Reading is in again, or so they say. Shuttered libraries have resurfaced in parts of the city, and bookshops are doing good business. Jerry Pinto noses around for books in the works and comes away with much to report.
Long ago, Lotus Book House, one of the best boutique bookshops that Mumbai ever threw up, had a T-shirt that said, “So many books, so little time”. If you’re a bookworm who hasn’t yet got through The Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif and Sixty Indian Poets edited by Jeet Thayil and Changing Gods: Rethinking Conversion in India by Rudi Heredia yet, you might wonder if you ought not to get one made over the next few months, because a whole smorgasbord of new titles is going to hit the stands very shortly.
For Penguin India, the big book is Nandan Nilekani’s Imagining India. Hemali Sodhi, general manager, marketing and corporate communications, Penguin India, says, “Definitely THE biggest non-fiction book to come out of the country in a while. We also launch the prestigious Allen Lane imprint in India with
Nilekani, who co-founded Infosys, spearheaded not just the IT revolution, which has become the hallmark of our country, but has also been involved “in an age of exponential change in the private-public space, the relationship between corporates and governments in the globalised world.
“ In Imagining India he gives us the inside story of how we became what we became, succinctly defining the ideas and the vision that gave shape to modern India.
“He maps the tremendous social, political and cultural changes India has witnessed since the economic reforms of the early 1990s, which transformed the country into an emerging superpower.
“The book is thus a defining look at a nation currently riding the wave, by a man who has helmed the current upswing and steered an entire generation towards prosperity,” say sources in Penguin.
This is about as much information as you’re going to get, since the book is seriously embargoed until November when it will be released.
From Random House India, there’s Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer. According to Chiki Sarkar, “It’s a searing memoir by a young Kashmiri Muslim about growing up in Kashmir under the insurgency. It’s important because it’s the first account by a young Kashmiri and it’s both hard hitting and deeply moving. It’s had raves from Pankaj Mishra, Ahmed Rashid, Khushwant Singh and Tavleen Singh.”
Khushwant Singh, for instance, has said that the 31-year-old journalist’s account of various stories, including a young man’s initiation into a terrorist training camp, a politician living in a refurbished torture chamber, decapitated Sufi shrines and temples that work as bunkers, is “beautifully written, brutally honest and deeply hurtful”.
Shruti Debi of Picador India finds it difficult to choose between Manjula Padmanabhan’s first novel for adults Escape and Aravind Adiga’s Between the Assassinations. Coming up soon are Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s The Story of a Widow which is described as “a witty, lively novel” set in Karachi, in which Mona, the eponymous widow, receives a marriage proposal from Salamat Ali, who seems like a likeable rogue. Mona discovers too late that Salamat is a disgusting drinking, gambling liar.
But she’s also excited about, Amit Chaudhuri’s first novel in nine years, The Immortals. “It’s set in genteel boxwalla Mumbai and follows the lives and relationships of a mother, her son and the music teacher: Mallika, Nirmalya and Shyamji. It is also the story of music itself, of music as art, and an exploration of its place in the modern world of money and commerce,” she says.
Sharada Dwivedi, Director, Eminence Designs, the company that brought us the incomparable Bombay: The Cities Within:
“We’re bringing out Bombay Deco, 312 pages with 500 images, archival and new.
“There are photographs by Noshir Gobhai and Rahul Mehrotra and I have penned it. It’s not just Marine Drive that had Art Deco buildings. We have some incredible aerial views of Shivaji Park taken by Shyam Kirloskar.
“They show you how beautifully it was laid out and how it has been messed up over the years. It’s tragic how much of the detailing has been lost, just as has happened in Marine Drive, where the balconies have been enclosed, the details covered with layers of paint.
“So at the end of the book, we also have a section on how you can restore your building without too much cost. We also have a huge book on Hampi coming up; it’s 30 inches by 30 inches. The test is by George Michell and John Fritz; Noshir Gobhai again with brilliant photographs..”
The other Mumbai-based publisher, Padmini Mirchandani of IBH, is bringing out Untitled: The Art of Contemporary India. Mirchandani feels that Indian art has come of age and that at the same time, there has not been a book that will “analyse art.” Gayatri Sinha is slated to edit it.
Age no bar
For the kids, Sayoni Basu, Director, Publishing, Scholastic India Pvt Ltd, says that they’re looking forward to “Timeri Murari’s fantasy novel, The Children of the Enchanted Forest.
“It’s exciting because it goes beyond the basic demands of the fantasy novel, a genre which children cannot seem to get enough of these days. There is a deeper underlying theme of forest conservation that weaves urgent contemporary concerns into the timelessness of fantasy in a unique manner.
“The children in the forest, harmoniously coexisting with nature and wild animals, bring to mind Peter Pan’s lost boys. However, the evil they confront far surpasses the machinations of Captain Hook, as they are forced to embark on a battle of almost epic proportions against the dark forces that are chilllingly epitomised in the truly frightening figure of Varang, a woman who can go to any length to get what she wants.”
Polish those reading glasses now.