Srinagar: Books can transport you to the impossible worlds, where you share the joys, aspirations, struggles, and tragedies experienced by the characters.
On World Book Day, The Kashmir Monitor spoke to valley-based authors– Farah Bashir and Huzaifa Pandit to get a sneak peek into their current reading lists. Here are their top four recommended reads and the reasons for the book suggestions in their own words.
The Emperor Who Never Was – Dara Shikoh in Mughal India by Supriya Gandhi: A painstakingly written biography of Dara Shikoh – the heir apparent of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahaan. Written with a keen eye, and meticulous research, the book deconstructs the popular myth of Dara Shikoh as a studious, apolitical liberal interested in ganga-jamuni tehzeeb and seeking the confluence of Hinduism and Islam. Rather, it situates Dara within his times and contexts, and draws out a picture of him as an emperor in waiting with a keen sense of his political destiny, and engaged in the comparative religious study, not just for his pleasure, but also to advance his claim to the throne. A must-read in times when history is sacrificed at the altar of populism on social media.
Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth by Audrey Truschke: When the name of Dara Shikoh is mentioned, Aurangzeb’s is mentioned in the same breath as his ‘evil’ brother- Aurangzeb. The book debunks this myth and presents Aurangzeb as a compound mixture of ambition, religiosity, principle, and above all grit. Rather than exonerating Aurangzeb, the book draws a complex image of a Mughal who was irretrievably tied in a web of royal family dynamics, which shaped his early years and then as an Indian king who hungered after political, and a particular idea of justice.
A Corner of a Foreign Field by Ramachandra Guha: A riveting account of the evolution of cricket in India, the book interweaves a history of cricket within the larger context of the colonial era, and the fissures through which this colonial import became entirely domesticated – a cultural marker. Richly annotated, and reinforced with a brilliant grasp of the archive, the book makes for a compelling read of sport as a larger mirror of history.
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers: In her debut collection of short stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Yiyun Li seemingly offers a compendium of fourteen stories that are intricately woven together with historical details and cultural nuances other than deadpan humor. In her pared-down prose, she owns the interiorities of her characters and offers deeper insights into the vulnerabilities of human lives with deceptive ease. She writes in her second language, English, and the oddities in her language impart her a distinctive style. It stays delightfully fresh read after read.
Farah said, as a woman when she writes about intertwined personal and political lives, from a time that doesn’t exist anymore in her homeland, her writing has helped the rumors of spring authors navigate similar stories delicately.
The Year Of Magical Thinking: Joan Didion’s memoir about the ability to process loss after the sudden death of her husband at their dinner table. It reinforces the beauty and ephemerality of life and is a testimony to human spirit that carries on despite enduring a loss so intimate with dignity while preparing for an impending one.
Home Fire: In this adaptation of Antigone by Sophocles, Kamila Shamsie creates a portrait of young Muslims clashing with the policies of the Western world. It provides us a chance to peep at clashing identities from the perspective of different characters. The attempt by a sister to fight for her brother’s rights, to restore his dignity in death, in a world which is increasingly spinning out of control, is heart-stopping.