Did you visit our Talking Terrace Book Club post last week? You can read it here. Today we’ll look at the books my colleagues Srishti and Abhaya were reading.
Srishti took us through an old story that she had read by stalwart writer Ruskin Bond. The tiger’s name is Timothy and the lesson was part of one of her English lessons. The story is about the author’s grandfather who adopts a tiger cub and then must part with it as it becomes a menace. Many many years later, he sees a tiger in the zoo which he feels sympathetic toward and he believes it to be his own tiger. It’s a beautiful story. Bond writes with no airs and graces- he just shows the scenario and brings nature to life, which is probably why he is so much a part of the syllabus in textbooks in India.
Abhaya is discovering writers in Karnataka.
K.P.Purna Chandra Tejaswi was a Sahitya Akademi Award winner. Besides being a writer, he was also an ornithologist, photographer, publisher, painter and environmentalist. Abhaya enjoyed his two novellas in a book called Carvalho/Men of mystery:Two Novellas. The first story is set in the Western Ghats in southern India and is an adventure story where a group of people from diverse professions come together. The second story is dark and brooding.
“Somehow I was reminded of Ruskin Bond while reading him, but given that I haven’t read much from Ruskin Bond anyway, I am skeptical of myself,” Abhaya said.
Advaita the Writer by Ken Spillman is a book about a child’s adulation for Ruskin Bond. Advaita is a lonely girl who studies in a boarding school in Dehradun. When she learns that her favorite author lives nearby, she is inspired to write. Incidentally Spillman wrote this book in dedication to Advaita Kala. Abhaya found this small wonder of a book at Lightroom Book store in Bangalore.
About The Old Man and the Sea, Abhaya said,” My first book of Hemingway and I liked it from the first page. I usually find that it takes a few pages before I’m really able to get into a book but this one reeled me right in.”
He liked the way the book was as simple as a children’s book, as technical as a treatise on fishing, and as philosophical as the story of our relationship with food. “You just can’t go by the reviews,” Abhaya said. Apparently, a reviewer has asked why the old man couldn’t have gone to McDonalds instead!
The Quiet American is a book on war. “War zones provide a fertile ground for etching rich characters with varied motives and ethical ambivalence. Graham Greene’s treatment of a love triangle in the Indo-China (Vietnam) war zone is controlled and nuanced. The story is set in the 1950s before the Americans got fully involved in the conflict.”
The edition that Abhaya had read also had a brilliant introduction by Zadie Smith.
Topi Shukla is a novel by a Hindi writer Rahi Masoom Raza. It’s a story set in the independence era in India. “ Having grown up in the UP of the 1990s, I identified with many parts of the story,” Abhaya said. It’s a book about the love –hate relationship between communities that is a given in many parts of India. So there is a bundle of contradictions- love for Ghazals, shayari and sufi music while rooting for Sanskritized Hindi.
Abhaya feels that this book is especially relevant today , “ It is a book that shows us, paraphrasing Sheldon Pollock, a way of being that is increasingly alien to us. It offers us brief glimpses into the culture that produced people like Bismillah Khan.”
Another book Abhaya read was Mai by Geetanjali Shree. The story is about three generations of women (grandmother, mother and daughter) as narrated by the daughter. “Set in an old Zamindar family in small town Uttar Pradesh in north India, the book started pretty strong but lost its grip mid way. To some extent, the writing reminded me of That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande in how the narrative weaves across time boundaries and goes back and forth.” Abhaya feels that this is a promising book, the sort that you could enjoy while reading a second time.
Next week we will look at what Jaya has been reading.