She Will Build Him a City, Raj Kamal Jha, Bloomsbury, Fiction
Raj Kamal Jha is one of contemporary India’s most gifted and most reclusive writers, emerging with a novel only occasionally, but always with a devastating treatment of contemporary events ‒ devastating to the soul of the reader. His first work in eight years tells a big story through individual lives, a mosaic of magic and mundanity. And yes, it is very, very fine writing. I shall read this more than once.
Seeing Things, An Adil Jussawalla Reader, Adil Jussawalla, Hachette. Fiction, Non-fiction & Poetry
I’ve always admired Adil Jussawalla not just for the quality and breadth of his writing but also for his refusal to be prolific with this poetry in particular. You can see the journey every poem, every piece, must be for him, not to be completed by the clock. So, this selection of his prose, criticism and poetry ‒ including several unpublished poems ‒ and a little fiction is going to be at my elbow through most of 2015.
The Heat and Dust Project: The Pilot, by Devapriya Roy and Saurav Jha, Harper-Collins, Non-fiction
This book could be subtitled Living Outside The Bubble. Devapriya Roy and Saurav Jha could have been your average high-thinking urban couple anchored in academics and scholarship and focussed on adding to the pool of public knowledge and entertainment with their books. However, they decided to live life a little differently, and to write about it. They set off on a mind- and body-changing journey across small-town India, setting themselves a constraint of spending no more than Rs 500 a day on bed and board. Their experiences are gathered in this book, which may well be the closest many of us will ever come to living the life that a large number of Indians do.
A History of India Through Objects, Sudeshna Guha, Hachette, Non-Fiction
A necklace from Mohenjodaro. A portrait of Emperor Jehangir holding a portrait of the Madonna. A piece of chintz. Tipu Sultan’s tiger. A specialist from Cambridge University in the visual histories of South Asian archaeology curates and joins the dots between select historical objects to construct a remarkable history of the country.
Chander & Sudha, Dharamvir Bharati, translated by Poonam Saxena, Penguin, Fiction
In the genteel, structured society of Allahabad in the 1940s, there are walks, daydreams and poetry. But how does love survive the oppression of the social and familial stare? How does romance confront lust? What strange decisions do our hero and heroine take? A classic and a bestseller will now be available to readers beyond the original Hindi, and that makes the year a good one already for translations.
Don’t Let Him Know, Sandip Roy, Bloomsbury, Fiction
I know Sandip Roy as a sensitive journalist with a nose for picking the human experience that tells a larger political or social story. It’s no wonder that his first novel ‒ he has a two-book deal with Bloomsbury ‒ weaves the story of just such a human experience that lends poignancy to the bigger issue it represents. This one’s also a book about a family ‒ is there a Bengali novelist who can really keep off it? ‒ but sexuality, secrets and sacrifice come together in a way that hasn’t quite left me yet.
The Book Hunters of Katpadi, Pradeep Sebastian, Hachette, Fiction
Pradeep Sebastian is a writer who’s in love with books. Not surprisingly, his novel is a delicious saga involving collectors, thieves, a lost manuscript ‒ by Richard Francis Burton, translator of, inter alia, The Kamasutra ‒ and plenty of action. Because it’s all about books, I’m hooked already.
The Forever War: 2000 Years of Indian Women’s Writing, edited by Annie Zaidi, Aleph, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Drama & Poetry
Whether the title remains the same or not, this has to be one of the most ambitious ‒ and audacious ‒ projects of literary curation. Bringing together the voice of women across two millennia into a single symphony will be a remarkable achievement, and the compilation, a magnificent gathering of words. The intent is marvellous. As a reader, I’m going to send up a little prayer every day to the patron god of editors in the hope that the execution will be flawless.
One Day In the Season of Rain, Mohan Rakesh, translated by Aparna Dharwadker and Vinay Dharwadker, Penguin, Drama
What promises to be exciting about this new translation of the play widely considered to have been the flagbearer of modern Hindi drama is that the idiom is aimed at contemporary staging, for a world audience. The story of a poet named Kalidasa who takes up the job of court poet of Ujjayini at the behest of his young lover Mallika, only to return in a state of disconnectedness, is timeless enough to deserve a new rendering.
RIP Ravan and Eddie, Kiran Nagarkar, HarperCollins, Fiction
The last novel in the Ravan and Eddie series must be read for that reason alone. Things are going right for the composers of the music of the year’s biggest Bollywood blockbuster. Now for the key questions about their careers, love lives and public recognition of their genius. I can’t wait to read what Nagarkar and his wicked, wicked humour will be up to in this one.
In My Defence, A. Raja, Penguin, Non-Fiction
For all their topicality, political books bore me in literary terms. They are the publishing equivalent of television. But I am morbidly curious to know what the DMK’s A. Raja, the Union Telecom Minister from 2007 to 2009 who has been accused of taking bribes in the infamous 2G spectrum scandal, can possibly have to say in his own defence. The real question: does he reveal the full picture and name names, showing how deep the rot ran?