Ranjini got what one of the regulars of BYOB Party calls a light book. We can’t have a BYOB Party without that sort of book- light on the mind and easy to read. She picked up The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, a book by Deborah Rodriguez, from Blossom Book House, Bangalore’s most well-known second-hand bookshop.

Although the title of the book seems ironical today as one would not associate coffee shops with Kabul, the author has worked in this part of the world and created a beauty salon to empower women living there (she’s also written a book about this called The Kabul Beauty School). War is the backdrop of her story but the characters she talks about are five women- Sunny, the proprietor of the cafe; Yazimina, a young pregnant woman; Candace, an American woman with an Afghan lover; Isabel, a journalist and Halajan, a sixty-year-old, with a unique love affair and a difficult relationship with her son. The book can’t be categorized as chick lit as the situation that the women find themselves in is grave at times. It was interesting to read about Halajan’s relationship with society- she was a product of less conservative times and so she has her hair cut short and has a lover, all every embarrassing behavior as far as her son, a product of more conservative times, is concerned. The conversation veered to how different Afghanistan was once upon a time and how when the Russian tanks rolled in, the country rewrote its story.

Divya got a very different book called The Elephant Whisperer: Learning About Life, Loyalty and Freedom from a Remarkable Herd of Elephants by Lawrence Anthony, a conservationist. This is a true story of how the author was asked to accept a herd of rogue elephants at the Thila Thula game reserve in Zululand and in spite of the risks involves, he went ahead as this was the last chance for the herd to survive. Anthony writes about the relationships that he observed among the elephants and the relationship that he forged with the animals themselves.

Elephant lovers may like this link to a story by Jose Saramago now adapted into a play in Hindi about an elephant that trudged 3000 kms from Lisbon through Spain, the Alps and Vienna. Gajab Kahani tells the story of Solomon the elephant and Subhro, an imagined Bengali mahout.

Also, a story excerpt featuring an elephant, from Kanish Tharoor’s book Swimmer Among the Stars: Stories by Kanishk Tharoor.