HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week
This week’s good reads include an exploration of Punjab, a translation of an ancient text, and a book of short stories
PANJAB; JOURNEYS THROUGH FAULT LINES BY AMANDEEP SANDHU
Unlike people born in Panjab who have a direct connection with, and hence a memory of the land, I have no liminal or tangible marker of belonging to Panjab. While my family did hail from Panjab, I was neither born here, nor do I live here. I have no address, bank statement, Aadhaar card, passport or land ownership to prove my connection with Panjab.
In 2015, Amandeep Sandhu began an investigation that was meant to resolve the ‘hole in his heart’, and his ‘emptiness about matters Panjab’. For three years, he crisscrossed the state and discovered a land that was nothing like the one he had imagined and not like the stories he had heard.
Present-day Panjab prides itself on legends of its military and valorous past even as it struggles with daily horrors. The Green Revolution has wreaked ecological havoc in the state, and a decade and a half of militancy has destabilized its economy and governance. Sikhism – the state’s eclectic and syncretic religion – is in crisis, its gatekeepers brooking no dissent and giving little spiritual guidance. And Panjab has yet to recover from the loss of its other half, now in Pakistan.
Underneath it all though, the old spirit of the land beats away – an undercurrent of resistance to power and hegemony that holds the hope that Panjab’s unyielding knots can be untied. *
THE MARKANDEYA PURANA TRANSLATED BY BIBEK DEBROY
A marvelous amalgam of mythology and metaphysics, the Markandeya Purana unfolds as a series of conversations, in which the sage Markandeya is asked to answer some deeper questions raised by events in the Mahabharata. These illuminating exchanges evolved into a multifaceted exploration of the core concepts of Hindu philosophy – from an excellent exposition of yoga and its unique attributes to a profound treatise on the worship of the goddess, the Devi Mahatmya., which also includes the popular devotional texts known as ‘Chandi’ or ‘Durga Saptashati’.
Brimming with insight and told with clarity, this luminous text is also a celebration of a complex mythological universe populated with gods and mortals, and contains within its depths many nested tales like that of Queen Madalasa and her famous song.
Bibek Debroy’s masterful translation draws out the subtleties of the Markandeya Purana, enabling a new generation of readers to savour its timeless riches. *
HIS FATHER’S DISEASE BY ARUNI KASHYAP
At a conference in Delhi, Assamese writer Sanjib reimagines the enduring fable of Tejimola, the girl who sprouted leaves. But the English language literati don’t understand why he doesn’t write about the insurgency.
In the very first story in this unusual and unapologetic collection, Aruni Kashyap sets the tone for an intimate exploration of a terrain that is both familiar and alien. In the spirit of modern post colonial storytellers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Daniyal Mueenuddin, his stories press the silences of the village and the nascent city to reveal their secrets. The result is a frank appraisal of our hypocrisies and desired, hope and defeats – the stuff of the stuff we carry within us. Through tales that root up love, violence, motherhood and sex, Kashyap appears to ask: what are the stories about a place that are told, which ones are worth telling , what do we really want to say? *
*All text from book flap