In My Hands Today…

The Age of Shiva – Manil Suri

1799910India, 1955: As the scars of Partition are beginning to heal, seventeen-year-old Meera sits enraptured: in the spotlight is Dev, singing a song so infused with passion that it arouses in her the first flush of erotic longing. But when Meera’s reverie comes true, it does not lead to the fairy-tale marriage she imagined. Meera has no choice but to obey her in-laws, tolerate Dev’s drunken night-time fumblings, even observe the most arduous of Hindu fasts for his longevity. A move to Bombay seems at first like a fresh start, but soon that dream turns to ashes. It is only when their son is born that things change and Meera is ready to unleash the passion she has suppressed for so long.

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In My Hands Today…

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity – Katherine Boo

11869272Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting“ in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter — Annawadi’s “most-everything girl” — will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”

But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

In My Hands Today…

Mistress of the Throne – Ruchir Gupta

192297201631. The Empress of India Mumtaz Mahal has died. Yet, rather than anoint one of his several other wives to take her place as Empress of India, Mughal King Shah Jahan anoints his seventeen-year-old daughter Jahanara as the next Queen of India.

Bearing an almost identical resemblance to her mother, Jahanara is the first ever daughter of a sitting Mughal King to be anointed queen. She is reluctant to accept this title but does so in hopes of averting the storm approaching her family and Mughal India. Her younger siblings harbor extreme personalities from a liberal multiculturalist (who views religion as an agent of evil) to an orthodox Muslim (who views razing non-Muslim buildings as divine will).

Meanwhile, Jahanara struggles to come to terms with her own dark reality: as the daughter of a sitting King, she is forbidden to marry. Thus, while she lives in the shadow of her parents’ unflinching love story, she is devastated by the harsh reality that she is forbidden to share such a romance with another.

In My Hands Today…

Dahanu Road: A novel – Anosh Irani

7919341“The only statement of revolt the poor could make was to put an end to their own misery. It happened all the time—men lay themselves on train tracks, hanged themselves from trees, consumed rat poison, and women set their kerosene-soaked bodies alight in front of their husbands. These were blazing ends to insignificant journeys. But in all this, there was always one man who, in that final gush of blood, in that final breaking of neck and bone, set things in motion.”

Zairos Irani, a young man of inherited leisure, is meandering through his family’s lush chickoo orchards near Mumbai when he comes across a distressing sight: Hanging from one of the fruit trees is the lifeless body of Ganpat, a worker from the indigenous Warli tribe. Ganpat’s ancestors once owned the land, before his father’s alcohol debts caused the deed to be transferred to Zairos’s grandfather Shapur. The two family destinies have been entwined ever since, ancient grudges once again awoken by Ganpat’s final desperate act.

Zairos feels obliged to notify Ganpat’s family before the authorities come to ask needless questions and extract bribes. A tractor bearing Ganpat’s sister and anguished daughter Kusum soon trundles into the orchard, and when Kusum alights, Zairos’s curiosity is piqued. As a landowner, he knows that he is well above her station, and yet her dignity and beauty lead him to cast aside taboos and risk the wagging tongues of neighbourhood gossips. Though wary at first, the grieving Kusum comes to return his affection, asking only that he assist her in achieving what her dead father could not- by putting an end to the violence she has endured at the hands of a drunken husband.

Zairos cannot get advice from his father Aspi, whose clownishness masks thinly-veiled nihilism. Nor can he confide in his beloved grandfather Shapur, whose massive hands planted the chickoo trees that he adores as much as his own sons. Shapur built the family empire from a desperate start as an orphaned refugee, and any act that might threaten the delicate legacy spawned by his sacrifices would only provoke rage in the old man, who increasingly dwells in memories. So Zairos whiles away his time at Anna’s, the local haunt for the male leisure class, dreaming of a future with Kusum. There, with the support of some equally underemployed sidekicks, Zairos hatches a scheme to scare Kusum’s husband into releasing her, while keeping his own moral integrity intact. But alas, Zairos’s scheme will not unfold as planned, and along the way, he will unwittingly expose family secrets that may well be better left buried…

In My Hands Today…

Waiting for the Monsoon – Threes Anna

12804805India, 1995. Charlotte Bridgwater lives with her father, a former British general, and just one loyal servant in a stately old mansion in the town of Rampur. Money is scarce and the once grand estate is crumbling.

In a desperate bid to generate income, Charlotte rents a room to Madan, an Indian tailor with an astonishing talent for making beautiful garments. Madan is unable to communicate verbally, but the two have an immediate and electrifying connection. And, as the extreme heat before the impending monsoon paralyzes the residents of Rampur, the details of their lives unfold: Charlotte’s unhappy childhood and the early death of her husband, Madan’s poverty-stricken life on the streets, and how and when their paths have crossed before.