In an age of social media and reality television, reading and consumption habits in India now demand homegrown pulp fictions. Ulka Anjaria categorizes post-2000 Indian literature and popular culture as constituting “the contemporary,” a movement defined by new and experimental forms—where high- and low-brow meet, and genres break down.
Krishna Sobti, the grande dame of Hindi literature (as she is often called in India), passed away in January this year. She was an unusual writer, writing as a woman and publishing some of her work under a masculine name. Her writing in Hindi is inflected with Urdu and Punjabi ways of speaking and makes translating her a challenge. Among her last works was Gujrat Pakistan se Gujarat Hindustan (2016), a novelized memoir about the early years of her career and of independent India.
The 15 stories in the book deal with the contradictions, paradoxes and ironies of Indian life. The combination of setting, memorable characters, clear writing, and themes suggest a vision of an expansive and vast country of wonder. Among the stories, “Hawana of the East” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2012. “Sunday with Mary” was part of the list for Best of the Net 2013 Prize.
Fans of political skulduggery will appreciate this satirical tale of double-dealing, media manipulation and murder among the ruling classes of West Bengal.
Wisdom has it that forgetting the past risks repeating it. The old must remind both themselves and the young where they came from, what happened to them and why, and who was responsible.
A tiger hunt! In No Beast so Fierce, Dane Huckelbridge tells the exciting true story of the extirpation of a man-eating tiger in colonial India in 1907. This was no safari with a fleet of elephants and an army of bearers. It was one Irishman with a rifle and three cartridges on foot against a tiger that had killed and eaten about 440 persons over a span of about a decade. The numbers are inexact because deaths of rural women collecting firewood weren’t carefully recorded in those years.
Pity poor Jahangir, sandwiched between his father Akbar I “the Great” and his son Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal. No wonder he often gets lost in history, and, if not quite lost, dismissed as an occasionally cruel, always pleasure-loving drunkard who was led around by his wife Nurjahan and whose accomplishments, such as they were, pale in comparison with those of his father and son.