HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week
This week’s reading list includes an investigation into the history of lynching in India, a novel about a woman in search of her mother, and the story of Karbala
MY SON’S INHERITANCE; A SECRET HISTORY OF LYNCHING AND BLOOD JUSTICE IN INDIA BY APARNA VAIDIK
A provocative and disturbing examination of the history of lynching in the country, Aparna Vaidik’s investigation traverses several centuries and offers powerful insights into the phenomenon. She demonstrates how violence is secretly embedded in our myths, folklore, poetry, literature, and language, and is therefore invisible. She delves deep into family history to further illuminate how widespread violence is in Indian society. Framing her narrative as a message to her son, she acquaints him with his ancestors - those who abet and carry out lynching as well as those who are lynched. In this way, her son embodies both the violator and the violated, much like the country in which he will come of age. She lays bare the heritage of violence bequeathed from generation to generation and disabuses us of the myth that non-violence and tolerance are the essence of Indian culture. She argues that the perpetrators of violence are not just the state, the rulers, the police or the army but all of us who, through our silence and indifference, foster and perpetuate violence in India.
My Son’s Inheritance is a ground breaking exploration of the phenomenon of lynching and the larger culture of violence that invests the social and political fabric of the country. *
SAROJINI’S MOTHER BY KUNAL BASU
Saronini - Saz - Campbell has come to India to search for her biological mother. Adopted and taken to England at an early age, she has a degree from Cambridge and a mathematician’s brain adept at solving puzzles. Handicapped by a missing shoebox that held her birth papers and the death of her English mother, she has few leads to carry out her mission and scant knowledge of Calcutta, her birthplace. Luckily, she has Chiru Sen, an Elvis lookalike, as her guide. Together, Saz and Chiru chase the mirage of a lost mother, helped by Chiru’s, band members and his friend Suleiman, master bookie of the racecourse. When luck leads them to a slum, Jamuna, a housemaid with a troubled past, presents herself as the likely candidate. As Saz settles into the routine of slum life, a second candidate, Urvasi, presents herself, emerging from the very opposite end of the spectrum.
With Saz split in the half, nothing is spared in the battle between the mothers, moving at a fast clip to the final throw of the dice as the rivals await the result of DNA matching from their blood samples. But will the verdict of science settle the puzzle of motherhood for Sarojini? Or will it be left to the judgement of Suleiman the Wise, king of the racecourse, the bearer of ancient wisdom, to arrive at that supreme revelation? *
ONE DROP OF BLOOD; THE STORY OF KARBALA BY ISMAT CHUGTAI
Once upon a time in Arabia, there was a loving, close-knit family. Muhammad cherished his daughter, Fatima, son-in-law, Ali and his grandchildren, Hasan, Husain and Zainab. Though they were poor, their days were idyllic, full of learning and laughter. Then there was a shift in the sands of time... and their lives were never the same again.
One Drop of Blood is Chughtai’s passionate retelling of the timeless tale of the life of Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, from the early days spent in Rasulullah’s company, up to the epic, bloody Battle of Karbala, in which their small army of family and friends clashed with the savage forces of Yazid, the reigning Caliph.
“This is the story of those seventy-two people who took a stand against imperialism in order to defend human rights,” wrote Chughtai in her preface to the book, adding, “Today, too, when a Yazid raises his head in some part of the world, Husain steps forward and crushes him.”
The inimitable Chugtai takes her readers by surprise in this, her last novel, adapting the complex Islamic account of the sorrow and suffering of Husain’s family in Karbala and making it her own by transforming the sublime, revered individuals into real people. Her controversial, fictionalised rendering humanises the tragic encounters on the battlefield, immortalising the sacrifice of Imam Husain and his family in prose that has the same lyrical force as her original inspiration, Anis’ marsiyas.
Chughtai’s final book is also her most unusual. *
*All copy from book flap