Champaca's Book of the Month
Editor’s note: We feature the brilliant recommendations of our partner, the Champaca Bookstore, in the Read section twice a month. FYI: Champaca is an independent women-run and founded bookstore and children's library in Bangalore. This instalment features their book of the month and top recommendations from their shelves.
What will India’s future be? And what do we want it to be? Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing Their World: by Snigdha Poonam—a book of journalistic longform essays, researched and written during and after the ascent of the BJP to power in 2014—explores these questions, and the anxieties and hopes that come with it. Poonam travels to small towns to profile seven young Indians mostly men and one woman. She meets aspiring entrepreneurs, workers in call centres and clickbait factories for content, fixers who bridge the gap between the sarkar and the regular Indian, aspiring actors, teachers in Spoken English coaching centres, young politicians and professional scammers.
She explores what they want for themselves and the broken systems that hinder their aspirations. In a job insecure country with an uphill task of upskilling and educating its youth, Poonam brings us an accurate account of what young people believe they can do for their agency in a world that conspires against the achievement of their dreams.
‘Dreamers’ is our October pick for the fourth edition of Champaca Book Subscription —where we are reading and curating boxes around the annual theme of ‘Reading India’. Join us and be part of a community of book lovers!
A fine collection from our shelves
Are you reading with us in the Champaca Reading Challenge? We’ve put together a list of prompts designed to help us, and you read widely and more diversely. This month we are reading books about a house. There are books where houses have a presence, almost as much as its characters. Stories of haunted houses, people moving homes – pick up a book where a central setting is the physical space of a house. We love picking prompts that encourage multiple possibilities. Read on for our recommendations.
The Haunting of Hill House: by Shirley Jackson. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as the perfect horror story. The tale begins with the rational-minded Dr. Montague, inviting a few people to stay with him in Hill House, a house famous for unexplained phenomena that everyone believes is the work of ghosts and demons.
Dr Monatgue is there to “test his theory” that the unexplained goings-on can all be explained with science and reason. Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House join him.
In ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ there are no zombies strolling over streets, no vampires lurking in the dark, and no monsters running behind desperate victims. There is only a mysterious house with secrets of its own, and characters experiencing the unexpected. We love this book because the true terror of the story lurks behind the words.
The Clearing: A Memoir Of Art, Family And Mental Health: by Samantha Clark. The author was a busy artist in Glasgow when she received the call that her mother had passed away. Clark went back home to clear out the house. As she sifted through the belongings, she found herself reflecting on the house and reinterpreting the story of her life through the many objects strewn around the house – which act as the reminder of the many mental battles that her mother, father and herself had to face while living in it. Soon after they moved in, Clark’s mother was stricken by mental illness.
Fearful, suspicious, controlling and shrouded in a medicated fog, she became a stranger to the rest of the family. Clark moved out to go to art school, but her father lived the rest of his life as a prisoner of her mother’s illness, looking after her while working with the BBC. Under the strain, he grew surly with her and withheld affection – as did Clark, her biggest regret. The breakdown of their relationship is reflected in the state of their home after decades of neglect.
The house is full of “chronic sadnesses”, she writes, “and for as long as I can remember my heart has sunk a little lower every time I walk in.” Reading ‘The Clearing’ made us think of losing one’s parents and clearing out their house as a rite of passage.
The House Next To The Factory: by Sonal Kohli. This is a set of nine lightly interlinked short stories, set over a span of 30 years from 1980 to 2010, mostly in Delhi, but sometimes Paris and London. The stories are linked by the house in the title: a house next to a factory. The stories tell us of people across generations: grandmothers, businessmen, tuition teachers, domestic help, cousins, friends, acquaintances and lovers, all of whom have connections to this house and each other, like tiny Easter eggs.
We often go to other rooms and other houses, and Kohli draws vivid but kind portraits of the people in them. We see the colour of walls, the alleyways of neighbourhoods, the living rooms of different classes and castes of people, and furniture from across generations. These objects, like the rooms, change over the passage of time, as do the fates of the people we meet.
We love ‘The House Next to the Factory’ for its evocative, muted texture, mimicking the texture of our lives.
Life at Champaca
In the upcoming weekends, we have two delightful storytelling sessions for children! On September 24, we have a dramatic reading by Anshumaan Sathe of their book ‘The Many Colours of Anshu’, that will take us on a delightful journey of gender play.
We also have children's author Menaka Raman in-store on October 1st for an exciting quiz and reading around her book ‘How to reach Mars and Other Impossible Things’.
If you’re in Bangalore, we invite you to come to our lush, leafy store, attend these events with your little ones, and browse through our shelves with some cold ginger ale or a hot cup of coffee, as per the whims and fancies of the ever-changing Bangalore weather!