Less than 24hr for the Readathon to begin, I wish to share with you my choice of books for the readathon. I am super excited to join in this readathon. The reasons being:
1) This is the first ever readathon I am joining.
2) I love the whole purpose of this readathon, to explore more about my country both pre- and post-independent India, its different culture, traditions, charm of different cities or regions, customs, languages, politics.
3) To find the gems from Indian literature. There are many Indian authors who have published their book after very extensive research on various aspects on India and India’s diversity. But unfortunately, we Indian’s are not even aware of them and their work.
4) Big new!!! Haper Collins India is collaborating with the organizers of this readathon.
5) The book subscription box, The Last Leaf Box has also collaborated with the organizers to make a contest and choose a winner, who aim is to promote reading of diverse books in india.
So, here goes my list of books, I am going to read for this readathon:
1) A book set in pre-independence era : Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
This book was published in 1935, is about Bakha is a young man, proud and even attractive, yet none the less he is an outcast in India’s caste system: an Untouchable. This novel describes a day in the life of Bakha, sweeper and toilet-cleaner, as he searches for a meaning to the tragic existence he has been born into – and comes to an unexpected conclusion.
English novelist, E.M. Foster, wrote: Untouchable could only have been written by an Indian, and by an Indian who observed from the outside. No European, however sympathetic, could have created the character of Bakha, because he would not have known enough about his troubles.
2) A book written in any Indian language (you can read the translated version too): Karmabhumi by Premchan (it’s written in hindi language)
Greatly influenced by Gandhi’s satyagraha movement, Karmabhumi is set in the Uttar Pradesh of the 1930s. By the beginning of the 20th century, Islam and Hinduism had coexisted in India for over a thousand years, and barring the occasional outbursts of violence, the two religious communities had lived together peacefully and shared strong social bonds except marriage. English education, however, drove a wedge between these two communities. It is against this backdrop that Premchand wrote Karmabhumi.
3) A book on any Indian City: City of Djinns by William Dalrymple
Sparkling with irrepressible wit, City of Djinns peels back the layers of Delhi’s centuries-old history, revealing an extraordinary array of characters along the way-from eunuchs to descendants of great Moguls. With refreshingly open-minded curiosity, William Dalrymple explores the seven “dead” cities of Delhi as well as the eighth city-today’s Delhi. Underlying his quest is the legend of the djinns, fire-formed spirits that are said to assure the city’s Phoenix-like regeneration no matter how many times it is destroyed.
4) A book focused on the post independence era: No Full Stops in India by Mark Tully
India’s Westernized elite, cut off from local traditions, ‘want to write a full stop in a land where there are no full stops’. From that striking insight Mark Tully has woven a superb series of ‘stories’ which explore Calcutta, from the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad (probably the biggest religious festival in the world) to the televising of a Hindu epic. Throughout, he combines analysis of major issues with a feel for the fine texture and human realities of Indian life. The result is a revelation.
Here are few books, you can select from to join in this readathon as well as to read this month, this month being the independence month:
1) May you be the mother of a hundered sons by Elisabeth Bumiller
In a chronicle rich in diversity, detail, and empathy, Elisabeth Bumiller illuminates the many women’s lives she shared–from wealthy sophisticates in New Delhi, to villagers in the dusty northern plains, to movie stars in Bombay, intellectuals in Calcutta, and health workers in the south–and the contradictions she encountered, during her three and a half years in India as a reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST. In their fascinating, and often tragic stories, Bumiller found a strength even in powerlessness, and a universality that raises questions for women around the world.
2) Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand
Coolie portrays the picaresque adventures of Munoo, a young boy forced to leave his hill village to fend for himself and discover the world. His journey takes him far from home to towns and cities, to Bomboy and Simla, sweating as servant, factory-worker and rickshaw driver. It is a fight for survival that illuminates, with raw immediacy, the grim fate of the masses in pre-Partition India.
3) The Heart of India by Mark Tully
Imbued with his love for India, and informed by his experience of India (where he worked for the BBC for over 20 years), Mark Tully has woven together a series of stories set in Uttar Pradesh, which tell of very different lives.
4) The Age of Kali by William Dalrymple
The result of 10 year’s living and traveling throughout the Indian subcontinent, The Age of Kali emerges from Dalrymple’s uneasy sense that the region is slipping into the most fearsome of all epochs in ancient Hindu cosmology: “the Kali Yug, the Age of Kali, the lowest possible throw, an epoch of strife, corruption, darkness, and disintegration.” “The brilliance of this book lies in its refusal to reflect any cultural pessimism. Dalrymple’s love for the subcontinent, and his feel for its diverse cultural identity, comes across in every page, which makes its chronicles of political corruption, ethnic violence, and social disintegration all the more poignant. The scope of the book is particularly impressive, from the vivid opening chapters portraying the lawless caste violence of Bihar, to interviews with the drug barons on the North-West Frontier, and Dalrymple’s extraordinary encounter with the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Some of the most fascinating sections of the book are Dalrymple’s interviews with Imran Khan and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, which read like nonfiction companion pieces to Salman Rushdie’s bitterly satirical Shame.
5) The Age of Shiva by Manil Suri
A sweeping epic that follows the fortunes of one family and the fortunes of India in the violent aftermath of Partition, ‘The Age of Shiva’ is the powerful story of a country in turmoil and an extraordinary portrait of maternal love.
6) Nine Lives by William Dalrymple
A middle-class woman from Calcutta finds unexpected fulfillment living as a Tantric in an isolated, skull-filled cremation ground . . . A prison warder from Kerala is worshipped as an incarnate deity for two months of every year . . . A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment watching her closest friend ritually starve herself to death . . . The twenty-third in a centuries-old line of idol makers struggles to reconcile with his son’s wish to study computer engineering . . . An illiterate goatherd keeps alive in his memory an ancient 200,000-stanza sacred epic . . . A temple prostitute, who resisted her own initiation into sex work, pushes her daughters into the trade she nonetheless regards as a sacred calling.
William Dalrymple tells these stories, among others, with expansive insight and a spellbinding evocation of remarkable circumstance, giving us a dazzling travelogue of both place and spirit.
7) Train to Pakistan by Khuswant Singh
It is a place, Khushwant Singh goes on to tell us at the beginning of this classic novel, where Sikhs and Muslims have lived together in peace for hundreds of years. Then one day, at the end of the summer, the “ghost train” arrives, a silent, incredible funeral train loaded with the bodies of thousands of refugees, bringing the village its first taste of the horrors of the civil war. Train to Pakistan is the story of this isolated village that is plunged into the abyss of religious hate. It is also the story of a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl whose love endured and transcends the ravages of war.
8) The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity by Amartya Sen
In sixteen linked essays, Nobel Prize–winning economist Amartya Sen discusses India’s intellectual and political heritage and how its argumentative tradition is vital for the success of its democracy and secular politics. The Argumentative Indian is “a bracing sweep through aspects of Indian history and culture, and a tempered analysis of the highly charged disputes surrounding these subjects–the nature of Hindu traditions, Indian identity, the country’s huge social and economic disparities, and its current place in the world”.
9) The Rani of Jhansi by Price Michael
Indian civilization is among the oldest in the world, and what is unique in that respect is that the culture of the peoples still remains largely unchanged, with a strong thread of continuity through the ages.
The Wonder That was India takes a look at the country’s history from the time of the Harappan or Indus Valley Civilization. It explores the possible causes for the decline of the Harappan civilization and settlements. The book talks about the possibility of the Harappans having moved towards the south and settled in the peninsular region.
The author also discusses the Aryan invasion theory, supporting it with various research papers and findings of that time. The evolution of Hindu religion is also talked about in this book–from the Harappan times, to the coming of the Aryans and the mutual influence that Hinduism and its off shoots Jainism and Buddhism had on each other.
This book is comprehensive in its coverage of Indian history. It looks at every aspect of Indian society and culture. The Wonder That was India covers everything from religion, governance, social evolution, literary traditions, philosophy languages, and science.
Keep checking my insta feed for updates on the readathod and independence reads.