The Maharaja’s Household

The Maharaja’s Household: A Daughter’s Memories of her Father is a unique memoir told from a daughter’s perspective. This non fictional account is about Maharaja Churachand, the erstwhile ruler of the current Indian state of Manipur, told from the perspective of his youngest daughter, Princess Wangol or as she is more widely known, Binodini. It is an informal account, based on her own memories of how she saw her father and also based on stories she heard from people that surrounded the Maharaja.

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Binodini is a humble narrator who admits that the book is not a historical account. The key word to remember is also memoir. She admits often that some stories might not even be accurate and that they are based on stories she has heard from other sources or from her own memories. Continue reading

Looking Back and Ahead: 2018 Highlights!

So, 2018 has ended with the last book of the year, The Maharaja’s Household by Binodini! (The review coming up tomorrow!)

2018 has been great for the blog since I finally decided to restart it after about 3 years of being missing in action and it has been such fun to write reviews and come up with interesting series that hopefully grow in 2019!

(Side Note: Shameless promotion: Check out all of The Book Cafe’s new series: Travelling Diaries, Blurb Appreciation Reviews, Pardesi and Musically Yours)

In terms of reading, I think it was remarkable since I managed to read about 41 books. I do not know the exact number since I had, like my blog, also neglected Goodreads for quite a while and hence could not keep track of books I read!

But in 2019 I hope to read about 50 books!

The highlight in terms of reading has been reading more books that are translated. Plus, I found out about the idea of Women in Translation month as well and hope to celebrate it next year too!

Off late, I have been very conscious of reading books that are unusual, different and not canonical and that means it opens up infinite avenues of reading books with different styles, from different languages and of different countries as well.

Thus, I took baby steps in reading books from Japan, China and South Korea and I hope that this continues in the next year as well.

I tried to challenge the grand narrative in India too by looking at how many books I have read from different states in India and realised that I have still a few more states to cover.

And the most important of all is the discovery of the amazing number of books that female writers have written but whose works are regularly ignored for several reasons. I am glad I was able to read and find out more about female writers be it Indian, translated or from other different countries as well. I ended the year by reading an unusually styled memoir written by Manipur’s well known writer, Binodini. I hope to start the new year on such a diverse note as well.

So what bookish expectations do I carry as I go into 2019?

  • Firstly, to read more diverse books – be it from different states, from different nationalities, genders, about different not that well known issues etc.
  • To read more and buy less (Let me see how this works out!) 😛
  • Read more books by women writers.
  • Read more books in translation.
  • Read books in different mediums such as graphic novels and manga.
  • More stories on cats!
  • To read more books in Hindi. (This has been quite a challenge as it requires quite a lot of patience!)
  • And of course to continue writing more book reviews on The Book Cafe.

So books I would love to read and explore are:

  • K.R. Meera novels.
  • Apple and Knife by Intan Paramaditha.
  • The Marioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki.
  • Touching Earth by Rani Manicka.
  • The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo.
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter.
  • The Colour of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa.
  • My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame
  • The Emperor and I by Mato.
  • A Strangeness in my Mind by Orhan Pamuk.
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.
  • And many others that might discover in the library and in my to read bookshelf!

Here is wishing everyone a Happy New Year and looking forward to another wonderful year of reading!!!!

 

Hanukkah Special

This is a cliche but it is quite true that India is a country of rich diversity despite mainstream media and culture’s fervor to paint India as a monotonous abode of one particular religion, caste, class and gender. While we as Indians may live among a variety of people from different cultural backgrounds, how many of us really know each other well-their backgrounds, their religions, beliefs etc.? Lets leave you to ponder at that while we take a peek into one book that brilliantly etches out details of a community in India that has often been relegated to obscurity yet has made an unparalleled contribution to India’s growth and progress. Well, if you think that you have guessed correctly that I am going to ramble a para or two about the Parsis (who have undoubtedly contributed a lot for India’s progress), then you are absolutely wrong. Its not the Parsis I refer to but the Jewish community of India. And no, Jews don’t just exist in Israel and America, but India as well although their numbers have severely dwindled.

The book, ‘India’s Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art and Life Cycle‘ edited by Shalva Weil and published by Marg Publications provides any curious reader a wonderful insight into Jewish community and their lifestyle as a whole. It is an informative book replete with illustrations and written in simple, lucid language. The book helps to enlighten us about the community we always thought never existed in this country.

India’s Jewish Heritage…’ begins by informing us about the long contact between the Indians and the Jews and how they came on Indian shores. Throughout the 10 chapters the book traces their history citing valid sources, talks of how they assimilated with the Indian culture and adopted some existent customs while still retaining their own this forming a unique Jewish Indian cultural group. The book informs us right at the beginning that there are 3 Jewish communities in India-Cochin Jews, the Bene Israel and the Baghdadi Jews. Each chapter pours out details about the history, tradition and customs of each of the 3 communities. The last chapter dwells on the important contribution of the Jews in India and names certain eminent personalities describing their contributions. Mumbaikars may be familiar with the name Sassoon as in David Sassoon Library, Sassoon Docks etc.. The Sassoon family was a Baghdadi Jew dynasty that played a major role in the then Bombay’s development. Nissim Ezekiel is another well known Jewish personality (if not for everyone but at least known to literature students) who was a famous poet and professor. There are several others such as Leela Samson, Isaac Kehimkar, Flora Samuel etc who left a indelible mark on this diverse country.

India’s Jewish Heritage…‘ is undoubtedly a hallmark in Indo-Jewish studies. You may not like non-fiction works but stepping into the world that this book portrays is like stepping into an encyclopedia and reliving that feeling of childhood when you would be boggled by your own thirst for knowledge and the facts before you. The book is concise and clear. It acquaints us with a much less talked about community and helps us to know one minuscule patch on a large and varied Indian quilt.