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HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

Djinns in Dhaka, a woman making an epic journey from rural to urban India, and a selection of essays on Indian nationalism all feature on HT Picks this week

books Updated: Dec 15, 2017 16:53 IST
HT Team
This week’s good reads
This week’s good reads(HT Team)

DJINN CITY BY SAAD Z HOSSAIN
Indelbed is a lonely kid living in a crumbling mansion in a super dense, super chaotic Dhaka. His father, Dr Kaikobad, is the black sheep of their clan, the once illustrious Khan Rahman family. A drunken loutish widower, he refuses to allow Indelbed to go to school, and the only thing Indelbed knows about his mother is the official cause of her early demise: ‘Death by Indelbed’.

But when Dr Kaikobad falls into a supernatural coma, Indelbed and his older cousin, the wise-cracking slacker, Rais, learn that Indelbed’s dad was, in fact, a magician and a trusted emissary to the djinn world. But the djinns, it turns out, are displeased and one of the consequences of their displeasure is that a ‘hunt’ is announced with ten-year-old Indelbed as prey. Still reeling from the fact that genies actually exist, Indelbed finds himself on the run. Soon, the boys are at the centre of a great djinn controversy, one tied to the continuing fallout from an ancient war, with ramifications for the future of life as we know it.

Djinnn city is a darkly comedic fantasy adventure, and a brilliant follow-up to Saad Z Hossain’s acclaimed first novel Escape from Baghdad!*

INDIAN NATIONALISM; THE ESSENTIAL WRITINGS EDITED BY S IRFAN HABIB
How do we define nationalism? Who is a good nationalist? Do you become anti-national if you criticize the government? These are questions that overwhelm most debates today, but these discussions are not new. And while the loudest voices would have us believe that Indian nationalism is (and has always been ) a narrow, parochial, xenophobic one, our finest political leaders, thinkers, scientists and writers have been debating the concept since the early nineteenth century and come to a different conclusion.

Nationalism as we understand it today first came into being more than a hundred years ago. Studied by historians, political scientists and sociologists for its role in world history, it remains one of the strongest driving forces in politics and also the most malleable one. A double-edged sword, it can be a binding force or a deeply divisive instrument used to cause strife around political, cultural, linguistic or, more importantly, religious identities.

In this anthology, historians S Irfan Habib traces the growth and development of nationalism in India from the late nineteenth century through its various stages: liberal, religion-centric, revolutionary, cosmopolitan, syncretic, eclectic, right liberal. The views of our most important thinker sand leaders -- Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, C Rajagopalachari, Bhagat Singh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sarojini Naidu, BR Ambedkar, Rabindranath Tagore, MN Roy, Maulana Azad, Jayaprakash Naraya and others – remind us what nationalism should mean and the kind of inclusive, free and humanistic nation that we should continue to build.*

JASODA BY KIRAN NAGARKAR
Paar – ‘mirage’ country, where it is often impossible to draw the line between reality and illusion – has been suffering from a decade-long drought. Jasoda is one of the last to leave this ‘arse-end of the world’ with her children and mother-in-law. Since her husband claims he has important work to do for the local prince, Jasoda must make the journey to the city by the sea on her own. Even as she builds a life for herself and her children in the city, Paar seems poised to take off after years of anonymity. Will Jasoda return home with her children? Or stay in the city that’s become home for them?

It’s taken for granted that epic journeys and epics were possible only during the time of the Mahabharata, the Odyssey or the Iliad. Even more to the point, their heroes had to, perforce, be men. The eponymous Jasoda of the novel is about to prove how wrong the assumptions are. Kiran Nagarkar’s trenchant narrative traces the journey of a woman of steely resolve and gumption making her way through an India that is patriarchal, feudal, seldom in the news and weighed down by dehumanizing poverty.*

*All copy from the flap.