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HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

A book on the tattoos of former headhunters from Nagaland, a fragrant look at spices, and an interesting novel

books Updated: Nov 25, 2017 01:46 IST
Hindustan Times
Konyak,Maryam H Reshii,Janice Pariat


Throughout a career spanning thirty years, well-known food critic and writer (and little-known collector of spice-grinders of eclectic origin), Marryam H Reshii has had a relentless love affair with spices. Such has been her passion that she has travelled across the country and to various corners of the world – crushing, grinding, frying and tasting – in a bid to understand every aspect of these magnificent ingredients.

The result is the Flavour of Spice, a zesty narrative that brings together stories about the origins of spices and how they evolved in the cuisines we know and love; colourful anecdotes gleaned from encounters with plantation owners and spice merchants; and beloved family recipes from chefs and home-cooks.

From the market yards of Guntur, India’s chilli capital, to the foothills of Sri Lanka in search of ‘true’ cinnamon, and from the hillsides of Sikkim where black cardamom thrives to the saffron markets in the holy city of Mashhad, Iran – this heady account pulsates with exciting tales of travel and discovery, and an infectious love for the ingredients that add so much punch to our cuisines.*


Nine characters recall their relationship with a young woman – the same woman – whom they have loved, or who has loved them.

We piece her together, much as we do with others in our lives, in incomplete but illuminating slivers.

Set in familiar, nameless cities, moving between east and west, The Nine-Chambered Heart is a compendium of shifting perspectives that follows one woman’s life, making her dazzlingly real in one moment, and obscuring her in the very next.

Janice Pariat’s exquisitely written new novel is about the fragile , fragmented nature of identity – how others see us only in bits and pieces, and how sometimes we tend to become what others perceive us to be.*


The Konyaks: Last of the Tattooed Headhunters is the personal journey of a Konyak woman who retraces the steps of her grandfather and great-grandfather by documenting the tattooing practice of the Konyaks, a once fearsome headhunting tribe of Nagaland in India. The Konyaks are well known for their iconic facial and body tattoos. Their concept of beautification through tattoos, in which the body is used as a canvas, as a form of rite of passage and cycle of life, defines the Konyak individual and cultural identity.

Watch: Tattoos of former headhunters, a book on spices and a fresh new novel on #Bookstack this week

This book captures the unique but vanishing practice of the tattooing culture, together with the tattoo patterns, their meaning and oral traditions, such as folk tales, songs, poems and sayings. It presents an overall view of the Konyak people, their society, way of life and the culture in detail. It includes descriptions and information on the headhunting and tattooing practices, reasons behind it, techniques used, tattoo artists, different tattoo groups, types of tattoos and personal stories. All this is visually interpreted with illustrations and photographs. This is the first time such intensive research and documentation on Konyak tattoo art has been undertaken.*

*All copy from book flap

First Published: Nov 25, 2017 01:46 IST