I really enjoy reading memoirs that are written as graphic novels. That added visual feature is such a great way to develop an instant picture of the time, place and feel being described, the details and character expressions conveying more than words sometimes do.
Munnu is the third and probably last book I will be reading on the Kashmir issue, at least this year. But it marks a perfect conclusion to my attempt at trying to understand the human side of the Kashmir situation more deeply. The book is a semi-autographical coming-of-age story of a young boy growing up in Kashmir through the peak of the armed conflict. What I found very interesting was that the author depicts all Kashmiris as the Hangul Deer, or the Kashmir Red Stag, which is now an endangered species, due to the destruction of most of their habitat and poaching, and everyone else is shown as human. It is a clever metaphor and the symbolism is completely on point.
The chapters covering Munnu’s younger years were the most enjoyable, which is nearly half the book, with some really sweet laugh out loud moments interspersed in the tense lives of the artisan family. These two pages in the picture below are probably my favourite. Its a hilariously innocent conversation between Munnu and his older classmate after they see two dogs mating.
But there is no shying away from death, loss and tragedy and how it affected the psyche of parents or gave young children episodes of PTSD. As Munnu grows up and becomes an adult, innocence is lost and “life” takes over, which is essentially a day to day struggle to remain out of trouble while navigating through numerous check posts and curfews. And that is where the story loses its charm… and why I couldn’t rate it a full 5.
Remember the journalist who threw a shoe at P Chidambram at a press conference a few years ago? That journalist, Jarnail Singh, is the author of this book. He was just an 11 year old kid, a resident of Lajpat Nagar, when he witnessed the vicious violence against the Sikhs in Delhi in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
Many books have been written on the incident and the long pending justice that is still awaited by its victims and survivors more than 30 years later. I have not read most of those books, but there is something very emotional and personal about this one. For Jarnail Singh, this is too close to heart. The narration of first person accounts is simple but direct. It is difficult not to picture the carnage, the brutality and inhumanity of the unimaginable attacks. Men turned to monsters.
More than 30 long years later, the victims’ families continue to live in the long shadow of the attacks , their lives upended, their futures ruined, relegated to peripheral rehabilitations, survivors still struggling to survive, though many have succumbed.
The administration’s evident involvement and yet painfully slow and reluctant action to bring justice is outrageous. Khushwant Singh writes in his foreword to the book, that it is a must read for all those who wish that such horrendous crimes do not take place again.
And yet we see more examples of the same things happening today. Human life continues to hold little value in the face of what is manufactured belief, asserted boundary, wrenched legitimacy.
There was a time when I couldn’t read enough about the JFK Assassination and the various conspiracy theories about it. Traveling from one link to another on Wikipedia to buying an original DVD of JFK-the movie, only so I could watch and have a copy of the Zapruder film, like many people I obsessed on this event to an unhealthy degree. The last related book I read was 11/22/63 by Stephen King, which I loved.
‘Five Days in November’ was published 3 years ago, but I missed it somehow. When I did finally get it, it was like an after thought, and that too only because of the cover. So yesterday, when I finally picked it up, I was pleasantly surprised and very glad that I had not let it slip.
‘Five Days in November’ presents a very personal and intimate account of events from the inside. I’ve not been reading anything on this topic for years, and never picked up a book on it either, so for me the details in this book are a revelation. It is easy to see the high level of regard and respect Clint Hill had for the President and more so for the the First Lady, whose safety he was responsible for. I think it is not only well written but also sensitively written. Even though he is talking about personal details and emotions, there is no attempt to exemplify drama. There is no need.
It doesn’t go into any speculative deviations, but simply delivers fact and narrates a minute to minute account of what happened two days before and after the assassination.
I’ve already set myself a challenge to read 30 books this year (last year I managed 27). But the real challenge I’m setting for myself is to complete this target by reading from the books I already own.
Like most book lovers, I love to collect books – to be surrounded by books on my shelves, in my bag and in my iPad. I labor for hours online, reading several reviews and book lists to find the in best crime, thriller and contemporary fiction, and discover the most interesting true life, historical and autobiographical non-fiction. And while I keep hoarding this absolutely great stack of books (which I also fondly gaze at everyday), whenever I need to pick one to read, I almost always choose a completely new one, that was never even a part of this pile. I am greedy like that, yes. I only seem to want more and I never want to share! 😛
Having 10 unread books sitting in my book rack already, and 44 others in my iPad, did not stop me from bringing 15 more into my heart and home from the Delhi World Book Fair this weekend. Though I will say that I got these at throw away prices and at least I am not guilty about spending the month’s salary on them!
So with that firm resolve, here’s my 2016 Reading the books I own Challenge.
The Blood Telegram
Delhi: A Novel
Daughter of China
The Book of General Ignorance
The Girl with 7 Names
The Seventh Secret
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
That Thing Around Your Neck
14 Stories that Inspired Satyajit Ray
The Accidental Tourist
Snow Flower and the Secret fan
Kafka on the Shore
Crime / Thriller
Salvation of a Saint
The Case of the Missing Servant
K is for Killer
The Beautiful Bureaucrat
Six of Crows
Classic / 18th Century
The Mayor of Casterbridge
Bring Up the Bodies
And that’s it!
I will be working really really hard to stick to this list. I’m sure I’ve missed a few interesting ones, but if I ever want to switch one around, I promise to switch it with one from my existing stack only. Wish me luck!
Do you have a compulsive book collection condition too? I’d love to hear how you deal with it. Until then, Happy Reading!
Following an extremely interesting discussion on Indian history, I realised there was much more to know about what happened, when it happened and most importantly why. In today’s day and age, when one has all the resources to inform oneself on historical facts, I don’t see why we mustn’t be well informed – after all, our history defines our present, shaping thoughts, opinions and decisions. So to avoid developing my own version of history and instead to develop a history’s version of history, I’ve resolved to read the following books in the next few months. Its a 2016 resolution come early! and I’m raring to get started.
In no particular order, here’s my list. Being someone who is as much a hoarder as a reader, I happen to have all of these in paperback, hardback or ebook formats 🙂
The Last Mughal – William Dalrymple
White Mughals – William Dalrymple
India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha
Delhi: A Novel – Khushwant Singh
The Blood Telegram – Gary J Bass
Indira Gandhi, the Emergency and Indian Democracy – PN DHar