Princesses, Friendship and Democracy @ BYOB Party in December 2016 (Part 7)

The party ended with conversation about women in books, and democracy.

princessRenu spoke about a book called Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. The story revolves around Sultana, a Saudi Arabian princess, who is immensely wealthy but is a prisoner in a gilded cage. The story has been told anonymously and recorded by Jean Sasson. For Renu, the trilogy is not as heart wrenching as A Thousand Splendid Suns but she still thinks that the book has great aspirations and talks about some very important issues like women’s rights. Where Sultana lives, young girls are forced to marry men five times their age and victims of unreasonable punishments. Baraa believes that while the discriminatory practices of Saudi Arabia are well-known, not all Arabic speaking nations are the same and Arabian history has been forgotten too easily. Anurag mentioned how the ideas that people have about anything, including women’s rights, is governed by the society we live in. In China, for instance, it is not surprising when women technicians come home to fix the air-conditioning. In India, this would still raise eyebrows.

my-brilliant-friendKeeping with the woman-inspired book series theme, I’ve been reading one of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, the first one of the series My Brilliant Friend.  The story is a translation and focuses on the friendship of two women spanning four books. It is hard for you not to order the subsequent parts of the series as the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila is absorbing, filled with the conflicts and rivalries of any close friendship. Simultaneously, Elena’s circle of friends reveal the socio-political milieu of Italy during the 1950s.

democracyAbhaya spoke about Democracy: A Very Short Introduction, a short account of democracy published by Oxford University Press. The book speaks about the origins of democracy from ancient Greece and Rome. While democracy entails the concept of liberty, there are no specific duties associated with it, except or jury duty in the US. So participation, which is a defining feature of democracy, is not an absolute necessity. Another contradiction is how in some situations human rights limit democratic claims. It is a good idea to understand democracy, Abhaya said and he quoted: “Man’s inclination to justice makes democracy possible, but it is our capacity for injustice that makes it necessary.”

And with that we wound up the BYOB Party. The next stop was the food.


Dressmakers and Doctors @ BYOB Party in Delhi in October 2016 (Part 2)

While history can not hide the truth, books can make the truth bearable.

51eV2VYLGfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (333×499)Nidhi spoke about The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. The story revolves around the life of Kamila Sidiqi, a woman who lives through the Taliban regime, faces the loss of the men in her life and is forced to find a way to make ends meet. This is a true story of entrepreneurship. “I like books that tell us about people who find a way. There is sadness in the world- that’s a given, but how do people live through it? In this book the protagonist is bombarded with restrictions and yet there is only so much that oppression can do to the human spirit,” Nidhi said.

This reminded Eklavya of a book called In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed. This is another book that talks about how life thrives in spite of restrictions. The author is a Western trained doctor who in a strange twist of fate is offered a job in Saudi Arabia. Her observations are delightful and reveal much about this much misunderstood kingdom.


Aadit, a youngster, talked about the book Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. Aahan, a ten year old, spoke affectionately about his favorite illustrator, Quentin Blake. The book he mentioned was The Boy in a Dress by David Williams. He is also busy creating a Pani Hotter (the transposition of alphabets is intentional) series. He spoke at great length about how his collaborative effort includes a bit of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, an array of Greek Gods and a Chinese dragon. You can read more of what this youngster writes here:

With this, we come to the end of our Delhi chapter this 2016.