Krishna had intended to talk about My World and Welcome to it by good old James Thurber, humorous writer and illustrator extraordinaire but he decided that a discussion on The Burning Forest by Nandini Sundar was more important instead. The book talks about the loss of lives of security forces, Maoists, human rights activists, lawyers and ordinary people in Bastar. The story of Bastar is unknown to most people and this book is an eye-opener if you want to know more about the history of the Salwa Judum. Newton, a movie that has delved into this subject, was mentioned. There was disagreement about state property and double standards when it came to tribals. Another book about Bastar that was discussed was Woodsmoke and Leafcups: Autobiographical Footnotes to the Anthropology of the Durwa People by Madhu Ramnath. Here the author focuses on the communal narrative of the Durwa people. Sometimes you need to step out of the world you know to understand that there are many worlds outside the narrative that don’t need to go extinct.
Ada talked about a well-known YA Holocaust fiction called The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. The story revolves around Bruno and his newfound friendship in devastating times. “We don’t have YA books that explore complex subjects this way in India,” Ada said. The mention of the Holocaust sparked off an intense debate on the many pogroms that have affected so many parts of the world. Be it Auschwitz where even the bravest soldier feel the shivers or the mass graves at Cambodia, be it the slaughter of the Native Americans or the Armenians or the eradication of aborigines across the world, human atrocities are common fare. “It’s just a question of who markets their stories better,” a reader said wryly.
This is a link I stumbled on while writing this post. It’s an interview with Lang Leav, who was born to Cambodian parents who were on the run from the Khmer Rouge. Worth a listen.
More books in Part 5.