Piquant, historical and graphical (Books This Weekend)
What if a mythologist looks into mythology and introduces queerness through the story of gods? What if a graphic designer uses the power of visuals and no text to narrate a tale? What if a Kashmiri author writes about the plight of "half-mothers"? Answers to all these "what ifs" are offered by the books IANS is reviewing this week. Take a look.
1. Book: Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don't Tell You; Author:
Devdutt Pattanaik; Publisher: Zubaan and Penguin; Pages: 180; Price: Rs. 299
Queerness isn't only modern, Western or sexual. Take a close look at the vast written and oral traditions in Hinduism, some over 2,000 years old, and you will find many overlooked tales, such as those of Shikhandi, who became a man to satisfy her wife; Mahadeva who became a woman to deliver his devotee's child; Chudala who became a man to enlighten her husband; Samavan who became the wife of his make friend, and many more.
Playful and touching and sometimes disturbing, these stories, when compared with their Mesopotamian, Greek, Chinese and Biblical counterparts reveal the unique Indian way of making sense of queerness.
2. Book: Aspyrus: A Dream of Halahala; Artist: Appupen; Publisher:
Harper Collins; Price: Rs. 599
The mercurial terrain of Halahala faces the ultimate threat: a dream-creature from another realm that spreads its tentacles across the world. Will Halahala survive this invasion? Will it find the strength against this invasion? Will it find a saviour?
A study of obsession and aspiration, Aspyrus, a graphic novel, is the compulsion of desire, the fickleness of the idea and the power of conviction.
3. Book: The Half Mother; Author: Shahnaz Bashir; Publisher: Hachette;
Pages: 182; Price: Rs. 295
It is the 1990s and Kashmir's extremism has begun to claim its first victims. Among them are Gulam Rasool Joo, Haleema's father and her teenage son Imran, who is picked up by the authorities only to disappear into the void of Kashmir's missing people.
This is the story of Haleema - a mother and a daughter yesterday, a "half-mother" and an orphan today - tormented by not knowing whether Imran is dead or alive, torn apart by her own lonely existence. While she battles for answers and seeks out torture camps, jails and morgues for any signs of Imran, Kashmir burns in a war that will haunt it for years to come.
4. Book: The Making of Exile: Sindhi Hindus and the Partition of
India; Author: Nandita Bhavnani; Pages: 386; Price: Rs. 599
The cultural landscape - of the Sindhi Hindu experience of Partition - is accessed in this book, through the anxieties, fears, resilience, hopes and self-confidence of the Sindhi Hindus as they confronted the loss of their homeland, the collapse of their familiar world, and the sense of economic security and the certitudes associated with the earlier, pre-Partition social life of the community in Sindh.
The story is told through the eyes and the memories of those who had experienced that history and whose actions ultimately shaped that history.
In the long run, this book will not only retain its intellectual relevance but also become a crucial part of a community's self-reflection and, perhaps, even a part of its ongoing self-construction.
(Posted on 25-07-2014)