think she is extremely hilarious.

My favourite story in the book of course is the one modelled after the sanitary man Arunachalam Muruganantham- the man who was solely driven to not only generating awareness about menstruation in rural India but also ensuring that the women there use sanitary pads that are hygienic and low-cost as well. I am stunned by what he has done, by what people like him do. I didn’t know of him earlier, I shall admit but after reading the short story I had to know more about him. He is a Padma Shri award winner for spreading awareness against traditional myths and practices around menstruation. Now this is the kind of action we need in the country.

At the same time, while reading this story, I firmly believe that all of us must talk of issues that people shirk from – in this case menstruation. Why don’t we talk of women’s health more often? Why don’t we have conversations around it? Feminism is not just meant for online discussions, I suppose and a lot of ground has to be covered and from that perspective, this collection sure does bring to light strong women, their way of life and the issues surrounding them.

While I absolutely loved, “The Sanitary Man from a Sacred Land” (which might I add was written with a very irreverent and at the same time controlled tone), I absolutely loved the story of the two sisters – Noni Appa and Binni. It is about finding love at any time and at any age. It is simple, sweet and will leave you with a wonderful aftertaste of belonging to someone. The fact that you are the master of your own life and can make choices, despite initial hiccups, being a woman in her late 60s amazed me. I felt for Noni Appa and I wish my mother would have remarried when she had the chance. We all need companions and nothing is truer than that.

I also enjoyed the other two in this collection. The titular tale is of a girl almost saving girls of a village and in the process saving a village and ends up a hero of her own life. Twinkle Khanna’s writing is breezy, profound and most interesting. This book is full of impact, grace, tenderness and relevant issues of our times. I would highly recommend it to one and all. Do go out there, read The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, talk about it, and gift it to people you know and love.

Hang Woman by K.R. Meera & Translated by J. Devika

Hang Woman by K.R. Meera Title: Hang Woman
Author: K.R. Meera
Translator: J. Devika
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin
ISBN: 9780670086542
Genre: Literary Fiction, Indian Writing, Translation
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Some books are just not an easy read. No matter how hard you try, you cannot skim through them. Neither can you dismiss them. They demand complete and total attention. They will not rest till you give it to them and neither will you. “Hang Woman” by K.R. Meera is one such book. It is no doubt a complex read, given the subject and yet I did not feel like letting go of it, at any point. A book can be gripping in many ways, sometimes the traditional route of suspense and sometimes in the not-so-traditional sense of strong writing and ideas presented in a manner unlike any other.

“Hang Woman” is a translation from Malayalam to English. On this note, I hope there are more such translations. We as a country have a lot of offer in terms of literature and most of it goes unnoticed or hidden. Perhaps that will change. And it is essentially up to publishers to change that and I know for a fact that Penguin and others are trying hard to bring about that change. Many say that translated books do not or may not have the same impact as reading the book in the original; however, the translator for this book, J. Devika has done a spectacular translation.

“Hang Woman” is a book of executioners or rather a family of executioners. The Grddha Mullick family has witnessed almost every single important event that has shaped the history of the subcontinent. It is a lineage of executioners, dating back to before Christ and there is immense pride in that they take. Cut to present day, where twenty-two year old, Chetna is the first lady executioner of India and with a family tradition to take over. Of course, that is where the title comes from, but there is more to it than the obvious.

The layers and stories come out gradually in the book. K.R. Meera does a splendid job of mixing the past and the present and weaving it to create a story of love, loss and violence. There is a lot of juxtaposition of beliefs and also confusion to a large extent in the book that lends it its unique voice. What I liked personally in the book is the subtlety – of Chetna’s feelings, her life and her choices. Like I mentioned earlier, the translation is easy to read and lends imagination to the reader at almost every page. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and for someone who is searching for that book that he or she can mull over and be entertained at the same time, then I would say, read, “Hang Woman”.

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Book Review: Classic Rabindranath Tagore

Title: Classic Rabindranath Tagore
Publisher: Penguin India
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 9780143416326
PP: 1136
Price: Rs. 599
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have had only this to say about Rabindranath Tagore every time I have finished reading one of his books: Pure Genius. He was way ahead of his times – he understood the human mind and emotions with precision and his tales always had that naughty twist in them. He saw the world for not as is, but for what it was and the possibilities that could exist.

While reading this collection of 9 novels and novellas written by him, what struck me the most was his stance on women. All of Tagore’s women are strong characters and all the stories are centred on them, and how can one forget the themes? The thought-provoking and often lingering themes of widowhood (which he abhorred), a woman trying to assert herself in a so-called man’s world, separation, comedy of errors (sometimes) and many such themes in different ways, make you wonder: What was going through the man’s mind when he wrote all of this?

For me personally, the entire collection was a joyride. From Choker Bali (which most of us have seen and loved) to the lesser-known Farewell Song, which beautifully explains the angst of love, to Four Chapters – that relentlessly tries to explain the complexities of love and its existence. All these stories have one thread in common: The grandness of life and the ability to live it through. The writing I can’t even comment on as it is perfect. Every word is in place and nothing seems wasted.

So when a collection is that perfect (but obviously), what else do you write about it? Except mention that they produce them anymore like him.  

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Book Review: Playground – Rangbhoomi by Premchand

Playground: Rangbhoomi
Author: Premchand
Translator: Manju Jain
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 9780143102113
Extent: 692pp
Format: Paperback (Demy)
Source: Publisher
Price:  Rs. 500

I had not read a single book by Premchand (or Munshi Premchand, as he was known) till I read Rangbhoomi. I had read a one-off story in school (since we had a story by him as a part of the syllabus) and that was that. Nothing more than that as he never sparked my interest when it came to either Basha Literature or the fact that I found his works too depressing and rustic. I was at a stage in my life when probably the world literature influences were heavier than the Indian ones. Till lately, my interest varied and I wanted to read something by him. I have read a lot of Indian Literature; however we belong to the generation sadly of translations and must make do with them. Here, I would like to give full-credit to the translator of this work, Manju Jain for providing us with this gem of a work.

Translating a work is not easy. There are times when maybe you miss out on the finer details that the original work intended to communicate to its readers. However, thankfully so that is not the case with this translation, owing to the fact that the translator is also an Indian. Rangbhoomi as a novel is complex – it has many layers to it which take time to unfold and come to the surface. The title itself means, “The arena of life” – which is so apt to the entire book. It is life playing itself in its arena and in many shapes, forms and emotions.

At over 700 pages, Rangbhoomi is a big book and yet it satisfies the reader in ways one cannot even begin to fathom. The plot of the book is simple as the case is in most Premchand’s works: Oppression of the working classes, namely in Rural India, which would mean – the farmers. We encounter the blind Surdas and his chronicle from life to death and the hardships he suffers on the account of his place in the society – that of a farmer.

Munshiji has been the hallmark of Indian Literature. Right from Godan (The Gift of a Cow) to the short story Kafan (Shroud), his penmanship skills have been brilliant and long-lasting in the memory of his readers. The narrative of Premchand is biting – it makes you think and wonder about the caste system that still exists in our country in hamlets and villages. May be a change will come someday. It ought to.

Reflections of an Uncommon Man by Aminuddin Khan

“Reflections of an Uncommon Man” is a roller-coaster ride of a book. Trust me when I say that.  Told in a simple manner and style, the words do not leave you, long after you have finished reading the book. And this I speak out of experience.

What is the book all about?

It is about the search for meaning and truth in our lives, which often is right before us and we fail to see it most of the time. It is about the smaller and the bigger things and events of life. It is but essentially about having a soul.

Afsar Ali Khan is the protagonist of this tale. He is the patriarch and everything of an aristocratic family that goes back several generations. Till the dreaded day when he chances upon a long hidden family secret, which takes him to places he never thought they could.

He meets a variety of people on his way to uncovering the mystery behind the secret – from a man searching for his roots to a young Englishman who is besotted with all things historical. Each of the characters in the book is on his/her path – the path that leads to truth and meaning, as mentioned earlier.

The characters are well-etched and almost lead you to believe their situation and their tales. I for one loved reading this book, not so much for the writing but for the way the story was heading. It kept me up and wanting to know more. A good read for a rainy day.

Reflections of an Uncommon Man; Khan, Aminuddin; Rupa and Co; Rs. 195