Short fiction that blurs the line between fact and fiction, a look at the troubles in western UP, and a study of Shivaji park.(HT Team)
Short fiction that blurs the line between fact and fiction, a look at the troubles in western UP, and a study of Shivaji park.(HT Team)

HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

Quirky short stories, the travails of Western UP, and an iconic Mumbai neighbourhood feature on this week’s reading list
By HT Team | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2020 07:18 PM IST

TRANSLATED FROM THE GIBBERISH BY ANOSH IRANI

214pp, Rs 399; Penguin
214pp, Rs 399; Penguin

A swimming instructor is determined to re-enact John Cheever’s iconic short story, The Swimmer, in the pools of Mumbai. A famous Indian chef breaks down on a New York talk show. A gangster’s wife believes a penguin at the Mumbai zoo is the reincarnation of her lost child. An illegal immigrant in Vancouver plays a fateful game of cricket. A kindly sweets-shop owner’s hope for a new life in Canada leads to a terrible choice.

By turns quirky and clever, poignant and powerful, Anosh Irani’s stories deftly reveal the human condition in all its vitality and vulnerability. Bookending the seven tales in this collection is a gorgeous, emotionally raw ‘translation’ of the author’s singular experience of being an immigrant, ingeniously blurring the line between fiction and fact as it shuttles between two worlds – Vancouver, where he miraculously realized his seemingly impractical dream of becoming a writer, and Mumbai, the city he could never fully leave behind.

Filled with moments of great beauty and clarity, Translated from the Gibberish confirms Anosh Irani as an unique, inventive, vitally important voice in contemporary fiction.*


LOVE JIHADIS BY MIHIR SRIVASTAVA AND RAUL IRANI

141pp, Rs 499; Westland
141pp, Rs 499; Westland

Western Uttar Pradesh looms large in the national imagination: as the symbol of the tension between the majority Hindus and the minority Muslims there. The region’s rumour mills operated through the mainstream media to disseminate political hoaxes: love jihad, forced ghar vapsi, mass Hindu exodus from Kairana, and so on. But what is really happening in western UP? Is it truly the heart of darkness?

Journalist Mihir Srivastava and photojournalist Raul Irani – disillusioned by the state of the Delhi media – set out on a year-long journey to find out for themselves. They leave behind the baggage of political ideologies and agendas to understand and empathise without judgement. What they find are human beings at the center of a storm, as political forces attempt to create mistrust between the two communities, and also a truly hopeful discovery: the forces that bind people are stronger than the mistrust and suspicion of political engineering.

Part-travelogue part investigation, Love Jihadis is an insightful examination of a region that is disproportionately influential in national politics, but one that few have adequately engaged with.*

SHIVAJI PARK BY SHANTA GOKHALE

168pp, Rs 499; Speaking Tiger
168pp, Rs 499; Speaking Tiger

One of the earliest planned neighbourhoods of Bombay, Shivaji Park in Dadar was conceived in order to decongest the mega city’s residential and commercial centre after the plague epidemic of 1896. With its massive playground named after the Maratha warrior king, gorgeous Art Deco buildings and the great Arabian Sea beyond, Shivaji Park was a coveted residential area long before Bandra and Juhu.

In this little gem of a biography, Shanta Gokhale, author, cultural critic and longtime resident of the area, brings together key events and individuals to create a matchless portrait of the neighbourhood. Through her conversations with friends and neighbours, she relives the thrill and novelty of moving from congested chawls to flats that ensured privacy and the unheard-of luxury of piped gas back in the 1930s. She recalls the politically charged decades of the 1950s and ‘60s, when PK Atre’s voice reverberated through the grounds of Shivaji Park during the United Maharashtra movement and Bal Thackeray launched the Shiv Sena. She also writes of the illustrious people who have contributed to the cultural fabric of Shivaji Park: the freedom fighter Senapati Bapat; town planner NV Modak; classical musician Sharadchandra Arolkar; veteran actress Sulabha Deshpande; and circketers Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli, among others. The designated playground of the neighbourhood, she argues, is also one of the city’s most democratic spaces where hundreds walk every morning and evening in the shade of tall and gracious trees; where people young and old gather around the ‘katta’ to talk politics or share a moment of love. And even as she celebrates the grace and spirit of Shivaji Park, Gokhale also notes how, despite the best efforts of its residents, the area is threatened by rampant redevelopment, and how the sense of community that has always defined it is slowly eroding.*

*All copy from book flap

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