Kashmir, Bengal, love and loss in the pile (IANS Books This Week)

July 21st, 2011 - 2:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) The book shelf this week is a blend of drama and realisations - facts mingled with fictions.

1. “A Tangled Web: Jammu & Kashmir”; Edited by Ira Pande; Published by Harper Collins India; Priced at Rs.699

Founded in the mid-19th century, Jammu & Kashmir brought together areas that were culturally, linguistically and geographically diverse. It is in this diversity that the roots of insurgency lie. And the key to this volatile region is the understanding of this diversity.

The book, an anthology of essays, tries to explore the decline of the paradise on earth to a paradise lost. The essays look into the conflicting politics, socio-cultural milieu and history of the region. It also voices the concerns of the common man to throw the veil off the Kashmir impasse.

2. “Love Across the Salt Desert: Selected Short Stories”; Written by Keki N. Daruwalla; Published by Penguin India; Priced at Rs.299

This is a gripping collection of short stories - some old and some new - from a prize-winning writer, known for his thematic variety and power of narrative. The gem of the collection is the short story, “Love Across the Salt Desert” which was made into the movie, “Refugee”. The iconic title story is that of Najab who defies his father and the international border between India and Pakistan at the hostile Rann of Kutch to bring home his love, Fatimah.

In “When Gandhi Came to Gorakhpur”, small-time lawyer Shadilal dithers over giving up his profession and joining the freedom struggle. But fate decides for him… The stories are laced with wit and canny insights into life and the passage of history.

3. “The Land of Two Rivers”; Written by Nitish Sengupta; Published by Penguin India; Priced at Rs.650

The book chronicles the story of one of the most fascinating and influential regions in the Indian subcontinent. The confluence of two major river systems, Ganga and Brahmaputra, created the delta of Bengal - an ancient land known as a centre of trade, learning and the arts from the days of the Mahabharata. During the medieval era, this eventful journey saw the rise of Muslim dynasties which brought into being a unique culture, quite distinct from that of northern India.

The colonial conquest in the 18th century opened the modern chapter of Bengal’s history and transformed the social and economic structure of the region. The writer traces the formation of Bengali identity through the Bengal Renaissance, the growth of nationalist politics and the complex web of events that eventually led to the partition of the nation in 1947, analysing why, despite centuries of shared history and culture, the Bengalis finally divided along communal lines.

4. “The Company Red”; Written by Shantanu Dhar; Published by Om Books International; Priced at Rs.195

Ardhendu Bose, a fatherless middle-class Bengali boy brought up by a domineering and vicariously ambitious mother, tries to escape from the failures of life, in the arms of his Punjabi girlfriend, a BPO job that is sheer drudgery, the mindless somersaults of Crystal, his six-year-old Labrador, and in the company of the never-say-die and Texan drawl trawling Manoj. But everything is set to change overnight.

A loser from a B-grade Indian business school, Ardhendu is summoned for an interview by RED, the fourth largest Life Sciences company in the world. His life takes a turn for the better, or so he believes. Finally, he gets a life, works with people with exotic names, drinks their fine spirits, attends their parties, and climbs the ladder rapidly. Till that epiphanic moment in a penthouse balcony when it becomes clear that there is a price to pay to be a part of that world…of predators. It is the first of Dhar’s Red trilogy.

5. “Rebirth”; Written by Jahnavi Barua; Published by Penguin India; Priced at Rs.350

Kaberi, a young woman is coming to terms with her uncertain marriage. The only bond that she shares is with her unborn daughter as Kaberi travels between Bangalore and Guwahati. The novel threads Kaberi’s inner and outer worlds into a powerful fabric of a social drama in which the being inside is at war with the persona outside.

Kaberi copes with love, loss and betrayal foisted on her by an unfaithful husband, troubled relationship with her parents and the death of a childhood friend. The writer brings to light the conflicts of a modern urban world and the timeless power of true love - which is said to heal.

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