Of all the Indian epics, the Ramayana is the best- known: Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, is banished from his kingdom by a jealous stepmother. His wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana choose to accompany him. During the exile, Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. With the help of Hanuman and a “monkey” army, he defeats Ravana and gets Sita back. It is not a happily-ever-after for Rama though. Questions arise about her chastity given the time she was held in captivity by Ravana. As an ideal king who cares for public opinion, Rama chooses to let her go.

Divided into two parts set in Iran and the US respectively, Dare the Sea is a new collection of stories from Iranian-American writer Ali Hosseini.  The stories, some of which had previously appeared in Guernica, Antioch Review and Story Quarterly, explore Iran’s landscape, culture and how cataclysmic, socio-political changes have shaped the identity and sense of belonging among Iranians living in Iran and the United States.

Four people at a Hyderabad newspaper publishing company drop dead from heart attacks on the same day. It’s not impossible that people could have heart attacks on the same day, but the timing seems suspicious to the police, namely the lead investigator, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mona Ramteke. This is the lead-in of Aditya Sinha’s mystery, Death in the Deccan, a fun and quirky whodunnit that at times could also be used as a cardiology and toxicology primer. 

The toy walkie-talkie set Amiko receives on her tenth birthday, one that she bounces with excitement to use with her yet-to-be-born brother or sister, is never successfully played with; there always fails to be a coherent response from the other end. Through flashbacks and snappy dialogue, Natsuko Imamura’s novella This is Amiko, Do You Copy? conveys the significance of communication in the building and breaking down of relationships. Adapted into a Japanese film in 2022 and now translated by Hitomi Yoshio, Imamura’s short yet engaging narrative, covering just over 120 pages, follows its protagonist Amiko from age ten through fifteen.

Earlier this month, Toho Studios released “Godzilla Minus One”—the 37th film in the now almost seven-decade-old franchise. Godzilla has gone through many phases over the past 70 years: symbol of Japan’s nuclear fears, cuddly defender of humanity, Japanese cultural icon and, now, the centerpiece of another Hollywood cinematic universe.

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.

As Buddhist scriptures have it, when Gotami, the Buddha’s foster mother, asked for ordination from the Buddha, he refused. The Buddha’s cousin and disciple, Ananda, intervened: since, according to the teachings of the Buddha, women were capable of achieving awakening, they must be let into the monastery. The Buddha, outsmarted, let the women into his fold but he also dictated that the women will have to live as second class citizens, subordinate to the monks.