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From the early 1950s to the early ’60s, Malay Kumar Roy spent around ten years as a young boy in Hazaribagh in the Chhotanagpur district of Jharkhand, which was then a part of Bihar. In An Elsewhere Place, Roy reminisces about his life there—a place that ‘touches a boy forever’. In this memoir, he vividly describes Hazaribagh’s tranquil landscape, its changing seasons and its unhurried pace of life. We get a glimpse of a time gone by from Roy’s stories about sharing a crate of mangoes with the last Englishman living in Hazaribagh; a little bear cub tipsy on mahua flowers; a gravely injured fox cub that was nursed back to health by him and his family and a visitor from Calcutta who boasted about his detective skills and courage but lost steam upon seeing a dangerous criminal. And he revisits his schooldays at St Xavier’s School where his Jesuit mentors taught him the value of curiosity and discipline in life. Written in charming, spare prose, this collection evokes a gentle, easy-going time when man and nature existed in harmony; a time of friendships, wonder and grace.
Lakshmi Bai Tilak was born in 1868 into a strict Maharashtrian Brahmin family in a village near Nashik. And at the age of eleven, she was married off to poet Narayan Waman Tilak, a man much older than her. In Smritichitre, Lakshmi Bai candidly describes her complex relationship with her husband—their constant bickering over his disregard for material possessions, which quite often left them penniless and his bouts of intense rage in these moments. But at the core of their relationship was their concern for society and the well-being of every human being, irrespective of caste, class or gender and their unwavering devotion to each other. Equally touching is her recounting of his conversion to Christianity which led to a separation of five long years. After their reunion, she, too, was gradually disillusioned with orthodox Hindu customs and caste divisions and converted to Christianity. After Narayan Tilak’s death in 1919, she came into her own as a matron in a girls’ hostel in Mumbai and later gathered enough courage to move to Karachi with her family. When first published in Marathi in 1934, Smritichitre became an instant classic. Lakshmi Bai’s honesty and her recounting of every difficulty she faced with unfailing humour make Smritichitre a memorable read. Shanta Gokhale’s masterly translation of this classic is the only complete one available in English.
Taslima Nasrin is known for her powerful writing on women’s rights and uncompromising criticism of religious fundamentalism. This defiance on her part had led to the ban on the Bengali original of this book by the Left Front in West Bengal as well as the Government of Bangladesh in 2003. While the West Bengal government lifted the injunction after the ban was struck down by the Calcutta High Court in 2005, Nasrin was eventually driven out of Kolkata and forced to expunge passages from the book, besides facing a four-million-dollar defamation lawsuit. Bold and evocative, Split: A Life opens a window to the experiences and works of one of the bravest writers of our times.
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