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Nisid Hajari to Hiren Kumar Bose on the past and future of Pakistan

On the fallout of Partition
If a political compromise could have been reached to avert Par tition peacefully – as almost happened in the spring of 1946 – and if thereby the hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced by Partition could have been avoided, that naturally would have been a preferable outcome. But that said, no one can say how long or how well a united India might have held together over the ensuing decades. Other pressures – regional, sectarian, linguistic – could have put g reat strain on a unitary state. And if not handled well, those pressures might have led to other, perhaps even multiple partitions in the ensuing decades. The fact is that three legitimate states now exist where there was once one, and the task for all is to find a way not just to coexist but to thrive tog ether.

On Pakistani leaders failing its citizens

Many ordinar y Pakistanis certainly realize that religious extremism, fostered in part by years of official tolerance for anti-India militant groups, now poses the central threat to Pakistan’s security and stability. Top Army leaders have said the same. T here’s no point in guessing how sincere they are: The world will have to judge by the actions they take going forward. One certainly hopes that they mean what they say.

On India and Pakistan as peaceful neighbours
Remember, India and Pakistan have been living at “peace,” as it were, since at least 1999, if not 1971. The prospect of outright conflict between them now, given their mutual nuclear arsenals, is vir tually inconceivable. Both sides should be making much stronger efforts to ensure that peace if mutually beneficial rather than frosty – by expanding trade ties, infrastructure and energy links, people-to-people contacts, and so for th. The more the ordinar y citizens see the concrete benefit of closer relations, the more likely it’ll be that their two nations can put to rest the furies released by Partition.

Midnight’s Furies, Nisid Hajari, Penguin Viking

The book draws together two unique points of view: that of Marie-Laure, a young blind girl who is captivated by science and the outside world, and in possession of a cursed stone that just happens to be at the top of Hitler’s wish list; and Werner, a boy with a remarkable aptitude for technology and engineering, who learns the human cost of his intelligence, ambition, and silence. The narration is beautiful, the chapters are short, and the story unwinds like numbers in a combination lock, with a subtle intricacy giving way to a conclusion that will leave you in awe. Doerr extends the limits of the narrative through the captivating told and beautifully written boy-meets-girl tale which you will remember even after you’ve finished reading it.

All the Light We Cannot See,,
by Anthony Doerr, 4th Estate

Sixth in the Empire of the Moghul series which began with Babur and ends with Aurangzeb, the book is a highly readable account of the Last Mughal – the man who seized the throne from his father while the old emperor still lived, hunted down and killed his brothers and put his sons and daughters in prison. By weaving fact and fiction, the authors, make history intriguing, engrossing and gripping! You can smell the sweat of the Maratha warriors as they play hide and seek with the Mughal army; feel the pain of Jahanara (Aurangzeb’s sister); experience the desperation of Akbar (Aurangzeb’s son) who flees to Persia to escape death and live the agony of the Last Mughal who in the last years is haunted by his inglorious memories.

Traitors In The Shadows,
Alex Rutherford, Hachette

Written by a British civil servant, reading the book you realise nothing much has changed in the natural world ever since the book was originally published, way back in 1912. The king crow still carries on being the Black Prince of the bird kingdom; the great hornbill continues to win prize in any exhibition of oddities; the grey ground cuckoo goes on building rough-andready nests; the brown rock-chat unafraid of human company so and so forth. Dewar brings alive the world of birds--the nesting habits and the behaviour of the noisy babblers, silent herons, beautiful pitas, graceful wagtails, cheeky squirrels etc.--with his observations. Going on a vacation to the hills or visiting your ancestral village carry this along while engaging with the natural world.

Jungle Folk,
Douglas Dewar, Aleph Book Company.

One of Hindi literature’s best known and most controversial authors, Ashk, a contemporary of Sadat Hasan Manto, wrote the seven-volume long Girti Divarein in 1947 which is an intensely detailed chronicle of the travails of Chetan, a young Punjabi man attempting to become a writer. From the back galis of Lahore and Jalandhar to Shimla's Scandal Point, it offers a rich and intimate portrait of lower-middle-class life in the 1930s and the hurdles an aspiring writer must overcome to fulfil his ambitions. Ashk who started writing in Hindi on the suggestion of Premchand was known for his masterful portrayal, by turns humorous and remarkably profound, of the everyday lives of ordinary people.

Falling Walls,
Upendranath Ashk, Translated by Daisy Rockwell, Penguin

In August 2012 Goila began his 100- day long ‘food journey’ covering 25 states and chronicling it for a TV show, Roti Rasta aur India. This book is fruit of that 2,000kms journey and has about 50 recipes which Goila collected during his journey and the food memories he built while visiting an akhara, dropping in at an old age home, cooking with a bamboo hollow or eating Khapse at a traditional Sikkim wedding. A 320-page travelogue by a first time author who confesses to his limitations one doesn’t expect an engaging read but it would have helped if his editors had chipped in more.

India On My Platter
Saransh Goila, Om Books

Set in the theatre world of Calcutta in the late-twentieth century, narrated from a child’s perspective, the book is about a Bengali actor rejected emotionally by her family comprising her unfriendly husband, a bewildered young son, an acerbic and terribly efficient sister-in-law, a middle-of-the-road mother-in-law, and an admiring niece. Raising questions which are inseparable from the crafted reality of stheatre, it occupies with issues like what does it mean to see a loved one dying, romancing a stranger and leading an everyday life cry on stage; where the person in the audience has no role to play; and what impact this experience has on personal and social relationships, and on the image of the actor? The writer aligns the death of theatre in contemporary Bengal with the metaphor of death and the consequent deaths of favourite actors, bleeding patrons and an admiring audience.

The Firebird,
Saikat Majumdar, Hachette


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