The pandemic did not dampen the spirit and creative prowess of these city-based authors. Meet some who published their works this year:
Of love, loss and hope
Set in colonial Punjab, ‘Dusk over the Mustard Fields’ is a poignant story, inspired by true events, steered by political and social upheavals of the Partition.
Married at sixteen, Nimmo’s destiny hangs in the balance as she fails to meet the expectations of her debonair husband, Lt. Hukum Singh. This nostalgic journey into undivided Punjab gives us intimate and vivid insights into the now-lost rural Punjabi culture and a disquieting peep into the lived identities and angst of women in a deeply patriarchal society. The debut novel of Ranjit Powar, a city-based psychologist and activist, mesmerises as it conjures up the era of the British Indian army, winding through cantonments, malls and brass bands.
In the Land of the Lovers, a Punjab Qissa by Chandigarh-based Sakoon Singh released in August 2020 is a novel about Punjab that embodies a historical sweep mediated through the perspective of a young woman artist, Nanaki who teaches Textile Design at the Arts College in Chandigarh. The novel, a bildungsroman, is mostly meditative, luminous prose that highlights the details of her childhood, a difficult teenage love and her professional struggles in a quaint Chandigarh neighbourhood.
An alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Panjab University, Chandigarh, Sakoon teaches English literature and Cultural Studies at Chandigarh and is a recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin. The novel, she says, is a coming-of-age saga, at the same time rooted in a very specific socio-cultural milieu. It flits between Pre- Partition Punjab and contemporary Chandigarh. The descriptions of the city and intricate embroideries as experienced by the young artist and her myriad struggles, sometimes as a witness and sometimes as a participant.
Whose war is it anyway…
“My novel brings alive the tragic story behind the Great War,’ shares bureaucrat-turned-writer Mandeep Rai, whose new novel ‘The Wheel of Destiny: A Story of the Great War’ encapsulates the zeitgeist of the Great War. Released recently, the novel brings alive the intriguing story of the First World War. The novel, adds the author, holds a stark mirror to the fact that wars are fought not for national interest, but for national pride. The story kicks off against the backdrop of the Agadir crisis of 1911, and culminates with the Battle of the Marne. “It fascinates me how nations, in a bid to enhance national security, somehow end up getting entangled in disputes. The Great War, for instance, broke out of a clear blue sky. My novel dwells on the way chauvinistic fervour had propelled Europe into the vortex of disaster. The underlying theme of my action-packed novel is the utter futility of war,” he reflects.
An author of five books, Major Navdeep Singh, a practicing Advocate in the Punjab & Haryana High Court released his latest book, ‘Military Pensions: Commentary, Case Law & Provisions’ this year. The book, he explains, is a 33-chapter reference book on the subject. The founder President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association, Major Singh has been a national service volunteer-reservist with the Territorial Army in the past His book prior to this, Maimed by the System, was a collection of real-life stories of defence personnel, disabled soldiers and their kin who had to fight the system to claim their dues.
A historical perspective
City-based journalist Vibhor Mohan traces the history of the capital city from the prehistoric times to the present in his book titled ‘Chandigarh Unmasked, A Young City’s Harappan Past’. A fictional account woven around the key milestones in the city’s lifespan of 70 years, the story promises to make the readers see the city’s existing landmarks in a new light. At the same time, the novel seeks to draw attention to the possibility that the planned, modern city could be located on an equally well-planned prehistoric Indus Valley Civilization site buried underneath. Where the book cherishes Chandigarh’s past, it also highlights the issues that have cropped with the city now bursting at its seams.
The key characters in the story consider the city’s Harappan connection either as a blessing or a curse. They also interpret the changing times of Chandigarh differently. “What if India’s first modern city stands on a glorious prehistoric past? I’m sure that the chance discovery of Harappan artefacts in the 1960s ignited the imagination of many city residents, as it did in case of the story’s protagonist, who even falls for a Harappan muse. The grid system of road networks in Chandigarh and Mohenjo Daro is a strange coincidence. Instead of presenting already well-known facts about Chandigarh, I wanted to narrate the story in a witty and playful style,” reflected Vibhor. The second part of the story is set in 2014 and focuses on the growing aspirations of Chandigarh residents.
“I couldn’t have written this book 15 years back, for it is a result of my life learnings,” shares Vivek Atray, talking about his third book, ‘Finding Success Within, 52 Life Skills for Young Indians’, the first book in the motivational series that the author plans to write. Atray dives deep into his varied experiences as a cricketer, an engineer, an IAS officer and a celebrated motivational speaker to write this book on 52 golden nuggets for success and happiness. ‘Finding Success Within’, released this year, covers and uncovers topics as diverse as presentation and networking skills, innovation and entrepreneurship; in fact the entire set of skills and qualities that professionals need to be successful in their careers.
The book also focuses on life skills and personal matters like choosing a life partner, maintaining relationships and parenting skills as well as the need to practice calmness and most importantly, meditation. “There is a constant need for each of us to polish our edges, to keep the creative flame burning bright and to seek lasting inner peace instead of transient pleasures,” says the author, adding that he hopes the book will help people to improve career prospects and enhance the quality of their lives.
The mystery road
A quintessential adventure story, the novel, The Double Force and the Fallen Kingdom by Jaiveer Singh Katial is about a pair of adventure-seeking twins who decide to explore a theft in the neighbourhood, little knowing that they would be entangled in a war against the big evil and embark on an intergalactic journey. A student of Class VI at St John’s High School, Jaiveer started writing this novel at the age of nine and promises that it will absorb readers of all age groups.
The Buddhist way of life
The author Dr. Sarup Sailani’s book ‘Influence of Buddhism on selected works of world literature’ (research work) looks into the narrative of Buddhism. It provides a never-before account of the time when Buddha was conceived. It further illuminates the concept and purpose of Buddhism not only as a philosophy but as a way of life within the circumference of nature. This is Sailani’s attempt at helping others understand the concept and purpose of Buddhism through its influence on major texts. An advocate by profession, Dr. Sailani is an author of nine books of poetry and fiction.
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