The Real and the Spiritual

Astride the Wheel is an accomplished translation of Yantrarudha, a 1967 Oriya novel by Sahitya Akademi Award winning writer, Chandra Sekhar Rath. Its appearance is yet another example of the ongoing attempt on the part of publishers and translators alike to rescue Indian bhasa literatures from the ghettos of provinciality to which they had hitherto been consigned. Insofar as Oriya is concerned, the attempt has met with only limited success; for the output has been scanty, the quality of translation uneven, and the choice of texts not always happy.

Recording an Era

A Village Divided is a wonderful book, well worth spending money to buy and time to read.Rurially autobiographical, Rahi Masoom s Adha Gaon (1966) is a record of the life d times of his village in UP where Muslims d Hindus lived together in an accord which y has begun to seem mythical. Quite apart from the narrative flow is the change of pace of the book as a lifestyle of centuries revs into the unbelievably fast gears of Partition, communalism, and modern secular India.

Mirroring a Pot-pourri

A surprising find, A Model House is a pot ­pourri, the author’s life and interests held up to a mirror for all to see. Alaknanda moves from being Al in the leafy suburbs of Wiscon­sin, living in a fairy-tale world of NRIs to Nanda at ABCD, a design and architecture school in Gujarat. In her final semester at ABCD, Nanda meets the enigmatic, Rajdoot-riding, beedi smoking, model-maker Raghunath Bhatt, younger brother to the legendary and dead Shivnath Bhatt.

An Alternate Sexuality

The portrayal of same—sex relationships in 20th century Indian literature has been characterized, most frequently, by ambiguity or by an incipient homophobia. Critical responses to Ismat Chugtai’s Lihaaf and Ugra’s collection of short stories Chocolate, in the past, indicate the extent of cultural resis­tance to the acceptance of a reality which was generally relegated to a subterranean level of consciousness or represented as being perverse and unnatural.

Defying Classification

I don’t think I have read any Indian book in recent times as avidly as I did Kalpana Swaminathan’s Ambrosia for Afters. This is a brilliant book, and one of the rare breed that targets young adults as much as it does older readers. This to me is a crossover book, a book in the line of classics like Catcher in the Rye, books that defy classification of readership by age (not that Ambrosia has been positioned a novel for young adults).

Daring to Dream

You must learn to stop being yourself. That’s where it begins, and everything else follows from that.’ Raj Kamal Jha uses this most apposite quotation from Paul Auster’s Mr Vertigo to preface his second novel. I call it apposite because the entire book follows from that. Let me say that this is not a book for those who prefer to stay within their own skins or constantly want to feel the solidity of the walls that surround them.

The Longing-and-Belonging Syndrome

‘How does the writer of Indian origin living abroad negotiate longing and belonging ?’ asks the editor in his highly readable and insightful Introduction to the anthology, and for a while I was persuaded that the thirty-three pieces that comprise the volume are meant to provide a range of answers to that question. And indeed they do, unless one begins to look closely at the contents page.

Kauline Perspectives

No one who was taught by Professor A.N. Kaul in the 1970s is likely to have forgotten the experience. He would stride into the seedy English Literature classroom in the Arts Faculty Building at the University of Delhi —others might slouch or stroll or canter; Professor Kaul always strode— followed by a billowing cloud of cigarette smoke, and he would launch into a controlled but passionate performance of what can only be called The Theatre of Thinking Aloud.