Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa

a nutshell: a Parsee girl, Lenny, candidly narrates her 1940s Lahore childhood as it mutates from a life of carefree mischief & chatter among miscellaneous friends to Partition-provoked horrors & heartache

a line: “Don’t hog God!”

an image: a colonel retells the story of the Parsis’ migration to India from Persia during the Arab invasion in 600s AD, evoking how the Indian Prince noted their arrival with a full glass of milk as a polite signal of his aversion to outsiders & their potentially disturbing alien ways; the Parsee forefathers returned the milk with a teaspoon of sugar stirred in – an indication that they’d be absorbed harmoniously into the country and sweeten the lives of his subjects

a thought: privy to adults’ tense discussions of the inevitable split, Lenny begins to notice that everyone she knows suddenly goes from being just themselves to being ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Sikh’, or ‘Christian’; tribalism is forced onto them – as the country breaks, so too does her own community fracture

a fact: India and Pakistan have been embroiled in numerous conflicts since 1947, and just today Pakistan has announced it shot down two Indian military jets; sadly the clashes depicted in this now 28-year-old novel show no signs of abating

 

want to read Cracking India (aka Ice Candy Man)? visit here

Abandon by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (tr. Arunava Sinha)

a nutshell: a metafictional, overpowering haze of wants, needs & question marks as a woman lets us into her attempts to be both mother and artist – exquisitely translated by Sinha from Bandyopadhyay’s Bengali

a line“we drift through the morbid yellow afternoon”

an image: one of many passages that drew a sharp breath was Ishwari’s note that the novel will continue to shriek as its characters – she & her son – claw their way between the poles of extreme humanity / extreme art

a thought: it’s impossible to be at ease at any point of this novel, in which Ishwari’s dislocated existence sees her flit from a serene space focused on art, spirituality & consciousness to a dire bedsit teeming with vomit & ants

a fact: Bandyopadhyay has said outrage in India caused by her earlier novel Panty (re: sex scenes) wreaked havoc with her son’s school life, her publisher’s reputation and even her translator Arunava Sinha

 

want to read Abandon? visit here