Monsoon, Moses and Sleepwalking @ BYOB Party in July 2017 (Part 7)

The story of how Piya came upon Alexander Frater’s Chasing the Monsoon: A Modern Pilgrimage Through India is interesting. She and her friends had an informal book get-together and they organized a book box, where a book and things associated with it are shared. Since monsoon is in the air, Piya bought the book with the hope that the petrichor effect would bring on the rains.  This is a book we featured in our Monsoon related books infographic and that one of our guests at a previous book party had talked about.

Piya enjoyed Frater’s narration. As a boy, rain has been his friend. Having grown up in the Polynesian Islands, this British writer settled in Australia was coaxed by an Indian couple to witness the monsoon journey and so he left for Cochin and ended his journey in Cherrapunji. Frater speaks not just about the scientific story of low-pressure areas and storms; he talks about the way the weather affects the people who get trapped in waterlogged areas and floods. He talks about traveling in absurd weather conditions to catch a train and of almost dying in a monsoon storm in Assam. He talks about how he negotiated through red tape to get a permit to visit Cherrapunji, considered the wettest place on earth at one time. While in school, the weather is taught in a dry and factual manner; it’s the human interest angle that livens up the book and makes the book a must-read even for children.

Ashmita spoke about a not so well-known book called The Moses Legacy. She found it remarkably similar to Dan Brown’s work and while Brown’s fact and fiction merge into a delicious blur, Adam Palmer separates the fact from the fiction and takes the reader on a nail-biting journey. Daniel Klein is a protagonist that readers identify with and the Egyptian setting adds to the mystery of the story. Following the thread of writers with similar works, mention was made of Harry Potter, a manga and even Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman.

Siddharth had a unique reason for visiting the BYOB Party. “I’m intrigued by readers,” he said. His book choice was everyone’s favorite – Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, a story of friendship and betrayal, with Afghanistan as the backdrop. Siddharth read out a gem from the book:

“There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. When you kill a man, you steal a life… you steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness… there is no act more wretched than stealing.”

Dhwani talked about The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing: A Novel by Mira Jacob. Named on the best books of 2014 with writing compared to that of Jhumpa Lahiri, this sprawling family saga is a diaspora story. As it is in many Indian families, mental health issues are swept under the carpet and Jacob writes about an unfolding of difficult truths. What Dhwani found appealing was the humor that made an otherwise difficult theme a fun read.

More books in Part 8.

Hindi and Mythology @ BYOB Party in IIIT-Delhi in September 2016 (Part 4)

rag-darbariProfessor Dheeraj talked about a Hindi book called Rag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla who won the Sahitya Akademi Award for this book: a satirical story of the loss of moral values post independence. He shows rural life in India as it was in the 60s and 70s.  It has also been adapted as a televised series starring Om Puri, but it doesn’t seem to have made its way to the ubiquitous Youtube yet. You can listen to the author speak here:

Most of the students were more familiar with the Hindi writer Munshi Premchand only. Reading Hindi does not seem to be very much in vogue at the student level.

sitas-sisterAlthough reading Hindi is not in vogue, mythology is. Khyati is a mythology buff and recommends books by Kavita Kane such as Sita’s Sister and Menaka’s Choice. Kavita Kane likes to study overlooked characters like Lakshman’s wife and the desirable apsara Menaka. If mythology interests you, you might want to check out A.K.Ramanujan’s work, a student advised. For more commercial spins of ancient times, Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi is a good read, said another.

The famous retelling of Illiad by Madelline Miller called Song of Achilles was discussed. It’s a brilliant retelling of an age old epic in lyrical prose.

a-thousand-splendid-sunsAs it is with almost every BYOB gathering we’ve had so far, Khaled Hosseini was not forgotten and his beautiful and relevant prose was discussed. Both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are favorites.

Anand talked about Paper Towns by John Green. Anand liked the intellectual nature of the love story mystery. This book has won the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.

Some other books the students at IIIT Delhi talked about included Sherlock Holmes and there was even a diversion to the nature of Indian geography. All in all it was a session brimming with life and curiosity.