Of urban angst, riots, mutiny and epic love


(IANS Books This Week)

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New Delhi : Relax with a cache of stimulating books this weekend.

1. Book: “Crowded Rooms”; Written by Prem Nath; Published by Penguin-Books India; Priced at Rs.199

In this collection of nine stories, Prem Nath etches urban existence in fine detail – a world of towering high-rises, claustrophobic rooms, haunted highways and impersonal office cabins.

And even as his characters deal with the boredom and displacement of modern life, they find new ways of engaging with the world they live in – some real, some imagined, some dreamlike – but always fresh.

2. Book: “The Man With Enormous Wings”, Essays by Esther David; Published by Penguin Books-India; Priced at Rs.199

From the breathtaking Sidi Sayeed mosque to the unbridled joy of Uttarayan celebrations to the sheer terror and mindless bloodshed of the Hindu-Muslim riots, Esther David’s powerful vignettes explore the events of 2002 that changed the city of Ahmedabad forever.

Hovering over the narrative impotently is a man with enormous wings – silently lamenting the fierce bloodlust of a city that once worshipped him and grew up on his lessons of non-violence.

3. Book: “Atisa and His Time Machine: Adventures with Hiuen Tsang”; Written by Anu Kumar; Published by Puffin Books; Priced at Rs.175

Young Atisa thought he was all set for a cushy ride on Daedalus’s balloon to join his mother Gaea in the 7th century Central Asia. But Danyi, a warrior from China, a blizzard in the Gobi desert and a mysterious white horse compel Atisa to cross paths with Hiuen Tsang – the celebrated monk and traveller who is on his way to king Harshavardhana’s court.

It soon becomes clear that Hiuen Tsang is a hunted man and despite Atisa’s assistance, the situation becomes even more dangerous.

4. Book: “1857: The Oral Tradition”; Written by Pankaj Rag; Published by Rupa & Co; Priced at Rs.395

A historical account, it uses oral histories as its source to reconstruct aspects of the great uprising of 1857. Through an exploration and analysis of folk songs, folk tales and contemporary regional literature, it examines the massive revolt in parts of Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bundelkhand, and in the tribal areas of Uttar Pradesh and Awadh.

The book also looks at the birth of the country’s national flag.

5. Book: “Buddha’s Orphans”; Written by Samrat Upadhyay; Published by Rupa & Co; Priced at Rs.295

The novelist uses the political upheaval of Nepal’s past century as a backdrop to tell the story of a boy king and the girl he is fated to love, Nilu, the daughter of a privileged father.

Their love story scandalises both families and takes readers through time and across the globe, through the loss and search for children, teaching that old bends can be righted in the future branches of the family tree. It also teaches us how we are irreparably connected to the mothers who birthed us.