Written with élan

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, which was on the Booker short list 2014, is a saga of Bengali upper middle-class life juxtaposed against the Naxal movement of the late 1960s. Sketched on a large tapestry and involving three generations of members of a joint family who live in a sprawling multi-storeyed bungalow in Bhowanipore, this is no diaspora take on life in 1960s-‘Calcutta’. The hard-bound volume of 500 pages revolves around a people who have no sahib -connect or English-proficiency; they think, thankfully, in the vernacular; and effectively so, which is to the author’s credit. Continue reading “Written with élan”

Fact and Fiction: A Review of Kenizé Mourad’s ‘In the City of Gold and Silver, The Story of Begum Hazrat Mahal’

The ways of history are strange. It gifts some people bouquets, hands others brickbats, and yet others are left out, entirely. When the chronicles of the First Independence War of India were documented for the layman, names like Mangal Pandey, Lakshmi Bai, Tantia Tope, Nana Sahib and Bahadur Shah Zafar, and places like Lucknow, Jhansi, Delhi and Kanpur entered history books. But the brave woman ruler of Awadh, the last free leader of the rebellion who held out for two whole years, does not appear in the compelling narratives of the 1857 rising, except in isolated pictures of a hookah-smoking rebel queen, with less than a line in description. In the records of the British, she is referred to as the ‘soul of the 1857 War of Independence’. Continue reading “Fact and Fiction: A Review of Kenizé Mourad’s ‘In the City of Gold and Silver, The Story of Begum Hazrat Mahal’”

Five Diaries

The Bangalore Review put up this piece of mine on their book recommendations page, on New Year Day 2014, one of my first articles for the year. 

I love yesteryear documentations, as also biographies and memoirs. Here are five of my personal favourites.

1. The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy

Sofia Tolstoy? Tolstoy’s wife? Wasn’t she a nag?  The book, The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy told me otherwise.

These diaries written meticulously for over more than half a century, right from when Sofia Tolstoy was 18, and combined with her late-in-life hobby of photography, documents her life with the great writer. It also shows us the changes in the pre-Czarist Russian country over this period, and Tolstoy’s relationships with the various people around him. This book is different from Sofia’s memoirs, which is titled My Life Continue reading “Five Diaries”

Vanities of a Bagh: Review of Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim

Nominated for the prestigious Hindu Literary Prize 2013, Vanity Bagh is taking Anees Salim up that ladder, which his writing highly deserves. This review of Vanity Bagh was included in the October 2013 issue of the Hindu Literary Review.


“Inside every big Indian city, there is a tiny Pakistan”.

‘Vanity Bagh’, is the story of Little Pakistan, a mohalla, that one can place anywhere on the map of India. As also Mehendi, a Hindu majority neighbourhood which offers foil and balance to Vanity Bagh.

The title, Vanity Bagh, has exquisite connotations. It opens the ‘vanity bag’ of such lives that the urban ‘us’ never thinks about; it speaks of the ‘mango’ people we hear about but never know, it explores the vanities of some big, small people in a dimension of literary exploration. Continue reading “Vanities of a Bagh: Review of Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim”

Enid Blyton meets Bollywood: A review of Gypsy Escapades by William J Jackson

Remember Fatty and his team in the Five Find-Outers series? Or Snubby and Co? Or the Famous Five? Or the Adventure series with Jack, Philip, Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Kiki the Parrot? When I turned the pages of Gypsy Escapades by William J. Jackson I was pushed into memories of those childhood reads by Enid Blyton; this time in an adult mode, blended with a Bollywood style, and with an American heroine.

Continue reading “Enid Blyton meets Bollywood: A review of Gypsy Escapades by William J Jackson”

A Sepia Read: Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqui

The blurb to Musharaf Ali Farooqui’s Between Clay and Dust prepared me for a twilight zone, set in an akhara and a kotha and peopled with the likes of a pahalwan and a courtesan with a glorious past. But nothing warned me about its perfect sepia tones guaranteed by the time frame, setting and the craft of storytelling used in the book.

It is mostly set in a world far removed from the world we know – perhaps something we know only from yesteryear movies. Yet, this world is not a story-book fantasy creation. It is a place which could exist in any of those unexplored alleys of a town in the Indian sub-continent, inhabited by many characters, in hues galore, frozen into a time warp. One only needs to close one’s eyes and let the mind float, to imagine the kotha and the akhara, and the immense wasted buildings looking to crumble down at a sigh. Maybe it is for this reason that we hold our breath and let the dream go on uninterrupted.

Read on at http://www.earthenlampjournal.com/Book-Review-Between-Clay-and-Dust.php


Usha K RHer short story Sepia Tones won the Katha Award in 1995. She has published four novels hence, that’s in sixteen years, and many of them have been nominated for honours or have won awards. novel, The Monkey Man was on the short list of the prestigious DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2012. Another of her novels, ‘A Girl and a River’ was short listed for the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2007 and later in the year it won the Vodafone Crossword Award. It was also shortlisted for the Golden Quill Award, run from Bangalore. She was at IOWA in 2011 to participate in their International Writing Program. This is my conversation with Usha.K.R, writer par excellence.

This interview was published in print in 2011 in the MediaVoiceMag.  I would put this one quote from her the best words I have heard from a writer in the recent times.

I think writers improve with age. They ‘find’ themselves, their voices become stronger, they take their readers more into confidence and find the assurance to become more experimental. But publishing today seems to be impatient with that, driven by the next new find: Usha K R Continue reading “WRITING IN SEPIA TONES: USHA K R”

Anuradha Roy, the Writer from Ranikhet

Anuradha Roy  with Suneetha Balakrishnan

Anuradha Roy’s first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, received rave reviews, was translated into 14 languages, published in 16 countries, and listed for the Crossword Prize, the Shakti Bhatt Prize and the IMPAC Award in various years. The book was published in the U.S. in May 2012, and shared the Washington Post’s Best Books 2011 list with Murakami’s 1Q84.

The Folded Earth, Roy’s second book, meantime celebrates at this side of the globe. It was considered for the Hindu Literary Prize 2011 and was on the long lists in 2011 for the Man Asian Prize and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Roy’s non-fiction, For ‘Cooking Women’, won the Picador-Outlook Non-fiction Prize 2004.

I had this conversation with this ‘Writer from Ranikhet’ who works at Permanent Black, an independent press and lives at Ranikhet with her husband Rukun Advani and their dog, Biscoot. This interview was published in print in early 2012 in the MediaVoiceMag. Continue reading “Anuradha Roy, the Writer from Ranikhet”

Tales from the Marvellous and the Real: : Boats on Land by Janice Pariat, A Review


Fiction voices from the Seven Sisters have always been distinct, with a flavour of the elusive or the mysterious, and with the depth of the unusual and the rare. With the IWE (Indian Writing in English) in bloom, many writers with an authentic voice on the region have made the cut in literary fiction — Mitra PhukanJahnavi Barua and Anjum Hasan, to mention a few. Janice Pariat now joins this pantheon of excellence with her debut anthology, Boats on Land.

There are 15 stories, all of which cover the period from British colonial rule to the hartal-ridden, angst-filled, factionalism-threatened today — that’s about two hundred years. As we read from the first story to the last, the events unfold in chronological order with different protagonists. Continue reading “Tales from the Marvellous and the Real: : Boats on Land by Janice Pariat, A Review”