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Review: Mother India by Tova Reich

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At the Jaipur literature festival earlier this year, publisher Arpita Das called Tova Reich’s Mother India “the lesbian Shantaram.” There’s even a hat tip to Gregory David Roberts, the “celebrated writer of a doorstop novel about the Bombay underworld… a former murderer and hoodlum who had reportedly escaped life imprisonment in Australia to become a bestselling author with a cult following and whom I would spot now and then holding court at his reserved table at the Leopold with his consort at his side.”

This otherwise inconsequential detail, a third way in, foreshadows the novel’s descent into another foreigner’s derisive account of grimy India. Mother India is also about the griminess of the soul.

Meena, a middle-aged lesbian from Brooklyn, runs a travel business in Mumbai and considers herself “an old India hand, a Hin-Jew”. She recounts the adventures of three members of her ultra orthodox Jewish family in India: Varanasi, where her mother moves to die; Mumbai, where her daughter copes with the trauma of 26/11; and Kolkata where her rabbi brother becomes a guru.

The novel opens with Meena’s mother who decides to terminate chemotherapy for her stage IV breast cancer and move to Varanasi to achieve liberation. While waiting to die, she builds a life romping around Banaras with her maid, a group of hijras, a rickshawallah and monkeys. The solemnity of death is broken by the absurdity of rituals in the best scene of the novel. Ma’s entourage of hijras guard her body – which she wanted cremated, a practice forbidden to orthodox Jews – while a rabbi urges his young Israeli followers to kidnap it for a proper Jewish burial. Stealing a dead body is well and good, but how do you tackle non-binary bodies protecting it? Here, the young boys (post-army stoner backpackers) ponder issues of gender: “whether or not it was permissible for them to engage in battle with an enemy of questionable gender. Were their opponents women or men? If the former, then were the laws of negiah applicable, prohibiting the physical contact that would inevitably ensue from hand-to-hand combat? If the latter, would not one be rendered impure simply by touching the perversion of the garb of a woman on the body of a man? And… whether they were male or female, what about the danger of inadvertently being brought to a state of physical arousal.”

Throughout the book, Meena ruminates on ideas of Judaism and Hinduism, making biblical references and alluding to Indian customs, mocking everything and everyone. This egalitarian contempt softens her scathing westerner’s gaze at the messiness of India. It also serves as an amusing – although confusing, possibly deliberately distorted – introduction to Jewish theology. Her critique of the Chabad (an orthodox Hasidic outreach movement) and ideas of the Kabbalah (a practice of Jewish mysticism) is further obfuscated by her unreliable narration.

In Mumbai, on the night of the 26/11 terror attacks, Meena and Geeta, a rich Delhi woman she later marries and is divorced by, rush out of Leopold Cafe to the sea and watch “a series of thunderous blasts and the sky lit up, illuminating a hidden universe of lovers tucked in the niches and crannies of the rocks, their eyes startled and fluttering wildly. Spears of flame were shooting up from the Taj.” Meena and Maya are traumatized by the attack, especially on Chabad House where the victims were their neighbors.

Real life events and characters mixed with manic fictional ones (not one of them likable) relayed by an increasingly unhinged Meena muddle up the narrative, which had been ingenious until this midpoint.

Teenaged Maya first becomes observant and turns to the Chabad Movement, then she throws herself into the arms of a godwoman in Kerala – based on the internationally renowned M?t? Amrit?nandamay? Dev? known as “hugging amma”. Later to Dharavi. There’s a Jihadi movement and references to Lolita. Subplots point to conspiracies, none of which evoke concern.

In Kolkata, Shmelke, Meena’s twin brother (built on Eliezer Berland, an Israeli fugitive sex-convict rabbi) and his followers occupy Mother Teresa’s old hospice ridden with underage devadasis and disease. He believes that holy men like himself must commit the vilest of sins to “restore the world to the purity of its original light as at the time of creation.”

With him, the novel too plunges into the worst depths of humanity in its search for meaning. It’s a revolting and tedious fall and unfortunately, there’s nothing in the abyss.

Saudamini Jain is an independent journalist. She lives in New Delhi.

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Books & Authors

Top 10 Books Of The Month | August [Editor’s Choice]

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Image by Shiromani Kant on Unsplash

Wandering the aisles of a library or scrolling through an online bookstore can be an overwhelming task, If you’re having trouble looking for a place to start, why not turn to new books by new authors?

There are certain books that have the capacity to captivate millions of readers due to their beautiful world-building, unforgettable characters, and universal themes.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Here are 10 books that you can definitely add to your reading list this month. 🙂


1. How Leaders Decide by Harjeet Khanduja

Organizations provide mind-boggling compensations to their leaders as compared to an average employee. Is it because they work more?

Just like the saying ‘we are the decisions we make’, the very existence of an organization depends on the decisions its leaders make! Decision-making is not just a process. It is an interplay among competitive strategies, processes, design, values, and culture. Narrating the experiences of industry decision-makers, the book demonstrates that organizational decision-making is about making tough choices—navigating through a minefield of biases and execution issues. It walks the readers Read More..

2. The Leadership Handbook by Bomi Doctor

There are several types of leaders, however essentially two variants, one who holds the designation of a leader and the other whose job demands leadership quality. You do not need to have a title to be a leader. A good leader is one who develops leaders under him. While a lot has been written on leadership few, if any, by an Indian who has worn out the soles of his shoes in the Indian corporate world?from field to desk to leadership.

This book defines authentic leadership in the context of today’s world. What makes this book a great handbook for a new manager or a seasoned one is its Power of Simplicity which rests on actual experiences drawn from the author’s own work life. Read More..

3. High on the Hills by Goutam Dutta

All roads do not lead to Rome! Some branch out, meander, ascend and wait to be explored by a traveler. A group of middle-aged friends, tired of the mundane, come together to explore the roads high in the hills of North Bengal on motorcycles. In their endeavor, they are spurred on by Balaji Devanathan, the Co-Founder of Red Panda adventures.

While riding through the hills is a challenge in itself, a bigger challenge lay in first convincing themselves that they could ride a motorcycle once again after twenty years. High on the Hills is as much about their journey to achieve self-confidence as about the breath-taking locales they discover, tucked away in Read More..

4. Billion Suns Rising by Aarathi Bellary

A trespasser enters her life slowly and sneakily, pushing her into a dark tunnel of emotions. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? She navigates through the tunnel and finds beauty, joy and hope in the tiniest of ordinary things. Embracing grief, finding inspiration from the Divine Universe and weaving words into poetry, she takes you through her journey. You can’t help but identify that it’s your journey too and together see a billion suns rising and witness glorious dawn. It is mystically sensual.

Billion suns rising is a poetry book & the author of this book is a physician with a strong passion for medicine and for healing people. She writes medical stories on her blog. Being Read More..

5. Bebakhshid by Dr. Shadab Ahmed

From the Love, Prayers, Devotion, Joy and Enigma to the
Laments, Qalandariyat, Sin, Exile and Debauchery of the Persian Qalandars and Mystics.

Selected translated English verses, quatrains, rubai, ghazals, masnawis and qasidehs of Saadi Shirazi, San’ai, Rudaki, Farrukhi Sistani, Mahsati, Baba Taher, Omar Khayyam, Amir Khusrau, Hafez, Jalal ud-din Md Rumi, Attar of Nishapur, Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Nezami Ganjavi, Abd’l Rahman Jami, Nasir Khusraw, Saib of Tabriz and several Persian masters and Qalandars – spanning eras, courts, dilapidated wine houses, prisons and millennials compiled into a single Richly-Illustrated Book, from a variety of sources.

6. Corporate Eagle by Madhukant Acharya

Mohan Dutt never shied away from competition and climbed the corporate ladder from a Management Trainee to the Chairman’s position in a short span of 2 decades and built up a conglomerate with a scorching pace of growth unknown to the industry at the time.

He always believed that performance took precedence over adverse circumstances, principles mattered more than personalities and corruption was a choice and not a compulsion for succeeding in business. He understood perfectly well that he could achieve his goals only if he delegated well. Cindy Brown, his close confidante, collaborated in all his global plans Read More..

7. What Song Unsung O My Daughter by Kr. Fateh Singh Jasol

“A japa mala of an ordinary life, 108 beads woven around a thread of thoughtful awareness of the creator and all creatures great and small”

This is the third, enlarged, edition of a collection of poems celebrating epiphanic moments that illumined the author’s life. Readers have greatly liked the previous editions for their simple, straightforward, giving impulse to share the ordinary day-to-day things that made up the kaleidoscope of an obviously much-cherished life journey, for its sensitive sublimation of an individual experience to more universally shared humanity. The collection stands out for its portrayal of nature and Read More..

8. Ancient Wisdom for New Age Entrepreneurs by Tanmay Kuchhal

Ancient Wisdom for New Age Entrepreneurs is an interactive workbook that aims to inspire young entrepreneurs and aid them in their endeavor to embark on their own start-up. The book relevantly extracts entrepreneurial lessons from the life and experiences of pioneers from history, like Ismat Chughtai, Akbar, Dhirubhai Ambani, and many more. Each chapter demonstrates one important virtue essential to business and is followed by exercises that help engage the reader’s mind.

The author of this book is a student at the Doon School, Dehradun. He’s passionate about Economics and History and hopes to shape the world of business through both lenses.

9. The Power Of Infinity by Anupkumar Shetty

This semi-autobiography has been used to explain the science and logistics of living a cancer-free life. A sincere attempt has been made to bridge secular and spiritual life, the science of cancer, and the science of wellness.

This book conveys different ways to beat cancer and prevent cancer by systematically attacking the cancer cells with an anti-cancer lifestyle. The book has five sections. The first and the fifth sections summarize the book for a busy reader. The second section is on fighting cancer as the last game of your life by comparing this battle to world cup finals of any sport you like by diligent, unfailing team building and intelligent, blissful Read More..

10. Mindful Wealth by Mustafa Mun

Mindful Wealth aims for a shift in our thinking. It talks about the subject of how we should perceive money, how we need to talk about it to attract more of it in our lives, and how to live with gratitude so we are blessed with more than what we already have.

The author of this book is a clinical psychologist from Mumbai, who is passionate about writing and understanding human behavior.

He has a natural inclination for writing and has developed it as a hobby along with managing his family business of manufacturing perfumes and cosmetics and clinical research. Read More..

 


Book Prices

How Leaders Decide Rs.426 (Paperback)
The Leadership Handbook Rs.311 (Paperback)
High on the Hills Rs.399 (Paperback)
Billion Suns Rising Rs.240 (Paperback)
Bebakhshid Rs.1,110 (Paperback)
Corporate Eagle Rs.199 (Paperback)
What Song Unsung O My Daughter Rs.414 (Paperback)
Ancient Wisdom for New Age Entrepreneurs Rs.250 (Paperback)
The Power Of Infinity Rs.349 (Paperback)
Mindful Wealth Rs.180 (Paperback)

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Top 10 Fiction Books Of The Month | July [Editor’s Choice]

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So it’s the end of July and for this month we are back with the top 10 books in fiction that you can read (if you are a fiction lover). Be it a thriller, or a love story, we got everything covered. 🙂


1. The Girl In The Red Lipstick by Ajay K Pandey

Arun is a bestselling author, and the heartthrob of thousands of readers. While on a book promotion tour, he is injured and agrees to call a masseuse. Little did he know that the masseuse would turn out to be someone with a secret! Arun sees a story in her, and in digging deeper, is amazed to discover her strength of character. Even though Lalita is a young survivor of human trafficking, she has unmatched determination. A single encounter with her makes Arun take decisions that he had never even thought of. He is willing to risk everything for her, his own life too. But the more he tries to help her, the deeper he drowns in the swamp. Will two broken people be able to heal each other? Will society ever accept a girl from the forbidden alleys of the city? The Girl Read More..

2. Two Indian Girls by Kumar Kinshuk

The story revolves around the mysterious suicide of Khushbu, who had married Ajit less than a month ago. As is usually the case, the prime suspects here are the husband and his family. But inspector Rajiv Kumar has some other perspective regarding this case and doesn’t let go of it easily without further investigation. He is involved with Khusbu’s best friend, Amrita who relentlessly asks him to perceive the case from a different angle.

Ajit’s uncle, his father’s elder brother is an IAS officer and his senior is Ghanshyam Tewari the services. Rajiv meets Ravi, the uncle first and senses some sort of foul play there. He confides everything he finds to Amrita and she carries on her Read More..

3. Where the Sun Never Sets by Stuti Changle

‘A story about finding hope in the darkest of times that will brighten your day!’

If you find someone’s diary, would you dare open it?

Well, if you chance upon your old diary, would you dare read through your past?

Iti is forced to move back to her hometown of Mussoorie amid worldwide lockdown to work on her first movie script. Iti’s chance encounter with her first love, Nishit, reunion with her estranged best friend, Shelly, and nights spent reading her well-kept diary, make her best memories and worst nightmares come Read More..

4. Unbroken by Pawan Verma

Unbroken by Pawan Kumar Verma is a fiction book packed with crime, thrill, love, hate, and suspense. It also has quite a number of twists and turns which adds to its many merits. If you’re into this genre or even if you’re not into this genre this book won’t fail in entertaining you and keeping you hooked to the very end.

Our protagonist is Roma Anand, she is a painter, the story starts with her painting exhibition being carried out in Macau, she’s very happy and very unaware of what destiny has in store for her, from being a normal painter to finding herself in the middle of murders, what exactly happened? What went wrong? Well I can’t write everything down here can I? Read the book yourself Read More..

5. A Town under the Lake by Abhyudita Gautam Singha

This book is dedicated to the residents of the submerged town of Bilaspur who witnessed the submergence of their town and their houses in the waters of the Bhakra Dam. The palace, temples, streets, houses, schools, college, grounds, and trees? all were drowned, as the level of the water rose in the reservoir.

This book would allow the younger generation to have a glimpse into the history of their new town which is rehabilitated just above the old town. This would enable them to read about the old town that they did not have the opportunity to live in but what forms the foundation of their rich cultural inheritance. This book is in a pictorial format, which was presented live in Read More..

6. When Delhi Meets Kolkata by Parvesh Kumar

Meet Rahul Malhotra, a playboy from South Delhi, for whom there is no word like “commitment” in his dictionary.

Meet Tanvi Banerjee, a Bengali girl from Kolkata, for whom there is no such thing as a “casual relationship”.

Yet, sparks fly when this Dilli ka Munda, Rahul, meets the sweet Bengali girl, Tanvi, at a lavish wedding function in Delhi.

After a few months of a long-distance relationship, Rahul comes face to face with Tanvi’s orthodox Bengali family for the first time to ask her hands for marriage. But, instead, he is insulted and kicked out of her house as his murky past resurfaces Read More..

7. Forgotten but not Lost by Meher Vineeth Galla

Forgotten but not Lost, is a story of Meera, who tries to write a love story and struggles to find inspiration.

In the search for inspiration, she meets Radha and her story, the story of her life, the story of her love, the story of her love, and her marriage which not only inspires her with a story but also helps her unveil a secret…

What is the secret? What is Radha’s story, her love story? Forgotten but not Lost is a blissful answer to all these questions.

The novel is a lovely mash-up of many different feelings, friendship, hardship, and much more. The author Read More..

8. Time and Tide by Dr. Sona Sharma

Thousands of years have passed since the massive devastation that changed everything. He is now in a bizarrely similar situation. Has the lesson been learned or will history be repeated?

Samvardhana is grappling with insecurities and failure while trying to hold his place at the helm of DWN – the conglomerate his highly successful father has built. His journey takes an exciting turn as he stands at the crossroads of his life.

Only time will tell if he will be sucked into the inevitable loop of possibilities or will somehow find a way out. It is all in his hands. Or is it?

9. White Darkness by Ramesh Menon

White Darkness takes you on an exciting journey as you hurtle through the icy mountains of the Himalayas, the turbulent northeast, the languid south, a Gujrati restaurant in New Jersey, and a strife-torn island in our neighborhood.

The stories evoke a myriad of moods and emotions. War, peace, life, and love are all entwined in tales of passion where the author delves into the complexities of the human mind.

While obfuscation engages the grey cells of the reader, intrigue makes you flip the pages hurriedly. Overall a breath-taking experience that makes you pine for more!

10. Dreams of Reality by Gitanjali Warrier

Leena accidentally downloads an app and her world changes. She begins to see an old world from her childhood pop up around her along with a long-lost love. She is lost between the virtual and real world and the lines start to get blur. The book navigates through her journey and those around her in this sci-fi thriller.

The author of this book spent a decade navigating the roads of communication and marketing in different organizations like Wipro, Zoho, Unacademy, and others.

She eventually realized it was time to step out and start her own business and she launched her fashion brand Senshi. Read More..

 


Book Prices

The Girl In The Red Lipstick Rs.99 (Paperback)
Two Indian Girls Rs.250 (Paperback)
Where the Sun Never Sets Rs.200 (Paperback)
Unbroken Rs.297 (Paperback)
A Town under the Lake Rs.225 (Paperback)
When Delhi Meets Kolkata Rs.199 (Paperback)
Forgotten but not Lost Rs.242 (Paperback)
Time and tide Rs.199 (Paperback)
White Darkness Rs.180 (Paperback)
Dreams of Reality Rs.315 (Paperback)

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Top 10 Books Of The Month | July [Editor’s Choice]

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Photo by Vishwanth P on Unsplash

Now that the sun is making an appearance (fingers crossed!), there’s nothing better than relaxing on the balcony with a good book and some good coffee. Whether you want a page-turning thriller, a gripping historical novel or a feel-good read, or a self-help book, we’ve got some great choices out this month. 🙂


1. Mindf**ked by Anubhav Agrawal

Subah ke 4 baj gaye, lekin yeh dimaag hai ki sochna band hi nahi kar raha hai. Khud ke baare mein sochna, kisi aur ke baare mein sochna, kisi cheez, kisi jagah ke baare mein sochna, kuch hone wala hai ya kuch beet gaya ho toh uske baare mein sochna… Lekin jab hum kisi cheez ke baare mein zaroorat se zyada sochna shuru kar dete hain, dikkat wahin se shuru hoti hai.

Overthinking sirf humari mental health ko affect nahi karta, balki humare mood ko bhi kharab karta hai, humare rishton aur professional life mein bhi pareshaaniyan laata hai. Jab tak hum normally kuch soch rahe hain, tab tak sab sahi hai, koi pareshaani nahi. Lekin jahan humne zarurat se zyada sochna Read More..

2. High on Life by Vishal Gupta

Do you suffer from depression, stress, anxiety, nervousness, panic attacks, or mood swings? Do you feel like crying without any reason? Do you feel helpless or hopeless? Do you feel tired always? Do you feel a void in your life, even though you seem to have all the luxury of life?

Are you experiencing insomnia or excess sleep? Do you feel sad most of the time even though there is no external reason to feel that way? Do you feel you have no control over your mind, and it keeps on chattering non-stop, and you can’t seem to slow it down? Do you feel overwhelmed with emotions? If the answer to any of the above questions is YES, then the book is for Read More..

3. The Magicians of Mazda by Ashwin Sanghi

The Magicians of Mazda. The latest addition to the most amazing Bharat Series of Ashwin Sanghi is yet another marvel. The story, the detailing, the research, and the very favt that 80% of it is based on the known facts and history makes one gasp in astonishment, surprise and sheere overwhelming knowledge.

It is truly the most provocative novel in the series. It succeed in doing all the justice to the Bharat Series. How every character are created, every scene and event described and how it all is woven in intricately thoroughly detailed and researched context stamps the amazong writing of Ashwin Shangi. A must must read book for the fans of history, mythology, mystery, suspense, Read More..

4. Love Unlocked by Kavita Bhatnagar

Young and dreamy, Priyanka wants to break free from her middle class life to live in the lap of luxury. She is longing for a partner who can pamper her by giving a comfortable life. Sincere and practical, Varun is looking for a companion who can accept and embrace his family. Together with her, he wants to walk towards a better life.

Their marriage becomes a pathway for them to realize their dreams. But their happiness is short-lived as adjustment issues crop up. Will she be able to adapt to her new life without losing her identity? Will a critical twist of fate bring them together? Love Unlocked is an enchanting story which reinforces Read More..

5. The Chutney called Marriage by Parminder Kaur Sharma

This isn’t a cookbook but a book where you will find all the situations of life.

Manav is an ordinary husband, just like coriander, needed in the end. Piya is the melodramatic wife who is a master in the art of making even the simplest things complicated, just like the Chili.

Manav’s mother is the mint. Manav’s sister, Lime- n- lemony Leena, and salty Mummy ji, Piya’s mother.

How does Manav survive? Grab your copy and find out you are going to enjoy it.

6. The Power Of Infinity by Anupkumar Shetty

This semi-autobiography has been used to explain the science and logistics of living a cancer-free life. A sincere attempt has been made to bridge secular and spiritual life, the science of cancer, and the science of wellness.

This book conveys different ways to beat cancer and prevent cancer by systematically attacking the cancer cells with an anti-cancer lifestyle.

The book has five sections. The first and the fifth sections summarize the book for a busy reader. The second section is on fighting cancer as the last game of your life by Read More..

7. Weave Some More by Benita Patnaik

Catching up with Bhaskar after a gap of ten years had been wonderful. But when Avinash is confronted with the dead body of Bhaskar the next morning, he is assailed with questions for which he can find no answers.

Tara, Bhaskar’s wife, cut short her holiday and is asked to identify the disfigured corpse. She hysterically refuses to accept that it is her husband. Inspector Sood is confronted with an unidentified corpse. The Colonel surveys his kingdom and believes the worst of all the people in the colony. Megha and Kartik, the young artist couple, bring a breath of fresh air into this little holiday township. Megha’s accidental death and Kartik’s suicide Read More..

8. Zudora by Reshma A. Dev

For twelve-year-old orphan Satt and his sister, Suhani, life had been nothing but a series of tragedies and hardships, until they unexpectedly stumbled upon the frightening and mysterious secrets of the past. The responsibility of fulfilling their grandfather’s promise and saving the entire world from the clutches of aggressively spreading evil forces fall upon them.

In this saga of emotional ties, the unfinished responsibilities, the hunger for power and the treacheries of trusted friends, unfolds journey that threatens to destroy the very fabric of life and checks the ultimate limits of endurance and fear. And thus begins the fight between good and evil, in world of magic, Read More..

9. Teen Machine by Ishita Agarwal

Why did everything seem so demanding, all of a sudden? And why did it seem to be easy for everyone else? Those Shark people were actually laughing at the difficulty level of the test.

Was I even made for this? The 1 percent that I was trying to fit into, how would I ever get there? I could finally feel the dread catching up. The dread that had been following me all throughout tenth grade, and I’d ignored it throughout. The dreadful feeling of knowing that I wasn’t actually smart.

Avani, a tenth-grade student, has been living in a bubble—she gets top grades at school, loves to read, and spends Read More..

10. Ashramed by Dahlia Sen Oberoi

As a new year rounds the corner, Dahlia Sen Oberoi, a hotshot lawyer whose life revolves around court appearances, client meetings and trotting around the globe, finds herself yearning for something more. With a lifelong passion for fitness, Yoga was something that she had dabbled in as an amateur enthusiast. And when she discovers a Yoga teacher’s training course offered by an ashram, she forces herself to face the question: If not now, when?

And so she sets off on her quest to move away from her uncompromising life as a lawyer and find some calm. Living sans her precious laptop, attending lectures on the Gita, learning and perfecting new asanas, and spending her days Read More..

 


Book Prices

Mindf**ked Rs.175 (Paperback)
High on Life Rs.360 (Paperback)
The Magicians of Mazda Rs.310 (Paperback)
Love Unlocked Rs.149 (Paperback)
The Chutney called Marriage Rs.310 (Paperback)
The Power Of Infinity Rs.313 (Paperback)
Weave Some More Rs.269 (Paperback)
Zudora Rs.249 (Paperback)
Teen Machine Rs.250 (Paperback)
Ashramed Rs.333 (Paperback)

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