Monday, May 28, 2007

Read and unread: A book tag

Amrita at Indiequill - also a fine editor for Desicritics with a penchant for saving my particularly bad titles - asked me to compile a list of books by Indian authors that I have read and would like to read.

I've been reading long enough that it would take me days to list out stuff I've read by Indian authors. Plus, I'm a very scatter shot reader, not to mention somewhat lazy. So instead I decided to forgo an impressive list like Amrita's and focused on just one entry in each area: a book by an Indian author that I've read that runs the deepest with me and another that I have been dying to read but haven't for sheer lack of courage.


I first read Kamala Markandaya's Nectar in a Sieve via an extract in Salman Rushdie's Mirrorwork: 50 Years of Indian Writing 1947-1997. I stopped right after that chapter and didn't read another thing until I located the book and read it cover to cover.

I've heard Nectar being dissed in multiple ways - its irrelevance has been tied to the sati-savitri Rukmani - who is its primary inhabitant. But it shows why reading is such a personal choice: you never know what you connect with. I can't remember a single moment when reading Nectar that I didn't have a lump in my throat yet felt exhilarated. There is gorgeous agony in this book, an impending sense of doom that you surrender to willingly.

By contrast, I've been dragging my feet with Raj Kamal Jha's allegorical novel - Fireproof - set amidst and in the aftermath of the horrific Gujarat bloodletting of 2002 that followed the Godhra train burning. Twice I've picked it up in a bookstore and read a few pages. Each time it brought such jitters to my heart that I placed it back on the shelf. Even Jha's cover haunts me - stripped of the book's title or the name of its author, its a picture of a frosted glass with the words "Help me" scrawled from the inside.

I'll read it someday - of that I'm sure - but because it is about something shameful so close to home it will take time to muster the courage.

4 comments:

Amrita said...

Two books I havent read but will immediately go on the list! I don't remember her piece from Rushdie's anthology, probably because i was an infant when I read it and my big find in that book was Manto.

The other one... it's the shame aspect of it, really isnt it? Tragedy is one thing but when something like that happens, it's very hard not to feel as though it is a reflection on you personally. At least that's the way it feels to me.

Short but sweet!

Priti said...

Aren't I glad I "stumbled" upon this site?! It is getting to be a one stop shop, Aspi! Entertainment, reading, technology - wow mann! All these up my alley!

Have always had a passion for reading - it is such a shame that my reading, esp. fiction has become nearly zero. In fact the only "fiction" I read in the recent past was "Our iceberg is melting"! Not that I regret reading that book, just that my fiction reading, has taken such an awful back seat. Now with this blog, I am hoping I will get back to it. Aren’t I glad I discovered this site.

Aspi said...

priti, I read more in Fall and Winter than Summers. So there should be some book reviews coming up. There are also Rave Outs I've done for India Uncut on books that are linked on the top middle column.

You are welcome to look through those although you'll also find reviews there of comics, music and movies.

Priti said...

Thanks Aspi. Will be "mining" this place!!! There's lots here.

Also, I do look forward to the winter/fall reading/sharing activity!