Hues of India: History, drama, culture valour on bookshelf (IANS Books This Week)March 3rd, 2011 - 4:45 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) The bookcase sweeps back on a time machine to history to unearth old classics, sensibilities, edgy stories, slices of history and supernatural. Soak in the classical flavours of India this week.
1. “Girls for Sale”; Written by Gurajada Apparao (Translated from Telugu); Published by Penguin-India; Priced at Rs.350.
First staged in 1892, “Girls For Sale (Kanyasulkam)” is considered one of the greatest modern works of Telugu literature. The first major play was written in an Indian language that critiqued British colonialism’s effects on Indian society; it is filled with humour, biting social commentary, parody and masquerade. The plot revolves around an English-speaking dandy, a clever courtesan, a young widow and an old man who wants to buy a very young girl as his wife.
2. “Playground (Rangabhoomi)”; Written by Munshi Premchand (Translated from Hindi); Published by Penguin-India; Priced at Rs.550.
First published in 1925, “Rangabhoomi” was considered Premchand’s best work. Set against the backdrop of colonial India, characterised by a brutal state, opportunistic and feudal landlords and ruthless capitalists - this novel is a grim account of the struggle of blind beggar Soordas against the acquisition of his ancestral land.
Weaving together themes such as industrialisation and atrocities committed by the princely states, the role of women in India’s independence movement, caste and class hierarchies, “Playground” is still relevant.
3. “In the Bazar of Love: The Selected Poetry of Amir Khusrau”; Translated by Paul Losensky and Sunil Sharma; Published by Penguin Books-India; Priced at Rs.450 (hardcover).
Amir Khusrau - poet, courtier, mystic and musician - straddled the worlds of politics, religion and helped forge a distinctive synthesis of Muslim and Hindu cultures. His poetry in Persian appealed equally to the Delhi sultans and to his Sufi ’sheikh’, Nizamuddin Auliya. It was appreciated not only in India, where his Hindavi poetry has survived through a lively oral tradition, but also across a cosmopolitan Persianate world that stretched from Turkey to Bengal.
4. “Ashoka, The Great”; Written by Wytze Keuning; Published by Rupa & Co; Priced at Rs.2,250.
The book chronicles the life of Emperor Ashoka. It is the fictional biography and more accurately can be called historical fiction. The original Dutch version was a trilogy, published separately in three volumes. The trilogy was written between 1937-1947 by a Dutch scholar Wytze Keuning in Groningen in the Netherlands. These three volumes - Ashoka: The Wild Prince, Book I, Ashoka: The Wise Ruler, Book II and Ashoka: The World’s Great Teacher, Book III - are now brought together and presented in this single volume “Ashoka, The Great”.
5. “Swayamvara (The Return of Ravana)”; Written by David Hair; Published by Penguin-India; Priced at Rs.250.
The book is a thrilling retelling of two exciting historical sagas - the Ramayana and the exploits of Rajput hero Prithviraj Chauhan - and travels between two time zones. Bollywood actress Sunita Ashoka will marry the man who wins her hand in Swayamvara Live, a reality show on television. Vikram Khandavani decides to participate for the needs to draw out his nemesis Ravindra. It is a deadly gamble, one that could cost him everything and everyone he loves.
Cut to north India in 1175 AD, King Prithviraj Chauhan is about to storm the ’swayamvara’ of princess Sanyogita. But villain Ravindra is coming. Only Vikram in his life as Chand Bardai, stands between Ravindra and the thrones of India.
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Tags: ancestral land, blind beggar, british colonialism, caste and class, class hierarchies, colonial india, courtesan, delhi sultans, hindu cultures, independence movement, india history, indian language, industrialisation, munshi premchand, penguin books india, princely states, role of women in india, sufi sheikh, women in india, young widow