Pictures from Abujhmad, microfiction and poetry, and radical short fiction on caste - all this on HT Picks this week
BASTAR DISPATCHES; A PASSAGE THROUGH THE WILDS BY NARENDRA
262pp, Rs 499; HarperCollins
Situated in the deep interiors of Bastar, and inhabited by the Abujhmadias, a primitive hunter-gatherer tribe whom Verrier Elwin has called the Hill Murias, Abujhmad stands today as one of the few mirrors left the world over wherein modernity can view itself – its calamities and collapses.
Their dialect has no more than 300 to 500 words and they count only up to five. ‘We do not need more than that,’ as they put it. The lone (home in their dialect) is not inside the hut. The hut is only a shelter for the night, against its elements, animals and spirits who roam it. ‘We live in the outside; that is where our parentage and affections are centred,’ they say. They keep cows but never milk them.
Brimming with many such singular insights into a fascinating way of life and based on the author’s over thirty years of association with Abujhmad (he is probably the first outsider to live there) and its contiguous areas in the Bastar division of Chhattisgarh, Bastar Dispatches provides a compelling narrative of a people at peace with themselves and nature, their dialect, their festivities, their delightful interactions.*
NINETY-SEVEN POEMS BY TTT
169pp, Rs 250; Penguin
This is a book of pictures.
Of a park bench and a prescription.
And a toothbrush in a mug.
It’s got half-lit cigarettes and broken geysers.
And a cute apartment in Prague.
There’s a fortune cookie, some pigeons in cages and
stars tumbling from the sky. Tehre’s the usual traffic,
a digital wristwatch and a violin from Uncle James.
We can go on, but you’d rather see for yourself.
for we think this book has pictures
But some say it’s full of poems.
After their first bestseller, Terribly Tiny Tales and Penguin come together on the same page once again.*
WHEN I HID MY CASTE BY BABURAO BAGUL
135pp, Rs 399; Speaking Tiger
Baburao Bagul’s debut collection of short stories, Jevha Mi Jhaat Chorli Hoti(1963), revolutionized not only Dalit but all Marathi as well as Indian literature, bringing to it raw energy and a radical realism - a refusal to understate or dress up gritty, brutal reality.
Watch: This week’s #Bookstack for more book picks
Through the lives of people on the margins – rebellious youth and migrants, sex workers and street vendors, slum dwellers and gangsters – Bagul exposed the pain, horror and rage of the Dalit experience. The unnamed young protagonist of the title story risks his life and job, and conceals his caste from his fellow workers in the hope of bringing about social change. Damu, the village Mahar, demands the right to perform a religious masque – a preserve of the upper castes – thus disrupting the village order. Jaichand Rathod revolts against his parents’ wishes and refuses to take up the task of manual scavenging. Years of repressed maternal love begins to resurface when, in the face of death, Banoo calls out to her estranged son. And behind Savitri’s desire for revenge lies the gruesome pain she suffers at the hands of her husband.
Utterly unsparing in its depiction of the vicious and inhumane centuries-old caste system, this landmark book is now finally available in English, in a brilliant new translation by the award-winning author and translator Jerry Pinto.*
*All copy from the book flap.
First Published: Aug 04, 2018 00:00:56