The Muslim Vanishes, Saeed Naqvi
In this version of India – as imagined by Saeed Naqvi in his play, The Muslim Vanishes – followers of Islam suddenly disappear one day. He imagines the outcome in social, cultural, and political terms. As the play traverses history and fantasy, there’s an uneasy resemblance to a reality where Muslims are being isolated for their identity. Though a work of grit and humour, The Muslim Vanishes conveys the hurt of the author and possibly also, that of India’s Muslim population. The play acts as a warning of a real and present danger.
Dada Comrade, Yashpal, translated from the Hindi by Simona Sawhney
Harish, a young revolutionary in pre-independence Lahore, disagrees with his party’s underground armed resistance. Betrayed by his party, he becomes a labour activist who soon comes under the radar of the British government. Part fictional and part autobiographical, Yashpal’s Dada Comrade has been hailed as a pioneer of political fiction in Hindi literature. Translated into English by Simona Sawhney, the novel dissects the timeless conflicts between freedom and equality, sexuality and marriage, and stands up to authorities despite personal risks. Yashpal’s feisty prose rings true even today, as the youth continues to fight against injustices and the burdens of societal norms.
Metronama: Scenes from the Delhi Metro, Rashmi Sadana
The accessibility of public transportation often shapes our relationship with a city – it familiarises us with its nooks and corners, stations and stops become navigation points, and residents, especially women, are granted a certain degree of autonomy. Indispensable to students, workers, and residents – the metro railway of Delhi is an equalising force in a city that is otherwise markedly different for each class of people. Rashmi Sadana offers ethnographic vignettes for readers to understand how important and life-changing the metro railway, and essentially public transport, can be. Metronoma is a study of Delhi’s intimate relationship with its metro railway, putting forth a perspective of Delhi unlike any other.
Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History, Vidya Krishnan
Tuberculosis has attained the status of notoriety for its incredible ability to adapt despite interventions of modern medicine and antibiotics. Nobel laureates, Bollywood stars, world leaders, and common men have all been afflicted with tuberculosis – the disease that often turns fatal has compromised human health for centuries. In Phantom Plague, Vidya Krishnan examines the journey of the disease from the slums of 19th-century New York to modern Mumbai, and ultimately the fight against its eradication. Phantom Plague is a fascinating tale of humankind’s determined struggle against one of its most dreaded illnesses – overcoming science denialism, medical apartheid, and other prejudices.
The Paradise of Food, Khalid Jawed, translated from the Urdu by Baran Farooqi
The Paradise of Food is the story of a middle-class Muslim joint family spanning fifty-and-odd years. As the story follows the narrator from boyhood through old age, it confronts the anxieties and uncertainties of being a Muslim in India. At odds in his home and the world outside, the narrator struggles to carve a place for himself in an India that has always been suspicious of Muslims and their cultures. A work of biting wit and honesty, The Paradise of Food is one of the most notable works of fiction in Urdu in the recent years. Baran Farooqi’s superb translation makes the book a delightful read in the English language too.
Knotted Grief, Naveen Kishore
Renowned publisher Naveen Kishore turns poet in Knotted Grief. In his debut collection of poetry, Kishore explores the many sides of grief – deep, bewildering, and cruel. Despite the assumption that most grief is experienced in private, we see the various ways in which humans unleash sufferings on each other. The early part of the collection, “Kashmiriyat”, composed of one hundred and five stanzas, examines the grief of living in Kashmir. The latter part, “Selected Griefs”, invokes an emotion that is intimate yet universal. Knotted Grief is a meditation on our most profound emotion – why we feel it, how it binds us together, and what innocence means in a world that is perpetually suffering.
The Greatest Kashmiri Stories Ever Told, selected and translated by Neerja Mattoo
In this anthology, Neerja Mattoo has brought together some of the finest literary voices of Kashmir. From the earliest written tales in the language to contemporary works, these stories hold mirror to the land and its people through the decades. The loss and yearning for the homeland, everyday life in the valley, and portraits of inner lives of women are some of the themes explored in this twenty-five story volume. Translated into English by Mattoo, The Greatest Kashmiri Stories Ever Told illustrates universal human experiences despite being situated in a unique geographical location.