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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

A history of cotton in India, the exquisite work of a 5th century Sanskrit poet, and a searing memoir

books Updated: Sep 29, 2017 19:12 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times



Once the envy of the world for its quality and variety, Indian cotton today is mired in uncertainty and despair. Though India is the largest producer of cotton, its farmers are trapped in debt, and thousands choose to kill themselves than face an ignominious fate . Handloom weavers, once proud standard-bearers of the country’s artisanal heritage, are barely able to scrape together a living. To make matters worse, there is the back-breaking competition with artificial fibres. Meena Menon and Uzramma take us through the fascinating history of cotton in India, examining its illustrious origins, its blood-stained colonial heritage, and the events that led to its current crisis. Amid the bleakness, the authors suggest a silver lining: reviving indigenous cotton – and the handloom industry that spun its fame. Through painstaking research, Menon and Uzramma show that with the right combination of friendly policies and championing the Indian cotton brand, it is possible to restore the fabric’s past glory. This is an important book not just for lovers of cotton but anyone concerned with the struggles of Indian agriculture in a brutal, fast-changing market.*



‘I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I had been because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere… I was trapped in my body, one I made but barely recognized or understood. I was miserable, but I was safe.’

In this intimate and searing memoir, the New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay addresses the experience of living in a body that she calls ‘wildly undisciplined’. She casts an insightful and critical eye over her childhood, tens and twenties – including the devastating act of violence that was a turning point in her young life – and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains and joys of her daily life.

With the bracing candour, vulnerability and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and it tells a story that hasn’t yet been told but needs to be.*



Young doe-eyed maidens beguile lovelorn men. Timeless wisdom is dispensed through brief, colourful vignettes. The bounty of the earth is celebrated even as the seasons bear witness to the amorous play of lovers.

In Three Hundred Verses, Bhartrihari, one of the greatest Sanskrit poets of all time, brilliantly expounds on our most enduring concerns and dilemmas: living, loving and leaving. Although composed centuries ago, the full force of his genius is abundantly evident in these poems, bursting with lush imagery and brimming with deep philosophical musings. Covering a wide range of themes – from the first stirrings of love to the challenges of accepting life’s transience – these verses are sure to resonate with contemporary readers.

By turns playful and wise, AND Haksar’s gorgeous and accessible translation captures the verve, acuity and erotic charge of Bhartrihari’s most significant work.*

*All text from book flap.

First Published: Sep 29, 2017 19:12 IST