WHITE MUGHALS: William Dalrymple
In White Mughals, William Dalrymple tells the story of a British Resident in Hyderabad, James Achilles Kirkpatrick, around the beginning of 19th century.
White Mughals is a dense, well-researched book of history, rather than a breezy account of sensational goings - and with truth often stranger than fiction, there's enough here to keep one interested. The book presents a fascinating picture of India in the tides of change, and of how those who were there acted and reacted.
EAT, PRAY,LOVE, Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia is a 2006 memoir by American author Elizabeth Gilbert. The memoir chronicles the author's trip around the world after her divorce and what she discovered during her travels.
Elizabeth Gilbert explains how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. An interesting read, the book will make you think about life, what you see of it and what remains unseen!
INDIA AFTER GANDHI - Ramchandra Guha
“India After Gandhi” begins with the British, in this remarkable book, we have an epic account of the world’s largest and least likely democracy. Moving between history and biography, India After Gandhi is peppered with incredible characters from the longstanding Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to peasants, tribals, women, workers and musicians. Massively researched and elegantly written, this is the work of a major scholar at the height of his powers.
GOD OF SMALL THINGS: Arundhati Roy
The God of Small Things (1997) is a semi-autobiographical, politically charged novel by Indian author Arundhati Roy. It is a story about the childhood experiences of a pair of fraternal twins who become victims of circumstance. The book is a description of how the small things in life build up, translate into people's behavior and affect their lives. The book won the Booker Prize in 1997.
SUITABLE BOY: Vikram Seth
A Suitable Boy is a novel by Vikram Seth, released in 1994; the book is one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the English language. A Suitable Boy is set in post-independence, post-partition India. This epic novel covers the various issues faced by post-independence India, including Hindu-Muslim strife, abolition of the Zamindari system, land reforms and empowerment of Muslim women. The book has won International Awards such as the Commonwealth Writers Prize and WH Smith Literary Award amongst others in 1994.
THE NAMESAKE: Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri’s second book and first novel, was published in 2003, that bagged the ‘Pulitzer Prize’ for Fiction, and won critical acclaim for its grace, acuity, and compassion in detailing lives transported from India to America.
The book spans more than thirty years in the life of a fictional family, The Gangulis. The Ganguli Parents, each born in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata), immigrated to the United States as young adults. Their children, Gogol and Sonali, grow up in the United States and much of the tension of the novel is dependent upon the generation and cultural gap between the parents and their children.
Also watch the film, ‘Namesake’ which was a revolutionary direction by Mira Nair (known for directing Indo-English movies), released in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and India in March 2007.
Both, the book and the film, provides an insight into the trapped minds of Indo-Western Indians and a different outlook on the thoughts and apprehensions of this growing sect of Indians world wide.
INHERITANCE OF LOSS: Kiran Desai
The Inheritance of Loss is the second novel by Indian author Kiran Desai. Published in 2006, the novel won the Man Booker Prize for that year as well as the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award in 2007.
‘Inheritance of Loss’ focuses on the fate of a few powerless individuals; Kiran Desai’s extraordinary writing skills manage to explore, with intimacy and insight, just about every contemporary international issue ranging from colonialism to globalization, materialism, immigration and class issues, prejudice and victimization, economic inequality, fundamentalism and terrorist violence.
An interesting view for a prospective reader, who wishes to look at these issues from a difference perspective!
FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT: Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins
Freedom at Midnight is about the transition of India from a British Colony to an independent nation on midnight of 15 August 1947. The strongest attribute of this book is the description of the characters and personalities involved. The book is a result of deeply scanned and researched events which are quite often left out by historians and is an intimate account of reasoning of the historical figures that lead to the independence and division of India. Beginning with the appointment of Lord Mountbatten as the last viceroy of British India, and ending with the death and funeral of Mahatma Gandhi, the key players around which this book revolves are Mountbatten, Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah. If you are interested in the history of India, this book will be interesting for you.
“SUPERSTAR INDIA: From Incredible to Unstoppable”: Shobhaa De
Shobhaa De’s latest offering ‘Superstar India: from Incredible to Unstoppable’ is the author’s personal story of her romance with a free country that shares her age!
Surveying the many images of the country, Dé points out that for every truism about India the opposite is also true: India as the land of the meek; India as inheritor of the earth; India surrounded by distinctly unfriendly neighbours; Indians fleeing to jobs in the West and then racing right back to a better life; Indians who ape their erstwhile colonizers and yet cling irrationally to tradition.
In a departure from anything else she has written, Shobhaa Dé lasers in on Indian people and their place in the larger human society, pointing out her country’s historical failings and equally historical glories. Admitting to knee-jerk reactions to much of what is happening at home and in the world, Dé reasons, nevertheless, that the nation has earned superstar status, and with humorous argumentativeness, she convinces the reader that India is not about to lose its glow!
INDIA: THE PEACOCK’S CALL: Aline Dobbie
India: The Peacock’s Call begins with an account of the author’s return to India after 35 years. A blend of travelogue and memoir, India: The Peacock’s Call combines an account of the author’s travels to India between 1997 – 2008 with her childhood memories, providing a deeply engaging guide to modern India filled with a poetic yearning for the land of her birth. Aline Dobbie begins her journey in Delhi, on through to Rajasthan, to Agra, Uttar Pradesh and Kolkata. The authors first hand reminiscences of her childhood, her knowledge of her forefathers’ experiences and the broader, deeper history of India make India: The Peacock’s Call far more informative than a standard travel guide.
INSPITE OF GODS: Luce Edward
IN SPITE OF THE GODS is without doubt one of the best books written on New India: witty, clear and accessible yet minutely researched and confidently authoritative. When a foreign correspondent spends five years living and working in a country and then writes a book about it, there's bound to be a measure of skepticism – murmurs, perhaps, about why an outsider with little emotional stake in the place should hold forth on its problems and suggest possible remedies. But Edward Luce's “In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India” does not raise a doubt. It doesn't make overreaching judgments; it prefers to make sharp observations instead. Luce is respectful of the complexities of the country, and of Amartya Sen's observation that "anything one might say about India, the opposite can also be shown to be true".
In Spite of the Gods illuminates a land of many contradictions. Edward Luce, a journalist who covered India for many years, makes brilliant sense of India and its rise to global power. Already a number-one bestseller in India, this book is sure to be acknowledged for years as the most definitive introduction to modern India.
THE LAST MUGHAL: William Dalrymple
William Dalrymple’s captivating book – The Last Mughal: Eclipse of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857, is not only a great reading, but also contributes very substantially to our understanding of the remarkable history of the Mughal Empire in its dying days. The book is a portrait of dazzling Delhi, the story of last days of the great Mughal capital and its final destruction in the catastrophe of 1857. It is an extraordinary piece of work with clear contemporary echoes. The book also won the prestigious Duff Cooper Prize for History and Biography 2007.
THE SHADOW LINES
The Shadow Lines by Amitav Gosh paints a landscape of symbolism and realism that spans both time and space. The concepts of distance and time are uniquely portrayed in the physical borders that divide countries and the imaginary borders that divide human beings. From the image-conscious character of the grandmother to the riots that explode in the streets, Ghosh takes the reader on a fascinating journey of exploration, dissecting the characters of the story while simultaneously dissecting the human race.
A narrative built up of a complicated web of memories of many people, The Shadow Lines interrogates the viability and relevance of man-made divisions, necessitating acts of offense resulting from state-codified boundaries.
THE WHITE TIGER: Aravind Adiga
The White Tiger is the debut novel by Indian author Aravind Adiga. It was first published in 2008 and won the Man Booker Prize for the year. The novel studies the contrast between India's rise as a modern global economy and the main character, who comes from crushing rural poverty.
The novel takes the form of a series of letters written late at night by Balram (key character of the novel) to Wen Jiabao, the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. In the letters, Balram describes his rise from lowly origins to his current position as an entrepreneur in Bangalore, as well as his views on India's caste system and its political corruption - an eye opener to the real India.
CHOKHER BALI: Rabindranath Tagore
‘Chokher Bali’, literally meaning ‘Sand of the Eye’, equivalent to eye-sore, is a Bengali novel written by Rabindranath Tagore in the early 20th century, against the backdrop of the Indian Independence Movement.
Tagore elaborately records early 20th century Bengali society, through his central character, a rebellious widow, who wants to live a life of her own. In writing this novel, he exposes the custom of perpetual mourning on the part of widows, who were not allowed to remarry and were condemned to a life of isolation and loneliness. It is a miserable, stirring tale of the deceit and sorrow that arise from pressures of society and resulting dissatisfaction. The novel was later adapted into a film by Rituparno Ghosh in 2003.
CITY OF DJINNS: William Dalrymple
City of Djinns is a travelogue by William Dalrymple about the historical capital city of India, Delhi. The book was culminated as a result of the authors six-year stay in New Delhi. City of Djinns examines the traumatic events witnessed by India’s capital city, such as the partition of India and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots which were triggered as a result of assassination of then Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi.
The book follows Dalrymple’s established style of historical digressions, tied in with contemporary events and a multitude of anecdotes. The novel has also inspired theater and has been enacted into a play by Rahul Dasinnur Pulkeshi of Delhi-based Dreamtheatre.
SHAKUNTALA & OTHER STORIES FROM ANCIENT INDIA: Adithi Rao
This is a compilation of six unforgettable stories of love and bravery, treachery and injustice, from ancient Indian literature. Classical Sanskrit and Tamil writing teamed with myriad characters, present this collection of six epics namely ‘Shakuntala’, ‘The Little Clay Cart’, ‘The Story of an Anklet’, ‘Manime-kalai’, ‘The Last Trial of Sita’, which gives a new ending to the Ramayana, and ‘The Broken Thigh’, about the final, desperate combat between Duryodhana and Bheema on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Accompanied by descriptions of the authors’ lives and the time when the stories were written, these lively retellings are an ideal introduction to some of the best-known Indian classics.
THE MUSIC ROOM: Namita Devidayal
Namita Devidayal’s interesting book ‘The Music Room’, gives an inside view of the legends of Hindustani (Indian) Music. The story takes its readers through the history of Rajasthani Jaipur Gharana and Hindustani music over a period of 100 years. The story revolves around Namita and her teacher, who is shy at heart, diffident, and yet full of determination. A beautifully written tale with gossips and legends, this is an interesting read for those who wish to understand the challenges of adversity.
INCREDIBLE INDIA - TRADITIONS & RITUALS: Muthusamy Varadarajan
Published in October 2007, ‘Incredible India – Traditions & Rituals’, is a unique book highlighting the essence of India and Indian culture and beliefs. The author explains how India’s prevalent rituals and traditions emerged as tools of self-expression and as channels through which material rewards could be solicited. Written by an expert on traditions and culture, this book gives a revitalizing thought to this age-old subject, shedding new light and offering logical explanation to some of India’s age old traditions.
IN STEP WITH PARADISE – RHYTHMS TO THE POETRY OF KASHMIR – Uma Vasudev
Uma Vasudev’s novel ‘In step with Paradise – Rhythms to the poetry of Kashmir’, gives her passion for art a characteristically individual flavour. Here, the author gets 12 of India’s leading classical dancers encompassing five classical dance forms – Bharat Natyam, Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri and Kuchipudi, to portray a format never attempted before. The novel portrays the closeness between Kashmiri poetry and India’s traditional dance forms and depicts the essence of Kashmir as revealed in gesture, movement, poetry and words by dancers, poised along breathtaking photographs of India.
While the essays delineate the cultural essence of Kashmir, the dancers are etched in evocative sublime form. Each one of them also articulates in words, as creatively as they do in their dance, about the new challenges that they had to face to adapt to different imagery and content. Each dancer also describes how they combined their individual reaction with the inspiration provided by the author as director. Thoughtful and exquisite, the novel is an unusual blend of poetry, dances and an underlying essence of Kashmir.
A PRINCESS REMEMBERS, Maharani Gayatri Devi
‘A Princess Remembers’, the memories of the Maharani of Jaipur, written by Maharani Gayatri Devi herself, is a personal account of the life of the princess. Maharani Gayatri Devi was the last Queen of Jaipur in Rajasthan. She was listed in Vogue as one of the most beautiful women in the world.
This is an intimate book, presenting the extraordinary life of one of the world's most fascinating women. Maharani Gayatri Devi describes her carefree tomboy childhood; her secret six-year courtship with the internationally renowned polo player, Jai Singh - the Maharaja of Jaipur; and her marriage and entrance into the City Palace of the 'pink city' where she had to adjust to unfamiliar customs and live with her husbands other wives. Maharaja Jai Singh’s liberating influence, combined with Maharani Gayatri Devi's strong character, took her well beyond the traditional limited activities of a Maharani. The book gives an account of the Maharani’s life from the height of their power to the present day de-recognition of the Kingdom.
HEAT & DUST, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
‘Heat and Dust’ is a novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. It was published in 1975 and won the Booker Prize for the year. The events of the story take place in India, during the periods of British Raj in the 1920s. The narrator discovers that Olivia (young English woman) was a woman smothered by the social restrictions placed upon her by British society. She falls in love with a Nawab and becomes pregnant with his child. Her decision to abort the baby results in a scandal. In discovering the truth about these events, the narrator also comes to fall in love with an Indian man, understand herself better and develops an interest in India. The novel was later adapted into a film by James Ivory in 1983 and won several awards.
CITY OF JOY: Dominique Lapierre
‘City of Joy’ is a novel written by Dominique Lapierre in 1985. The book depicts a grim and stark, yet true, picture of the living conditions in a typical Indian slum. The author writes about prevalent poverty, famine, disease, political apathy, rotten bureaucracy, the underworld, exploitative politics and social and moral crises prevalent in West Bengal, particularly in Kolkata, during the 1980s. The novel was later adapted into a movie directed by Roland Joffé in 1992.
Half of the proceeds from the sale of this book go towards the City of Joy Foundation that looks after slum children in Kolkata.