Tag Archives: random house india

A Mirrored Life by Rabisankar Bal

A Mirrored Life by Rabisankar Bal Title: A Mirrored Life
Author: Rabisankar Bal
Translator: Arunava Sinha
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184006155
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translation
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are books that one is grateful are written. There is no other way to praise them to the skies and recommend them to all and sundry. That is the magic of the written word that can never be contained in any other form. This is then extended to translations, and when it comes to that, more so from Bengali to English, no one does it better than Arunava Sinha who gave us Rabisankar Bal’s Dozakhnama and now he does another favour on the English-speaking reader by giving us “A Mirrored Life” by the same author.

Earlier it was about Ghalib and Manto, and this time round it is about Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. Who in their right mind will not be captivated by this book? The theme was enough for me to get started and be swept by the power of language, emotion, and expression. The book is about Ibn-e-Battuta travelling away to find out more about Rumi’s life and along the way what he uncovers and what is left to speculation. It is but obvious, that when one speaks of Rumi you cannot help but mention Shams. This is how the story intertwines itself and though it may seem that there are two paths, there is just one that of amazement, wonder and life in full bloom.

“A Mirrored Life” is about Battuta chancing upon a manuscript of Rumi’s life stories, given to him by Rumi’s disciples. He then starts reading these tales and reciting them to people he meets along the way to Konya (where Rumi was born and stayed). As he starts getting involved in these tales, he begins to make sense of the world around him and what is really important.

The book is not complex. It is not an easy read either. You have to let go of all inhibitions before reading this book. “A Mirrored Life” touches on so many issues and topics without really specifying them. It gives readers the chance to interact with what the author is thinking and chooses to express through the book. The relationship between Rumi and Shams was of most importance to me as a reader. I could not help but revel in those parts and also the transition of Rumi from a Maulana to a Sufi Saint. The relationships Rumi shared with his wife, his sons and the people of Konya are beautifully described and laid out for the reader.

“A Mirrored Life” makes you look at the world differently and ask difficult questions – ask them to yourself as you turn the pages and that is the tough part. This book overwhelmed me in way too many places, so much so, there were times when I had to stop reading and just contemplate on what I had read. Arunava’s translation is par excellence. I do not know Bengali, but I do know that I did not ever find the need to read the book in Bengali. The translation made no bones of wanting a glossary to be added for words that perhaps regular readers would not understand and that is the way to stay true to the essence of the original.

Rabisankar Bal has just written a book which will take you by surprise and leave you wishing and hoping that it was a longer book, and somehow you don’t need a long book for this theme. It is perfect the way it is – with every word in its place and rhythm that is lilting and takes you to a deeper level. I could not stop recommending this enough on social media and I cannot stop doing the same here. A definite read for all Rumi or literature lovers out there.

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The Smoke is Rising by Mahesh Rao

The Smoke is Rising by Mahesh Rao Title: The Smoke is Rising
Author: Mahesh Rao
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184005189
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 328
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I am always wary of reading a debut novel. Not because of maybe not liking it, but also because of the effort put in by the writer, which I may not be able to see or gauge and for the right reasons alone – I am not close to the book at that point. But then when the effort is put by a reader, then the entire reading experience changes. You feel for the book. You feel for the author, for the characters and the plot. Every word then is analysed and mulled about and given great thought to. “The Smoke is Rising” by Mahesh Rao made me do that to a large extent.

It is the future. India has got it all. It is almost the year 2008. India’s first spacecraft has been launched to the moon. The country is full of vigour and vim. Everyone wants to move ahead. Technology has set out a new path for the country and a small city like Mysore will not be left behind. It is gearing for its own greatness by building Asia’s greatest theme park – Heritage Land (I love the play and satire of words that shines throughout the book). The people of the city see the city transform instantly and for some of them it will not be easy getting back to the way things were. This in short is the plot of the book. I am not going to give away more than this.

Now to the writing. To begin with, you will not feel that the book is the debut novel of the writer. The satire is biting. The humour is wry. Mahesh’s writing is direct, which I loved the most. There are no round-about turns here. The story is as it is – and what I loved the most, is the subtle jab on the ever-changing world and how the world gone by just waits and gets lost.

I guess I could connect a lot more to the book than I thought I would. “The Smoke is Rising” speaks of changes, of times moving on and somewhere down the line, while we all have somehow gotten used to the world that has changed, we still perhaps want to cling on to what has been left behind. The book resonated deep within me and I will of course reread it, but for now, I will let it be. I will maybe go back and remember a life that was simple, as the characters of this brilliant debut.

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Karachi You’re Killing Me by Saba Imtiaz

Karachi You're Killing Me by Saba Imtiaz Title: Karachi You’re Killing Me
Author: Saba Imtiaz
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184004601
Genre: Literary Fiction, Satire, Humour
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

There are very few satirical writers left in the world, I think. Or maybe I have not heard enough of them. So when I stumble on something interesting – satirical, with a good plot and hilarious at the same time, I know that I have struck gold. For a reader, nothing is more gratifying than reading something which fulfils and satisfies at the same time. “Karachi, You’re Killing Me” is one of those books. You immediately take a liking to it and that is that.

Saba Imtiaz’s first book, “Karachi You’re Killing Me” is a romp of a read and when I say romp – I mean it in the sense of it being fast-paced, funny, tongue-in-cheek and describing the extremes of Pakistan – from the elite to the not-so elite to the middle class that hangs in the balance.

Books about Pakistan always leave me wanting to know more about the country. It is almost like the need to know how the brother country has shaped and what lies ahead of them: Is it as different? Is it that similar? As I reader, I am left clamouring for more.

At the heart of the novel is, Ayesha Khan, a single, female reporter in Karachi, who despises the elite and has no choice but to cover them for her pieces as well. Her assignments range from covering a bomb site to interviewing her boss’s niece, who is a cup-cake designer. Besides this, she has her own problems to take care of.

Imtiaz, very cleverly brings to her readers: Karachi: In all its splendour and sometimes not so. She speaks of the underbelly of Karachi and what it takes sometimes to survive in a city like this. Ayesha is almost caught between two worlds and yet is sorted in her head. She is the kind of character that takes her chances and does it without thinking twice.

The writing also is like this – almost semi-autobiographical in nature. It is most certainly not apologetic and Imtiaz says what she has to without making any bones about it. Saba Imtiaz, according to me, is one of the most promising writers to have come out of Pakistan in recent times and I for one cannot wait to read her next book.

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Book Review: Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law

Gaysia by Benjamin Law Title: Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East
Author: Benjamin Law
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184004779
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travelogue, Humour
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

It is funny how in the wake of Section 377 and LGBT rights, I finished reading, “Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East” by Benjamin Law – a book on gays in the East and more importantly on their culture and lifestyle. The reason I find it funny is that I find the judgment quite a farce and love how Law speaks of gay men and women (sometimes) in an account that is hilarious, emotional and mostly a travelogue in search of identity across Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Burma, China, Malaysia and India, each with its own peculiarities and quirks.

The book as you delve further in is not really a travelogue; it is more of an insight to a troubled world. It is a world where two men cannot love each other – though the rules of lust are very different. There is humour and a lot of angst to the people and stories that Law documents. The social patterns from where he comes, which is Australia are very different in Asia. The world when it comes to rights of men and women is not the same. The Eastern world when it comes to same sex love or lust as Benjamin sees it is quite an eye-opener and it is for this, I would urge people to read, “Gaysia”.

It is funny how things are in different countries. For instance, in China, there are self-flagellation techniques, when a “bad” or “homosexual” thought occurs. Of how in China again, lesbians fake marry just to keep their parents happy. In Malaysia, people – Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, whom the author encounters, thinks homosexuality can be cured. In India, a certain yogi (should not be too hard to guess who this one is) thinks that it stems from bad thoughts and that it can also be cured.

“Gaysia” was released in our country without raising any eyebrows. I think it did so also because the so-called law holders, could not care less about a book – may be they would not understand this type of non-fiction or any book for that matter. The writing is sharp and humorous (the trans-gendered beauty pageant in Thailand, pride parades in these countries) in parts and in some, Law reflects on his sexuality and his relationship with his boyfriend. To me, including something personal in a book speaks a lot about the writer. It somehow makes him more accessible to readers, which is most needed in a book of this nature.

“Gaysia” is an eye-opener – for most people out there. I think it is written with a lot of eloquence and at the same time, Benjamin does not shy away from writing what he witnessed. The writing is honest and that is hands down one of the strongest features of the book. I want to gift this book to every friend of mine – straight or gay, just to understand if nothing else, about orientation and the fact that people are different and entitled to living their lives, the way they want to. Free love does not come with a section or with a judgment. It is just there, for all.

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Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East

Online Launch of “Hitched” by Nandini Krishna with Ashwin Sanghi

Arranged Marriage and all that it entails for a Woman. One doesn’t seem to think a lot about it and taken into account of what a woman feels towards it, more so the modern woman.

Nandini Krishna goes all out in her debut book, “Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage” exploring the concept through real-life incidents and snippets which make for some humorous and insightful reading.

With this in mind, Flipkart in association with Random House India launches the book online on the 6th of August 2013, at 3 pm.

Hitched

For more details: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151729967863559&set=a.397237208558.175559.102988293558&type=1

To buy the book: http://www.flipkart.com/hitched-modern-women-arranged-marriage/p/itmdmsbgdznte5bc?pid=9788184003734&otracker=from-search&srno=t_1&query=hitched&ref=65ee6c2b-f03f-4a73-b7fd-6c75e152bcce