Weekday Lounge Exclusive | Book Picks

Weekday Lounge Exclusive | Book Picks

Twin worlds

Shahbano Bilgrami, a poet and writer based in the US, was born in Rawalpindi and raised in Canada. Her first novel, Without Dreams, is quite predictably a story in which cultures clash, characters go in search of their roots and discover uncomfortable truths. Longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, it has received acclaim from critics in the US and her erstwhile homeland Canada.

f0c55e90-a329-11dc-bc0d-000b5dabf636.flvHaroon Rizwan returns to the country of his birth, Pakistan, 19 years after his father’s murder and is haunted by memories of abuse and violence. Rizwan finds an alter ego in Abdul, who used to work at their household while he was was a child. Both the boys move towards a common destiny until, in the climax, their lives are changed forever.

Family fare

Sudha Murty’s ninth novel, Dollar Bahu, is a family saga peppered by a unique mix of South Indian and NRI flavours. It primarily revolves around the relationship between Gouramma, the family matriarch and her daughter-in-law, the affable Vinuta, who effortlessly slips in to the role of the obedient daughter-in-law. When her husband’s elder brother arrives from the US with his wife, “the dollar bahu", conflicts arise and she questions her own docility. In the second half, Gouramma lives with his son in the US and realizes that affluence alone can’t make her happy. Murty’s understanding of the nuances of relationships between women were evident in earlier, very popular books such as Mahashweta.

Mountain blues

The Himalayan desert—from Mustang in Nepal to the Indian districts of Ladakh, Lahul, Spiti and Kinnaur—is one of the harshest terrains in the world. Temperatures dip below -50°C and the vast expanse of snow-capped, brown hills challenge the bravest of adventurers. Nina Rao, who heads the department of tourism at the College of Vocational Studies, University of Delhi, has a long association with this area, having travelled there numerous times and served as a consultant for the Leh Development Plan. Her book, Himalayan Desert, illustrated by stunning images, tells the story of the area’s inhabitants and the unique confluence of cultures—Indian, Tibetan, Chinese, Islamic and Buddhist—that shape them.

Terror zone

Little has been written on the complex motives that drive the secessionist movements in the eight states of India’s North-east, considering integration with the mainstream still eluded the people of the region 60 years after Independence and violence has become a part of life for its people. Jaideep Saikia, an expert on national security and terrorism, based in Guwahati, edits Frontier in Flames: Northeast India in Turmoil, a collection of essays on the various aspects of security and development in the region by experts on the region. In a way, the book is a departure from the way existing debates on the North-east. The experts go beyond the questions and the analysis and offer tangible remedies for peace and development.

Yoga healing

The celebrated yoga guru, who turns 90 on 14 December, continues to be as devoted to his discipline as he was in the 1930s when he began. Iyengar still teaches at his institute in Pune and travels around the world teaching advanced asanas to yoga enthusiasts. His book, Yoga: Path to Holistic Health first appeared in 2001 and became a best-seller in the US. The updated version of the same book, with 1900 photos, including a 360° view of the final posture, has been just released. Iyengar explains the significance of each posture and their positive effects on the body and includes an introductory chapter on the spiritual aspect of his postures, which, many believe is missing in Iyengar yoga because of its physically gruelling nature.