Taha Kehar’s recent novel, which unfolds over a protracted party on a single night, revolves around six estranged friends, family members and a “mystery guest”. In order to fulfill the final request of the titular, but recently-deceased, Nazia, her sister Naureen has invited five people to celebrate her death rather than attend a funeral, as a means to reconcile them to her memory and resolve issues that remained at her demise.
The Idle Stance of the Tippler Pigeon opens with Nadia, an office worker married to unemployed and intoxicated Mubashir. Her menial office job just about pays the rent for a small shack in Gulberg, Lahore. During the day, she is at the mercy of her lecherous boss.
It is appropriate (and perhaps not entirely coincidental) that John Zubrzycki’s Dethroned: The Downfall of India’s Princely States—the story of how India came to be a unitary state rather than a patchwork of autonomous if not independent polities—appears during India’s 75 anniversary.
Shah Hussain was a 16th-century Punjabi Sufi poet based in Lahore. His kafis, (mostly) short rhymed poetry with refrains, referring to the relationship between God and devotee with metaphors of lover and Beloved, or Murshid (literally, the master but also a metaphor for God as well) and mureed (disciple), are sung and relished even today as rhapsodic expressions of love, longing, and devotion. Considered scandalous by clerics as well as by people in general for his relationship with Madho, a Brahmin boy who became his devotee, he is today venerated as Madho Lal Hussain at his dargah (tomb) in Lahore with Madho buried by his side. Sarbpreet Singh’s new novel The Sufi’s Nightingale turns to this mystic and his strange love story that challenges gender and religious boundaries erected by the people of his time while redefining what it means to be in love.
South Asia is bound by a strong cultural currency. It is not uncommon to find restaurants run by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in the diaspora marketed as serving “Indian” cuisine, freely expressing shared roots and ways of life. It is also not uncommon to find citizens of the three nations to welcome each other into their homes and endear them with great hospitality. Given this healthy cultural exchange, what is unusual is their common perception of each other’s political orientation as antithetical to theirs. In Shadows at Noon: The South Asian Century, historian Joya Chatterji investigates whether the region’s nation building practices are really all that different from each other’s.
Negotiating Borders and Borderlands, edited by Gorky Chakraborty and Supurna Banerjee, delves into the intricate dynamics of India’s borders and the everyday experiences of those living in its borderlands. It features a diverse collection of articles contributed by various authors, aiming to analyze and portray how borders have influenced the destiny of countries and their inhabitants.
There once was a tradition of storytelling that enthralled kings and beggars, mixing simple language and lofty poetry, while deploying ingenious tricks to retain the audience’s attention. Usually there were three or four stories embedded one within another, like a Russian doll. Just when you thought you were coming to a denouement, a new story began—more amazing and amusing than the last, and so you listened, fought off sleep or wine, and tried not to miss a word of the storyteller’s tale. The home of many of these fabulous tales is India, which gave the world the Panchatantra, and later inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Just So and the Jungle Book.