World of Books
23 April is the International Day for Books. Unlike other “days” which are celebrated amidst much fanfare across the globe, this day hardly grabs eyeballs. However, for bibliophiles international Book Day is no less than Durga Puja or Christmas. To commemorate this day, i decided to share some books which left lasting impressions in my life. Hope you have read them, if not, do so ASAP.
I must admit i was never an avid reader of English literature before i moved to Calcutta. It was the lack of good English books back there in my native, which kept me away from the delights of the English literature. Of all the works which i could savour in the last couple of years, i cherished reading the following books the most :
1. A Thousand Splendid Suns
Set in Afghanistan, this moving tale of two women is bound to bring tears to your eyes. Khaleid Hosseini’s second work after Kite Runner, the book chronicles the lives of Mariam and Laila and gives an account of the atrocities women had to bear under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
2. The Idea of Justice
I was split between Argumentative Indian and Idea of Justice, as to which one is a better work and settled for the latter because Amartya Sen (who had been an inspiration through his works) propounds with authority the theory of social justice and indoctrinates the readers about institutional transcendentalism without going into idealistic representation of the judicial process/system.
3. Almost Single
This debut novel by Advaita Kala is for a light read. It is a narrative of a modern Indian girl who has to battle her home and her office in the struggle for survival. A coming of age work, brilliantly funny and emotionally excellent, you will have to fight the urge to put down the book once you start reading.
Written by Jean Season, Mayada tells us the story of a woman and her fight against the Saddam Hussein establishment. As you turn the page, horror grips you and you cringe at the thought that the book is about someone who had been through these phases. Salutes to the hero of the tale, the fighter who took on the tyrants of Baghdad and settled for nothing short of victory.
Why i chose Quarantine, a relatively new entrant to English literature (the book was published in 2010) over myriad other more deserving ones, is a mystery to me too. There have been books written with more finesse, stories told with much elan, but Rahul Mehta made a point with simplicity. He gave life to characters who we see everyday, around us, among us. Sometimes we find ourselves playing the protagonist’s part. Never before have gays been portrayed so “naturally”. That makes this book so different and classy. And since this was a birthday gift for me from a “someone special”, Quarantine is a treasured asset for me.
6. The Hungry Tide
The first work of Amitav Ghosh which i read and which made me a fan. This moving tale of the Marichjhapi massacre rekindled the dormant volcano of hatred i had been saving in my heart for the Communist rulers of Bengal. Subversion of individual freedom and defiant butchery of innocent lives had been their mantra ever since they assumed power in 1977. Ghosh’s picturesque narrative will move you to tears by the time you reach the last page.
My mother-tongue and hence close to my heart, Bengali was never just another subject in the curriculum for me. I grew up reading (thanks to my Ma who forced this habit in me when i was young) Feluda, Ghonada, Tenida, Short stories by Rabindranath, novels by Bankim, Sarat,……the list will never end. Modern writers like Sunil Ganguly or Samaresh Majumdar never attracted me and i was devoted to the era gone by. But then, a few new writers changed my taste – All of them women.
Taslima Nasreen was out of bounds for me when i was young. Her books occupied the restricted section when i was of the age of 10-12. After my class tenth board exams were over, i leisured over Taslima’s works and have been her ardent fan thereafter. I adore her views and have no qualms declaring that her writings instilled the “radical” feminist fervour in me. Why i chose Fera over all her works? This is a moving account of a woman trying to go back to her roots but the society is turned against her endeavour.
You must be surprised that i chose i repeated the name of the same book twice. Well, this book written by Suchitra Bhattacharya also tells the tale of a woman who has come back to her roots, but in a different social context. Shuttling between Delhi and Calcutta, the book is about a woman who returns to take care of her ailing husband, albeit divorced. Love cannot be bound by laws. Suchitra’s novel proves it. [I must mention here that Hemanter Pakhi is a close second among my favourite books by Suchitra Bhattacharya].
Tilottama Majumdar is one writer whom i respect the most after Taslima. Her command over the Bengali language is unmatched and the ease with which she shuttle between the past, forgotten dialects and the modern hodge podge “Bong” usage is worthy of a big thumbs up. As you must have guessed by now, Ektara is also the story of a woman, trying to make her own niche in this man’s world. If you read Tilottama, you will become her fanand would want to read more of her works.
Ashapurna Devi is considered the mother of “feminist” literature in Bengali. Hailing from a conservative background, she had to fight with her own family to pursue her literary skills. And her struggle reflects in her works. Subaranlata (the second book of Prothom Protisruti, Subranalata, Bokul Kotha trilogy) chronicles the life of Subarnalata, her dreams, aspirations, the social apartheid women faced in the nineteenth and twentieth century India, it narrates the labours of victory that Subarna bore in her fight against her “own”.
If you have watched the film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, you will hate Sanjay Leela Bhansali for blatantly plagiarising Maitreyee Devi’s work. The story of Nandini and Mircha, an eternal love story. The tale of intercourse of cultures, flow of sensuality and poignancy of the words – Nahanyate remains the ultimate love story ever written. This autobiographical fiction inspired me to pen down my own life, the mission i undertook a month ago after reading “Le Nui Bengali” (Mircha’s account of the love story.
Reaching a decision on favourite book is like asking a mother to choose her favourite child. Books are written to be enjoyed. Some books become entwined with your existence. Then, the purpose of reading is served. Happy reading.