HT Picks: This week’s most interesting reads
A book of poems, a classic Sanskrit play and a novel on the strained relationship between a corrupt guru and his disillusioned former disciple are on the weekend reading list
THE CLAY TOY-CART/MRCHCHAKATIKAM BY SHUDRAKA TRANSLATED FROM THE SANSKRIT BY PADMINI RAJAPPA
The Clay Toy-CAat remains one of the foundational works of Sanskrit drama, having been performed numerous times around the world and even serving as the inspiration for Girish Karnad’s highly acclaimed film Utsav.
Vasantasena, a rich and beautiful courtesan, falls in love with the handsome Charudatta, a former merchant who is now penniless. Although Charudatta is happily married, he and Vasantasena embark on a love affair that leads to some terrible complications and shocking reversals of fortune - involving violent crime as well as political rebellion - before matters are ingeniously resolved.
Padmini Rajappa’s lucid translation revitalizes this iconic play for contemporary readers while also shedding light on its unique place in the Sanskrit canon as well as the mystery shrouding the identity of its author.*
THE GURU WHO CAME DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN BY ROSHEN DALAL
Dev, charismatic and powerful, a guru with thousands of followers around the world, and a string of ashrams fuelled by a flourishing business in drugs and gun-running. Ashrams that bring him the power and wealth he craves and fulfil his desire for women. But of all the women he knows - and at times, loves - there are three who play a pivotal role in his life: his wife, Gita, whose death is shrouded in mystery, and Cynthia and Madge, who unwittingly launch him into his career as a guru.
NItya is Dev’s complete antithesis - pure of heart and deeply spiritual. He comes to Dev as a disciple, and for years his devotion to his guru makes him blind to his failings. But when the truth can no longer be ignored, he is disillusioned.
Though he escapes charges of rape and murder, Dev does finally receive a death sentence - he is fatally afflicted with AIDS. As he lies on his deathbed in Rishikesh, Nitya comes to see him, unable to turn away from him completely. Dev tells him his story, and what compelled him to make the choices he did. Nitya also uncovers the truth about Gita’s death. When the end finally comes, Nitya has a deeper understanding of the man he once loved so blindly, and realizes how ultimately, the quest for perfection can be marred by human frailty.
In this brilliant psychological interplay between two men who are complete opposites and yet complement each other, Roshen Dalal keeps the reader absorbed till the end. *
NEW DELHI LOVE SONGS - POEMS - BY MICHAEL CREIGHTON
‘Smog and dust mix with the air
in New Delhi.
I buy jasmine for her hair in New Delhi.
People come from everywhere to this city;
all are welcomed with a stare in
‘In these whimsical, deeply affectionate poems, New Delhi is both context and protagonist, alive in its dust, smog and everydayness, in the vibrant colour of the first lychees of the season, in the mysteries that lie between “city and sprawl”. The city finds an ardent archivist in Michael Creighton - one who stoutly keeps the faith that “warm rains” will always “come to clear the dust”. Suffused by rare tenderness, these poems return through the welter of streets and residences to an address that remains at the abiding centre of this book - the place that the poet terms “the place I imagine my heart to be”.’
- Arundhathi Subramaniam
Watch: #Bookstack that showcases some of the most interesting new books of the week
‘New Delhi Love Songs is a collection abounding with shakarkandiwalas, jasmine-sellers, FM radios and cyclists, the Ghaziabad flower market and Moolchand flyover; the Delhi all around us, the Delhi of “your flesh, your seeds,/your skin”, of “seat and soil/mixed with clover, sun and wind”. Unusual, deeply affecting in their attentiveness to life that seldom makes headlines, these poems reinforce the skeins of humanity that sustain us. They are tender and droll - two qualities we desperately need, in the capital but also elsewhere - yet steadfast in their eschewal of easy sentimentality and facile observations. New Delhi Love Songs makes the heart ache; but also sing, from time to time. fore this is where “even a dead river looks lovely”.’ - Karthika Nair*
*All copy from the book flap.