Strike a Blow to Change the World

July 27, 2018

Eknath Awad was a rare Dalit Mang activist from the Marathwada region of Maharastra, who fought for the rights of all underprivileged communities, irrespective of their caste or religion. In his compelling autobiography, Awad describes his rage against the humiliation of the Mangs by the upper castes; and his struggle to overcome caste prejudices as well as extreme poverty to get an education. He revisits his heady days of activism: rejecting caste-based labour and religious practices by cutting the Potraj’s dreadlocks; joining the Dalit Panthers; being at the forefront of the Land Rights Movement; battling to rename Marathwada University after Dr Ambedkar; and working with an NGO in Thane that helped free Adivasis from bonded labour. He writes about his decision to return to Marathwada, where he continued to fight against caste-based discrimination until his death. Awad doesn’t shy away from admitting his shortcomings, such as his tendency to resort to violence to settle disputes. He also recounts the casteism he faced from other Mangs, and his pain and disillusionment after some of them attempted to kill him.
Originally published in Marathi as Jag Badal Ghaluni Ghaav, Jerry Pinto’s remarkable translation makes this inspiring book available in English for the first time.

A Naga Odyssey

July 27, 2018

Five-year-old Visier Meyasetsu Sanyü and his fellow villagers from Khonoma fled for their lives from the Indian Army into the jungles of Nagaland in 1956. He and his family survived privations and starvation there for over two years, though many others did not. Visier emerged from the jungle into a turbulent new Nagaland, altered by civil war and oppression. Violence and fear followed him through his student days in a military school in Bhubaneshwar, where he and other Naga boys were beaten and taken into custody, and his undergraduate years in Darjeeling, adjacent to the theatre of the 1971 war over Bangladesh. When even his dreams of a peaceful life in the University of Nagaland were threatened by fratricide, he finally sought refuge in Australia. During his two decades there, he faced the loss of home and tradition, but also found healing in his work with refugees—and a second home.
This powerful story tracks Visier’s fascinating journey: from a barefoot village schoolboy to a professor, from indigenous religion to Christianity, and from small-town life to appearances before the United Nations. In this fascinating book, his kaleidoscopic sixty-year-long odyssey to find peace, tranquillity, and forgiveness for others is vividly told against the rich tapestry of the Naga quest to be free.

A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep

March 1, 2018

In this sensitive and superbly crafted memoir, one of the foremost English-language authors of modern times, Rumer Godden, chronicles her early life in India and England. She paints a vivid picture of her childhood, in the early 1900s—in Narayangunj, a village in undivided Bengal, where her father worked with the Brahmaputra Steam Navigation Company—and her early forays into writing. She movingly recounts the pain of being forced to return to England to complete her education, and the horrors of being bullied by teachers and older girls in a convent; but also her joy at finding a mentor who encouraged her writing.

After her return to India in 1925, life continued to be tumultuous—she faced social censure for allowing Anglo-Indian children in her dance school in Calcutta; and her marriage with a stockbroker, Laurence Foster, was an unhappy one. The unexpected success of Rumer’s first novel, Black Narcissus, left Laurence insecure and he deserted her and their two daughters. Rumer’s courage and resilience shine through as she writes about her decision to pay off her husband’s debts and to move to Kashmir with her daughters; there they lived in a houseboat till Rumer bought an abandoned house, and began making a living by selling vegetables and medicinal herbs from her garden. But just as they were getting used to life in Kashmir despite hostility from the locals, a catastrophe forced them to return to London.

Bursting with vibrant imagery and a love for life, A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep is an unforgettable account of the unconventional life of a celebrated writer and also of India under British rule.

A House with Four Rooms

March 1, 2018

Rumer Godden’s follow-up to A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep—the evocative story of her childhood and adolescence in early twentieth-century India—A House with Four Rooms begins with her return to postwar England. With characteristic honesty, wit and elegance, Rumer describes the London of the 1950s and trying to make a living as a writer along with raising a family. Through her unwavering commitment to the pen and steadily growing fame, she paints a fascinating picture of the literary and film world that came to fete her. She tells stories of her many houses, and her quest for a room of her own.

She also recounts her travels to America, her time in India during the filming of The River with French director Jean Renoir, noting the presence of a young Satyajit Ray and almost falling prey to a misguided mob; the origins of her novels and their reception; and her relationship with James Haynes-Dixon, her second husband.

The record of an extraordinarily rich life keenly observed and brilliantly recorded, this autobiography is one to treasure.

Weaving Water

March 1, 2018

Growing up in pre-Partition Lahore, Ajeet Cour spent a childhood wrapped in warm and enticing experiences, despite her disciplinarian father. From such a beginning, her life moves on to a first, true love that is lost on account of a misunderstanding; a violent, bitter marriage that leaves her with two young children to support; the death of a beloved child, and the loss, again, of love when at last she seems to have found it. But despite the tragedy that always seems to follow her, Ajeet Cour’s story is one of courage, hope and a sort of happiness, as she finds her eventual refuge in herself.

Lone Fox Dancing

May 10, 2017

Over sixty years, for numerous readers—of all ages; in big cities, small towns and little hamlets—Ruskin Bond has been the best kind of companion. He has entertained, charmed and occasionally spooked us with his books and stories, and opened our eyes to the beauty of the natural world and everyday life. He has made us smile when our spirits are low, and steadied us when we’ve stumbled.

Now, in this brilliantly readable autobiography—his book of books—one of India’s greatest writers shows us the roots of everything he has written. He begins with a dream and a haunting, before taking us to an idyllic childhood in Jamnagar by the Arabian Sea—where he composed his first poem—and New Delhi in the early 1940s—where he found material for his first short story. It was a brief period of happiness that ended with his parents’ separation and the untimely death of his beloved father. A search for companionship and security, undercut by a fierce independence and a tendency for risk-taking, would inform every choice he made for the rest of his life.

With intimacy and candour, Bond recalls his boarding school years in Shimla and winter holidays in Dehradun, when he tried to come to terms with a sense of abandonment, made and lost friends, discovered great books, and found his true calling. Determined to be a writer, he spent four difficult years in England, and he writes poignantly of his loneliness and heartbreak there, even as he kept his promise to himself and produced a book—the classic novel of adolescence, The Room on the Roof. It was born of his longing for India—the home he would return to even before the novel was published, taking a gamble that proved to be the best decision he made.

In the final, glorious section of the autobiography, he writes about losing his restlessness and settling down in the hills of Mussoorie, surrounded by generous trees, mist and sunshine, birdsong, elusive big cats, new friends and eccentrics—and a family that grew around him and made him its own.

Full of anecdote, warmth and gentle wit; often deeply moving and with a magnificent sense of time and place—and containing over fifty photographs—Lone Fox Dancing is a book of quiet and enduring magic, like Ruskin Bond himself.

I Want to Destroy Myself

September 1, 2016

My life cannot be made over to anyone, not even Namdeo Dhasal.

Malika Amar Shaikh was born to Communist-activist parents—her father, Shahir Amar Shaikh, was a trade-union leader and legendary Marathi folk singer. Brought up amidst the hurly-burly of Maharashtrian politics of the 1960s, and exposed to the best and the brightest in Bombay’s cultural scene, Malika was a cosseted child, drawn to poetry and dance. She was barely out of school when she married Namdeo Dhasal, co-founder of the radical Dalit Panthers, and celebrated ‘poet of the underground’ who transformed Marathi poetry with his incendiary verse.

After the initial days of love, and the birth of their son, the marriage crumbled. Namdeo was an absent husband and father—given to drink, womanizing and violence—and uninterested in his family. And while he would repent his actions and his negligence, and they would make up, he never stopped or reformed. I Want to Destroy Myself is Malika’s searing, angry account of her life with Dhasal.

The unvarnished story of a marriage and of a woman and a writer seeking her space in a man’s world, Malika Amar Shaikh’s autobiography is also a portrait of the Bombay of poets, activists, prostitutes and fighters. There isn’t another memoir in Indian writing as honest and pitiless as this. Published originally in Marathi, it quickly became a sensation and vanished as quickly. Jerry Pinto’s superb translation revives this lost classic and makes it available for the first time in any language other than Marathi.

Framed As a Terrorist

December 30, 2015

Framed As a Terrorist is the harrowing and heart-rending narrative of an ordinary young Indian man, from the by-lanes of Old Delhi, who was kidnapped by the police, falsely accused of being a terrorist, framed and kept in jail for almost fourteen years.

Released after a long and incredibly difficult legal battle, after surviving torture and solitary confinement, Mohammad Aamir Khan remains committed to the secular and democratic values that he grew up with. He refuses to be defeated, or to give up any of the dreams he has for himself, his family and the country that nearly destroyed him.

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