Vanessa R Sasson’s debut novel Yasodhara and the Buddha takes the life of Gautama Buddha, the stuff of scripture and legend, and lays out a story about love between him and his wife. And a fascinating story it is, too, about ego, love, and renunciation as love.
History is commonly thought to be a subject about discovering the past in terms of exploring the origins and beginnings. Manan Ahmed Asif has previously written about resisting the need to look for beginnings and focusing on belonging.
Indology—a field of study about India’s history and culture associated with 19th-century British and German figures—had an interesting German-Dutch predecessor, Jacob Haafner (1754-1809). The man reached India as the servant of the VOC (or the Dutch East India Company) after having lived in South Africa and Java for a while. His travel-writing about India, vituperative views on colonialism and writings on missionary activity in India and the East in general made him unpopular among the Dutch elite whose help he desperately needed to be employed as a bureaucrat or to sponsor his writing.
The Hindi film industry also known as Bollywood, or B-grade Hollywood, has an interesting history intertwined with economy, much of which remains unknown. The early years of the talkies as they unfolded in Bombay inform Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City, a recent book by Debashree Mukherjee. The author’s first-hand experience in Mumbai as a freelance assistant director makes her well-placed to write about the past of the film and the city.
In translating Subimal Misra’s Two Anti-Novels, V Ramaswamy brings to English readers a radical Bengali author from India. The two anti-novels are This Could Have Been Ramayan Chamar’s Tale and Where Colour is a Warning Sign. These are jarring, even disturbing, compilations of snapshots of reality. There is neither plot nor character in the conventional sense. The collage of diary, newspaper articles, metafictional ruminations work towards pointing toward the impossibility of enjoying literature as pleasure and making readers very conscious of the fact that reading for story is also a pitiable form of consumerism.
Writers, diasporic as well as those native to the Indian subcontinent, have used the Partition of India to capture the pain and the destruction it caused to millions of families. In Vaseem Khan’s Midnight at Malabar House, Partition constitutes the backdrop of a detective novel with Inspector Persis Wadia as the lead. It is not just the time and the place that are unusual; this fictional detective is India’s first woman police officer (some two decades before one was actually appointed).
Introducing Hinduism to those not familiar with the religion risks oversimplification. Martin J Dougherty cleverly navigates the pitfalls by sticking to the subjects of origins and central figures of mythology in his fairly comprehensive (for an introduction) Hindu Myths: From Ancient Cosmology to Gods and Demons.