Borders have been sealed, people are masked, supermarkets are plucked clean, lives quarantined: In trying times like ours, reading is a great way to fill up the hours.
Social-distancing or self-isolation, right now, is a civic responsibility, and there is a silver lining in it. We can catch up on our sleep, unfinished reads or movies, establish self-care and workout routines at all.
For starters, here are some publications of Niyogi Books to read if you still haven’t done that yet.
“Quartet” (Chaturanga) by Rabindranath Tagore (Translated by Nirmal Kranti Bhattacharjee)
This is a short novella set in 19th century Bengal. The philosophical questions, which are raised in the course of the story, make this one of his most complex and metaphorical works. A social novel centered on four characters, it raises pointed questions about religion and atheism, dabbling in the complex hues of the man-woman relationship.
It successfully brings out Tagore’s profound understanding of the human subconscious, without sacrificing the underlying playfulness in the language and the unique style of the original work.
“Day & Dastan” by Intizar Husain
Intizar Husain is one of the the finest writers of Urdu prose and one of the most brilliant story-tellers of the post-partition generation. These two novellas (Din Aur Dastan) point to his versatility and fictional inventiveness. “Day”, a realistic story, is a meditation on the cruellest of events to have scarred our times - migration.
In contrast, “Dastan” is a traditional tale of wonder. Its language islyrical and exaggerated; its narrative, obsessed with action, weaves dreams and adventure, heroism and mercy, beauty and love, magic and grace.
“Saakshi” (The Witness) by S.L. Bhyrappa
Saakshi uses the Puranas and Vedanta, as well as Gandhian concepts, to discuss the meaning of truth and its distortions through greed, sexuality and desire. Overcome by guilt at having committed perjury in court, in a murder trial, Parameshwarayya, a village elder, commits suicide. Yama, the god of death and righteousness, affords him the privilege of presenting his case himself. Thereafter, he commands Parameshwarayya to return to earth in spiritual form to witness, but not to intervene, in subsequent events. Parameshwarayya observes his daughter Savitri, son Ramakrishna, son-in-law Satyappa, the woman Lakkoo and the sensitive Dr Hasheem as they are confronted by difficult decisions and revelations, which cause them to look inward and attempt an appraisal of their lives and values.
“The Aryabhata Clan” by Sudipto Das
The Islamic state has spread its tentacles in India, penetrating stealthily into the academia, media and politics. The mastermind is Shamsur Ali, a physicist from Bangladesh. To destabilize India, he wants to create a sort of apocalypse, which the 21-year-old Kubha must prevent at any cost, come what may.
In a brazen attempt at legitimizing the demolition of one of the most prominent historical structures in India, someone unbelievably, it could be both Hiranyagarbha Bharata, a radical Hindu outfit and the Islamic state resorts to a big deceit. Afsar Fareedi, a linguistic paleontologist, catches the fraud. In the melee, there are three gruesome murders, including that of her father, perhaps to eliminate all traces of a carpet which, Afsar discovers, has a lot hidden in its mysterious motifs. At the centre of all this is a verse composed by the mathematician Aryabhata, some 1,500 years ago.
“The Legend of Kuldhara” by Malathi Ramachandran
Kuldhara, a village in the Rajasthan desert, perched at the edge of time. Abandoned, cursed, nearly two hundred years ago, to remain a heap of rubble and stone. It lies dreaming of its vibrant past when the streets echoed with laughter and the fields swayed green and gold.
What happened one night that drove its inhabitants from their homes, never to return? Did they flee to preserve their honour, when the covetous gaze of a local lord fell on Pari, the headman’s daughter? Where did they go? How did they survive?
“The Chronicler” by Jvalant Sampath
His designation is ‘the chronicler’. He stores memories. Set in the immediate future, as Pakistan’s economy collapses, China invades Pakistan and is knocking on the doors of India. China is determined to change the power equation in the world. Inadvertently, the chronicler harbours memories that could change the map of the world and the course of history.
Caught in the vortex of a high-stakes game between governments, spy agencies, and powerful organizations across international borders, can the chronicler save himself and the information as he races against time? (IANS)