Durbar, Tavleen Singh
I mentioned here already, what led to my picking up Durbar. It had been on my list for the longest time (over a year!) and finally I read it. It was a pretty quick read, gripping too, because it fit my current state of mind when it comes to the current political climate of our country — dejected, disappointed and very helpless.
The good bit for me, since I have never read anything about this side of Indian politics, was a fairly good idea of the sequence of events in chronological order, the build up of both the pro-Congress and anti-Congress sentiments in this country and how one thing led to another (even though it might seem unlikely in retrospect. However, the entire narrative is a very biased, one-sided telling, because it is undoubtedly Tavleen’s side of the story, more than adequately laced by her own hurt form being spurned by the social circles that inhabited Delhi’s drawing rooms and the Congress’ Durbar.
Despite thinking I would probably never pick up anything remotely academic to do with Indian History again, I then picked up Ramachandra Guha’s India after Gandhi. It is a heavy, long read, which I have been taking in, in small doses. I’m enjoying it, but it’s certainly not the kind of book I can guzzle in one go. So I’ve been going at it in small bursts, interspersed by other things.
Korma, Kheer and Kismet, Pamela Timms
I picked up the hardcopy at the Goa Lit Fest right after I met and interacted with the lovely Pamela Timms and devoured the book in just over a day. It is a lovely, lovely read — probably one of the best food memoirs I’ve read this year.
Pamela tells a vivid, evocative tale of her adventures in discovering the street food treasures of Old Delhi over one year. Weaving through the gullies, riding auto rickshaws, befriending jalebiwallahs, aloo-tikki-wallas and trying hard to get their stories and recipes out of them. It makes for a delightful premise, set against the backdrop of one of the most interesting parts of Delhi.
I’ve visited these parts Pamela talks about on two occasions, and I know it isn’t easy to navigate. And I curiously asked her at the Lit Fest, just how she managed to get around as a foreigner, build relationships with the locals enough for them to take her into their homes and show them how they made their precious delicacies — delicacies that they’ve been making for generations now. As Indians we are accustomed to the filth and squalor that is associated with the old parts of most cities. I’m also very used to hearing travelling foreigners express shock and disdain with a hint of colonial condescension, when they first experience it. But Pamela’s story reads like she is an insider, like she has embraced and accepted the grime, dirt and dust as almost as a necessary part of the process of discovering the street food of Old Delhi.
The food is drool-worthy and I made the Chilli Coriander Parathas, and my version of the Alu Kulchas within the week that I read the book. Definitely pick this one up if you enjoy a food story that is as much about the food as it is about the story that binds it all together.
The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers, Ayn Rand
I picked this up on U’s recommendation as we discussed the struggle we share, as bloggers — writing longer form, telling detailed, fluid stories that go beyond a web page. And it has been a good buy, probably the best writing-related book I’ve read since On Writing. It’s come at the right time, and I found myself going back to pen and paper, jotting down salient points, making sticky notes and things to remember.
It’s a slim volume of a collection of lectures she made on the topic of writing fiction which, as the title suggests, is useful for anyone who is interested in 1) writing and 2) understanding how to appreciate fiction as a reader. It’s technical, based in her philosophy of objectivism, which I found very easy to relate to and grasp. I think it is true for the lives of many of us, a majority of who probably live this way without consciously giving it a label.
Unlike On Writing, this is a purely academic book, since it is a reproduction of her lectures. It reads very differently, like a text book. The good thing about it is it is intelligently broken into chapters that are directly related to building a fiction narrative: plot, theme, building sub plots and parallel story-lines etc. I’m half way through and already I know this is going to be a keeper that I’m going to go back to several times.
The news, it’s been shitty. I realised yesterday that Monday morning was a bad time to pick for my weekly twitter trawl. So much bad news can only set you off on the wrong foot. But in between all the shit, I found these fun pieces, mostly about women, that I thought I must share:
The fascinating insider’s view of one of the hippest restaurants in the world, through the story of the only woman in the kitchen. And she’s a young Indian woman, bravely taking on a male dominated profession and workspace. The story is Garima Arora’s experiences at Noma, Denmark.
The baby business (and all the stigma attached to it) is alive and kicking. Even Jennifer Aniston has to justify her choice to go childless. I nodded so hard in agreement with this one, wondering when we’ll arrive at a time when we’ll stop looking at women as unaccomplished unless they’ve proven their worth as conduits of reproduction.
This group, the hashtag and stories of women loitering all over the country (and the world!) has probably already crowded your timelines and newsfeeds. But this story about the Why Loiter movement needs to be read. Here’s a book by the same title, that has been on my to-read list for way too long now. I can’t think of a better time to pick it up.
What are you reading? What news caught your fancy this week?
The radio is really getting us in the mood for Christmas. It’s nice to hear the odd carol interspersed with all the Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj out there. I heard this fabulous duet this morning, which cheered me up immensely.