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HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

Books on the Partition, visions of nationhood, and autism feature on our list this week

books Updated: Aug 19, 2017 11:20 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times
Looking Back,The Nation as Mother,Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8
This week’s book picks

Let us keep the conversation going
One word leading to another...
Even if we gaze at each other with hurtful
Let us just keep our hearts warm and beating
Let our words not be stifled...

- ‘Guftagu’, Ali Sardar Jafri

While discourse on the Partition, especially through literary representations, has changed radically, it is time to revisit it from a third and perhaps fourth-generation point of view. On the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence and Partition, this anthology of diverse narratives collects fresh reflections on the continuing relevance and impact of 1947, and its afterlife, in South Asia.

In what ways can we re-think and re-imagine 1947 today, in 2017? Has the subcontinent worked through its burden of history and trauma relayed across generations? Or are we still trapped by the curse of mutual animosity, incoherence and distrust? Are there routes beyond polarised perceptions and attitudes that wait to be (re-) discovered? 
Earlier Partition anthologies have underplayed the narrative of the aged, of marginal castes and tribes who may have experienced 1947 differently. The genres of poetry, drama and reportage have likewise not been collected and read as a whole. This anthology - of essays , memoirs, art , short fiction, poetry, graphic narrative, reportage and drama - seeks to rectify these omissions in a manner that is both self-reflexive and historically aware. It also features fresh translations - from Hindi, Punjabi , Urdu and Bangla - of older, lesser known works together with new writing that narrates unheard and forgotten stories. In times when India -Pakistan relations are fraught, when we remain as divided by religion as by how we imagine the nation, this is a n effort to cast new light on our fractured and conjoined past and to help us reflect on it with humanity.

The volume would be an asset to students and scholars of India and South Asian Studies, South Asian History and literature.

Following his ground-breaking international bestseller, The Reason I Jump, written when he was only 13, Naoki Higashida offers equally illuminating and practical insights into autism from his current perspective as a young man in Fall Down Seven Times Get Up Eight: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism.

Naoki Higashida met international success with The Reason I Jump , a revelatory account of life as a 13-year-old with non-verbal autism. Now he offers an equally illuminating insight into autism from his perspective as a young adult. In concise, engaging pieces, he shares his thoughts and feelings on a broad menu of topics ranging from school experiences to family relationships, the exhilaration of travel to the difficulties of speech. Aware of how mystifying his behaviour can appear to others, Higashida describes the effect on him of such commonplace things as s sudden change of plan, or the mental steps he has to take simply to register that its raining. Throughout, his aim is to foster a better understanding of autism and to encourage those with disabilities to be seen as people not as problems.

With an introduction by David Mitchell, Fall Down Seven Times Get Up Eight includes a dreamlike short story Higashida wrote for this edition. Both moving and of practical use, the book opens a window into the mind of an inspiring young man who meets the challenge so autism with tenacity and good humour. However often he falls down, he always gets back up.

History matters in contemporary debates on nationalism.Sugata Bose contends in The Nation as Mother. In this interconnected set of deeply researched and powerfully argued essays and speeches, Bose explores the relationship between nation, reason and religion in Indian political thought and practice. Offering a subtle interpretation of the ways of imagining the nation as mother, the book illuminates different visions of India as a free and flexible federal union that have acquired renewed salience today.
Breaking out of the false dichotomy between secular nationalism and religious communalism, the author provides incisive analyses of the political legacies of Tagore, and Gandhi, Nehru and Bose, Aurobindo and Jinnah, and a range of other thinkers and leader of the anti colonial movement. The essays question assumptions about any necessary contradiction between cosmopolitanism and patriotism, and the tendency among religious majoritarians and secularists alike to confuse uniformity with unity. The speeches in Parliament draw on a rich histoircal repertoire to offer valuable lessons in political ethics.

Watch more: Looking Back: The 1947 Partition of India 70 Years On with Rakshanda Jalil, Tarun K Saint and Debjani Sengupta

In arguing against the dangers of an intolerant religious majoritarianism, this book makes a case for concepts of layered and shared sovereignty that might enable an overarching sense of Indian nationhood to coexist with multiple identities of the country’s diverse populace. The Nation as Mother delves into history on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of freedom to invoke an alternative future of a new India based on cultural intimacy among its different communities.

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 20:37 IST