Tamarind Trees and Vintage Bollywood @ BYOB Party in July 2017 (Part 8)

Sudharsan got a translated book that reads more like a fable- Tale of a Tamarind Tree by Sundara Ramaswamy. The story is set in a town that resembles Madurai and talks about how a town evolves around a large tamarind tree. The author has tried to convey the oral storytelling tradition, something that is now lost as are the trees around which they were told. The tamarind tree oversees everything- the people there as they play, work and grow older; it gives fruit over which people squabble and is ultimately cut down so that a park can be built instead. If Tamil literature interests you and you want to know more about this story, this review is a good one, though there will be spoilers!

Carrying on with the theme of Indian literature, Sunny surmised that he preferred this time to dabble in a book from India, a Hindi book called Godan by Premchand. Anyone who knows Hindi is familiar with Premchand as he is still the most popular writer in this language even though his work is quite dated. The story is what can be described as Bollywoodesque and vintage 70s. The characters have no gray and are definitely good or bad. There is no middle class as such, only the zamindar, landlord, and his fiefdom. Hori Mahato is a farmer. He is married and has two daughters and a son. The story revolves around Hori’s desire to own a cow and the problems that ensue. Other works written by Premchand were mentioned including Mazdoor and Nirmala.

Many books in regional languages including those by the renowned Perumal Murugan focus on the social problems that exist in village communities. Abhaya mentioned an English book in this context called Nectar in the Sieve by Kamala Markandaya. The story is based on a child bride who must deal with the travesties of drought and monsoon, the realities of any agrarian tragedy. Abhaya also mentioned Neem Ka Ped, a long-ago Indian television drama-series written by famous writer Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza where feudal hierarchy was depicted in pre- and post independent India. Have you seen it?

And with that, we come to the end of the BYOB Party in July 2017. Such a long list of book recommendations! What are you reading?

Education and Nationalism @ BYOB Party in December 2016 (Part 1)

The BYOB Party in December kicked off in December with the question of education. Ralph has a penchant for online PDFs that deal with academic subjects. The last time he had got a book with 23 words sentences, as he called it– Philosophy of Intellectual Property by Peter Drahos.

the-educated-mindThis time he talked about The Educated Mind– by Kieran Egan. The book discusses the problems with education and provides alternatives by way of practical proposals.  Unfortunately the book is peppered with huge words and while it talks about simplifying education, it is  a difficult book to read. Ralph, however, recommends the book.

The book reminded Jaya of a book called Hindi Nationalism by-Alok Rai, Premchand’s (the famous Hindi writer) grandson. Topically the books are dissimilar but what the books have in common is a tendency toward obscurity. Though both books deserve to be read, the difficulty of prose and repeated use of hard words can be a setback for an earnest reader. Hindi Nationalism deals with ideas like the separation of Hindi and Urdu, the history of language in India and Hindi as a national language. Many people consider Urdu to be exclusively poetic though writers like Manto wrote Urdu in its prosaic form.

@ the BYOB Party

More books in Part 2.

Short Book Review: Hindi Nationalism by Alok Rai

hindinatinoalismSBR: Hindi Nationalism by Alok Rai is an important book to understand the history of Hindustani, Hindi and Urdu in India and also the politics around languages that still consumes a significant portion of our political, administrative and intellectual resources. Unfortunately, the book’s language is far too academic. The author can’t be faulted for it, however, because he hadn’t set out on writing a popular book. It was supposed to be scholarly. Another book of similar character targeted at lay people would be wonderful to have.
To read or not to read: Yes, if academic jargon and language don’t daunt you.