A book of eight chapters, Rohzin or The Melancholy of the Soul, by Rahman Abbas is a veritable feast for the mind. In Urdu ‘rohzin’ is a word that the author coins to signify the souls of people hurt by witnessing the betrayal of their parents with their partners.
This is a book that raises interesting ques- tions. As for example, why do so many Indians try to enter the eccentric world of the Guinness Book of Records? It is after all an intriguing and bewildering fact that so many Indians try to establish world records in the zaniest of categories every year.
As a child I used to be fascinated by the street magicians (madåri) in my hometown of Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh. At the sound of their dugdugi drum I was pulled like all the neighbourhood children to watch the show. The magician would sit down, put his hand into his bag of tricks and say, ‘I have something amazing to show you…’
The title of this book reminded me of a conversation I had over kathis in Nizam, New Market, one evening with a non-Bengali friend who loves Calcutta, knows about it as much as anyone else and would not exchange living in it for another. The city had just been renamed and my friend felt betrayed.
Sir John Marshall, then Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, used the term ‘Indus civilization’ for the culture discovered at Harappa and Mohenjodaro, a term doubly apt because of the geographical context implied in the name ‘Indus’ and the presence of cities implied in the word ‘civilization’.
Admittedly, archaeology cannot answer questions relating to faith, or questions such as whether Rama was an historical figure, or problems about locating his birthplace. However, archaeology can answer with a considerable degree of certainty, many questions about various past activities of people, for which material evidence is available.
Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi (1916–2006) was a major Pakistani poet (Jalal-o Jamal, Shola-i-Gul, Kisht-e Wafa, to name just a few), short story writer (Chaupal, Sannata, Kapaas Ka Phool and many more), and editor of many journals (Savera, Nuqoosh, Funoon, Adab-e Lateef). As one associated with the Progressive Writers Movement, who later distanced himself from it, Qasimi is acknowledged as a writer who portrayal liberal human values.
This volume is an admirable effort on the part of the editors, translators and commentators to make visible the writings of early twentieth century Bengali Muslim women. The scale of the work is fairly ambitious since the writings of about fifteen women have been anthologized.
This is a book by historians for historians. This is not to deny the value of this collection of essays, which have come out of an academic seminar, but to state clearly wherein lies its quite significant value.
When Jürgen Wasim Frembgen set out to write this book he knew he was attempting the impossible. He was aiming in one slim volume to describe the external practice of Sufis and dervishes throughout the world, and from the dawn of Islam to the present day.
V.S. Pritchett once remarked, tongue only partly in cheek, that boredom was the great resource of the English novelist. There are many ways of understanding this remark. But in one important sense, it may be understood as the cosy Northern equivalent of the Chinese curse—may you live in interesting times.
‘Who is Johnson Thhat? And how has he managed to escape justice for so long, even when in jail?’ reads the intriguing blurb on the back of Farrukh Dhondy’s The Bikini Murders. The title itself hints at a potent combination of sex and violence, reinforced by a lurid picture of bare honey-hued legs and a pair of staring brown eyes. All designed to lure the unsuspecting reader just as the protagonist of the story did with innocent tourists.
V.V. Ganeshananthan’s Love Marriage is a debut novel set against the circumstances of postcolonial Sri Lankan society, torn apart by ethnic conflict. I received my review copy at the time when the media was reporting on the ‘successful’ re-capture of Kilinochi by the Sri Lankan army from the hold of Tamil separatists, and the possibility of finally securing Prabhakaran, the elusive and enigmatic commander of the LTTE.
I made the mistake of reading other reviews of the novel before writing my own. At that time I had not read In the Country of Deceit, and did not know that I would be asked to write on it. Eventually when I did read the novel, it seemed different from the impression I had gathered from the reviews. No one had mentioned that a character in the novel dreams of making a film called Sannata, which would be about the silence of an entire town.
The Bengali likes to sport an intellectual air, which in no way detracts from his deep and abiding interest in things culinary. And the gourmet in him demands that the dishes are properly sequenced, starting with bitter gourd (karela) or even neem leaves cooked with brinjal, depending on the season, followed by a staggering procession of vegetables, fried or in curried form, fish, prawn and meat.
Settling-of-score books can be entertaining, vindictive, or just plain boring. More often than not such a book reveals more about the writer than his subject. Alas, it can also be one long whine—not just me-too, but me-not-him/her, mostly both childish and petulant.
Daughters of India is a collection of profiles of twenty women from diverse communities all over India. It is also a photographic record of artistic activity among these women, ranging from the kolam patterns drawn in front of the house to wall paintings, embroidery and scroll designs.
Should one judge a book by its cover? By its title? Indeed, one should not and I would hasten to speak out against such a superficial and disrespectful attitude towards books and the great effort that it takes to produce them.
When the dowager Maharani of Beri, my god-daughter’s grandmother, visited me for the first time, she brought me a long, narrow pen box, decorated with the curvy exfoliated scrolls characteristic of Kutchi silver.
This book has been several years in the making. Archiving and selecting the photographs by Richard Bartholomew which were exhibited recently at Photo Ink Gallery, New Delhi, must have been an arduous job, since Richard would not ever have even thought of exhibiting them.