HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week
This week’s good reads include a counter narrative from Kerala, a novel about today’s India, and a cancer diary.Updated: Sep 14, 2019 13:01 IST
ANTIGOD’S OWN COUNTRY BY AV SAKTHIDHARAN
What is the history of those depicted as asuras in India? What happens when Adivasi, Dravidian, Buddhist and Dalit narratives, with their egalitarian spirituality, confront an invasive brahminism? What is the counter narrative to the ritually re-enacted murders of Mahishasura, Ravana and Bali? Is the trouble over Sabarimala merely about an unrepentant patriarchy? Antigod’s Own Country reveals the histories that are contested in the South Indian state of Kerala. As the centre of the story that AV Sakthidharan charts is the asura king, Mahabali, whose subjugation – commemorated annually as Onam – became symbolic of the fate of the first people of the state in the face of Aryan domination. This book examines the multifarious origins of the myths of non-Aryan deities like Mutthapapan, Suyodhana, various mother goddesses, all the way up to the cult of Ayyappan.
PRELUDE TO A RIOT BY ANNIE ZAIDI
In a peaceful southern town, amidst lush spice plantations, trouble is brewing. In the town live three generations of two families, one Hindu and the other Muslim, whose lives will be changed forever by the coming violence. At risk are Dada, the ageing grandfather who lovingly tends and talks to the plants on his estate; his strong-willed grandchildren, Abu and Fareeda; the newly married Devaki, who cannot fathom the forces that are turning her husband and her father into fanatics; Mariam, of the gifted hands, who kneads and pounds the fatigued muscles of tourists into submission; and Garuda, the high-school teacher who, in his own desperate way, is trying to impart the truth about the country’s history to a classroom of uninterested students. Quietly but surely, the spectre of religious intolerance is beginning to haunt the community in the guise of the Self-Respect Forum whose mission is to divide the town and destroy the delicate balance of respect and cooperation that has existed for hundreds of years. Told with brilliance, restraint and extraordinary power, Annie Zaidi’s book is destined to become a classic.
TALES FROM THE TAIL END BY ANANYA MUKHERJEE
When she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, writes Ananya Mukherjee, she was ‘stunned and disappointed in myself but quickly found my resolve. I chose to fight cheerfully… with a deep belief and faith that I’d be okay.’ Tragically, and for perhaps the first time in her life, her will could not overcome circumstances, and she lost the fight on 18 November 2018. But she left behind a host of memories for those who knew her, and a beautiful legacy for the world – an intimate and inspiring diary of her ‘cheerful fight’. It is a book that makes light of the darker moments of cancer (comparing her balding head to the disheveled crow on her windowsill); gives practical advice on gifts to bring a cancer patient (piping hot machcher jhol along with a good story or two); and gives an insight into what cancer patients dream of (a road trip to Jaisalmer and a gondola ride in Venice).
Tales from the Tail End is a book of hope, courage, even sunshine – not only for those living with cancer, and their caregivers and loved ones, but anyone determined to live life on her or his own terms despite adversity.
First Published: Sep 13, 2019 19:46 IST