A Lost People’s Archive, Rimli Sengupta

Two neighbours meet as little children in Patuakhali town, deep in the delta where the mammoth Meghna breaks up into a myriad branches to meet the sea, in East Bengal. The year is 1922; the boy, Shishu, is eight, and the girl, Noni, 11. Swiftly, a special bond forms between the two, strengthened by a shared love of books and poetry.

However, in 1927, their paths diverge – Shishu, a member of the revolutionary outfit Tarun Sangha, stabs a police inspector to death and has to spend 17 years in jail; his Noni-di is married off at the age of 16. Yet, they continue to exchange letters, and Shishu keeps a notebook in which he writes poems meant for his friend and first love through the years, about his life, his feelings, and his struggles.

He is released in 1945, but the Partition tsunami rips the two friends apart. They lose all contact, and the connection that held them together over all these years is broken. In 1991, they miraculously reconnect. Noni and her refugee family from East Bengal have survived and she has gone on to have a large family, with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Shishu, on the other hand, has remained single. He gives her his notebook in which he had continued to write all these years, an offering to his friend and lifelong muse.

Praying Mantis, RV Raman

Detective Harith Athreya is taking a well-earned break at a boutique hill in the Himalayan foothills. But his holiday is cut short when mysterious bloody handprints appear on the walls around the resort.

When a guest falls to her death, the hotelier casts suspicion on five young people who checked in at the same time as the victim but who all claim not to know her – or each other. Does one of these guests have something to do with the tragedy? Harith Athreya must get to the bottom of the case before the murderer strikes again.

The New Age of Bakasur, N Dilip Kumar

When two young boys, Pradeep and Ravi, arrive in Delhi from Bhopal to spend a week with their uncle, Shekhar, they admire his relentless crusade against corruption. A well-respected police official, Shekhar has exposed several scams involving the rich and the powerful using innovative sting operations.

As Pradeep and Ravi explore Delhi, their illusions about it being a model metropolis are shattered. They are stuck in traffic jams and stranded on flooded streets. They spot garbage-strewn stretches in the heart of the capital. Official apathy and the glaring divide between the rich and the poor stare them in the face. When they turn to Shekhar for answers, he explains how corruption has infected every aspect of governance like a deadly virus. Unscrupulous public figures – modern-day “Bakasurs” – who swindle people and amass illegal wealth have become the biggest threat to the nation.

Shekhar shares many real-life examples of dishonest practices, which he has come across. These symptomise the rot across India. He hopes that Ravi and Pradeep become drivers of change and join forces with likeminded youngsters to vanquish today’s Bakasurs and save the country from the scourge of corruption.

Diamonds and Stones: An Unlikely Story, Navreet Sran

At 24, Meera is exactly the girl her parents wanted her to be: subtle, upright and compliant. She
abandoned her dream of becoming a pilot at the first whiff of disapproval from her family, accepting the bland office job her father secured for her at a friend’s company. When she visits company’s offshore plant in Saharanpur with a team of coworkers, Meera is desperate to return to Delhi – the factory is dull and dusty, thick with the smell of chemicals. On the trip back to Delhi late that evening, the team becomes a victim of a violent highway robbery.

Next morning, the police find everyone at the crime scene except Meera. The news of the attack also reaches the media. In the investigation that follows, Meera’s family blames her boss for their daughter’s disappearance. How does one girl’s abduction ripple through the lives of an entire community? What happened to Meera? Are her captors more than what they seem?

Legends of the Lepchas: Folktales from Sikkim, Yishey Doma

Custodians of a language and script of the same name, the Lepchas inhabit regions that span the state of Sikkim, the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, the Ilam district of eastern Nepal, and the South-Western parts of Bhutan.

The tales included in this collection describe gods, goddesses, people, animals, and nature in a cohesive world where one cannot do without the other. The stories skilfully bring to life the beliefs and rich culture of this unique community. The stories are made even more memorable with stunning illustrations.

Sahela Re, Mrinal Pande, translated from the Hindi by Priyanka Sarkar

When Vidya, a music scholar, sets out to write a book on the history of Hindustani classical music, she uncovers the remnants of a time and a tradition fast receding: when singers embodied the ragas in their purest forms; when patrons were worshippers, not followers.

Revealed through fascinating anecdotes, correspondence, legend and gossip are the highs and lows of the artistes’ lives, as they loved and lost, and moved on from mehfils to gramophones; we witness, too, the passion music provoked in the lives of its connoisseurs. Making our way through Benares, Calcutta, Bombay and New York, we meet Hira Bai and Anjali Bai – a mother-daughter duo known as much for their singing as for their beauty and intelligence; the gifted Allarakkhi Bi, a friend to Anjali Bai; the famous singer Husna Bai, Allarakkhi’s mother; and their descendants, who attempt to salvage what remains of the old music for new listeners on foreign shores.