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I have been reading some really good books by Indian authors and loving it. No, please don’t bring up the Shiva Trilogy at this point or I might do you grievous bodily harm. I did try reading it, was in fact floored by the spectacular beginning. OMG, I thought, here’s the cat’s whiskers. I am so going to enjoy reading this! I did too, for a few chapters, but after that, though I so badly wanted to love the book (The hype! The hype!), I simply couldn’t. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open half way into it. It was the same story with the second one too.

I have a problem with stories that drag and sag in the middle, also those that are illogical in parts and/or have a weak unconvincing ‘middles’ connecting the beginnings and ends. If an author starts off a novel under a presumption, which presumption (s)he has stated in so many words to the readers, then (s)he has no business forgetting it all in subsequent chapters. If (s)he has a good reason to do so, s(he) must, at all costs, make readers privy to the information.

That was my main problem with the Asura King. It had a good storyline, a fallen man, Ravana’s perspective (how interesting!) which we hadn’t heard as yet. It began well enough and then fell apart. Having a good story is simply not enough, writing it out in a way that holds the reader’s attention is equally if not more important. The same story told a million times already can be interestingly told, but if the telling is not good enough even the best stories fall by the wayside. At least that is how it is for me.

By now you have guessed it. I am never ever going to write a novel. You see, I might just have to eat my words if I do write and fail my own strictures on the matter. Anyways I find I have infamously digressed from my initial intentions, namely Indian authors I have been reading recently and their books I found amazing. Of course, I have already read people like Chitra Divakaruni, Amitav Ghosh, Indu Sundaresan, Anita Nair et al. But here are some others.

The recent crop started with Jerry Pinto’s Em and the Big Hoom.  I loved it. That book led me to Amandeep Sandhu’s Sepia Leaves, another good one. Both fall in the same category in that they tell the story of mental illness in the family and of family members who are forced to deal with it. An unimaginable situation to be in. Both the books have been very well written. Well, it breaks your heart and that is well written for me.

Before picking up Amandeep Sandhu’s book, there was Sachin Kundalkar’s Cobalt Blue (I read the translation from the original Marathi, done by Jerry Pinto), a sensitively written story of a brother and sister who fall in love with the same man.

This was followed by One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan (translated from Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan) , a book that created a controversy years after it was first published, which controversy and subsequent harassment not only made life difficult for its author, but also saddened him enough to publicly declare that he would write no more. A deplorable state of affairs in a supposedly free country. The book tells the story of a loving and sexually fulfilled couple’s vain efforts to conceive a child, their life made difficult by a society that makes it their business, the chariot festival day at the Ardhanareeswara temple which might bring an end to their problem and end their marriage as they know it. If the translation is this beautiful, I sigh in longing about the original Tamil version.

I don’t know how I came across Indira Goswami or her book, a translation from the original Assamese by Aruni Kashyap, The Bronze Sword of Thengphakri Tehsildar. It was probably on the list of some friend’s book-list on Goodreads. It tells the story of a freedom fighter from the 19th century. Thengphakri is thought to be the first woman revenue collector in British India. I loved the picture it painted of the times, the place, people and their lives. How much more beautiful it would have been if one could have read it in its original.

I heard friends raving on Facebook about Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s the Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey and had promptly bought it on Kindle. It is a story about Santhals, their village, way of life, traditions, gods, all explored through the story of Rupi Baskey and her family. I enjoyed the book as much for the writing as for the insight it gave me into the life of a group of people in faraway (to me) Jharkhand, of whom I knew nothing, that is, till I picked up the book.

That brings me to the one I am reading now that I got off Hansda Sowvendra’s page on Goodreads. Since I liked his book, I thought I should probably check out the one he has given a five star rating. It is Wind Horse by Kaushik Barua and is about the struggles of the Tibetan people. I am loving it.

So, have you read any of these? And also, what are you reading now?

©Shail Mohan 2015

NaBloPoMo May 2015