Reading Around India

Sometime last year I came across a book review of Ann Morgan’s Reading the World. Morgan spent the entire of 2012 reading a book from each of the 196 countries of the world and then wrote about her experiences. Deciding which regions to consider as countries, sourcing books from remote African and Pacific nations, the challenges posed by translated texts, the cultural hegemony of authors writing in English, and North American and British ones furthermore. I was intrigued and started compiling a list of the nationalities of all authors I had read. Not unsurprisingly, it was predominantly American, British and Indian.

Sometime before this book review, I had also come across the 666 reading challenge at bookcrossing.com. The challenge requires one to read a book from six countries from each of the six continents within the span of 365 days. That means a total of 36 books from different regions of the world. I started this challenge this year and six and a half months in, have managed to read a book from each of the six continents (apart from finishing the European section and being one book short of completing the Asian one).

Wholly due to these two reading projects, I read my first books from Africa and South America this year. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart was not my first book from the African continent but it made a point that stayed with me. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will tell it for you. In their own way, and following their own agenda. As responsible consumers of literature, it behooves us to read authentic first-person accounts or stories rather than an outsider’s version (imagined or otherwise) of what has happened. Just as we travel to remote and offbeat locations to discover more about the world and ourselves, we should also be reading books written in and by people on the margins in order to widen our horizons, along with providing a platform for these voices. I was in my late teens when I realised that almost all books I read were authored by Americans or Britons. Thus began a conscious effort to read more by Indian authors writing in English. I am now in my late twenties when again it dawned on me that almost all of my reading is confined to the US and Northern Europe. Hence a conscious decision to stick with these two challenges and diversify what I read.

A few days I came up with another reading challenge for myself (since I obviously need to add more complexity to my book selection policy!). Why not apply the idea behind Ann Morgan’s literary exploration to the country I call home? India has 36 administrative divisions and despite being bilingual I rarely read Indian fiction. Most of the fiction books I read are based in Mumbai or Delhi. So starting this month, I will be reading a book based in each state/union territory of India, preferably written by an Indian author, whether written in English/Hindi or translated into Hindi/English, and blogging about it. I might also review any compelling book I read as part of the other two reading challenges.

Looking forward to hearing your views and recommendations.

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Reflections

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If I were to list the things I love about Chicago, this structure would make it to the top two. I clicked this photograph on the day of my first visit to The Bean. The girl in the picture is the friend I went with. It was a completely instantaneous and impulsive shot on both are parts. Like a pistol duel with cameras. If you look close enough, you can see my reflection in the Cloud Gate (official name). I don’t have the photo she took off me taking her photo but then, it can’t possibly be as interesting as the one I do have.

Meanwhile in…

Chicago: it was minus 40 degrees yesterday (factoring in wind-chill). The Uni didn’t have classes (pretty big thing for one which has declared snow days only twice in the last 33 years). I’m pretty bummed out about missing all this, even if it only meant sitting in my room all day, glumly staring out of the window.

 

Sunday’s newspaper: there featured an article about J. D. Salinger’s preferred south Indian dish—rasam vada. I’m a big fan of vada sambhar but my all time favourite remains rava masala dosa.

 

Postcrossing universe: none of my ‘first’ five postcards have reached their intended recipients. I’m worried (?) they’ll all expire and that will mean five less random surprises for me.

 

Samoa: the national airlines has introduced a fare system based on the passengers’ weights. I knew I couldn’t be the only who thought of this. My idea is slightly different—assign a fixed amount to each passenger and let them allot it between their weight and their luggage weight. This way I get to carry more stuff in my suitcase rather than in my fat cells. Who knows, this might help the fight against obesity?

 

Pesternomi: there are two shiny badges. One’s for the letter-writing-postcard-mailing challenge I hope to take in February (more on that later) and the other’s for WordPress’ zero-to-hero assignment. Both involve actual work on my part every day, and anything that does that is too good to pass up.

Incomplete

Within a week of her death, my father dreamt about my grandmother. They were sitting in the garden in front of the house, entertaining guests late into the afternoon. He remembered her getting up and walking towards the house, holding the walking cane in her right hand but not using it. My mother too dreamt about my grandfather within days of his death. They met in the state office building where he was waiting to meet with the CM. When she asked him how he was, he said “it doesn’t smell anymore”. I dreamt about death too. In my dream, I murdered someone. I don’t remember how I did it or why I did it, only that my victim was a beautiful woman.

This post is in response to Weekly Writing Challenge: Collecting Detail at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/challenge-collecting-detail/

Mongoose Love

A family of mongooses lives beneath my grandfather’s house. This is a story about a day in their life.

Early one winter morning, a train of mongooses scurried across the garden. Baby mongooses following mama mongoose. The birds had fallen silent. The fog had cleared and the neighbourhood was slowly waking to life as these three went about their business. They crossed the driveway and came to a stop in front of the boundary wall. It was time to begin the lesson of the day. The mum picked up the first kid and deposited it securely on the ledge. With the second in tow, she ran up a small tree and reached the top of the wall. Pretty soon the family was reunited under the barbed wire fence running atop the boundary wall. Led by their mum, the kids ran the entire length and disappeared from view, towards the unknown adventures that awaited them. 

 

This post is in response to the Snapshots Weekly Writing Challenge- 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/weekly-writing-challenge-snapshots/