The Curse

October 12, 2020

Breathtaking stories about women and the worlds they inhabit by one of India’s finest writers.

In The Curse, acclaimed author and poet Salma blasts through the artifice of genre and language to reveal the messy, violent, vulnerable and sometimes beautiful realities of being a woman in deeply patriarchal societies. Loosely rooted in the rural Muslim communities of Tamil Nadu, these stories shine a light on the complex dramas governing the daily lives of most women moving through the world.

In the title story, a young spinster is caught between her desire for marriage and a dark family history that haunts her like a curse. In ‘Toilets’ a woman recounts in stunning, visceral detail how access to the most basic human space has been regulated by trauma, shame and the male gaze. In ‘The Orbit of Confusion’ a daughter writes a heartbreaking letter, struggling to come to terms with her anger and love for the woman who raised her.

In these and five other emotionally charged stories that are at times humorous, even spooky, Salma crafts exquisite and contradictory inner worlds like Alice Munro with the playfulness and spirit of Ismat Chughtai—in a voice that is entirely her own. Available together for the first time in English—in a lively, nimble translation by Kalyan Raman—these stories will grab you by the throat and leave you fundamentally changed.

Mistress of Melodies

October 12, 2020

‘When did you enter this profession?’ he asks her.

‘What’s the use of asking such questions? Do you wish to become another Devdas?’

In Mistress of Melodies, Nabendu Ghosh traverses the streets of the ever-changing city of Calcutta to tell the stories of women—courtesans and those who engaged in sex-work—across generations. There is the innocent Chhaya, a widow who elopes and remarries only to be duped by her new husband. The gritty Basana, who sees the highs and lows of life after being drawn into prostitution as an adolescent. Hasina, the alluring baiji, who auctions her adolescent daughter’s virginity to the highest bidder and lives to regret it. The fierce Tagar who is abandoned when pregnant and is drawn into the world of prostitution, but leaves it to give love another chance. Fatima, a brave mother, who would rather sell her body than let hunger drive her and her son to their deaths. And finally, Gauhar Jaan, the songstress who enchants every man she meets but yearns for a true love who will accept her for who she is.

Poignant, evocative and intensely human, Mistress of Melodies features some of the strongest women in Indian fiction created by Nabendu Ghosh, the legendary screenwriter who scripted immortal classics such as Abhimaan, Devdas and Bandini, among others.

When I Hid My Caste

July 6, 2018

Baburao Bagul’s debut collection of short stories, Jevha Mi Jaat Chorli Hoti (1963), revolutionized not only Dalit but all Marathi as well as Indian literature, bringing to it raw energy and a radical realism—a refusal to understate or dress up gritty, brutal reality.

Through the lives of people on the margins—rebellious youth and migrants, sex workers and street vendors, slum-dwellers and gangsters—Bagul exposed the pain, horror and rage of the Dalit experience. The unnamed young protagonist of the title story risks his life and job, and conceals his caste from his fellow workers in the hope of bringing about social change. Damu, the village Mahar, demands the right to perform a religious masque—a preserve of the upper castes—thus disrupting the village order. Jaichand Rathod revolts against his parents’ wishes and refuses to take up the caste-enforced task of manual scavenging. Years of repressed maternal love begins to resurface when, in the face of death, Banoo calls out to her estranged son. And behind Savitri’s desire for revenge lies the gruesome pain she suffered at the hands of her husband.

Utterly unsparing in its depiction of the vicious and inhumane centuries-old caste system, this landmark book is now finally available in English, in a brilliant new translation by the award-winning author and translator Jerry Pinto.

The Other

July 2, 2018

Who is the Other? Is it you? Is it me? Is it all of us?

Childhood and teenage years—adults insist they are the best time. They cotton wool adolescence in soft lights, ignoring the heartaches and shadows. In this collection of stories, award-winning writer Paro Anand exposes the secrets and sorrows—and courage—that are part of today’s life.

A girl dealing with grief; another who is witness to a horrible assault on a woman in broad daylight; a boy who pushes himself to the brink of extinction; teenagers coming to terms with their otherness. Her stories ask, how do you tell a friend that you are different from everyone else in a deep, fundamental way? How do you go back to school and face friends and teachers when your own family has betrayed you? And when you put your faith in Superman, does he deliver when the bullies come calling?

Dark yet uplifting, unflinching yet deeply positive, these stories are a searing portrayal of the minds of today’s teenagers. In Paro Anand’s The Other, we are forced to examine our actions and inactions and every reader will find a fragment of themselves in the stories. It is a book every young adult and adult must read.

The Unsafe Asylum

June 1, 2018

After Partition, India exchanged the Muslim patients in its Mental Hospitals for their Hindu and Sikh counterparts in Pakistan. These interlinked short stories explore the impact of this decision, together with the ongoing consequences of Partition. Rulda Singh and Fattu (Fateh Khan), patients at Lahore’s Mental Hospital, are separated, possibly for ever. Years later, Prakash Kohli, an Indian psychiatry student, hears Rulda’s account of his journey to India, with its casual official cruelty and unexpected tenderness. When he visits Lahore, Prakash discovers the story of his own birth in 1947, forms a lifelong friendship with a Pakistani colleague—and realizes that nobody knows why so few mental patients survived the exchange.

As Prakash becomes curious about this, he realizes that Partition continues to have a profound effect on the psyches of his patients. A middle-aged woman passes on a delusion of being chased by murderous mobs to her children. A young boy from Simla is convinced that Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani President’s daughter, loves him and they have discussions in his dreams every night. And Prakash, seeing Punjab go up in flames under a militant call for another land of the pure, wonders if Partitions can happen again.

These stories, and more, with their recurring and shared characters, remind us that Partition does not merely lie in the past. Powerful and unsettling, this collection is essential reading.

Sinbad the Sailor and Other Arabian Nights Adventures

April 3, 2018

Princess Scheherazade’s tales of the Arabian Nights, composed over ten centuries ago, have captivated the imagination of generations of readers. These unforgettable tales of adventure, magic and fantasy come alive in this collection. In ‘Sinbad the Sailor’, the prosperous sailor narrates his seven incredible ship journeys. In each of these voyages he ends up shipwrecked and encounters gigantic snakes and birds, cannibals, mythical creatures and more. But he escapes each time using his wit, amassing great wealth in the process. In ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’, Ali Baba and his family discover a secret cave filled with glittering gems and gold. But who will rescue them when the thieves trap them in the cave? And, in a lesser-known gem of a tale, the brave and intelligent Princess Periezade goes in search of the singing tree, the talking bird and the golden fountain, all of which lead her to an even greater secret.
Dive into this collection, specially selected and introduced by Ruskin Bond, to enter a world full of wonder, enchantment and daredevilry.

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