The reading cart flaunts a heady mix of history, romance, diaspora and hope this weekend.
1. The Pleasure Seekers: Written by Tishani Doshi; Published by Penguin Books-India; Priced at Rs.499.
It all started in August 1968 when Babo became the first member of the Patel family to leave "Madras" and fly to London to further his education. His father should have known there would be trouble. But off Babo went, and now here he is, in a flat off the Finchley Road, untraditionally making love to a cream-skinned girl from Wales, Sian Jones.Meet the Patel-Joneses: Babo, Sian, Mayuri and Bean in their little house with orange and black gates next-door to the Punjab Women’s Association. As the twentieth century creaks and croaks its way along, these four navigate their way through the uncharted territory of a ‘hybrid’ family. In this tender debut, Tishani Doshi, a prizewinning poet, effortlessly captures the quirks and calamities of one unusual clan in a story of identity, family, belonging and all-transcending love.
2. Lost Princess of Coorg: Written by C.P. Belliappa; Published by Rupa & Co; Priced at Rs.295.
The book tells the extraordinary tale of an 11-year-old princess, Victoria Gowramma of Coorg. The last Raja of Coorg, Chikka Veerarajendra and the last king of Kodagu, who was banished from his land by the British in 1834, used the pretext of his 11-year-old daughter embracing Christianity and acquiring western education as a ruse to secure permission to visit England. They were the first Indian royals to land in Britain.
The imperialists tried to make a matrimonial alliance between the 11-year-old princess and Maharaja Duleep Singh. Queen Victoria took fancy to the 11-year-old princess, but the princess' coquettish ways put off the Maharaja and disappointed the Queen. The Raja, who wanted to fight the British East India Company to claim interest on deposits, failed. The princess was married to a British army officer, John Campbell, who started eying the crown jewels of Coorg after the wedding. The princess succumbed to tuberculosis at 23 and the captain fled with a black bag containing the crown jewels.
3. The Crimson Throne: Written by Sudhir Kakar; Published by Penguin-Books India; Priced at Rs.450.
Three decades into Emperor Shah Jahan's reign, while the monarch indulges in the pleasures of the flesh to divert himself from the travails of his aging body, the country is bracing for the brutal succession to the Peacock Throne. Little escapes the discerning eye of two European travellers, Niccolao Manucci and Francois Bernier, who find their way in the innermost circle of royals as healers.
Set amid the grandeur and intrigue of 17th century India, the book probes the continuities of imperial expansion and a splintered Islam through the eyes of two "outsiders".
4. The Thing about Thugs: Written by Tabish Khair; Published by Harper-Collins India; Priced at Rs.299.
Amir Ali leaves his village in Bihar to travel to London and befriends an English captain, William Meadows, to whom he narrates the story of his life - the story of a murderous thug.
While Meadows tries to analyse the strange cult of the Indian thug, a group of Englishmen sets out to prove the inherent difference between cultures and people by examining their skulls - an approach that has violent results.
Set in Victorian London, this story of different voices from different places draws connection from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century, between England and India, across individual and cultural differences.
Known for his refusal to fit his work into established "diasporic", "sub-alternist" or post-colonialist narrative traditions, acclaimed poet Khair finally engages with these traditions by subtly deploying literary techniques from Victorian literature, ranging from Charles Dickens to P.M. Taylor’s Confessions of a Thug and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
5. Illusions of Love: Written by K.B. Trehan; Published by Cedar Books; Priced at Rs.160.
The book is a unique account of the life of Sheena, a woman struggling to strike a balance between the head and the heart. As she allows passion to take over her life, the dream crashes. She lands on hard ground. The book is a fight to overcome odds. Some people keep brooding over their fall, while others make the brave effort to stand on their feet again and boldly cross that obstacle. At the end, the fighters bring the prize home.