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January 20, 2016

Verve Storytellers: The Nominees

Text by Natasha Sahjwani

Know about the top 10 shortlisted reads for Verve Storytellers….

The Read: A Gathering of Friends
The Storyteller: Ruskin Bond

Bond compiled a collection of his finest stories. Grasshoppers, dark forests, hills, lonely train rides have all come together just in time for his birthday. No one captures the Indian landscapes and sensibilities as well as he does. Plus, how can you not love someone who says something as simply profound as – ‘And after all the wars are over, a butterfly will still be beautiful.’

The Read: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights
The Storyteller: Salman Rushdie

The genius storyteller returns, wielding another world of magic realism for his readers. The title may be a mouthful, but Rushdie’s latest excites with the turn of every page. Mythology, love and history are woven together in a narrative that transcends centuries in this satirical take on One Thousand and One Nights (popularly known as The Arabian Nights). The characters, all descendants of Princess Dunia, grow on you, and the story grips your attention right till the epilogue. It may not be Rushdie’s finest, but a novel like this could only have been penned by a master of the trade.

The Read: Flood of Fire
The Storyteller: Amitav Ghosh

In the last part of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy there is much of action, till the very last page. The narrative happens onboard a ship called the Ibis and deals with how Britain declared a war, which they won easily with their superior arms and naval power, and colonised the island of Hong Kong – an important centre of trade. All of this happened in the name of an upstanding cause – free trade – and in the aftermath of the seizure of millions of pounds’ worth of smuggled opium by the order of the Qing emperor, Daoguang, who stood staunchly against the legalisation of the import of the drug. Ghosh ably demonstrates the real intentions of the East India Company: to penetrate the insurmountable walls of Mahachin, where they weren’t allowed to trade. And how this was in alignment with the interests of the merchants and traders who filled many a coffer from not only selling opium but also wartime supplies. Flood of Fire is an epic thriller novel, imbued with a wealth of historical detail, submerged within the beauty of a compelling conclusion and a sweeping story for our inquisitive minds. (Read our review of the book here)

The Read: Sleeping on Jupiter
The Storyteller: Anuradha Roy

The award-winning book by Anuradha Roy tells the tale about Nomi, a young girl abandoned by her mother after her father’s murder by armed forces; and is sent away to an ashram with a charismatic spiritual guru before being adopted abroad. The guru’s deceptive charms hide away the predatory menace that lurks underneath. Moving 20 years forward, Nomi returns with as a filmmaker’s assistant to the temple town of Jamuli to tie up loose ends and the scars of her dark past. Capturing hypocrisies by Indian societies the stark read by the spellbinding storyteller captures religion, love, and violence in the modern world.

The Read: Farthest Field – An Indian History of the Second World War
The Storyteller: Raghu Karnad

Did you know that in the second world war there were more than 2.5 million men serving in the Indian army, making it the largest volunteer force in world history? Yet they were treated worse than second-class humans. The debut novel by Raghu Karnad delves into India’s role in the epic war through the riveting lives and deaths of a single family. Through the trajectories of three friends, Ganny, Bobby and Manek, the storyteller carries you from Madras to Peshawar, Egypt to Burma unravelling hidden secrets over the years. (Read the author’s thoughts on the book here.)

The Read: Don’t Let Him Know
The Storyteller: Sandip Roy

Sandip Roy’s debut novel zigzags through twelve interconnected stories moving back three generations and two continents. The book takes you through several settings… from a shabby apartment in Illinois to a Mc Donald’s driveway, a saloon to a deserted park . Each chapter weaves a standalone story compelling you to get lost in each character portrait. Revolving around Avinash Mitra and his extended family, each story depicts acts which changes the characters lives. Starting off with Avinash’s young bride, freshly arrived in the lonely student town in the US, and realising that her new husband had a male lover. The novel (along with its short stories) showcases the innumerable sacrifices we make for love.

The Read: Munnu A Boy From Kashmir
The Storyteller: Malik Sajad

The Srinagar-based author has written and illustrated for various local and international publications in the past. Here he shares with readers a detailed account of Kashmir in the 1990s. Munnu is a graphic novel which is a remarkable account of what it is like to live in Kashmir. The Kashmiris are all portrayed as the hangul deer, an animal that is on the brink of extinction — much like the natives themselves. Taking us through the protagonist’s time in school, his first romantic interest and formative years in an environment of tension, the book is a seemingly light read. But it holds you captivated as you learn more about the history of the state. Drawing closely from the author’s personal experience of growing up in Indian-administered Kashmir, the book journeys through the central character’s transformation from Munnu to Sajad.

The Read: Eating God
The Storyteller: Arundhati Subramaniam

With over 200 poems, Eating God A Book Of Bhakti Poetry is a mix of voices spanning across centuries. The book delves with the seekers yearning for the Divine and the essence of Bhakti. Featuring classic translations by A.K. Ramanujan and Dilip Chitre, among others, as well as new and unpublished ones by acclaimed poets, the book is a treat for seekers and poetry lovers.

The Read: One day In the Season of Rain
The Storyteller: Mohan Rakesh

Madan Mohan Guglani also know by his literary name Mohan Rakesh wrote a lot in various forms, but the three plays he wrote made history. His first play Ashadh Ka Ek Din (One Day In The Season Of Rain, 1958) was translated into several languages and became the most iconic of all time. The play shows an unforgettable love story between poet Kalidas and his youthful muse Mallika and reimagines the life of India’s greatest classical poet.

The Read: The Way Things Were
The Storyteller: Aatish Taseer

The three landmark political events that he picks directly impact the lives of the book’s main characters – the fiery Uma ‘who has a talent for life’; her first husband Toby, a Sanskrit scholar and genteelly impoverished royal; her second husband Maniraja, a rough-edged businessman with an inclination towards the Hindu Right; and Uma’s son Skanda, also a Sanskrit scholar, trying to make sense of it all. Spanning from the years of 1975, when Indira Gandhi proclaims an emergency to the years of the Babri Masjid riots in 1992, Taseer spins his parents love affair in a majestic way through trying times of political upheaval. (Know more about Aatish Taseer and his read)

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