Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Disillusioning Triumph

Yesterday was Aarshi: Mirroring Perspectives. Music, Dance, Recitations, Performances, and love…. No entry fee.

Being part of KRPF (Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival), the organizing entity, I knew I had to be there (of course, I WANTED to be there, but increasingly these days want is just not enough to be able to do things). So, I left the institute early, travelled 2 and a half hours, and got to Gyan Manch at 6.

The program was amazing. Having not been a particularly active part of the planning and execution of this program, I came to it with a viewer’s eyes, and I was impressed. 

Mitali Sengupta and her classical/semi-classical renditions (including one of my all time favourite bandishes and another much liked one) were soothing and pleasing at once. 

Buddhi Edirisinghe opened a whole new world of Sri-Lankan dance forms to the audience. 

Our very own thespian and star Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee soaked everyone in emotions with a solid poetic performance. 

And the KRPF quartet of Jaydip Jana, Souvik Som, Dipankar Chanda, and  Anjan Ghosh came up with a fantastic performance of poetry, narration, Rabindrasangeet, and Ghazals.

We wound up the evening with the customary bear hugs and “keorami” (flaming, over the top behavior). All in all, it was a spectacular evening.

However, it left me disillusioned and depressed.  

The low turnout was quite depression inducing. And it just reinforced in my mind why I am increasingly pissed off and cynical about “the movement” in this city. Forget general public, forget allies and friends, if even the core community cannot be expected to show any support then what really is the point? All that expense, effort, energy, time, thought, and hard work…. Of so many people… and community members could not even be bothered to turn up and watch? For free? What would this do except demoralize the people making so much of an effort to showcase talents and arts within the queer community?

I keep seeing posts in various queer groups and forums lamenting about why queer people are not building a close community, about gay men only looking for “fun” and not love, about the lack of alternative support structures, about our talents not being recognized. If this was a party, I am sure the turnout would have been at least 20 times greater. So what does that show? The very people who are crying so incessantly about all the “lacks” are not ready to support an effort to make a change. The very people who say they want more “depth” in queer people and spaces are not willing to spend a few hours supporting an effort to create that depth. The people who go on and on about solidarity, equality, and “protests” cannot be bothered to make the minimal effort to actually show that solidarity when it is requested of them.

No wonder I feel less and less like participating in these politics.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


  • ·       Sorting through piles of collected junk and papers at home, I come across hospital medicine bills and have to physically grind my teeth and force myself to breathe so I don’t break down.
  • ·       Throughout the festive season, every time I notice the fact that monkey is at home with us, every time I give thought to how all around horrible this year’s pujo has been, every time I want to do something “fun”, I almost break down.
  • ·       Sitting in a local train, on my way to a job interview, I make the mistake of not incessantly playing mindless games on my phone (to conserve battery), some random thought and its associations make me break down.
  • ·       A random scene in stupid, vapid, impossibly shallow Bollywood crap - like Tubelight, or Ae Dil Hai Mushkil - which I stumble over on TV, which would have been one long derisive laugh fest for me before, now make me cry.
  • ·       A TV ad for Idea 4G network has the exact same hospital corridors as one of the places I fought with in May 2017, and I cannot breathe.
  • ·       A random Facebook meme congratulating Amitabh Bacchan for turning 75 brings me to my knees.
  • ·       Some “romantic comedy” movie on TV has a character seeking euthanasia and I am howling inside with all the conversations I had with the old man, for years, about it – but I can’t, because monkey is watching me.
  • ·       When my eyelids are sufficiently droopy that I can put the book down knowing I will be asleep soon, I’m not. The minute I close my eyes it is a slideshow of everything that went wrong and everything I could have done better.
  • ·       Every time I have five free minutes to just be… my mind insists in showing me image after image of everything that went wrong from April to June this year, and I am overwhelmed without any chance of finding a way of dealing.

Daily life has become a minefield of moments waiting to ambush me with inappropriate amounts of emotions. Basic functioning is becoming problematic as my mind threatens to break down in random public places and during totally benign activities. Monkey has taken to looking sideways at me every now and then to check if I am weepy. Given how non- weepy I generally am as a person, especially in public, especially for the last 20 years or so, this is a huge change. It is also a problem because just coping with marginal breakdowns all the time is taking up so much time and energy, not to mention the mindless activity that is being demanded by self-distraction needs. As a result, I am exhausted all the time, and distracted, with only half my mind on the present moment. So, I am losing things, have lost more things in the last 6 months than I did in the 26 years before that. I am constantly on some mindless game or tv or both (also something I never do) and not even having a conversation with the man in commercial breaks.

And this is just extra crap one does not need on top of the alternative oversleep/insomnia cycles, on top of the numbness, on top of the baseline default level of background pain that is almost constant. The anger and detachedness that is almost constant, stemming from so much that is going on right now, personally. The absolute absence of the desire to go anywhere, do anything, see anyone. The mental cringing at the thought of doing even the things I so love normally. Which means I am letting a lot of people down, which only adds to the witches’ brew with extra doses of guilt. All in all, it is clear that things are not “fine”.

The last time I felt anything close to this bad, was way back in my MA days, a time that classifies as easily one of the worst phases of my life. This is starting to even overtake that memorable phase if only in the way basic functioning is being affected, in how debilitating I am finding this, and how incapable of dealing with it in any way I seem to be. Last go around, I dealt. I lived the daily life and the did the campus rounds and socialisation and everything just as normal (until I absolutely couldn’t and things fell apart, sure) but this time I just cannot seem to find the energy or the wherewithal. I fall asleep all day, sleep for 16-18 hours with only bathroom and food breaks. Or, on another day I twist and turn and toss through the night, and the next day, and nothing seems right. Headaches are constant, insomnia or oversleep, disquiet is constant, stomach hasn’t felt normal in all this time, not even once, and the only thing that keeps me going is the vodka on the weekend and looking forward to that vodka all week

I realise, increasingly, that I may not be able to deal with this on my own. At least that’s what it feels like at the moment. for once in my life, surprisingly, I am also having trouble talking to friends about it. I have forever been known, and often denigrated, for how much my friends mean to me. I have heard many a snide comment because of how much of a support structure my friends are, how large a part they are of what normally keeps me going. And yet, this time I find myself unable to really open up even to my inner circle. They ask, bless them, and they have been worried, and it has been fobbed off. It does not happen. I cannot seem to tell them how I am feeling, what is going on. I seem unable to confess how badly off I am. It is the “mata” image getting in the way. The mother bear/lioness takes care of her cubs. She’s the one who worries and comforts and lends an ear and a shoulder. She’s the one stepping into the breach with sage advice and life-experience wisdom. She does not fall apart and ask the cubs for those things. In fact, I don’t even know if any of those things would help, if I COULD even explain all this if I wanted to. The few times I have reached out, specifically, the universe has gotten in the way and it’s never happened.

Also, it seems excessive. Granted I have no real frame of reference, but it seems a bit too much to be this prostrated more than four months later. I feel as if I am overreacting, and I don’t know how to stop doing it. And it feels like a huge imposition to dump all this on my tribe. I mean, people lose their parents, they manage, they cope, they live life more or less normally. Why the hell do I have to be such a cry baby? Why the hell can’t I just grit my teeth and get on with it. And yes, the last thing I need in this vicious, venomous emo cocktail is shame and embarrassment… but hey, what I need and what I get are not the same thing.

The ideal solution would be to get professional help, I suppose. Except, given my past with the mental health faculty in India, and my absolute lack of trust in the system, that’s not going to happen. Even assuming things have changed in the last 20 odd years, and assuming I can get referrals to “trustworthy” shrinks from my various cubs, it’s still not going to happen. The thought of sitting in front of a complete stranger and re-beginning the process of pulling myself apart and putting me back together again is too exhausting and just way to uncomfortable. As for home, there’s no help there. Given the significant other’s “grin and be strong and just deal with it” ethos, or alternatively “bury it six feet deep in your psyche and ignore it for the rest of your life” way of dealing with such things, there is no way I am even going to try to discuss any of this there.

So, where the hell does that leave me? In a shithole, that’s where. Where I am drowning and have no way to do anything about it. I don’t even have any way to vent, except for this.

So…yeah…. Whatever….

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Queering Care, Belonging, Support, and Families - Safer, Loving spaces

  • Repeated iterations from speakers at a queer conference about how care is of two types… either familial or “bought”. So the only two sites for care are the family and the market. 
  • Someone mentions “kinship” as the feeling of belonging, the clan feeling of being part of this larger whole where love and care and support will come from, AKA the family. 
  • A question from the audience seeks to know whether the ”sisterhoods” of feminisms can be transformed to “kinships” and is answered with a question of why they are trying to turn queer feminist spaces into facsimiles or replicas of family. 
This is a theme that recurs. Again and again, in the presentations and in the break time conversations, there is this lament of how family becomes the site of so much violence for queer people and how the only other option is to buy care. Which, of course, is not nearly the same thing or enough.

All I can do is wonder. Wonder why family and market seem like the only care sites to so many. Wonder why they find it so hard to imagine alternative forms and sites of care and support. Wonder why kinship to so many means only clan/family of birth and sanguinity. Wonder why our queerness does not extend to the idea of family or clan or tribe too. Wonder at our narrow definitions of kinship and family in spite of our “other”ness and the age we live in. wonder at the power of conditioning.

And above all, thank my stars, the universe, the crazy gods of queerness, the deities of witches, the universal feminine, or the flying spaghetti monster that I have had no such experiences, that I am simply unable to comprehend the limitedness of these definitions. That i have always had care outside the natal or accepted clan which has helped me survive so much of the shit that I have had to wade through. That my tribe today is the single most important, effective, and loved support system in my life. Quite literally, specially for the last six months or so, my tribe is what keeps me alive and functioning.

The other main topic of discussion in the community currently is “safe spaces” and how safe and accepting and wonderful they really are. Given the mistreatment of a group of female bodied people at the fundraiser for the Delhi Pride this year (last week), and the blatant misogyny and class/caste aggression displayed there not by random male bodied “Queer” people but also the overall milieu, it is not surprising.

And this is not a new topic either. We have been talking for years about the misogyny and sexism in LGBT+ spaces, online and off, for years now. Not to mention the biphobia, transphobia, femme phobia, ageism, ableism, body shaming, sex shaming, and so much more. People like me have acquired a reputation for having no sense of humour because we regularly, repeatedly, and routinely point out these issues in so called “funny” posts. The reply, as always, is to “chill out” because it's a “joke”.

Rituparna says in her recent pieceA safe space is a place (virtual and offline) where anyone can express themselves freely without the fear of being judged, made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, unsafe on account of one’s gender, sex assigned at birth, caste, class, sexual expression, religious affiliation, mental or physical ability. This safe space has certain ground rules to ensure that each person’s self-respect and dignity is taken care of.”

I am lucky, grateful, and immensely glad to have been able to try and create such a space, and to be part of it. Yes, we could do better in terms of venue (as the overpriced food and drink at the current one can be a deterrent to many), and we are trying to find a cheaper place to hang out which is kind of central and/or easy to find and get to. But, as the venue choice for kolkata pride fundraiser this year shows, that’s not always so easy to find.

But I think we have managed the other things to some extent. Everyone is welcome regardless of identity of any sort. The basic rule is respect. Anyone who misbehaves, is abrasive and aggressive and confrontational based on the beliefs, orientation or identity of someone else will be asked to leave and not come back unless they can speak and behave with restraint and respect (and yes we have had to do that occasionally). We argue, often heatedly, about the various things we believe, feel, think… but arguments never become fights. And we SHARE. Lives, experiences, good/bad memories, learning, just talk about things we can’t in most other places.

overall, i am immensely glad of what the space and the group has become. It has become our alternative family - given that like many people queer and otherwise our “home” spaces may not be the best of places or situations. It has become our support group, providing ears to listen and shoulders to cry on whenever we need it.

It has become the source of sage advice and alternative points of view based on lived experiences. It has become a place to theorise, rant, and engage in intellectual masturbation. It has become the place we bring our questions - personal, emotional, mental, political, intellectual - and more often than not, walk out with a whole different perspective, and some ideas for a solution or coping, if not an outright simplification. Where we can share writing, and art, and poetry and not be afraid of being ripped apart even when being critiqued. Where the feedback is meaningful. Where the silent and vocal encouragement to follow dreams and ambitions we didn't even know we had (or had forgotten) can sometimes be scary!

It has become a space where we can be truly and entirely ourselves without being judged, or excluded, for it. It has become a space where one can just be, stop trying so hard, not have to “fit in” or appear to be like everyone else. It has become the place we can breathe, where the love and acceptance is tangible. Where just being there for other members is something we just do, no questions asked.

It has become the place where I can send a text at 6pm needing help and support and walk in at 11pm to find a group of people not just forcing the cafe to stay open (by refusing to leave and begging and pleading) far beyond its normal closing time, but waiting with food, caffeine and hugs. It is the place where I can fall apart on text at 8pm and by 8.30 have three people waiting to just watch me disintegrate and then put me back together. It has become the space where I can weep (something I hardly do around anyone, let alone in public) and rant and not care who else is around because of the warmth I get from the group.

More than ever before, it is the reason I have made it through the recent times of horror and am managing as well as i am. It is the only thing that can make me happy to get out of the house these days, which i feel no reluctance to have to “dress” for. In fat, in the last couple of months, as i have withdrawn more and more from just about everything, and become a semi-recluse, it is the only thing that can make me voluntarily leave the confines of the home on a regular basis, and not resent it. The only thing i actually look forward to in a long line of drab, grey, uninspiring days.

To me, The Sunday Adda is undoubtedly my tribe. These are the people who are really THERE. This is where i find my care, belonging, support and clan. This is my queer family. And i hope we can be that for many, many others in the future.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Tangible Absence

Yesterday was the fundraiser party for the 2017 Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk. For the first time in many, many years, I missed it.

I NEVER miss this, if possible. In fact, I get people pinging or calling me for weeks before the event to know what I will be going as (since I am the one known for turning up “in costume”). This is also the one event in the pride year when the community and my cubs are sure to meet and greet Mr Jia, as the man makes his yearly goodwill appearance to help raise money for community events throughout the year.

And yet, this year I did not go. My normal MO for these parties is to leave the monkey with my parents, dress up to the nine pins, hop in a cab – alone or with cronies, get to the party as early as possible (I am usually the 3rd or 4th person to arrive), and just mingle. Then, once he is done with work, Mr joins us at the venue, we drink, dance, laugh, sing, and eventually, drive home (shedding cubs like autumn leaves along the way at their respective abodes).

This year, there is no father, and the mother has been sent off to Chicago to help her deal with the grief of losing her childhood friend and partner of 44 years. What this essentially means is that I am sans backup childcare providers. Of course, there is another set of grandparents, but they (as ever) are completely useless in this scenario. Yet another way in which the old man’s passing has changed my life.

These are the big changes, the inability to stay at The Sunday Adda beyond 6.30 pm for the last couple of months, the inability to go out to meet someone after 6 pm, not having monkey stay over at dimma bari for weekends (which essentially means no exclusive “grown up time” for the last few months), knowing that monkey will not disappear from home for 5 days during the “pujo” to spend with the oldies (yet more curtailing of grown up time).

These gobsmack me every time they occur. Just thinking about them, and dealing with them... tidal waves of agony. Finding an incredible piece of costume jewelry online, that would be the perfect accent piece for this party, knowing I won’t buy it; waking yesterday morning and knowing I am not going -- that’s bad enough. But these are not the things regularly bringing me to my knees; not even close.

It is the everyday small things, the glaring, tangible, visible absence, the tiny and forced deflections from a decade long routine that truly bring home to me what I have lost. I am sure plenty of people think I am overreacting with how prostrated I seem to be with this. I have withdrawn from most of my social activities. I no longer feel the desire or the ability to mingle, make small talk, or even engage in the regular activism. The only thing I seem capable of leaving the house for, anymore, is the weekly adda on Sundays and even there I get antsy after 6ish. It probably seems too much to observers. After all, people lose parents, it’s a fact of life, a part of the cycle – so to speak – and while it hurts and grieves one, I can see the thoughts in some minds of why I am reacting to it quite so badly.

What is different is the relationship I had with the old man and the kind of proximity we shared for the last 15 years or so. Not only is it a fact that from about age 10 until this year, every time someone asked me who my best friend was, my father featured on the list, near the top – no less; not only is it a fact that we had the kind of meeting of minds, conversations, exchange of ideas and worldviews that I share only with the closest most precious people; but he was also a daily part of my life, and my monkey’s, for so long.

It is accepted that once children, especially daughters in India, grow up and get a home and family of their own, they “move out” and settle into “in-law” centric domesticity with reduced contact with birth family. In fact, most daughters see their parents for a couple of months a year, over visits during school summer vacations. This does not, of course, in any way take away from the mutual love of parent and child; but it does, I think, make absence something one is more used to. This has, presumably also happened in the case of my brother, who went abroad to study some 14 years ago. He has since been able to spend only the odd couple of months with the parents every other year or so. So, I assume, he does not, they do not, have the daily, constant tiny, insidious reminders that assail me constantly. Of course, this means he got a lot less of quality time with the old man, and I feel privileged and oh so grateful for the one and a half decades of daily closeness I was able to get. However, it also means that every single day, every single part of my domestic routine, is coloured by absence now.

 I never really “left”…. I moved out, but kinda didn’t. and for the last decade or so I spent almost 6 days a week 9 am to 8 pm over at my parents’. From making breakfast, to going together to pick up the monkey from school, to hours of sniping, and “in” jokes, and cribbing, and just being, to being dropped home which was another opportunity for more talk, my days were so intricately entwined with his! For monkey’s school performances and dance programs, it was he who drove us to rehearsals and events, and they were the ones who came to watch as the plus 2. All monkey’s “very important” errands were run by dada, up to 5 times a day, and stayovers meant solo dada time with special breakfasts.

Just getting through the day with absolutely nothing to do and no one to talk to until monkey gets home from school is like a gulf of “missing”. Not leaving with the man each morning to go over to make sure the old man eats a healthy breakfast is a gulf of missing. Visiting the parents’ flat once or twice a week to air it out feels alien. Not seeing the old man in his “work” chair feels fundamentally wrong. Having only one or two cups of tea, when the old man and I alternatively made and drank so many through the day feels like such a loss of value in life. Having to make our way home on the visit days, via public transport, is like a hole in my center, which should have been filled with off colour jokes and old man’s road rage. I alternately sleep through entire days and nights or can’t sleep at all from all the disruptions to my schedules and the pangs that doing or not doing pretty much anything brings.   

Last weekend, monkey and I spent the Saturday night at the flat, after a long time. This was, I later realized, the exact three-month mark. The day passed as it does these days sorting out stuff – bills, papers, computer files, all relicts of the old man. At bedtime, monkey sat down almost in my lap (which she hardly does anymore) and started saying how long it has been since she had last stayed over. Which reminded both of us, rather forcibly of WHY she does not stay anymore, and led to tears.
She fell asleep soon enough, but fidgeted all night dreaming of and talking out loud to dada. And I could not sleep at all. I didn’t stay over much when the old man was around. So that was a departure from the norm to begin with. But trying to sleep in that bed, on HER side (since I could not bring myself to lie down on his side), and seeing that empty space every time eyes travelled that way; seeing in my mind the last two months of him and his pink coverlet being such a fixture there; seeing a fast forward slideshow of horrendous images from illness, hospitals, morgue, and crematorium every time I closed my eyes – it was not a pleasant night.

I had never realized how constant grief and loss would be. I had no idea of how, in the middle of a bus ride, in the middle of a mundane train of thought about what to make for dinner and when to pay school fees, my mind would suddenly devastate me with totally unconnected and unnecessary images from the last three months of illness. I had no idea that most comments people made in daily conversations would somehow trigger a memory – good or bad. I had no clue that I would be unable to watch a movie or read a book where anyone lost ANYONE without having to struggle not to break down visibly.

I had no idea how I would dream him alive each night. Dreams beginning with the loss and moving on into some kind of miraculous “he’s back” leading to such deep philosophical discussions. Ridiculous dreams with him riding bicycles inside the house while mom rants at him for losing his mind in his old age and monkey laughs hysterically at his antics. Dreams where he inevitably gets sick again, and things rapidly unravel into more horrible and grotesque possibilities than he had to live through. Dreams in which I can actually, finally understand what he was trying to say that last day, when the ventilator made it impossible for us to understand, something he wanted so much to convey that not being able to was making him SO visibly angry and frustrated. Dreams in which he simply gets up from that blasted ICU bed and simply demands to go home.

I am alternatively yearning and terrified of dreaming. I am functioning and yet I know I am not. I am coping and I have no idea how to cope.

I want to run away.

Monday, August 14, 2017

15th August

My father is dead.
It is exactly two months and twelve days since he died.
Today he would have turned 70.

My tribe, other concerned friends, occasionally extended family, keep asking me how I am holding up. I have no answer for them. I’m functioning, mostly, getting through the days without messing up anything major – at least visibly.

Somedays, of course, are better than others. Sometimes I am mostly numb which is better than the waves of grief and loss and pain and rage that seem to crash down relentlessly on some days.

Mondays, for example, and the occasional Friday, are particularly bad. These were the days when the old man had no college and so we went to pick monkey up from school, together.  He was paranoid about finding parking in the melee that is school-letting-out-time, so we usually arrived there at 10.45ish for an 11.40 event. This was the time for overboiled sweet tea and much conversation. In fact, over the last 8 years or so, this is when the real talking happened.

And we did talk. About everything.  There was no possible topic, no opinion, no secret that I could not share with him. There was so much ranting that I did with him – about so much that happens in everyday life. All that is gone. Every time I cross that lane where he liked to park, on my way to the school, it is a reminder that I will no longer be turning into that lane, sitting at that little tea stall, and just unloading my mind.

Most evenings are bad too, since he was always so ready to get the car out to go drop the daughter and the grandchild home. On the days that I visit the flat these days, it is an effort and a downer to shut all the doors and windows, turn off all lights, and lock up an empty – and increasingly musty smelling – apartment as we leave. It is even worse to struggle with bags, monkey, rain, umbrellas, and public transport because it is all a reminder that he will no longer be dropping me home…. Ever.

Dance performances are going to be those times too… since he was always ready with a smile and the car to ferry bunches of dressed up kids from the teacher’s house to the venue. And I almost want to tell monkey to never participate in another ever again, simply in order not to have to face the first time I will have to do it alone.  

Strangely (to me at least) this is all pretty intermittent. Some days go pretty well, no biggie, hardly think of it, even if someone mentions it or asks the usual “was he ill? What did he die of?” kind of questions, it doesn’t throw me. I answer and move on. Other days I can hardly get myself to function and get through the day. The entirety of the waking hours becomes one long exercise in not crying at inappropriate times at inappropriate places…or at all…

Some days begin well, and then something triggers a wave…something trivial maybe…like seeing ripe papayas or mangoes for sale at a fruit vendor’s (his favorites, and pretty much all he ate for the last month or so, along with prepackaged spicy chicken wings – none of which I can get myself to eat right now).

The month and a half that he was ill, and in and out of hospitals, I could not sleep unless I was falling-down-drunk. Self-medicated every evening with vodka to get through the night so that I could function the next day and do all the running around necessary. It was a nightmare time, although it was comparatively short (for which I am extremely grateful, and that is another thing which can set me off…. The fact that I am glad that the nightmare time didn’t last longer, that he went before it could. Does this mean I am glad he died when he did?).

These days, most nights I am back to my usual schedule…bed at 10, read till 2 or so, and then sleep. Most nights I sleep well. Except the nights I don’t sleep at all. Can’t. or the nights I have weird vivid dreams of him and wake too early. Come to think of it, I wake most days to weird dreams of him, these days. Some dreams are just weirder than others.

I had no idea it was possible to feel this way, to miss someone so much and so constantly. I haven’t ever lost anyone so close to me. Grandparents, yes, including one grandmother who I loved very much and who I was very close to, but this is so much worse! Not only is losing a father always tough, but he was – always had been – one of my closest friends. And to make matters worse, I’ve practically lived with my parents, for on reason or another, for something like the last 11 years.

He was a constant presence, in my life and in monkey’s, and a reliable, dependable, fun, supportive one at that. Glad to run errands or quickly step out to the shops for anything I or the most-doted-on grandchild needed; always glad to spend one on one time with either of us; always hands on with care for the monkey, from changing diapers when she as little to having her stay over as she got older, which meant all the required care in the mornings.

The daily absence is jarring. To turn the key, unlatch the door and walk into the flat is to expect him to be sitting there at the head of the dining table with his laptop open and his computer books spread out around him. To turn my head and NOT see that is almost debilitating sometimes. I must force myself to hyperventilate to deal with the sharp, very physical pain that lances through my insides at that. Not to mention all the other details through the day. No one to run out and get something twenty times aa day or go to the ATM, it’s my job now; no one to make really witty but sometimes incredibly crass jokes about just about anything; no one taking siesta while I work next to him; there is just SO MUCH absence! Every day! In so many little things that one never noticed, which lurk everywhere to strike when you don’t expect it and destroy you.

And the shock on people’s faces when I suddenly, unexpectedly, have to break the news to them.  I take a laptop to the neighbourhood repair shop to be fixed. He cannot give me an estimate offhand but offers to find out the cost and call “uncle” with it.  And I have to explain to him why he cannot do that. “but he was here last month! Buying a cable! Joking with us!” and I tell him yes, it was all very sudden, yes it was unexpected, yes uncle was so active, so young, yes, yes, ….

Monkey falls ill and we go to the pediatrician, just to make sure it is not a relapse of the dengue she fought last year. Consultation over, while I hand over the fee… doc asks monkey “so, how’s grandpa doing?” (because he regularly volunteered to take us to the doctor, and because he was in the next hospital bed when monkey had the dengue last year) and we have to explain all over again. To the lab where blood is drawn for her tests, because they were his regular place for once in three months blood glucose checks for his diabetes. To the cablewala, the courier guy, the grocer, an old friend of his from college days who calls me to ask why he can’t get through, why the calls to his number are saying “out of service area” constantly.

People constantly want to talk about it. They stop me in the street, and I have to fidget and squirm through endless rehashing of the exact sequence of events and many noises of how he was so young, and active, and how he was the last person they would have thought of to die like that, and how little while ago they saw him last – his usual self – until I have to interrupt and say I am on my way to school to pick up the child… or the bank, or something, anything, whatever gets me out of there. Someone calls, old family friends who have just arrived in Kolkata. They want me to come over. I DON’T want to, because all it will be is another 3-hour session of the same, with possible added waterworks.

I don’t want to have to deal with any of that. I just want to wake up now, please! I am not crying, haven’t cried. I wish I had had more time to talk to him (after the diagnosis, when we could have sorted out so many things), but I know it would have been horrible given how rapidly things were deteriorating at the end. I wish he had died a day or so sooner, so he didn’t have to feel the anger, the helplessness, and the betrayal of being intubated and put on a respirator (something he gave strict instructions not to do). I feel guilty for letting it happen, letting him down. I wish he had lived another 20 years, seen monkey graduate college. I wish he had lived another year – as predicted – so we could have gone to Yellowstone. I don’t know WHAT I wish.

There’s paperwork, legal hassles, arrangements, bills, payments, just a lot of work, and I don’t know how I am handling it all. But I seem to be. Most days I don’t know how I did it. A “good” day means I was empty and numb. A “bad” day means I probably didn’t manage anything more than the barest minimum. But still, at least that day passed. I have no idea when it will get any better, or if it ever does. I could probably use a total break to rest, recoup, and deal with things, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Happy Birthday anyway, old man. I wish we believed in souls and afterlife so I could imagine you happy somewhere, looking in on us occasionally maybe. But I don’t, and you didn’t, so that’s just that, I guess.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


“What is your greatest fear?” P asks after a regular round of apples and oranges and a round of thinking up each other’s’ epitaphs.

M fears insanity or being too bipolar to help herself but being aware of her condition.
K fears being misunderstood by his loved ones.
N fears physical handicap.
Which leads the group into many a morbid discussion of tribulations undergone by friends.

P fears abandonment or neglect from loved ones.

J, well, J fears being SEEN. Not being visible in the everyday sense, which they are anyway, but REALLY being visible to anyone. There is an image, a façade, layers, and layers of masks, which keep J functioning.

The mother, for example, is a soul deep part of the person and the persona. Warmth, wholesomeness, support, love, strength.

Fire is the element and only J knows how the internal hearth banks the flames. Exudes warmth, showcases strength, while the destructive power of the flame, the incineration, the brimstone, is directed inwards.      

Cubs get the best of it, so do other loved ones. The burn, the ruin, the complete negative, is saved for the innermost self.

That she-wolf, that monster, that bitch, that horrible, loathed, cursed inner being that J is ashamed of meeting in the mirror. That entity, that baying at the moon  were-creature, that pagan entity, that wiccan spirit that will, if seen, negate all love, destroy all affection, drive away all caring.
She exists

“” your eyes are not
The windows to your soul.
Green, blue, golden brown,
Indeterminate is the word…
In the depth of which,
Many have professed to drown!
You know, only you, how few
Can actually read
What the eyes say.

A few there are who can…
Better than you can disguise!

These are the ones you fear
They see too deep, and know
Too much of what you wish to hide
The communion – a tide
Resisting all attempts to stem

These are the ones you fear most,
More so than life itself.

Picking bare the deepest self,
That loath-ed inner being that stays
Under layers of polite niceness
And matronly warmth.
That she-demon who actually rules
Your desires, loves, hates

The one you would gladly kill,
If only you could.

She is you, and she is despised
She is why you hide

You cringe at the thought
Of a day alone with this
Seek to calm ever-present panic
Finding reason for a crowd

Playacting to the end of capacity

And SHE is the one they see
Those rare and so-precious people,

And you can only think of it as
Before they leave!””

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Apples and Oranges

"What do you think of when you are alone?" M asks everyone at the table. One more topic, one more question in the regular discussion.
"I think of past relationships, interpersonal interactions, and my failures in them. They just float to the surface."

S thinks of how to save some more money, to make life easier for mom and sister, and self, and
ensure a decent future.

P thinks of hopes and dreams and what to do in the future to get where they want to go.

N thinks of ways to make more money. Of whether they are doing the job they should be, or whether they need to do something else to make themselves happy.

J spends the time it took everyone to answer in scratching at their forearm, peeling off a layer of skin; passes the question when the turn to answer comes around. "Not gonna ruin everyone's evening," J mutters internally, "not gonna say."

J dreams of death.
J spends alone time fantasizing about the various ways death can occur or be made to occur. J spends nights in bed dreaming of jumping off tall buildings, of ODing on substance, of sleeping
pills and bleeding veins.
J spends auto rides to the meets fantasizing about being run over and of instant oblivion. J spends drinking time thinking of blessedly not waking in the morning. J sees every face at the wake, reads every obituary, hears every eulogy. And HATES the fact that none of it is doable as things stand.
J hates reality.

Friday, April 21, 2017

50 Little Things That Make Me Happy

1.       Books
2.       Monkey
3.       Good music
4.       A great movie
5.       Strong conversation
6.       My cubs
7.       Agony aunting
8.       Dark, bitter chocolate
9.       Dark, bitter coffee
10.   Taking a good photograph
11.   Cameras
12.   Rain
13.   Mountains
14.   Snow
15.   Museums
16.   Sunday Adda
17.   Dancing
18.   Singing while sloshed
19.   Wine tasting and conversation evenings with Lisa
20.   Tandoori chicken
21.   Unusual food
22.   “talk time” with monkey
23.   Finding clothes that fit
24.   Day trips
25.   Long, aimless drives
26.   A long phone call with bhai& lisa/Vibha & Alu
27.   “Crafty” things
28.   Potlucks
29.   Terry Pratchett
30.   Fry and Laurie
31.   Talking History & Aliens with D
32.   Chunky, weird costume jewelry (which I might never wear)
33.   Ghalib, Daagh, Josh, Firaaq, Sahir, Gulzar, Faiz (good shayari in general)
34.   Coke studio Pakistan
35.   Language
36.   Train journeys
37.   Road trips
38.   History
39.   Cooking (when it is voluntary and not a chore)
40.   Pride walk
41.   Costume parties
42.   Word games/ puzzles
43.   Alcohol
44.   A fire
45.   Old photographs
46.   Bacon
47.   Kindness
48.   When something I have written turns out the way it was in my head
49.   Big, mirror surface lakes

50.   Date night 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Sunday Adda Library Master List of Books

Addabaazs can borrow. Make a Selection and post on the page by mid week so that the book/books can be brought to the next Adda! 

Randomly assigned number
Short Description
Current status
Beloved Witch
Ipsita Roy Chakraverti
Self-indulgent diary of a witch as a soothsayer. And a social butterfly.
In the end the book is an ode from her to herself. But it does leave you bewitched.

Any Place I Hang My Hat
Susan Isaacs
Amy was barely born with a spoon in her mouth let alone a silver one. Her mother abandoned her before her first birthday and her father, a small-time crook, was in jail more time than he was out. Raised by her flaky and slightly felonious grandmother, Amy worked hard and managed to get scholarships to boarding school, then Harvard, then the Columbia School of Journalism. But now -- a few years into her stint as a reporter for a prestigious magazine -- she doesn't know who she is or how to connect with the world. Seeking answers, she sets out to find the mother she never knew...and maybe a place to belong.

Have a Little Faith
Mitch Albom
In Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom offers a beautifully written story of a remarkable eight-year journey between two worlds--two men, two faiths, two communities--that will inspire readers everywhere. Have a Little Faith is a book about a life's purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man's journey, but it is everyone's story.

For One More Day
Mitch Albom
"Every family is a ghost story..."

Mitch Albom mesmerized readers around the world with his number one New York Times bestsellers, The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Tuesdays with Morrie. For One More Day is the story of a mother and a son, and a relationship that covers a lifetime and beyond. It explores the question: What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?

Baumgartner’s Bombay
Anita Desai
A "beautifully written, richly textured, and haunting story" (Chaim Potok), BAUMGARTNER'S BOMBAY is Anita Desai's classic novel of the Holocaust era, a story of profound emotional wounds of war and its exiles. The novel follows Hugo Baumgartner as he flees Nazi Germany -- and his Jewish heritage -- for India, only to be imprisoned as a hostile alien and then released to Bombay at war's end. In this tale of a man who, "like a figure in a Greek tragedy . . . seems to elude his destiny" (NEW LEADER), Desai's "capacious intelligence, her unsentimental compassion" (NEW REPUBLIC) reach their full height.

The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall
Anne Bronte
Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young widow who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behavior becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of her past.

Told with great immediacy, combined with wit and irony, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerfully involving read.

Fruit of the Lemon
Andrea Levy
From Andrea Levy, author of Small Island and winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year and the Best of the Best Orange Prize, comes a story of one woman and two islands. Fruit of the Lemon spans countries and centuries, exploring questions of race and identity with humor and a freshness, and confirms Andrea Levy as one of our most exciting contemporary novelists.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Betty Smith
The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness -- in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

An Obedient Father
Akhil Sharma
As an inspector for the Physical Education Department in the Delhi school system, Ram Karan supports his widowed daughter and eight-year-old granddaughter by collecting bribes for a small-time Congress Party boss. On the eve of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, one reckless act bares the lifetime of violence and sexual shame behind Ram's dingy public career and involves him in a farcical, but terrifying, political campaign that could cost him his life.

An astonishing character study, a portrait of a family--and a country--tormented by the past.

Anita Nair
When travel writer Christopher Stewart arrives at a riverside resort in Kerala, India to meet Koman, Radha's uncle and a famous dancer, he enters a world of masks and repressed emotions. From their first meeting, both Radha and her uncle are drawn to the enigmatic young man with his cello and his incessant questions about the past. The triangle quickly excludes Shyam, Radha's husband, who can only watch helplessly as she embraces Chris with a passion that he has never been able to draw from her. Also playing the role of observer-participant is Koman; his life story, as it unfolds, captures all the nuances and contradictions of the relationships being made—and unmade—in front of his eyes.

Clear light of day
Anita Desai
Set in India's Old Delhi, CLEAR LIGHT OF DAY is Anita Desai's tender, warm, and compassionate novel about family scars, the ability to forgive and forget, and the trials and tribulations of familial love. At the novel's heart are the moving relationships between the members of the Das family, who have grown apart from each other. Bimla is a dissatisfied but ambitious teacher at a women's college who lives in her childhood home, where she cares for her mentally challenged brother, Baba. Tara is her younger, unambitious, estranged sister, married and with children of her own. Raja is their popular, brilliant, and successful brother. When Tara returns for a visit with Bimla and Baba, old memories and tensions resurface and blend into a domestic drama that is intensely beautiful and leads to profound self-understanding.

Bone China
Roma Tearnes
An epic novel of love, loss and a family uprooted, set in the contrasting landscapes of war-torn Sri Lanka and immigrant London. Grace de Silva, wife of the shiftless but charming Aloysius, has five children and a crumbling marriage. Her eldest son, Jacob, wants desperately to go to England. Thornton, the most beautiful of all the children and his mother's favourite, dreams of becoming a poet. Alicia wants to be a concert pianist. Only Frieda has no ambition, other than to remain close to her family. But civil unrest is stirring in Sri Lanka and Christopher, the youngest and the rebel of the family, is soon caught up in the tragedy that follows. As the decade unfolds against a backdrop of increasing ethnic violence, Grace watches helplessly as the life she knows begins to crumble. Slowly, this once happy family is torn apart as four of her children each make the decision to leave their home. In London, the de Silvas are all caught in a clash between East and West

The Jadu House
Laura Roychowdhury
A cultural and confessional journey into the heart of the Anglo-Indian community in India.

Even today, the Anglo-Indian and Eurasian community in India, a legacy of the British Raj, is tainted with outcast status. Laura Roychowdhury travelled to West Bengal to hear their stories.

Part travelogue, part historical inquiry, part love story, The Jadu House explores the tangled web of passion, hatred and longing that has bound India and Britain together for over two hundred years.

The Piano Teacher
Elfried Jelinek
The Piano Teacher, the most famous novel of Elfriede Jelinek, who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature, is a shocking, searing, aching portrait of a woman bound between a repressive society and her darkest desires.Erika Kohut is a piano teacher at the prestigious and formal Vienna Conservatory, who still lives with her domineering and possessive mother. Her life appears to be a seamless tissue of boredom, but Erika, a quiet thirty-eight-year-old, secretly visits Turkish peep shows at night to watch live sex shows and sadomasochistic films. Meanwhile, a handsome, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old student has become enamored with Erika and sets out to seduce her. She resists him at first, but then the dark passions roiling under the piano teacher's subdued exterior explode in a release of sexual perversity, suppressed violence, and human degradation.

Celebrated throughout Europe for the intensity and frankness of her writings and awarded the Heinrich Böll Prize for her outstanding contribution to German letters, Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most original and controversial writers in the world today. The Piano Teacher was made into a film, released in the United States in 2001, was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes.

Jaishree Misra
When Rahul Tiwari arrives in Kerala for a short break from London, he has no premonition of a life-changing moment. But one glance over the fence at his lovely but reticent neighbour. Maya is enough to launch him on a path of no return. He finds himself playing friend, partner, co-conspirator, and finally the entirely unexpected role of saviour as Maya, suffocating under the weight of a loveless marriage and a suspicious husband, turns to him for help. With characteristic case and insight, Jaishree Misra writes in her new novel of the transforming power of love and of the joy and heartbreak of giving yourself to another, for better or for worse.

Becoming a writer
Dorothea Brande
Refreshingly slim, beautifully written and deliciously elegant. Brande believed passionately that although people have varying amounts of talent, anyone can write. She also insists that writing can be both taught and learned. This is Dorothea Brande's legacy to all those who have ever wanted to express their ideas in written form. A sound, practical, inspirational and charming approach to writing, it fulfills on finding "the writer's magic."

Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard
Kiran Desai
Sampath Chawla was born in a time of drought that ended with a vengeance the night of his birth. All signs being auspicious, the villagers triumphantly assured Sampath's proud parents that their son was destined for greatness.

Twenty years of failure later, that unfortunately does not appear to be the case. A sullen government worker, Sampath is inspired only when in search of a quiet place to take his nap. "But the world is round," his grandmother says. "Wait and see Even if it appears he is going downhill, he will come up the other side. Yes, on top of the world. He is just taking a longer route." No one believes her until, one day, Sampath climbs into a guava tree and becomes unintentionally famous as a holy man, setting off a series of events that spin increasingly out of control. A delightfully sweet comic novel that ends in a raucous bang, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard is as surprising and entertaining as it is beautifully wrought.

Tamarind Mem
Anita Rau Badami
A beautiful and brilliant portrait of two generations of women. Set in India’s railway colonies, this is the story of Kamini and her mother Saroja, nicknamed Tamarind Mem due to her sour tongue. While in Canada beginning her graduate studies, Kamini receives a postcard from her mother saying she has sold their home and is travelling through India. Both are forced into the past to confront their dreams and losses and to explore the love that binds mothers and daughters everywhere.

That Long Silence
Shashi Deshpande
Jaya's life comes apart at the seams when her husband is asked to leave his job while allegations of business malpractice against him are investigated. Her familiar existence disrupted, her husband's reputation in question and their future as a family in jeopardy, Jaya, a failed writer, is haunted by memories of the past. Differences with her husband, frustrations in their seventeen-year-old marriage, disappointment in her two teenage children, the claustrophia of her childhood—all begin to surface. In her small suburban Bombay flat, Jaya grapples with these and other truths about herself—among them her failure at writing and her fear of anger. Shashi Deshpande gives us an exceptionally accomplished portrayal of a woman trying to erase a 'long silence' begun in childhood and rooted in herself and in the constraints of her life.

On Chesil Beach
Ian McEwan
It is June 1962. In a hotel on the Dorset coast, overlooking Chesil Beach, Edward and Florence, who got married that morning, are sitting down to dinner in their room. Neither is entirely able to suppress their anxieties about the wedding night to come...

Lorna Doone
R D Blackamore
First published in 1869, Lorna Doone  is the story of John Ridd, a farmer who finds love amid the religious and social turmoil of seventeenth-century England. He is just a boy when his father is slain by the Doones, a lawless clan inhabiting wild Exmoor on the border of Somerset and Devon. Seized by curiosity and a sense of adventure, he makes his way to the valley of the Doones, where he is discovered by the beautiful Lorna. In time their childish fantasies blossom into mature love—a bond that will inspire John to rescue his beloved from the ravages of a stormy winter, rekindling a conflict with his archrival, Carver Doone, that climaxes in heartrending violence. Beloved for its portrait of star-crossed lovers and its surpassing descriptions of the English countryside, Lorna Doone is R. D. Blackmore’s enduring masterpiece.

Death Comes For the Archbishop
Willa Cather
There is something epic—and almost mythic—about this sparsely beautiful novel by Willa Cather, although the story it tells is that of a single human life, lived simply in the silence of the desert. In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico. What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos, American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief. In the almost forty years that follow, Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows—gently, although he must contend with an unforgiving landscape, derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests, and his own loneliness. One of these events Cather gives us an indelible vision of life unfolding in a place where time itself seems suspended.

Nights at the Circus
Angela Carter
Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan...or all fake?

Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney's circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity. Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn-of-the-nineteenth-century London, St Petersburg and Siberia.

Pomegranate Soup
Marsha Mehran
Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of “crazed sheep and dizzying roads,” they might finally find a home.

Infused with the textures and scents, trials and triumph,s of two distinct cultures, Pomegranate Soup is an infectious novel of magical realism. This richly detailed story, highlighted with delicious recipes, is a delectable journey into the heart of Persian cooking and Irish living.

Thw World According to Garp
John Irving
This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields--a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes--even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with "lunacy and sorrow"; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries--with more than ten million copies in print--this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: "In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases."

The World According to Garp is a comic and compassionate coming-of-age novel that established John Irving as one of the most imaginative writers of his generation. A worldwide bestseller since its publication in 1978, Irving's classic is filled with stories inside stories about the life and times of T. S. Garp, novelist and bastard son of Jenny Fields--a feminist leader ahead of her time. Beyond that, The World According to Garp virtually defies synopsis.

The Plumed Serpent
D H Lawrence
The story of a European woman's self-annihilating plunge into the intrigues, passions, and pagan rituals of Mexico. Lawrence's mesmerizing and unsettling 1926 novel is his great work of the political imagination.

The Holder of the World
Bharti Mukherjee
This is the remarkable story of Hannah Easton, a unique woman born in the American colonies in 1670, "a person undreamed of in Puritan society." Inquisitive, vital and awake to her own possibilities, Hannah travels to Mughal, India, with her husband, and English trader. There, she sets her own course, "translating" herself into the Salem Bibi, the white lover of a Hindu raja.
It is also the story of Beigh Masters, born in New England in the mid-twentieth century, an "asset hunter" who stumbles on the scattered record of her distant relative's life while tracking a legendary diamond. As Beigh pieces together details of Hannah's journeys, she finds herself drawn into the most intimate and spellbinding fabric of that remote life, confirming her belief that with "sufficient passion and intelligence, we can deconstruct the barriers of time and geography...."

Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
When Janie, at sixteen, is caught kissing shiftless Johnny Taylor, her grandmother swiftly marries her off to an old man with sixty acres. Janie endures two stifling marriages before meeting the man of her dreams, who offers not diamonds, but a packet of flowering seeds ...

'For me, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD is one of the very greatest American novels of the 20th century. It is so lyrical it should be sentimental; it is so passionate it should be overwrought, but it is instead a rigorous, convincing and dazzling piece of prose, as emotionally satisfying as it is impressive. There is no novel I love more.' Zadie Smith 

The Arabian Nightmare
Robert Irwin
The hero and guiding force of this epic fantasy is an insomniac young man who, unable to sleep, guides the reader through the narrow streets of Cairo-a mysterious city full of deceit and trickery. He narrates a complex tangle of dreams and imaginings that describe an atmosphere constantly shifting between sumptuously learned orientalism, erotic adventure, and dry humor. The result is a thought-provoking puzzle box of sex, philosophy, and theology.

Reminiscent of Italo Calvino, and Umberto Eco, this cult classic is finally back in print!

My Invented Country
Isabel Allende
Two life-altering events inflect the peripatetic narration of this book: The military coup and violent death of her uncle, Salvador Allende Gossens, on September 11, 1973, sent her into exile and transformed her into a writer. The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, on her newly adopted homeland, the United States, brought forth from Allende an overdue acknowledgment that she had indeed left home. My Invented Country, whose structure mimics the workings of memory itself, ranges back and forth across that distance accrued between the author's past and present lives. It speaks compellingly to immigrants, and to all of us, who try to retain a coherent inner life in a world full of contradictions.

Strait is the Gate
Andre Gide
A delicate boy growing up in Paris, Jerome Palissier spends many summers at his uncle's house in the Normandy countryside, where the whole world seems 'steeped in azure'. There he falls deeply in love with his cousin Alissa and she with him. But gradually Alissa becomes convinced that Jerome's love for her is endangering his soul. In the interests of his salvation, she decides to suppress everything that is beautiful in herself - in both mind and body.

The Red Carpet
Lavanya Sankaran
Wry humor and a delicious grasp of the friction between generations in Bangalore are the hallmarks of Lavanya Sankaran’s fresh, deeply nuanced debut collection. “A potpourri of beggars and billionaires and determinedly laid-back ways,” Bangalore, India’s own Silicon Valley, is a crucible for prosperity, and at the chaotic crossroads between past and present. Here, American-trained professionals like Tara return to their old-fashioned families with heads full of Quentin Tarantino dialogue; a successful entrepreneur is shaken when his partner suddenly reneges on their plan to return to America; a traditional Indian mother slyly circumvents her Western-educated daughter’s resistance to marriage; a neighborhood gossip is determined to discover what goes on behind the closed curtains of the hip young couple across the street; a chauffeur must reconcile his more orthodox credos with his employer’s miniskirt lifestyle.

Witty, affectionate, and wonderfully wise, Lavanya Sankaran’s first collection attests to her remarkable literary talent.

A Spool of Blue Thread
Anne Tyler
A freshly observed, joyful and wrenching, funny and true new novel from Anne Tyler

"It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon." This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. from Red's father and mother, newly-arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red's grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Brimming with all the insight, humour, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler's work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

Ancient Promises
Jaishree Misra
the story of an affectionate and dutiful daughter, a compassionate but guilty lover, a restless and miserable wife, a helpless and despairing mother - a woman constantly in search of an identity, a woman pursuing her rightful share of happiness.

It is a revelation simply because she did not attempt to set the literary world on fire with dense prose - her writing wasn’t ostentatious, rather she concentrated on keeping things simple with realism thrown in good measure.

Toni Morrison
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.

Idris, Keeper of Light
Anita Nair
A powerful historical novel from a well-loved and celebrated author.
The year is 1659. Idris, a Somalian trader, is in Kerala to attend the Mamangam festivities. By a strange twist of fate, he meets his nine-year-old son whose existence he had been unaware of. In an attempt to keep his son close to him, he embarks with him on a voyage that ends in the diamond mines of Golconda. Packed with passion, adventure and fascinating aspects of life in the seventeenth century in southern India, Idris is a page-turner that will intrigue and excite readers everywhere.

The Writing Diet
Julia  Cameron
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, offers a revolutionary diet plan: Use writing to take off the pounds!

Over the course of the past twenty-five years, Julia Cameron has taught thousands of artists and aspiring artists how to unblock wellsprings of creativity. And time and again she has noticed an interesting thing: Often when her students uncover their creative selves they also undergo a surprising physical transformation—invigorated by their work, they slim down. In The Writing Diet, Cameron illuminates the relationship between creativity and eating to reveal a crucial equation: Creativity can block overeating.

This inspiring weight-loss program directs listeners to count words instead of calories, to substitute their writing's 'food for thought' for actual food. The Writing Diet presents a brilliant plan for using one of the soul's deepest and most abiding appetites—the desire to be creative—to lose weight and keep it off forever.

A Walk Between Heaven & Earth
Burghild Nina Holzer
Talking to paper is talking to the divine. Paper is infinitely patient. Each time you scratch on it, you trace part Of yourself, and thus part of the world, and thus part of the grammar of the universe. It is a huge language, but each of us tracks his or her particular understanding of it."

From A Walk Between Heaven and Earth

Unlike any other guide to journal writing, A Walk Between Heaven and Earth is itself written as a personal journal and as a meditation on the flow of creation. Burghild Nina Holzer demonstrates that the creative process is in fact a large, ongoing movement in our lives and that we may gradually discover the pattern and direction of it by trusting whatever it is we choose to confide to the page. She helps would-be writers recognize the power and importance of opening themselves to the present moment and recording whatever they find there. Holzer's book is both inspiration and model. It will appeal not only to those who wish to explore the creative process as a mystical path, but to all who desire to express themselves through writing.

The Early Ayn Rand
This remarkable, newly revised collection of Ayn Rand's early fiction-including her previously unpublished short story The Night King-ranges from beginner's exercises to excerpts from early versions of We the Living and The Fountainhead.

The Old Cape Magic
Richard Russo
Following Bridge of Sighs—a national best seller hailed by The Boston Globe as “an astounding achievement” and “a masterpiece”—Richard Russo gives us the story of a marriage, and of all the other ties that bind, from parents and in-laws to children and the promises of youth.

That Old Cape Magic is a novel of deep introspection and every family feeling imaginable, with a middle-aged man confronting his parents and their failed marriage, his own troubled one, his daughter’s new life and, finally, what it was he thought he wanted and what in fact he has. The storytelling is flawless throughout, moments of great comedy and even hilarity alternating with others of rueful understanding and heart-stopping sadness, and its ending is at once surprising, uplifting and unlike anything this Pulitzer Prize winner has ever written.

Sister of My Heart
C Divakaruni Bannerjee
Anju is the daughter of an upper-caste Calcutta family; her cousin Sudha is the daughter of the black sheep of the family. Sudha is as beautiful, tenderhearted, and serious as Anju is plain, whip-smart, and defiant. yet since the day they were born, Sudha and Anju have been bonded in ways even their mothers cannot comprehend.

The cousins' bond is shattered, however, when Sudha learns a dark family secret. Urged into arranged marriages, their lives take sudden, opposite turns: Sudha becomes the dutiful daughter-in-law of a rigid small-town household, while Anju goes to America with her new husband and learns to live her own life of secrets. Then tragedy strikes them both, and the women discover that, despite the distance that has grown between them, they have only each other to turn to. Set in the two worlds of India and America, this is an exceptionally moving novel of love, friendship, and compelling courage.

A Fine Balance
Rohinton Mistry
With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India.

The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

East of Eden
John Steinbeck
Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

The Bastard of Istanbul
Elif Shafak
In her second novel written in English, Elif Shafak confronts her country's violent past in a vivid and colorful tale set in both Turkey and the United States. At its center is the "bastard" of the title, Asya, a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazancı family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehila, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlor and is Asya's mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazancı sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres. Full of vigorous, unforgettable female characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is a bold, powerful tale that will confirm Shafak as a rising star of international fiction.

Odysseus Abroad
Amit Chowdhury
From the widely acclaimed writer, a beguiling new novel, at once wistful and ribald, about a day in the life of two Indian men in London--a university student and his bachelor uncle--each coping in his own way with alienation, solitariness, and the very art of living.

It is 1985. Twenty-two-year-old Ananda has been in London for two years, practicing at being a poet. He's homesick, thinks of himself as an inveterate outsider, and yet he can't help feeling that there's something romantic, even poetic, in his isolation. His uncle, Radhesh, a magnificent failure who lives in genteel impoverishment and celibacy, has been in London for nearly three decades. Odysseus Abroad follows them on one of their weekly, familiar forays about town. The narrative surface has the sensual richness that has graced all of Amit Chaudhuri's work. But the great charm and depth of the novel reside in Ananda's far-ranging ruminations (into the triangle between his mother, father, and Radhesh--his mother's brother, his father's best friend; his Sylheti/Bengali ancestry; the ambitions and pressures that rest on his shoulders); in Radhesh's often artfully wielded idiosyncrasies; and in the spiky, needful, sometimes comical, yet ultimately loving connection between the two men.

White Teeth
Zadie Smith
On New Year's morning, 1975, Archie Jones sits in his car on a London road and waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Cavalier Musketeer station wagon. Archie—working-class, ordinary, a failed marriage under his belt—is calling it quits, the deciding factor being the flip of a 20-pence coin. When the owner of a nearby halal butcher shop (annoyed that Archie's car is blocking his delivery area) comes out and bangs on the window, he gives Archie another chance at life and sets in motion this richly imagined, uproariously funny novel.

Zadie Smith's dazzling first novel plays out its bounding, vibrant course in a Jamaican hair salon in North London, an Indian restaurant in Leicester Square, an Irish poolroom turned immigrant café, a liberal public school, a sleek science institute. A winning debut in every respect, White Teeth marks the arrival of a wondrously talented writer who takes on the big themes —faith, race, gender, history, and culture— and triumphs.

Sudha Murty
Anupama looked into the mirror and shivered with shock. A small white patch had now appeared on her arm.' Anupama's fairytale marriage to Anand falls apart when she discovers a white patch on her foot and learns that she has leukoderma. Abandoned by her uncaring in-laws and insensitive husband, she is forced to return to her father's home in the village. The social stigma of a married woman living with her parents, her steother's continual barbs and the ostracism that accompanies her skin condition force her to contemplate suicide. Determined to rebuild her life against all odds, Anupama goes to Bombay where she finds success, respect and the promise of an enduring friendship. Mahashweta is an inspiring story of courage and resilience in a world marred by illusions and betrayals. This poignant tale offers hope and solace to the victims of the prejudices that govern society even today.

The Glass Palace
Amitav Ghosh
Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her. The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by the writer Chitra Divakaruni calls “a master storyteller.”

The Hero’s Walk
Anita Rau Badami
The Hero's Walk, the second novel by Anita Rau Badami, is a big, intimate book, the kind that seldom strays beyond the doors of a single residence. Set in the sweltering streets of Toturpuram, a small city on the Bay of Bengal, The Hero's Walk, which won the 2001 Commonwealth Writers Prize for best book in Canada and the Caribbean, explores the troubled life of Sripathi Rao, an unremarkable, middle-aged family man and advertising copywriter. As The Hero's Walk opens, Sripathi's life is already in a state of thorough disrepair. His mother, a domineering, half-senile octogenarian, sits like a tyrant at the top of his household, frightening off his sister's suitors, chastising him for not having become a doctor, and brandishing her hypochondria and paranoia with sinister abandon. It is Sripathi's children, however, who pose the biggest problems: Arun, his son, is becoming dangerously involved in political activism, and Maya, his daughter, broke off her arranged engagement to a local man in order to wed a white Canadian. Sripathi's troubles come to a head when Maya and her husband are killed in an automobile accident, leaving their 7- year-old daughter, Nandana, without Canadian kin. Sripathi travels to Canada and brings his granddaughter home, while his family is shaken by a series of calamities that may, eventually, bring peace to their lives. --Jack Illingworth

Namita Devidayal
In her bestselling novel Aftertaste (over 5000 hardback copies sold), Namita Devidayal provides a captivating account of a baniya family settled in Punjab headed by a matriarch, Mummyji, who is in hospital after a stroke. The Todarmal family, glued together by money not love, includes the weak and emasculated Rajan Papa who is desperately in need of cash; Sunny, the dynamic head of the business with an ugly marriage and a demanding mistress; Suman, the spoilt and greedy beauty of the family who is determined to get her hands on Mummyji’s best jewels; and Saroj, Suman’s unlucky sister, who has always lived in her shadow. Each one of them wants Mummyji to die.

Salt and Saffron
Kamila Shamsi
A beautiful novel detailing the life and loves of a Pakistani girl living in the U.S.

Aliya may not have inherited her family's patrician looks, but she is as much a prey to the legends of her family that stretch back to the days of Timur Lang. Aristocratic and eccentric-the clan has plenty of stories to tell, and secrets to hide.
Like salt and saffron, which both flavor food but in slightly different ways, it is the small, subtle differences that cause the most trouble in Aliya's family. The family problems and scandals caused by these minute differences echo the history of the sub-continent and the story of Partition.

A superb storyteller, Kamila Shamsie writes with warmth and gusto. Through the many anecdotes about Pakistani family life, she hints at the larger tale of a divided nation. Spanning the subcontinent from the Muslim invasions to the Partition, this is a magical novel about the shapes stories can take- turning into myths, appearing in history books and entering into our lives.

The Moons of Jupiter
Alice Munro
Witty, subtle, passionate, The Moons of Jupiter is exceptionally knowledgeable about the content and movement - the entanglements and entailments - of individual human feeling. And the knowledge it offers can't be looked up elsewhere' New York Times The characters who populate an Alice Munro story live and breathe. Passions hopelessly conceived, affections betrayed, marriages made and broken: the joys, fears, loves and awakenings of women echo throughout these twelve unforgettable stories, laying bare the unexceptional and yet inescapable pain of human contact. About the Author Acclaimed author of one novel and several collections of stories, winner of the WH Smith Award, the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award in her native Canada, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

The Music Room
Namita Devidayal
When Namita is ten years old, her mother takes her to Kennedy Bridge, a seamy neighborhood in Bombay, home to hookers and dance girls. There, in a cramped one-room apartment lives Dhondutai, the last living disciple of two of the finest Indian classical singers of the twentieth century: the legendary Alladiya Khan and the great songbird Kesarbai Kerkar. Namita begins to learn singing from Dhondutai, at first reluctantly and then, as the years pass, with growing passion. Dhondutai sees in her a second Kesarbai, but does Namita have the dedication to give herself up completely to the discipline like her teacher? Or will there always be too many late nights and cigarettes? And where do love and marriage fit into all of this?

 A bestseller in India, where it was a literary sensation, The Music Room is a deeply moving meditation on how traditions and life lessons are passed along generations, on the sacrifices made by women through the ages, and on a largely unknown, but vital aspect of Indian life and culture that will utterly fascinate American readers.

What The Day Owes The Night
Yasmina Khadra
Younes is still an impressionable young boy when his family loses everything and is forced to move to the Algerian slum of Jenane Jato.

His father is an overly proud man who refuses help from his wealthy brother, Mahi. But life in the city is difficult and he grudgingly agrees to let Younes live with Mahi to give him a chance at life.

Mahi, a pharmacist, is married to a Christian woman, Germaine, and they have no children. Both long for a child of their own.

Younes is the answer to their prayers and they welcome him into their home with open arms. Germaine renames him Jonas and so life begins in the affluent European town of Rio Salado.

Despite the overwhelming love of Germaine and Mahi and a unique friendship between him and three other boys in Rio Salado, Younes never really fits in.

But life is good and the four friends form an enduring bond that nothing will shake |- not even the Algerian war.

But when Emilie arrives in the town an epic love story is set in motion that will challenge the boys' friendship.

Suddenly Younes is forced to confront the burden of choosing between two worlds - Algerian or European; loyal or selfish; surrendering to fate or taking control of his destiny.

Set against the Algerian war of independence, this story is more than just a love story. It examines with powerful compassion and empathy the rifts between lovers, family and friends who love one country but in so many different ways.

Beautifully written, this is a heartbreakingly sad story of love, loss and humanity. - Meneesha Govender

Birthday Letters
Ted Hughes
Formerly Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II, the late Ted Hughes (1930-98) is recognized as one of the few contemporary poets whose work has mythic scope and power. And few episodes in postwar literature have the legendary stature of Hughes's romance with, and marriage to, the great American poet Sylvia Plath.

The poems in Birthday Letters are addressed (with just two exceptions) to Plath, and were written over a period of more than twenty-five years, the first a few years after her suicide in 1963. Some are love letters, others haunted recollections and ruminations. In them, Hughes recalls his and Plath's time together, drawing on the powerful imagery of his work--animal, vegetable, mythological--as well as on Plath's famous verse.

Countless books have discussed the subject of this intense relationship from a necessary distance, but this volume--at last--offers us Hughes's own account. Moreover, it is a truly remarkable collection of poems in its own right.

A Sin of Colour
Sunetra Gupta
Debendranath Roy, presumed dead, leaves behind a pale, languishing wife and a mystery that takes 20 years to unfold. His hidden passion for his brother's wife, his own wife's unrequited love and his niece's obsession to uncover the truth create the beauty, power and tension of this story.
A Sin of Color tells the story of three generations, and of a house in Calcutta called Mandalay. It is to Mandalay that Debendranath's father brings his young bride after their wedding. And it is to Mandalay that Debendranath's older brother brings his own wife, the woman with whom Debendranath falls in love. Fleeing the house, his family and his ill-fated love for a married woman, Debendranath leaves for England. But he cannot escape his passion-and years later, neither can his niece, Niharika, a beautiful and talented writer.

Change 101
 Bill O’ Hahlon
Drawing on thirty years of clinical experience, Bill O’Hanlon—one of psychotherapy’s most innovative practitioners and teachers—examines this simple yet often elusive aspect of successful therapy: change. With his characteristic wit and style, O’Hanlon presents the key concepts and most powerful methods for achieving personal transformation. Readers are provided with the perspective and inspiration necessary to embrace the risk and reward of change.

Tiger Hills
Sarita Mandanna
As the first girl to be born into the Nachimanda family in over thirty-five years, the beautiful Devi is the object of adoration of her entire family. Spirited and strong-willed, she befriends the shy Devanna, a young boy whose mother has died in tragic circumstances. Together they grow up amidst the luscious jungles, rolling hills, and coffee plantations of Coorg in Southern India; cocooned by an extended family whose roots to this beautiful land can be traced for centuries. Their futures seem inevitably linked, but everything changes when, one night, they attend a "tiger wedding." It is there that Devi gets her first glimpse of Machu, the celebrated tiger killer and a hunter of great repute. Although she is still a child and Machu is a man, Devi vows to marry him one day. It is this love that will gradually drive a wedge between Devi and Devanna, sowing the seed of a devastating tragedy that will change the fate of all three --- an event that has unforeseen and far-reaching consequences for generations to come.

Told in rich, lyrical prose and set against the background of a changing society, TIGER HILLS is a sweeping saga about one woman's determination to live life on her own terms --- and a riveting novel about the choices we make in the name of family, nation, and love.

The Sum of Our Days
Isabel Allende
In this heartfelt memoir, Isabel Allende reconstructs the painful reality of her own life in the wake of tragic loss—the death of her daughter, Paula. Recalling the past thirteen years from the daily letters the author and her mother, who lives in Chile, wrote to each other, Allende bares her soul in a book that is as exuberant and full of life as its creator. She recounts the stories of the wildly eccentric, strong-minded, and eclectic tribe she gathers around her that becomes a new kind of family. Narrated with warmth, humor, exceptional candor, and wisdom, The Sum of Our Days is a portrait of a contemporary family, bound together by the love, fierce loyalty, and stubborn determination of a beloved, indomitable matriarch.

The Valley of Masks
Tarun j Tejpal
(This novel has been longlisted for Man Asian Literary Prize 2011 for Fiction)'This is my story. And the story of my people.'The Valley of Masks examines the pathologies of power, purity and dogma to give us a frightening yet ultimately redemptive vision of the future. In the words of Ashis Nandy, critic and social commentator, 'This brilliant, superbly imaginative but terribly disturbing novel transcends borders, cultures, reading habits and literary fashions. As a story of the inhumanity of any human search for absolute perfection, it probably has no parallel in our literature. As a fable, it has a moral that will return to haunt you.'About the AuthorTarun J. Tejpal has been a journalist for close to thirty years. He is the editor of Tehelka, a news organization famed for its public interest journalism. His novels The Alchemy of Desire and The Story of My Assassins have received worldwide recognition. He lives in New Delhi.

Beach Boy
Ardashir Vakil
'I have been bunking off school to go to the movies. I have stolen money, I have sold things, I have double-crossed my friends and - I cannot bear to think of the thought - have been into the bathroom with my brother's friend, Darab.'

Eight-year old Cyrus Readmoney, son of wealthy parents, voluntarily lives like a vagabond, roaming the streets of Bombay and inviting himself into the homes and lives of the neighbours. Obsessed with the sensual delights of food, colourful Hindi films and his growing sexual awareness, precocious Cyrus lives day to day on the margins of the adult world - treating it as a playground for his boyish exuberance.

Arijit Dey
The Good Muslim
Tahmina Anam
From prizewinning Bangladeshi novelist Tahmima Anam comes her deeply moving second novel about the rise of Islamic radicalism in Bangladesh, seen through the intimate lens of a family.

Pankaj Mishra praised A Golden Age, Tahmima Anam's debut novel, as a "startlingly accomplished and gripping novel that describes not only the tumult of a great historical event . . . but also the small but heroic struggles of individuals living in the shadow of revolution and war." In her new novel, The Good Muslim, Anam again deftly weaves the personal and the political, evoking with great skill and urgency the lasting ravages of war and the competing loyalties of love and belief.

In the dying days of a brutal civil war, Sohail Haque stumbles upon an abandoned building. Inside he finds a young woman whose story will haunt him for a lifetime to come. . . . Almost a decade later, Sohail's sister, Maya, returns home after a long absence to find her beloved brother transformed. While Maya has stuck to her revolutionary ideals, Sohail has shunned his old life to become a charismatic religious leader. And when Sohail decides to send his son to a madrasa, the conflict between brother and sister comes to a devastating climax. Set in Bangladesh at a time when religious fundamentalism is on the rise, The Good Muslim is an epic story about faith, family, and the long shadow of war.

The Sly Company of People Who Care
Rahul Bhattacharya
In flight from the tame familiarity of home in Bombay, a twenty-six-year-old cricket journalist chucks his job and arrives in Guyana, a forgotten colonial society of raw, mesmerizing beauty. Amid beautiful, decaying wooden houses in Georgetown, on coastal sugarcane plantations, and in the dark rainforest interior scavenged by diamond hunters, he grows absorbed with the fantastic possibilities of this new place where descendants of the enslaved and indentured have made a new world. Ultimately, to fulfill his purpose, he prepares to mount an adventure of his own. His journey takes him beyond Guyanese borders, and his companion will be the feisty, wild-haired Jan.

In this dazzling novel, propelled by a singularly forceful voice, Rahul Bhattacharya captures the heady adventures of travel, the overheated restlessness of youth, and the paradoxes of searching for life’s meaning in the escape from home.

The Temple Goers
Aatish Taseer
A young man returns home to Delhi after several years abroad and resumes his place among the city's cosmopolitan elite - a world of fashion designers, media moguls and the idle rich. But everything around him has changed - new roads, new restaurants, new money, new crime - everything, that is, except for the people, who are the same, only maybe slightly worse. Then he meets Aakash, a charismatic and unpredictable young man on the make, who introduces him to the squalid underside of this sprawling city. Together they get drunk and work out, visit temples and a prostitute, and our narrator finds himself disturbingly attracted to Aakash's world. But when Aakash is arrested for murder, the two of them are suddenly swept up in a politically sensitive investigation that exposes the true corruption at the heart of this new and ruthless society. In a voice that is both cruel and tender, "The Temple-goers" brings to life the dazzling story of a city quietly burning with rage.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Richard Flanagan
A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

Richard Flanagan's story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.

The year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion
From one of America's iconic writers, this is a portrait of a marriage and a life - in good times and bad - that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. This is a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill.

At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later - the night before New Year's Eve - the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John suffered a massive and fatal coronary.

In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of 40 years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LA airport, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Centre to relieve a massive hematoma.

This powerful book is Didion's 'attempt to make sense of the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness, about marriage and children and memory, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself'. The result is an exploration of an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage, and a life, in good times and bad

The Whole World Over
Julia Glass
Julia Glass, author of the award-winning novel Three Junes, tells a vivid tale of longing and loss, revealing the subtle mechanisms behind our most important connections to others. In The Whole World Over, she pays tribute once again to the extraordinary complexities of love.

Greenie Duquette lavishes most of her passionate energy on her Greenwich Village bakery and her young son. Her husband, Alan, seems to have fallen into a midlife depression, while Walter, her closest professional ally, is nursing a broken heart. At Walter’s restaurant, the visiting governor of New Mexico tastes Greenie’s coconut cake and decides to woo her away to be his chef. For reasons both ambitious and desperate, she accepts–heading west without her husband. This impulsive decision, along with events beyond Greenie’s control, will change the course of several lives around her.

A Son of the Circus
John Irving
A Hindi film star . . . an American missionary . . . twins separated at birth . . . a dwarf chauffeur . . . a serial killer . . . all are on a collision course. In the tradition of A Prayer for Owen Meany, Irving's characters transcend nationality. They are misfits--coming from everywhere, belonging nowhere. Set almost entirely in India, this is John Irving's most ambitious novel and a major publishing event.

Memmoirs of a Geisha
Arthur Golden
A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel presents with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction - at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful - and completely unforgettable.

Miss Mackenzie
Anthony Trollope
In "Miss Mackenzie" Trollope made a deliberate attempt "to prove that a novel may be produced without any love," but as he candidly admits in his "Autobiography," the attempt "breaks down before the conclusion."

In taking for his heroine an middle-aged spinster, his contemporaries of writing about young girls in love. Instead he depicts Margaret Mackenzie, overwhelmed with money troubles, as she tries to assess the worth and motives of four very different suitors.

Although her creator calls her "unattractive," most readers will warm to Miss Mackenzie and admire her modesty, dignity, and shrewdness.

Two Virgins
Kamala Markandaya
Saroja lives in a village with her parents, aunt and beautiful elder sister Lalitha. Saroja's life is uncomplicated, and simple things give her joy like the birth of a calf or a taste of one of Chingleput's sweets. Lalitha, on the other hand, believes she is too good for the village. Ambitious and spoilt, she has dreams of being a movie star that are fulfilled when a film-maker casts her in his documentary on village life. Overnight Lalitha becomes the talk of the town; her latent sexuality manifests itself and she uses her elevated status to her advantage. Basking in Lalitha's reflected glory Saroja tries to imitate her womanly wiles, which results in confused ideas about sexuality and ambition. But when the family is faced with a scandal, Saroja emerges with a practical outlook on life.

Sudhir Kakar
From the celebrated author of the bestselling cult classic Trainspotting, a new work of fiction that triumphantly puts the E back in Eros.

With three delightful tales of love and its ups and downs, the ever-surprising Irvine Welsh virtually invents a new genre of fiction: the chemical romance .

In "Lorraine Goes to Livingston," a bestselling authoress of Regency romances, paralyzed and bedridden, plans her revenge on gambling, whoring husband with the aid of her nurse Lorraine. In "Fortune's Always Hiding," flawed beauty Samantha Worthington enlists a smitten young soccer thug to find the man who marketed the drug that crippled her from birth―in order to give his a taste of his own disastrous medicine. In the upbeat final tale "The Undefeated," we experience the transfiguring passion of the miserably married young yuppie Heather and the raver Lloyd from Leith―a grand affair played out to a house music beat.

As these fools for love pursue it in all the wrong places, Ecstasy is guaranteed to set pulses racing and hearts aflutter.

David Davidar
By bestselling author David Davidar, Ithaca is a thrilling account of international publishing.

In the early years of the 21st Century, sweeping change is taking place in the publishing industry. Ill-equipped to handle the transformation of their world, a number of publishing houses struggle to survive – one of these is Litmus, an independent firm in the UK. The onus of ensuring that the company remains viable falls upon its publisher, Zachariah Thomas, who also edits its most successful author, Massimo Seppi. Seppi’s quartet of novels, featuring angels and archangels, has sold millions of copies worldwide.

By turns compelling and thought-provoking, this eagerly anticipated new novel by one of the industry’s foremost figures masterfully depicts the exhilarating and surprisingly turbulent world of book publishing.

The Toss of a Lemon
Padma Viswanathan
In south India in 1896, ten-year old Sivakami is about to embark on a new life. Hanumarathnam, a village healer with some renown as an astrologer, has approached her parents with a marriage proposal. In keeping with custom, he provides his prospective in-laws with his horoscope. The problem is that his includes a prediction, albeit a weak one, that he will die in his tenth year of marriage.

Despite the ominous horoscope, Sivakami’s parents hesitate only briefly, won over by the young man and his family’s reputation as good, upstanding Brahmins. Once married, Sivikami and Hanumarathnam grow to love one another and the bride, now in her teens, settles into a happy life. But the predictions of Hanumarathnam’s horoscope are never far from her new husband’s mind. When their first child is born, as a strategy for accurately determining his child’s astrological charts, Hanumarathnam insists the midwife toss a lemon from the window of the birthing room the moment his child appears. All is well with their first child, a daughter, Thangam, whose birth has a positive influence on her father’s astrological future. But this influence is fleeting: when a son, Vairum, is born, his horoscope confirms that his father will die within three years.

Resigned to his fate, Hanumarathnam sets himself to the unpleasant task of readying his household for his imminent death. Knowing the hardships and social restrictions Sivakami will face as a Brahmin widow, he hires and trains a servant boy called Muchami to help Sivakami manage the household and properties until Vairum is of age.

When Sivakami is eighteen, Hanumarathnam dies as predicted. Relentless in her adherence to the traditions that define her Brahmin caste, she shaves her head and dons the white sari of the widow. With some reluctance, she moves to her family home to raise her children under the protection of her brothers, but then realizes that they are not acting in the best interests of her children. With her daughter already married to an unreliable husband of her brothers’ choosing, and Vairum’s future also at risk, Sivakami leaves her brothers and returns to her marital home to raise her family.

With the freedom to make decisions for her son’s future, Sivakami defies tradition and chooses to give him a secular education. While her choice ensures that Vairum fulfills his promise, it also sets Sivakami on a collision course with him. Vairum, fatherless in childhood, childless as an adult, rejects the caste identity that is his mother’s mainstay, twisting their fates in fascinating and unbearable ways.

The Secret Lives of People in Love
Simon van booy
“Simon Van Booy’s stories have the power and resonance of poems. They stay with you like a significant memory.”—Roger Rosenblatt

“Van Booy is a remarkable young writer. Taste, touch, smell, sight and sound, in spite of their evanescence, are frozen for a moment in these stories and celebrated, along with their subtle interconnection, in all the aspects of love.”—Fred Volkmer

The Secret Lives of People in Love is the first short story collection by award-winning writer Simon Van Booy. These stories, set in Kentucky, New York, Paris, Rome, and Greece, are a perfect synthesis of grace, intensity, atmosphere, and compassion. Love, loss, frailty, human contact, and isolation are Van Booy’s themes. In radiant prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.

Roma Tearne
Set adrift by the recent death of his wife, Theo Samarajeeva abandons his comfortable writer's life in London and returns to Sri Lanka, his war-torn homeland. There he meets Nulani, a talented and enigmatic young artist, and an unorthodox and tenuous love blossoms between this unlikely pair. But when the insurgency explodes, their precarious world is torn apart. Theo is held captive and stripped of everything he once held dear. Nulani is forced into exile. By turns heartbreaking and uplifting, Mosquito is a first novel of remarkable beauty and compelling power.

Ishq and Mushq
Priya Basil
When Sarna Singh leaves the lustrous green hills of Uganda for England, rows of cramped old houses were not what she was expecting. Husband Karam has brought her to Clapham Common, hoping that the greenery will remind her of Kampala.But Sarna is convinced they have moved to England so he can visit his secret London lady friends. She has a devastating secret of her own. How long before Sarna’s web of deceit destroys her own family?

Against a backdrop that spans Partition from India, Elizabeth II’s Coronation and Churchill’s funeral, to the present day, Priya Basil’s explosive family drama is passionate and moving.

The Gin Drinkers
Sagarika Ghosh
Uma, Dhruv, Madhavi – The Oxford returned Indians, moving in a gilded world of social privilege and Jai Prakash. The outsider with the ‘wrong’ accent, who has the mysterious power to change their destinies. A many layered story that explores the conflicts of love, ambition – and of being a stranger in your own land.   Many forces seethe in urban India today, and those who must participate in the social change stand to lose themselves and their colonial attitudes. But in the process, they could also gain a new world and perhaps a more just peace. A tragicomedy of manners, which holds up the severe clashes of social class in modern India.

My Salinger Year
Joanna Rakoff
Poignant, keenly observed, and irresistibly funny: a memoir about literary New York in the late nineties, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing, where a young woman finds herself entangled with one of the last great figures of the century. Rakoff paints a vibrant portrait of a bright, hungry young woman navigating a heady and longed-for world, trying to square romantic aspirations with burgeoning self-awareness, the idea of a life with life itself. Charming and deeply moving, filled with electrifying glimpses of an American literary icon, My Salinger Year is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer. Above all, it is a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives and awaken our true selves.

A Home at the End of the World
Michael Cunningham
From Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours, comes this widely praised novel of two boyhood friends: Jonathan, lonely, introspective, and unsure of himself; and Bobby, hip, dark, and inarticulate. In New York after college, Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his roommate, Clare, a veteran of the city's erotic wars. Bobby and Clare fall in love, scuttling the plans of Jonathan, who is gay, to father Clare's child. Then, when Clare and Bobby have a baby, the three move to a small house upstate to raise "their" child together and, with an odd friend, Alice, create a new kind of family. A Home at the End of the World masterfully depicts the charged, fragile relationships of urban life today.

The Invention of Wings
Sue Monk Kidd
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection. Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

3, Zakia Mansion
Gouri Dange
An Indian woman navigates, endures and makes peace with her family circumstances. As the story takes us from her girlhood through midlife, the reader gets a great sense of a claustrophobic family upbringing. Our heroine has almost no life to speak of outside of her family, going from her father's home to her husband's with no adult independence. The family dynamics are intriguing. The hidden alliances and shifts of power are interesting to observe. 3 Zakia Mansion is a quick read, not bogged down with complicated language and comes to a satisfying resolution that avoids cliche.

Marquis de Sade
Herman and the noble and proud Ernestine, two young lovers, find themselves confronted with a pair of libertines who will stop at nothing—not even the confines of the law—to assuage their desires. Count Oxtiern, villainous and dissolute, and his accomplice Madame Scholtz, a widow of lusty temperament, will shrink from nothing, no lie, no treachery is beneath them in their quest for sexual fulfillment. But does crime really never pay? Or can virtue vanquish vice? This pair of stories showcases his profound moral and social principles, and sets this elegant critique of class prejudice apart from being a mere pornographic episode.

Poetry Please!

Object Lessons
Anna Quindlen
It is the 1960s, in suburban New York City, and twelve-year-old Maggie Scanlan begins to sense that despite the calm surface of her peaceful life, everything is going strangely wrong.

When her all-powerful grandfather is struck down by a stroke, the reverberations affect Maggie's entire family. Her normally dispassionate father breaks down, her mother becomes distant and unavailable, and matters only get worse when her cousin and her best friend start doing things to each other that leave Maggie confused about sex and terrified of sin.

With all of this upheaval, how can she be sure that what she wants is even worth having?