Of women, interns and historical myths


New Delhi : Read an interesting bunch of women-centric stories by Ambai; flick through a comic based on interns in a brand management company; wade through a mesmerizing tapestry of myth, history and legend to reveal the plight of farmers in the age of industry and capital and also go through a collection of real-life stories which are reflective of a life lived with grace.

IANS bookshelf has a good variety of stories to offer this weekend.


1. Book: A Night With A Black Spider; Author: Ambai; Translator: Aniruddhan Vasudevan; Publisher: Speaking Tiger; Pages: 220; Price: Rs 299

Setting the stage with the Asura Mahishan’s doomed love for the beautiful Devi, Ambai deftly combines myth and tradition with contemporary situations. In the title story, the woman who is mother, daughter, solver of all problems for her family, finds that she can share her own pain and suffering only with a black spider on a wall in a deserted guest house.

In a chapter titled, “Burdensome Days”, Bhramara enters a world of politics that turns her music into a commodity; while in “A Moon to Devour”, it is through her lover’s mother that Sagu learns that marriage is not a necessity for motherhood.

Like the strains of the veena that is played again and again in this masterful concert of stories, journeys too weave in and out. By train or bus or auto-rickshaws, each journey takes one into a different facet of human nature.

As in most of her writing, women are central to Ambai’s stories, but so too is her deep understanding of, as she puts it, “the pulls and tensions” between the many different things that make up life and ultimately create a story.

2. Book: Building The Perfect Beast; Author: Neil George; Publisher: Power Publishers; Pages: 130; Price: Rs 2,500

Five interns. One tough boss. Add a bad Veep. Sprinkle some nutty colleagues and agency. One ‘Hell’uva place to work and party. “Building the Perfect Beast” — what really happens in brand management is perhaps the world’s first brand management comic and captures the life of five young interns in the big bad world of consumer marketing. More than 400 breathtaking illustrations in a value student paperback version.

3. Book: Shiva’s Drum; Author: Chandrasekhar Kambar; Publisher: Speaking Tiger; Pages: 269; Price: Rs 299

In Shivapura, the villagers worship their gods and nature and cultivate the crops that their forebears have been growing since time immemorial. Sweet water flows in the Chalimele river, the trees bear delicious fruit and the cattle and other animals are part of the household.

But Baramegowda, the landowner and headman, replaces traditional crops with sugarcane, a cash crop, and encourages the excessive use of chemical pesticides, amassing great wealth. He also enlists the aid of a foreign institution to build a private English-medium school and college on land where the village pond, Mallimadu, is. And life in Shivapura changes inexplicably — its waters turn to poison and its fruits and vegetables become tasteless. Deformed births among cattle and humans are reported and farmers, unable to repay their loans, commit suicide.

When Chambasa, Baramegowda’s estranged nephew and Namahshivaya, the village priest, discover that the foreign institution has been dumping chemical waste into Mallimadu, they inform Baramegowda and, faced with the destruction his greed has wrought, he appeals to them to save the village. But events take a different course after Chambasa’s wife is raped by men connected to the institution and he is arrested for killing the rapists. And it will be years before Shivapura can heal itself.

The author weaves a mesmerizing tapestry of myth, history and legend to reveal the plight of farmers in the age of industry and capital.

4. Book: Three Thousand Stitches; Author: Sudha Murty; Publisher: Penguin; Pages: 179; Price: Rs 250

Often, the simplest acts of courage touch the lives of others. Sudha Murty, through the exceptional work of the Infosys Foundation as well as through her own youth, family life and travels, encounters many such stories. She tells them here in her characteristically clear-eyed, warm-hearted way.

She talks candidly about the meaningful impact of her work in the devadasi community, her trials and tribulations as the only female student in her engineering college and the unexpected and inspiring consequences of her father’s kindness.

From the quiet joy of discovering the reach of Indian cinema and the origins of Indian vegetables to the shallowness of judging others based on appearances, these are everyday struggles and victories, large and small.

Unmasking both the beauty and ugliness of human nature, each of the real-life stories in this collection is reflective of a life lived with grace.



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