Kismetwali and other stories

Reetika Khanna Nijhawan

Set against the backdrop of modern-day India, Kismetwali and Other Stories puts the reader at the centre of a vicious triangle of place, purse and prestige. These eight novellas draw interesting parallels between the lives of the privileged and penniless, leading to shocking moments when free will goes for a toss and the rigid divide between social classes is rendered insignificant. Each narrative showcases various members of the working class as empowered individuals who take control of their lives.

From a humble barber who becomes an intimate collaborator in a love story to a masseuse who conceals her mistress’s shocking secret and finally the kismetwali, a clairvoyant of unremarkable pedigree, who solicits cosmic benefaction for her affluent clients, these characters, often overlooked in fiction, become the heroes of this book. Nijhawan’s astute insight and lurid writing are surprising for a debutante. This is a must read.

One Day in the Season of Rain

Mohan Rakesh

Translated by Aparna and Vinay Dharwadkar

In a remote village in the foothills of the Himalayas, a gifted but unknown poet named Kalidas nurtures an unconventional romance with his youthful muse, Mallika. When the royal palace at Ujjayini offers him the position of court poet, Kalidas hesitates, but Mallika persuades him to leave for the distant city so that his talent may find recognition. Convinced that he will send for her, she waits. He returns years later, a broken man trying to reconnect with his past, only to discover that time has passed him by.

A classic of postcolonial theatre, Mohan Rakesh’s Hindi play is both an unforgettable love story and a modernist reimagining of the life of India’s greatest classical poet. It comes alive again in Aparna and Vinay Dharwadkar’s new English translation, authorized by the author’s estate. This literary rendering is designed for performance on the contemporary cosmopolitan stage, and it is enriched by extensive commentary on the play’s contexts, legacy, themes, and dramaturgy.

The Longest August

Dilip Hiro

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The long running one-upmanship between Pakistan and India continues even till today. The rivalry between the two South Asian neighbours dates back to 14th August 1947 when British India was divided into independent Pakistan and India. This occurred in the midst of communal holocaust, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other. More than 750,000 people were butchered, and 12 million fled their homes – largely in caravans of bullock-carts – to seek refuge across the new border. It was the largest exodus in history. Sixty-eight years later, it is as if that August never ended.

In a riveting account of the relationship between India and Pakistan, renowned historian and journalist Dilip Hiro traces the landmark events dating back to 1888, and rooted in Hindu-Muslim tensions, that led to the partition of the sub-continent. To this day, lasting amity between Hindus and Muslims has proved elusive, and the Line of Control in Kashmir remains the most heavily fortified frontier in the world, with 400,000 soldiers arrayed on either side.