Indian Love Stories edited by Sudhir Kakar

Indian Love Stories edited by Sudhir Kakar

Reviewed by Shwetha H S

Title: Indian Love Stories
Editor: Sudhir Kakar
Imprint: Roli Books
ISBN: 9788174362797
Genre: Fiction, Romance

Sudhir Kakar is a distinguished psychoanalyst and writer. Winner of numerous honours including the Goethe Medal, his books have been translated into several languages. I hadn’t heard of him before reading this book. So, all of that in the first sentence of this paragraph is from the back of this book I am reviewing.

I had read Indian Love Stories about seven years ago and had completely forgotten about it. Probably because this didn’t mean much back then. Now that I have grown older, I can understand what each story is actually talking about between the lines.

The Empty Chest written by Indira Goswami in Assamese/Asamiya and translated to English by Pradipta Borgohain: talks about clinging on to past love until realizing that the other person has moved on. Indira has used cruel metaphors to convey the meaning of her story.

The House Combustible written by Subodh Ghosh in Bengali/Bangla and translated to English by Dipen Mitra: talks about why it is better for everyone to not rake the dried layers of past relationships and move on, even if you cross paths again, by not saying out loud what is going on in your mind to avoid embarrassment and retain self-respect.

Stains written by Manjula Padmanabhan: is not only a suffocating love story but is also about feminism, culture contrast, superiority-inferiority complex, taboo, standing up for self, and patriarchy. I had never come across any piece of writing that addressed all these topics at one go. My favourite quote from the short story is “The bleeding woman is penalized for being in that ‘state’: the correct condition, of course, is to be pregnant or nursing.” To me, this quote not only talks about women facing untouchability during periods in certain cultures, but also about situation of rape victims.

A New Triangle written by Ratanlal Shant in Kashmiri and translated to English by Neerja Mattoo: is a short story about a toxic marital relationship between two individuals. Towards the end of the story, it feels like they didn’t want to get married, but wanted to just live together and hadn’t realized it sooner. There is a mention of Harmukh peak, which apparently, has been attempted by only one non-Indian so far and hasn’t returned from his expedition. I had been on a trek on which I could see Harmukh peak from far and seeing its mention in this story brought back the memories. It also gave an authenticity to the story, a nod to the nativity.

Chastity Belt written by Damodar Mauzo in Konkani and translated by Xavier Cota: is not a love story but is a crap-load of male chauvinism and patriarchy’s whims and fancies made to look like love. This story just made me want to spit on it.

The Game of Chess written by Kamala Das in Malayalam and translated to English by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan: is about the dilemma of mental infidelity and unrequited love. Each emotion-led action and each action-led emotion is beautifully described in this short story. So much so that reading it begins to give a feeling of you undergoing each of those emotions and actions. Isn’t that the purpose of good narration?

The Bed of Arrows written by Gopinath Mohanty in Oriya and translated to English by Sitakant Mahapatra: is a pain to read. The protagonist of the story is in pain and is on death bed and reading about her emotions and day-to-day ordeal inflicts pain on the readers.

Housewife written by Ismat Chughtai in Urdu and translated to English by Fatima Ahmad: is an erstwhile version of a rom-com; is a total laughter riot. However, it subtly yet heavily hints at patriarchy.

Weekend written by Nirmal Verma in Hindi and translated to English by Kuldip Singh: is either an aimless story or a bad translation. I neither liked it when I read it first nor now. Even if I try to make sense of this short story, at the maximum, I could say it is about insecurities. But, I still cannot make much sense of it.

The Weed written by Amrita Pritam in Punjabi and translated to English by Raj Gill: talks about the cock and bull stories people tell innocent girls about what love is and how it happens or what it looks like. It is also about experienced lives and their inexperienced sides.

Indian Love Stories is a book that offers something for everyone. But it all depends on you how you interpret the emotions evoked by each short story. Read at your own risk.

Jungle Nama by Amitav Ghosh

Jungle Nama by Amitav Ghosh and Illustrated by Salman Toor

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Jungle Nama
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Imprint: Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9789353379128
Genre: Mythology, Illustrated, Children, YA, Adults

If you are into reading books, then you would have probably heard of Amitav Ghosh. He is a prominent name in the Indian literary circles and is also a recipient of Jnanpith Award. I always stayed away from mainstream books. Amitav Ghosh’s books seemed so mainstream, I never thought of reading his works. But while browsing through a bookshop in Leh, Ladakh, a book cover caught my attention. It was Amitav Ghosh’s Jungle Nama. As you must have guessed, I bought that book to enter the world of one of the greatest Indian literary celebrities.

Jungle Nama is based on one of the chapters of The Legend of Bon Bibi. It is written in the form of poetry. This is a story of morals with a link to local mythology, anchored in reality, for both kids and adults alike. Particularly this story talks about greed – how a wealthy merchant makes a pact with a regional deity or a demigod, Dokkhin Rai, who often shape-shifts into a Royal Bengal Tiger and is restricted to the areas of Sunderbans, to leave his relative as food in exchange for honey and wax, but are punished by Bon Bibi and her twin brother Shah Jongoli.

I found it good to read Jungle Nama aloud. There are quite a few Bengali/Bangla words, so it is better to read in the same accent, for fun as well as it gives a sense of relevance. There are a few moderately difficult words used in the book, which make a good addition to the readers’ English vocabulary. Most of all, the Afterword of this book is as precious as the story. The last time I was so mesmerised by someone’s writing was while reading Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. There was no need for a bookmark while reading Jungle Nama as I finished reading it in one go! I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am no longer skeptical about reading a mainstream Amitav Ghosh’s book. While the writing is great, the illustrations aren’t so. Although the last few pages of the book praise the illustrations by Salman Toor, I thought they could have helped glorify the story better, especially because this is based on mythology. Nevertheless, I definitely recommend reading Jungle Nama.