Splainer

Sunday, July 31 2022


Dive In

 

When I had left Calcutta, and come to this terrible loneliness, to an utterly natural sort of lifestyle, how intolerable the uncivilised life here had seemed; but now, I feel this is the better life of the two. Nature—rude and barbaric here—had initiated me into the mysteries of freedom and liberation. 

That's from ‘Aranyak’ by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay. We love this quote because it beautifully highlights the crux of the story: a man who's largely lived an urban life, and the connection he forms with a forestland under unusual circumstances. ‘Aranyak’ is our August read for the Champaca Book Subscription.


Editor’s note: This excellent newsletter is part of splainer’s partnership with the wonderful bookstore Champaca. Founded by Radhika Timbadia, this women-run enterprise epitomises all the values we advocate: integrity, independence, a genuine investment in quality, and great care for their customers (read more about their philosophy here). In a world ruled by Amazon, we need more Champacas! We’ve come together to champion each other’s businesses, and help serve each other’s patrons better! Do let us know what you think of their newsletter—which you receive one Sunday every month as a splainer subscriber. PS: splainer does not make any revenue if you buy from Champaca. This isn’t about money.

 

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We Recommend

Life in the city 

This July, we thought we’d travel with our bookshelves across some of the cities of India, and follow some Indian writers and characters outside the country. In these books—whether satire, memoir, or graphic novel—discover new cities from new perspectives or view familiar places with fresh eyes!

 

The House Next to the Factory

In Sonal Kohli’s collection of short stories, we travel to Delhi—and through decades—following the lives of a group of people who live in the house next to the factory. Through interlinked stories set across time, we glimpse into the lives of its inhabitants, which include grandchildren, tutors, cousins, and lovers. 

 

Orienting 

Journalist Pallavi Aiyar takes us to Tokyo in ‘Orienting’, a work of travel writing and reporting of her time in a new country. She writes of misadventures and cultural differences and explores the complex relationship between India and Japan, with humour and heart.

 

Munnu 

In the tradition of ‘Maus’ and ‘Persepolis’, ‘Munnu’ by Malik Sajad is a moving graphic novel composed of black-and-white illustrations. It follows the life of a young boy growing up in Kashmir, his childhood in a time of violence and conflict and his coming-of-age in a politicised city. ‘Munnu’ offers us a complex, nuanced view of a region and city through the eyes of its young protagonist.

 

Temporary People 

Deepak Unnikrishnan’s ‘Temporary People’ highlights the life experiences of a group of people we don’t normally see—the “guest workers” of the Gulf, the invisibilised labour that builds the cities people live in. In this evocative collection of short stories, we meet characters who straddle the space between the UAE and Kerala, but are never able to call either place home.

 

Banaras: Walks Through India’s Sacred City

In this beautiful book, author Nandini Majumdar offers readers a guide to wandering through the city of Banaras. Sectioned into twelve different walks that will take you across the city and allow you to explore it in all its rich texture and colours, this book is a must-have guide while travelling through Banaras—or a great way to travel through its pages.

 

Bombay Imagined 

In this extraordinary book by Robert Stephens, we see two hundred “unrealised urban visions” of Bombay. With anecdotes dating back to 1670, drawings from the archives and contemporary speculations, these are imaginations of lost futures of Bombay, from its past. Beautifully designed, we see the ideas that built the city into what it is today—and the many visions for what it could have been.

 

The Alcazar 

The graphic novel ‘The Alcazar’ is the story of a construction site in Cooke Town, Bangalore. Emerging from French-born graphic novelist Simon Lamouret’s visit to the city and his interactions with construction workers, this is a vivid exploration of multiple themes—class, labour, power and skill, anchored in a Bangalorean neighbourhood.

 

Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors 

Aravind Jayan’s debut novel is set in Trivandrum, in a typical middle-class Indian family, whose lives are thrown awry when a scandalous clip of their eldest son goes viral. Narrated by his younger brother, who finds himself in the un-envious role of middleman, this is the humorous and insightful story of intergenerational conflicts and values, the power of gossip and the concept of shame and honour. (And we've got signed copies of the book!)

 

 
Book of the month

‘Aranyak’ by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay 

Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s ‘Aranyak’, published by Seagull Books and translated from Bengali by Rimli Bhattacharya, is an evocative book full of nostalgia, reverie, longing, and regret. Bandyopadhyay, whose other works inspired Satyajit Ray’s ‘Apu’ trilogy, drew from his real-life experience for ‘Aranyak’. In it, Satyacharan, a graduate from Calcutta in quest of a job, agrees to work as a manager of a vast tract of forested land in northern Bihar, to ‘settle’ the forest with tenants and agriculture. Displaced from his urban milieu, and deeply lonely, he slowly grows enchanted by the forests. 

 

‘Aranyak’ is an exploration of the many ways we interact with the world around us. Satyacharan surrenders to this place to which he never quite belongs. Forests full of wild things are culled and transformed to fields of maize and mustard. The protagonist is aware that he lives in a time that is passing: an ecological time and a period of history. It is self-conscious and reflective, asking questions about the many things that connect and remove Satyacharan from the people and place: caste, hierarchies and social location. 

 

This August, we're reading ‘Aranyak’ for the Champaca Book Subscription and Book Club

 

Our new theme for the subscription is Loneliness and Connection, and we’re exploring what it means to think of nature as a refuge in times of isolation. Read this book with us and join us in our book club meetings where we dive deep into the book, and what it meant for us. Join here.

 

For splainer readers we also have a special 10%  discount on our subscription boxes! Head to our subscription sign-up page, add a plan to your cart, and use the discount code SPLAIN10 at checkout to avail the offer. The offer is valid until August 5. 

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