Stories of women’s empowerment, a werewolf

A book analyses the drivers of change and the repercussions of present-day gender revolutions, a man in today’s Kolkata meets a man who claims to be a werewolf. Some light and some heavy dosage, the IANS bookshelf this weekend has reality meeting fantasy. Take a look.

1. Book: Half A Billion Rising; Author: Anirudha Dutta; Publisher: Rainlight; Pages: 247; Price: Rs.395

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This book travels to different parts of India and finds that a tremendous wave is sweeping across the nation – girls and women are getting educated, finding jobs and emerging as empowered citizens. The implications of such breakthrough transformations are phenomenal in a nation that is home to 17 percent of the world’s total number of women.

It analyses the drivers of change and the repercussions of present-day gender revolutions. It does so by collecting the stories of young Indian girls across the socio-economic pyramid, and by retelling, in their particular voices, their aspirations, disappointments and everyday challenges.

Against a backdrop of key statistical data and research findings, this book surveys how society at large and men in particular are reacting to the rise of woman power. It asks: Is there support from within the family and from men when a woman chooses enfranchisement? Is violence against women on the rise? Moreover, what role is the local NGO playing in spurring a change in mindest and how can the government help?

2. Book: The Devourers; Author: Indra Das; Publisher: Penguin; Pages: 344; Price: Rs.499

In a dusty caravan serai in 17th century Mumtazbad, Cyrah, a young wanderer meets a man who says he is a monster. The encounter fills her with revulsion and dread, yet changes her forever. In present-day Kolkata, college professor Alok Mukherjee meets a man who claims to be a werewolf. Alone and estranged after a separation, Alok is drawn to the
stranger’s hypnotic allure, unable to tell delusion from truth, trickery from magic.

Beginning in Mughal India by the foot of the Taj Mahal and culminating in the lush, dangerous forests of the Sunderbans in 21st century India, this book is a story about shape-shifters, hunters with second selves who prey on humans and live in the shadows of civilisation. But it is also about what it means to be human – and the transformative powers of love.

3. Book: The Lesson; Author: Sowmya Rajendran; Publisher: Harper Collins; Pages: 192; Price: Rs.399

The adjustment bureau is snowed under with work, the moral police force is on the prowl. The country, but most of all the capital, must live by the Conduct Book. But it isn’t easy. Despite all the efforts of these organisations to maintain peace and social order, people, especially women, continue to flout the law – they ask for divorces, dress provocatively, drink with men and attempt to avoid marriage and childbearing.

But there is a one-man army, more effective than the entire moral police force put together, who will bring law to the land. A vigilante who has his own methods. No matter how many wanton, difficult women there are, he will persevere for the greater good. He will shame them like they have never been shamed before. And when one particular woman’s rebellion threatens to spiral out of control, he is called upon to remedy the situation… and teach her a lesson.

4. Book: Close to Home; Author: Parvati Sharma; Publisher: Penguin Viking; Pages: 200; Price: Rs.399

All Mrinalini Singh wants, she has. A loving husband, a competent cook, the vague hope of a book deal one day. But when her old roommate Jahanara accuses her of being selfish, Mrinalini is forced to practise altruism on the nearest available target: her maid’s toddler. All this caring doesn’t come easy, though; and it hardly helps that her husband, Siddhartha, has quit his lucrative job and acquired parental ambitious. Or that Brajeshwar Jha, her upstairs tenant and literary rival, has not only published his book before Mrinalini, but also lampooned her and Siddhartha in it.

This book offers a wry look at the small compromises, manipulations and sustained self-delusion of young men and women possessed of good fortune… and only looking for good lives.