Family soaps, migration, and adventure – a heady combo (IANS Books This Week)

New Delhi, May 20 (Calcutta Tube) Here are five books to make your weekend exciting:

1. ‘Sinking, Not Swimming’: written by Nalini Rajan; published by Penguin-India Books; priced at Rs.299

The book is a family soap that opens with the funeral of an aged member. The last rites are a journey inward for the family – dredging up old animosities, emotions, secrets and grievances.

Suri, the old patriarch, who sacrificed his dreams to take care of the family after the death of his father, envied his dead sibling’s intellect and popularity. Ravi, a nephew, cannot reconcile himself with his upwardly mobile son-in-law’s obsession with making money. Paru, the sister-in-law with an ear for gossip, and a lusty relative Suresh seek pleasure in each other’s arms.

The children quibble over the proceeds from the sale of the family home. The characters, snared in a mesh of jealousy, betrayal and petty mindsets, are candid players in the game of one-upmanship in large Indian families. Death is relegated to the social event calendar as another occasion to walk the filial drama – that often turns ugly. The book is told simply in a medley of voices.

2. ‘Seasons of Flight’: written by Manjushree Thapa; published by Penguin-India Books; priced at Rs.299

Prema, a young woman in war-torn Nepal, wins a green card in a US government lottery and migrates to Los Angeles. In this strange metropolis, she tries to make a life for herself she can call her own. Her commitment to an old woman, who she is employed to care for, her American lover and her growing involvement with the endangered El Segundo Blue butterfly gave her a fragile sense of belonging.

Written in a rather poetic and lyrical style – and also deeply political, the new novel by the author of ‘The Tutor of History’ and ‘Forget Kathmandu’ confirms her reputation as one of the most original and distinctive literary voices from South Asia.

3. ‘Sprint of the Blackbuck: Writings of Wildlife and Conservation in South India’: edited by S. Theodore Baskaran; published by Penguin-Books India; priced at Rs.299

This anthology of stories celebrates 25 years of Black Buck, the quarterly journal of the Madras Naturalists’ Society. The 27 articles in the collection have been divided into four sections – wildlife, habitats, conservation and documentation.

Brimming with insights, the essays range from M. Krishnan’s account of the vanishing sloth bear, Janaki Lenin’s narration of her experience of living on the edge of a scrubland to David Davidar’s reminiscences of how to track leopards.

The articles reflect a sense of urgency to protect India’s dwindling wildlife. Combining scientific analyses with personal reflections, this collection is a tribute to the mammoth wealth of wildlife in India.

4. ‘Johnny Gone Down’: written by Karan Bajaj; published by HarperCollins-India; priced at Rs.99

‘Johnny Gone Down’ by Karan Bajaj is the story of an ordinary man who is faced with an unusual destiny. He finds himself asking the question: Was it meant to be this way? Nikhil Arya, once an Ivy League scholar with a promising future at NASA, at 40, is broke, homeless, and minutes away from blowing his brains out in a diabolical modern-day joust.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. An innocent vacation turned into an epic intercontinental journey that saw Nikhil become first a genocide survivor, then a Buddhist monk, a drug lord, a homeless accountant, a software mogul and a deadly game fighter. Now, 20 years later, Nikhil aka Johnny is tired of running.

Karan Bajaj is the author of ‘Keep Off the Grass’, a book that has been on bestseller lists in India since its release in 2008. ‘Johnny Gone Down’ is his second novel.

5. ‘Dance O’ Peacock’: written by Aruna Jethwani; published by Cedar Books; priced at Rs.175

‘Dance O’ Peacock’ is the story of Neelam, an intelligent and independent woman, who struggles to rid herself of the traditions of taboos of a conservative society. To build up inner strength, she puts her relationship at stake and strives for emotional and intellectual freedom. Her voice could be termed feminist.

Aruna Jethwani is an award-winning author and educationist. She has translated old Sindhi literature into English.

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