Booked for September
It's Read A New Book Month and so, we get five city-based authors to share their picks of good, lesser-known titles
The Woman at 1,000 Degrees by Hallgrimur Helgason
It is the irreverent sharp tale of an octogenarian who has a hand grenade in her bed, prepares for her death and creates digital hell for her family from her laptop. It puts me in mind of a Chaucerian tale, bawdy, fun, rude and a great read.
Input by Kiran Manral, author of The Reluctant Detective and Karmic Kids
The Persecuted by Krishna Mohana Banerjea
Recently, I came across a truly unique volume published by Shambhabi/Hawakal,Kolkata. Krishna Mohana Banerjea's The Persecuted, edited and introduced by Paromita Sengupta. It is the first drama written in English by an Indian. The play provides an insight into the Hindu orthodoxy. At a time, when people are beefed up with beef and when cow-slaughter leads lynching, this drama, written nearly two-hundred years ago (1831) in Kolkata by a young Hindu Brahmin, makes an interesting read. One wonders if such a play were written today, would the performance be banned? Most probably, yes. Playwrights of the earlier decades were more outspoken than us. These days, there is barely any socially relevant theatre and plays fail to find publishers.
Input by Anju Makhija, author of Poems Grow with You
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
I was introduced to this book by my grandfather at a very young age and since then, I have re-read it several times. What makes this an incredible read is that through the story of Yogananda's search for spiritual enlightenment one can actually get started on one's own path to self realisation. This book changed the way that I looked at life and made me realize that true wisdom lay in knowing that one didn't know. The book is worthy of multiple readings because each read will open up new vistas of understanding.
Input by Ashwin Sanghi, author of The Rozabal Line, Chanakya's Chant and The Krishna Key
Sin of Semantics by Saima Afreen (poetry) and Raindrops chasing Raindrops by Paresh Tiwari (prose)
Afreen's first book is a subliminal interplay of language and localities while Tiwari's is a book of lyrical prose — a perfect way of introducing haibun to the world, besides it being an exploration on evocation.
Input by Rochelle Potkar, author of Four Degrees of Separation and Paper Asylum
The Last Time I Saw Tibet By Bimal Dey
The author is a born traveller. This book is about his trip to Tibet in 1956 on foot as a teenager! Since then, Bimal Dey has travelled the world, including the Arctic Circle and Antarctica. But it's his journey across Tibet, from Gangtok to Lhasa and Mansarovar when he was a teenager, that holds a special place in his heart. The Last Time I Saw Tibet recounts his adventures during this trip in 1956 when he ran away from his home and joined a group of lamas: a time when Sikkim was not yet part of India, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama still ruled in Tibet although Chinese presence was marked, and Indians were not banned from traveling there. The book is like a time capsule that has captured in its pages the final days of independent Tibet for posterity. A time that was beautiful and yet there are the first stirrings of the Chinese invasion being felt in the undercurrents. Where the author is forced to travel as a silent lama known as 'mauni baba' to avoid interacting with the Chinese soldiers. Growing up in Kalimpong in my childhood, I have always had a love for Tibet, and all things Tibetan. And this book once again made me yearn to see Lhasa. This book not only is a great account of the beautiful country but is also a resilient testament of a simple boy who dared to dream about seeing the world - and go on an adventure that was unimaginable when travel was an ordeal, and especially by foot.
In the last chapter, Bimal Dey talks about the changes he observed in Lhasa and Tibet after the Chinese occupation of the country, that he observes at the cusp of the new millennium when he was granted to visit Tibet again. He notes the gradual decimation of the Tibetan culture including its rich and unique traditions across the countryside. The book was first published in 1982 as Mahatirther Shesh Jatri in Bangla. This English translation was penned by Malobika Chaudhuri, and published by Penguin Books in 2007 as The Last Time I Saw Tibet.
Input by Anirban Bhattacharya, author of The Deadly Dozen: India's Most Notorious Serial Killers
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