Disclaimer first: Please note that we have absolutely no intention of inciting you to defy your boss or your company’s HR department. But we do want to point out one little fact that everyone will agree with (even your boss and the HR people if, for one minute, they stop being boss and HR and remember that they’re people).
It’s this: while we all appreciate our legitimate days off work (such as the weekend), a day off when we’re supposed to be working but have decided that we’d rather not, is much nicer. And if there’s one thing the monsoon can give us (aside from rain songs, bhuttas, bhajiyas, chai and fungus on our shoes), it’s the occasional opportunity to bunk work and stay at home, curled up with a book (or several).
After all, when the skies are grey, the rain is coming down so hard that your set-top box can’t catch a TV signal and the road outside your house resembles the Indian Ocean (there could even be sharks in there), there’s nothing more sensuous than texting your boss to say you won’t be in, bunging the masala into the chai on the stove, climbing back into your pajamas, switching on the lamp with the golden glow, cuddling into your favourite armchair, and picking up that book you’ve been meaning to read for ages.
But if there’s no particular book you’ve been meaning to read for ages, allow us to recommend a few.
The Secret of the Nagas
Author Amish presented us with The Immortals of Meluha, the first book in his Shiva trilogy, in early 2010. It was a gripping book, one that portrays Shiva not as a god, but as a man. Now, the second book in the trilogy, The Secret of the Nagas, is due in the bookshops by mid-August.
When we turned the last page of The Immortals of Meluha, a sinister Naga warrior had killed Shiva’s friend Brahaspati and clearly had his eye on Shiva’s wife Sati. Now, Shiva must seek out the Nagas, the people of the serpent. The signs of evil are everywhere: A kingdom is dying as it is held to ransom for a miracle drug. A crown prince is murdered. The Vasudevs – Shiva’s philosopher guides – betray his faith. Even Meluha has a terrible secret. Unknown to Shiva, a master puppeteer is playing a grand game.
Crime / Mystery
The Inspector Ghote books
Author: HRF Keating
While you’re waiting for the third book in Tarquin Hall’s Vish Puri series of detective novels set in and around Delhi (if you haven’t read the first two books, get The Case of the Missing Servant and The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing immediately), you may want to seek out Bombay-based Inspector Ghote, the creation of HRF Keating. Keating created Inspector Ghote way back in 1964 in the book The Perfect Murder (which later became a movie starring Naseeruddin Shah), and continued to write books about him all the way to 2009.
Life is not easy for Ghote – it never is for any honest police officer. But no matter what the mystery – and no matter what the opposition to its solution – Inspector Ghote always comes through. And in the most delightful way possible.
The Secret of Sirikot
Author: Shivani Singh
There may no longer be any such thing as royalty in the democratic republic that is India, but we’re fascinated by it nonetheless. And we learn about the lives of the royals in The Secret of Sirikot, a mystery set in the fictional princely state of Sirikot in 1947 – just before Independence and just as the royals were about to merge their states with the larger nation of India. When Leela, the 13-year-old narrator, daughter of Sirikot’s First Princess, arrives to visit her maternal grandparents, she hears of the murder of a patidar. But soon her grandfather, the Raja, is killed. And her grandmother, the Rani, kills herself. Leela knows her eldest uncle, the Yuvraj, is desperate for the throne. But could he really have done it?
Someone Else’s Garden
Author: Dipika Rai
What would you do if we were to tell you: there’s this book you should read. It’s about a poor low-caste village girl whose father tells her she’s just a girl, soon to become the property of a husband. As a girl, society says she doesn’t have a life of her own.
You’d run, right? Who’d want to read something so depressing?
Well. The thing is, we are telling you to read this book: It’s called Someone Else’s Garden and it’s about a poor low-caste village girl who society says has no life of her own. We’re telling you to read it because it is a good book and not in the least bit depressing. Rather, it’s uplifting. A real feel-good book, well-written, and gently humorous. You’ll be smiling for days after you finish it.
Think books with animals as heroes are for children? Especially books with pictures? Think again. Better yet, see and read for yourself in Animal Palette, a collection of animal stories by author Chetan Joshi, ranging from the romantic to the outright terrifying. Lock horns with the big bully who bashes and bluffs everyone in sight.
Or play a gruesome game of hide and seek with crows and owls. Go tiger hunting with the most ferocious and megalomaniacal wolf in the jungle. And meet the frog who has the answers to everything in life except his own fate. The book is illustrated by Tejas Modak, who has used a different medium and artistic style for each story making it a palette of graphic fiction.
Here’s a short interview with author Dikipa Rai
Someone Else’s Garden could so easily be seen as a book that’s intended to shake readers out of their smug, urban, middle class existences. But it’s not. How brave were you, pitching this idea to publishers?
Surprisingly, it was extremely hard to pitch to Indian publishers, but not to foreign publishers. The book was first launched in the US and then in the UK. The feedback to the initial launches has been overwhelming with several overseas readers describing it as ‘an eye-opener’.
How did you work out the characters? You’ve made no judgements – even about the heroine Mamta’s nasty husband. Was that a conscious decision?
I didn’t consciously not make any judgements about my characters, but my narrator wasn’t entitled to judge them, not having walked in their shoes or lived their lives. Somehow my narrator emerged as a sympathetic observer as much trying to understand as to examine.
In particular, how did you create the character of Mamta? She’s so real.
I think we have all met many Mamtas in our lives. I know we had so many working for us. I am an observer and I ask questions, file away answers. I am lucky to live in a land of stories and layers, where the distance between urban and rural India is but one person deep.
What have readers said about the book?
I think the story is being received as a redemptive tale. Several readers said they were ‘changed by it’, which is the best compliment a writer can receive.
From HT Brunch, July 31
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