HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week
BLACK NOVEMBER EDITED BY ISHMEET KAUR CHAUDHRY
On 31 October 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Over the next three days thousands of Sikh men, women and children were humiliated, beaten, raped, burnt alive and lynched by organized mobs across northern India, down till Karnataka. Thirty-five years later, only a handful of the perpetrators have been convicted. While thousands of survivors still live in ghettos, struggling with poverty, post-traumatic stress disorder and a deep sense of injustice.
Black November contains interviews, affidavits, short stories, plays and poetry recounting the horrific violence, betrayals and the denial of justice. It features interviews conducted by Nandita Haksar and Uma Chaktavarti in the immediate aftermath of the riots; more recent interviews by the editor Ishmeet Kaur Chaudhry in the Tilak Vihar Widows’ Colony; original affidavits from the Nanavati Commission, including one by Kushwant Singh; chilling autobiographical accounts, reportage and reminiscences by Jarnail Singh, Dhiren Bhagat and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; as well as moving short stories, plays and poetry by Gursharan Singh, Gurcharan Rampuri, Harish Narang, NS Madhavan, Rachel Bari, Bishnu Mohapatra, Harnidh Kaur, Parvinder Mehta, Manroop Dhingra, and others.
At a time when caste and religious minorities in India are being systematically targeted yet again, this powerful anthology brings to light, with empathy and unflinching honesty, the fear and alienation of a whole community torn apart by state-abetted violence, and worn down by the subsequent slog for justice. It instructs us to listen to the dispossessed, persecuted and brutalized, and compels us to seek justice and healing for the survivors.*
COMING BACK TO THE CITY BY ANURADHA KUMAR
In Parel’s Jupiter Mills chawl – one of the few remaining in Mumbai – live many long time residents. Among them, Pooja, restless and trapped in an unhappy marriage, who finds joy in her flourishing dabba service and attempts at learning English, even as her husband Mahesh flirts with the underworld and dreams of zipping through the streets in his boss’s yellow Mercedes Benz. Pooja’s friend, Vasudha, a scheming single mother who hopes to give her daughter a better life in the treacherous city. And their upstairs neighbour, Dr Joshi, a famed artist, who has hidden away two paintings – one of a murder he witnessed, and the other a striking portrait of Pooja.
In the parallel Mumbai of high rises that loom over the city’s slums and chawls live the affluent few: Suhel, a confirmed bachelor, who finds himself falling in love – first with a portrait and then its subject, Pooja. An upcoming politician of dubious repute, Mahesh’s boss Ghatge, whose devious intentions could destroy the peace of Jupiter Mills. A young and disturbed journalist Raina Gupta who opens up old wounds when she interviews veteran activist Neera Joshi about the mill workers strikes of the 1980s and her scandalous affair with its assassinated leader. And Dr Sneha Desai, a successful but lonely radiologist, fighting to restart her sex education classes for adolescents in a municipal school.
In the Mumbai of mills and malls where everything – especially land – is at a premium, the chawl becomes the target of greedy real estate barons and sleazy politician, thus bringing together this interconnected cast of characters.
A s vast and diverse as Mumbai itself, Coming Back to the City draws us effortlessly, completely into the lives of the people who animate the maximum city, even as they are consumed by it – people caught in a web of unexpected love, desperate ambition and endless, addictive optimism.*
THE APOLOGY BY EVE ENSLER
Like millions of women, Eve Ensler has been waiting much of her lifetime for an apology. Sexually and physically abused by her father, Eve has struggled her whole life from this betrayal, longing for an honest reckoning from a man who is long dead. After years of work as an anti violence activist, she decided she would wait no longer; an apology could be imagined, by her, for her, to her.
The Apology, written by Eve form her father’s point of view in the words she longs to hear, attempts to transform the abuse she suffered with unflinching truthfulness, compassion and an expansive vision for the future. *
*All copy from book flap.
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- Priyanka Chopra recently took to her Instagram stories and shared a few of her favourite books written by female authors in celebration of Women's History Month. Check out the list here:
- Irish author Cecelia Ahern's book 'Roar', which was a female-driven anthology of 30 short stories, to be screened on Apple TV+ as an 8-episode series starring Emmy and Golden Globe award winners Nicole Kidman, Alison Brie, Cynthia Erivo and Merritt Wever