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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Sunday Long Reads: Of Jinnah, women living in urban slums, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, US elections and more

Here is your Sunday reading list

New Delhi |
October 25, 2020 11:18:50 am
Indian Americans at a support rally for Democrat Presidential candidate Joe Biden. (Express Photo: Karishma Mehrotra)

US Elections 2020: Indian-Americans are grappling with the racial system like never before

“We didn’t see ourselves as part of the Black movements or the problem. But we have actually been in the bubble that created it.” These words from my mother came on the heels of the largest race-related protests in the US neither of us had seen in our lives here. Her exposure to America’s race conversation, from when she immigrated in the 1970s, has been vastly different from mine – raised and born in this country. After years of trying to convince her that Indian Americans are a part of a racial equation in the US that they might not always see, I had suddenly heard a moment of unexpected recognition.


Days of reckoning

Azadi: Freedom Fascism Fiction By Arundhati Roy, Penguin-Hamish Hamilton

When Modi announced the nationwide lockdown on 24 March, India spilled out her terrible secrets for all the world to see. What lies ahead? Reimagining the world. Only that.”

That’s how the introduction of Arundhati Roy’s latest book Azadi: Freedom, Fascism, Fiction, ends. It may not be customary to review a book starting with the last line of its introduction but these lines define the very kernel of Azadi. This anthology of nine essays is about reimagining a world in the midst of ruins. Ruins, we assume, are silent. Azadi captures the voices from the ruins. It is an amalgam of language, hope, love, fiction and history.


When Raj Met Simran

Film star Kajol and Shahrukh Khan in Film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) (DDLJ). Express archive photo

What if Raj hadn’t taken his dulhania away?

I’ve been wondering about this, and a few other things, ever since I watched Aditya Chopra’s debut film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge first day first show, on October 20, 1995. It gave us the story of the London-based Raj and Simran, with the tagline “come…fall in love”, and the audience promptly did just that, head over heels. Overnight, Shah Rukh Khan became a superstar, his winsome jodi with Kajol joined the ranks of the ultra-popular pairs of Hindi cinema, and the film turned into a handy short-form for Bollywood romance.


Tyranny of Obedience

Learning curve: Children question everything as this is what they are wired to do and this is how they make sense of the world. (Source: Getty Images)

Why do we send our children to school? The primary reason is that this has been an accepted practice and a societal norm. It is a taken-for-granted way of life. School, college, work — the conveyor belt of life moves on. Social pressure demands obedient children who grow up to be conforming, law-abiding and dutiful adults. To become another proverbial brick in the wall!

“He does not understand anything in the online classes, but his school insists that he sits through each one. So, now, I have to leave my work, my household chores and sit with him every day” — so many young mothers have shared their daily struggles with me.


The Jinnah Question

Jinnah announcing the creation of Pakistan over All India Radio in June 1947.(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I can say with some confidence that this book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah is one of the most important books to have come out in the recent past. Ishtiaq Ahmed is known for his extensive work on Partition history but Jinnah: His Successes, Failures and Role in History is a bold attempt to look at Jinnah’s profile afresh and it raises some uncomfortable questions. It’s a daunting book, running into over 800 pages, yet a very engaging one.

The book is pertinent for both Pakistan and India, particularly in the times we are living in.


The Deep Dark

Here’s 2 books which talk about mental health, deep friendships, depression and more.

On one of her Instagram posts on World Mental Health Day on October 10, Kairavi Bharat Ram noted, “We’ve all had those moments when giving up is on our mind,/ When to your dark future you feel totally resigned,/But pat yourself on your back and keep repeating this phrase, So far you have survived 100 % of your bad days.” It’s the memory of the darkness that she has overcome and her deep sense of empathy that Bharat Ram shares in her latest book, C is for Cat, D is for Depression (Scholastic, Rs 495, appropriate for young adults). “Depression. There I said it. It’s always spoken of with a hush./ Such an important topic upon which in school they don’t even brush./ You may have heard the word but not know what it means,/ It’s hard to really understand unless in depression you have been,” she writes, taking her readers on a journey into the dark, clammy world of a mental health affliction that continues to affect a considerable percentage of children and young adults across the world and that has found few expressions in popular literature, especially for children


They Built Us our Cities

Each chapter focuses on one area of the organisation’s work, intertwining anecdotal evidence from across the country with a concrete analysis of implementation processes.

Written by Roshni Suparna Diwakar

This year has brought to the limelight the range and complexity of issues that citizens in informal, urban spaces face — issues related to livelihood, health and housing. Even as mainstream media took note of the plight of the working poor following the nationwide lockdown, organisations like Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) have been working to alleviate their situation for decades. MHT, founded in 1994, grew out of the SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) movement to focus specifically on the habitat needs of poor urban women. More than 25 years later, MHT has published a treasure trove of insights and personal stories emerging from its work.


The Misfits

Of all the living creatures in existence, we are the big misfits. (Photo: Ranjit Lal)

From microscopic lifeforms called cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae) to giant blue whales, from lowly worms and dung beetles to mighty elephants and big cats, from rainforest giants reaching to the sky and making their own rain to unseen networks of roots holding the soil together and storing rainwater, from stinging insects playing Cupid for plants, and birds scattering their seeds far and wide, every living thing on our planet plays a role in keeping the world running in tip-top condition. Cyanobacteria photosynthesise in the dim light conditions underwater and produce most of the breathable oxygen in the world. Tigers and big cats keep the population of herbivores in check so that they don’t clean up every green leaf, elephants turn over trees, enabling homebody seeds to get sunlight and thrive.


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