Selections of texts for use in exploring Indian cultures – P 10
My Mother’s Sari is also bilingual and available in English and Portuguese. Some of her well-
known books are Ekki Dokki, Sunu-sunu Snail: Storm in the Garden, My Friend the Sea,
Grandma’s Eyes, Dosa, Picture Gandhi and My Gandhi Scrapbook.
My Mother’s Sari, was written by Sandhya Rao, writer and editor at
the Chennai-based Tulika Publishers. She grew up in different parts
of India and left an active career in mainstream journalism to create
books for children in many languages. Rao strongly believes that
translating stories from different cultures and sensibilities will help
bring people together. In a 2010 interview with Saffron Tree (an
Indian blog about children‘s books), Rao said: ‗India is such a
multicultural, pluralistic, multilingual society/culture, (but often) …what
is understood as ethnic culture is limited to old texts and stories and
pictures... The world of contemporary society is often overlooked…
We have to understand cultures, unfamiliar cultures, as they are now,
as they have evolved, with their histories and practices and ways of
life, and not frozen in one exotic time.‘ (Rao, 2010)
This picture book is about one long stretch of cloth – what Mother always wears, elegant yet so
graceful. The style, the motifs, the interplay of children, colors, and textures, create a rich,
mood-filled, and dreamy world. It captures the different ways a child chooses to play with a sari
– to explore, dream and play innocent games – for example, as a hammock, a safe blanket for a
nap, a slide, a rope to climb and more. It also shows how to wear a sari.
Suitable for Prep-year 1, this could be used as a jumping off point with students around
‗favourite things‘ – garments, toys, food, times and so on. How can you play with your favourite
things to make ‗other things‘? What is a favourite garment/thing of your mother‘s? With Rao‘s
quote above, in mind, use the images in this book to help students have a window into the world
of contemporary India and children – one of the emphases noted above.
SUE AND RICHARD LEDGER
SNAPSHOTS OF ASIA - INDIA
India Big book format with information about India in the form of
photographs, fact files, board games and stories of daily life in India.
Accompanied by a teacher guide and activities designed to enhance
literacy and numeracy skills. More information at:
Elephant Dance – A Journey to India is the first in this selection
written by a non-Indian. Heine is a retired British primary school
teacher who moved from Berlin to live in a northern German village.
Ravi and Anjali are fascinated by their grandfather‘s stories of India,
where the sun is like a ferocious tiger and the wind is like a wild horse.
His grandfather also talks about the festival of Divaali, and Ravi dreams
of having an elephant dance to the tune he composes on his flute.
Elephant Dance also contains endnotes on the cultural heritage of
India, making it an excellent introduction to Indian life and traditions.
Suitable for grades 2-5, this could be used to introduce the diversity India. In terms of the
‗understanding Asia‘ emphasis, it contains a simplified map and information about the
geography, religions and cultures, animals, foods and spices of India. It could also be used for
an introduction into similes, or exploring intergenerational relationships.
A dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom, showcases the
contemporary retelling of four folktales set ‗long ago in a far away
land‘. Chitra Soundar grew up in Chennai, speaks Tamil and Hindi,
and now lives in London. She has taught Hindi and computer science
and worked in Singapore as a programmer in a bank.
King Bheema was a kind and just ruler. His son, Prince Veera and his
friend, Suka take over the king‘s role of solving peoples‘ problems in
four separate stories. There is also a useful glossary of terms.
Suitable for grades 3/4/5/6, the themes and values explored include
justice, fairness, anger, honesty, guilt, greed, superstition/luck and
apology. It could be used to begin discussions with children about
decision making and the role of arbiters, ideas for solving issues,
understanding the values portrayed and how they match or contrast to their own, what other
solutions can they think of to the problems posed, amongst others. It could also spark some
background research and discovery about the location of India, what India was like then (what
clues give away when the stories were set?) and what India is like now, what the ‗red palace‘
might be, and what other stories exist about making ‗wise decisions‘
Her other titles include: Gateway to Indian Culture, Where is Gola's Home? (bilingual English
and Tamil/Hindi/Bangla/Kannadu/Telugu), Wacky Jokes – folktales from China and India,
Nuggets of Wisdom - Stories of Effendi, with Chitra's commentary.
India Kaleidoscope takes students on a journey across India with Jack,
an Australian boy who describes life in India through his own
experiences. Topics include influences on culture and identity, the social,
economic and political experiences of his peers, and some of the rich
mythology of India. Includes student activities. Suitable for grades 5
Novel India This novel is set in 14th century India. Tamburlaine is a Mongol
warrior with his sights set on Delhi. Kavi, the boy hero, is an elephant mahout.
Suitable for grades 5 and 6.
VILLAGE BY THE SEA
A moving story showing some of the problems facing families trying to
escape from the poverty of village life in India. Suitable for grades 5 and 6.
Chachayi’s Cup, is written by New Delhi born Uma Krishnaswami who
now lives in the United States. It was adapted into a musical and
performed in New York and California. Krishnaswami has a strong
view on the representation of south Asia through fiction by non-Asian
writers. She eloquently discusses this on her website in ‗Being South
Asian‘ and ‗Common Errors‘. She refers to early British writers telling
stories ‗from the outside in. They were written by white people about
brown people, and they were meant to be read by other white people.
The races were different and unequal, no matter how benign the
writer's intentions.‘ (Krishnaswami, 2011)
Chachayi’s Cup tells the story of a young boy‘s family history and Indian Partition through
stories told over a beloved tea cup. Suitable as a picture story book for grades 3/4, the themes
could be suitable up to year 10. These include refugees, displacement and the history of
partition, family history, belonging, growing up and growing old. It could be used to explore
middle class India, looking for clues in the text and illustrations to situate it in this socio-
Her other picture story books include: Out of the Way! Out of the Way!, Remembering Grandpa,
Bringing Asha Home, The Closet Ghosts, The Happiest Tree and Monsoon. Her most recent
novel is The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (2011).See her website:
The Blind Men and the Elephant is a folktale retold by Karen Backstein
as a reader for young students (grade 1/2). This can simply be used to
help children learn to read and covering the simple story of six blind men
who, having never seen an elephant, go to the palace to feel it. Each
man only gets a limited understanding of the animal by only feeling one
part of it. Further work could be done with students to discuss the moral
of the story – it is impossible to get the whole picture from a small part –
but it can also be used as an introduction for senior secondary students
around themes of perspectives, bias and holistic thinking. The story was
originally a parable from the Buddhist canon, which in turn may provide
an entree into the rich tradition of Indian folk literature.
This is an example of a parable/folktale presented in picture storybook
form that can be used across all levels to explore the themes of perspectives, bias, working
together and holistic thinking, depending on the students.
This novel is written in the first person and tells the story of an Indian girlʼs
early marriage and widowhood. Its settings include Varanasi on the River
Ganges. A teacher guide is also available. Suitable for grades 5-6.
Primarily writes for children. He is located in Mussoorie, in the Himalayan foothills, and often his
stories are set in these surroundings. An ‗icon‘ among Indian writers, some of his many works
that can be purchased on line include:
A Flight of Pigeons Time Stops at Shamli and Other
Angry River Stories
The Woman on Platform 8 Friends in Small Places
Boys Will Be Boys The Ruskin Bond Omnibus: Ghost
Delhi Is Not Far Stories from the Raj; - a collection of
Leopard on the Mountain scary stories
The Hidden Pool Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra
Scenes from a Writer's Life Rain in the Mountains: Notes from
Rusty Runs Away the Himalayas
Rusty Comes Home Landour Days: A Writer's Journal
Binya's Blue Umbrella made into the Strangers On the Roof
film: The Blue Umbrella Cherry Tree
Night Train at Deoli: And Other Vagrants in the Valley
Stories Roads to Mussoorie
Rusty Town Called Dehra
Kalpana’s Dream was written by Australian author Judith Clarke. ‗She is
unsurpassed in her ability to convey complex emotional states with acute
understanding and compassion.‘ (Allen and Unwin, 2011) Kalpana’s
Dream brings Neema‘s grandmother, Kalpana from India to Australia on a
visit in which they explore belonging, the importance of friends and family,
and some dreams of flying. This cross cultural exploration is deftly
handled and suitable for years 5 to 9. The themes explored in the text
include family, dreams, identity, importance of place and names,
fairytales, memories, assumptions, transitions and schools/teachers.
There are excellent teachers‘ notes on how to use the text on the Allen
and Unwin website. These are particularly useful for English, Health and
PE, and cross curriculum perspectives of intercultural understanding.
BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM
Female protagonist, daughter of orthodox Sikhs, is a gifted soccer player;
themes of equal opportunity, clash of cultural and generational values.
Suitable for years 7-9.
A story of brothers Suresh and Sandeep surviving on their own in the
streets of an Indian city. Suitable for years 7-9.
Menace and mystery lie in wait for Anila Tandy who secures a job drawing
birds for an English naturalist, travelling on a river boat up the Ganges
River. Anila will use this journey to search for her father, missing for years
and presumed dead. Anila must test herself in the man's world of India, in
the late 1700s. Suitable for years 9-10.
CHITRA BANERJEE DIVAKARUN
The Conch Bearer is the first in a trilogy written by Chitra Banerjee
Divakaruni, born in Kolkata and now living in the United States.
‗Divakaruni writes to unite people. Her aim is to destroy myths and
stereotypes. She hopes through her writing to dissolve boundaries
between people of different backgrounds, communities, ages, and even
different worlds.‘ (Divakaruni, 2011)
The Conch Bearer is a magical fantasy that begins in a poor
neighbourhood of Kolkata when twelve-year-old Anand is entrusted with a
conch shell that possesses mystical powers. His task is to return the shell
to its rightful home many hundreds of miles away.
Suitable for years 6-10, it reminded this author of Harry Potter with some of its twists and
magic. With themes of loyalty, honesty, compassion, family, friendship, good versus evil and
situational poverty (loss of house, education, lifestyle, self esteem and respect), the cultural
nuances and information about India particularly evident in the first seven chapters provide a
rich source of material to explore.
She has a wide range of novels:
Brotherhood of the Conch – a trilogy Queen of Dreams (2004)
Neela: Victory Song (2002)
The Conch Bearer (2003) It is 1939, and 12-year-old Neela
The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming Sen and her family are preparing for
(2005) the wedding of Neela‘s older sister.
Shadowland (2009) Neela is thinking about other things,
including India‘s growing movement
Other novels related to India for independence from Great Britain.
When her father is jailed following a
One Amazing Thing (2010) march against British rule, Neela
The Palace of Illusions (2008) takes matters into her own hands
Relevant to today‘s war-torn world, and goes to Calcutta to find him.
The Palace of Illusions takes us
back to the time of the Indian epic Vine of Desire (2002) (sequel to
The Mahabharata—a time that is Sister of my heart)
half-history, half-myth, and wholly The Unknown Errors of Our Lives
magical. Through her narrator (2001) (short stories)
Panchaali, the wife of the legendary Sister of My Heart (1999)
five Pandavas brothers, Divakaruni The Mistress of Spices (1997)
gives us a rare feminist Arranged Marriage (1995) (short
interpretation of an epic story. stories)
Set in Kashmir, India, this is the story of a Muslim boy, Rafiq, who becomes
a child soldier in the India- Pakistan conflict over Kashmir. The author was
born in Ireland. Suitable for years 9-10.
This novel explores a taboo subject of child prostitution. The 13 year old
main character, Lakshmi, comes from a poor rural family. McCormick
travelled to Nepal and India to research the book and interviewed women
in Kolkataʼs red light district, as well a girls rescued from the sex trade.
Suitable for years 9-10.
City of Angels is from Leicester born Bali Rai of Indian (Punjab) heritage.
He is passionate about reflecting the lives of British/Asian youth as
explained in a recent blog: ‗I read stories that included ethnic characters
they were like cardboard cutouts, painted black or brown, but not in any
way authentic or believable. My primary motivation when I started (writing)
was to rectify the imbalance I'd seen as a teenager… Mostly I choose to
write about youngsters from inner city backgrounds.... I also write about
being British and Asian, trying to reflect that sub-culture, warts and all… If
we are serious about getting our young people, ALL of them, to read, we
MUST have literature that reflects ALL of society. So many people have
asked why youngsters, particularly boys from deprived backgrounds… don't read…It's because
the books available aren't aimed at them. They don't reflect their lives or their aspirations.‘ (Rai,
City of Ghosts is a great read and an historical fiction set in 1919 with flashes back to 1915 and
forward to 1940. It tells the story of the 1919 Massacre of Amritsar, also known as the
Jallianwallah Bagh atrocity. With references to Gandhi and other historical characters, World
War I, Independence movements, British rule and colonization, this novel covers themes of
love, honour, brotherhood, loss, family, cross-faith and -cultural relations. There are some
historical notes at the end.
Suitable for students in years 9-12, it could be used in History as an introduction to
colonialism, Indian independence, new perspectives on World War I (one third of all British
troops were non-white), and concepts of power. In English classes it could open powerful
discussions around who are the evil villains with a wide cast from which to draw examples and
contemplate a range of moral dilemmas. Discussions as diverse as Rai‘s background and how
these might influence the perspectives revealed in the novel, or concepts of power, belonging,
destiny and rule, or the place of ghosts, magic and cultural values around these themes are
easily generated from the book. As one young reviewer commented, ‗…it deals with a difficult
period in British-Indian history… I'd recommend this one to readers who would like to learn more
about an often-overlooked aspect of world history.‘ (Lauren, 2010)
Rai specialises in novels for young readers (grades 5-12). Other titles by Rai include Rani and
Sukh, (Un)Arranged Marriage, The Crew, The Last Taboo, What’s Your problem?, Dream on,
the Soccer Squad (series) and more than a dozen others, although not necessarily about
India/Indian themes. His website lists them (http://www.balirai.co.uk).
Other authors for children and young adults:
The remaining selections are suitable for senior students or adult readers
and are listed alphabetically by author’s surname.
INDIAN WRITERS OF FICTION, AND FICTION SET IN INDIA
(suitable for senior students or adults)
KAMAL JHA RAJ
THE WHITE TIGER
The White Tiger is the story of Balram, the son of a rickshaw puller, who lives in a small Indian
village. He finds the destitution of his family repulsive and decides to break away from it. He is
constantly on the lookout of opportunities that could alleviate his poverty. He learns how to drive
and manages a driver's job with the landlord of his village. Lady Luck smiles upon him when
Balram is asked to accompany the landlord's son to Delhi as a driver. In Delhi, Balram learns
the ways of the urban society. A keen observer and a fast learner, Balram realizes very soon
that a little dishonesty can bring him enough money for a secure future. So he robs and murders
his employer, runs away to Bangalore with his loot and starts his own business there. Years
later, Balram is seen as an influential member of the Bangalore power circle successfully
steering his career from one height to another.
The book is set in present day India. The White Tiger brings to contrast the disparity between
progressive Indian cities and regressive Indian villages. It depicts the different faces of urban
and rural corruption, brings to light various cultural stigmas associated with caste and religion,
and is able to pin point multiple other societal malaises.
BETWEEN THE ASSASSINATIONS
The stories take place in the fictitious town of Kittur in Southwest India. It was originally
modelled on Adiga's hometown of Mangalore, but was substantially changed to make room for
more diverse plots and characters. The stories revolve around different classes, castes and
religions in India. In each story, another set of characters is introduced, but places and names
appear again in other stories.
ONE NIGHT @T THE CALL CENTRE
Chetan Bhagat gained popularity with the young, Indian middle class for his first novel Five
Point Someone – What not to do at IIT based in an IIT (Indian Institute of Technology – the
aspiration of millions of Indian Youths). His second novel is also based on the young and hip,
this time of those working in a call centre. The style is easy and light, and while not great
literature, gives an insight into the young middle class in India.
Love marriages around the world are simple: Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. They get married. In
India, there are a few more steps: Boy loves Girl. Girl loves Boy. Girl‘s family has to love boy.
Boy‘s family has to love girl. Girl‘s Family has to love Boy‘s Family. Boy‘s family has to love girl‘s
family. Girl and Boy still love each other. They get married. Krish and Ananya are from two
different states of India, deeply in love and want to get married. Of course, their parents don‘t
agree. To convert their love story into a love marriage, the couple has a tough battle in front of
them. For it is easy to fight and rebel, but it is much harder to convince. Will they make it?
Another witty tale about inter-community marriages in modern India.
FIVE POINT SOMEONE
Five Point Someone is a story about three friends in IIT who are unable to cope. The book starts
with a disclaimer, ―This is not a book to teach you how to get into IIT or even how to live in
college. In fact, it describes how screwed up things can get if you don‘t think straight.‖ Three
hostel mates – Alok, Hari and Ryan get off to a bad start – they screw up the first class quiz.
And things only get worse. It takes them a while to realize: If you try and screw with the IIT
system, it comes back to double screw you. Before they know it, they are at the lowest echelons
of IIT society. They have a five-point-something GPA out of ten, ranking near the end of their
class. This GPA is a tattoo that will remain with them, and come in the way of anything else that
matters – their friendship, their future, their love life. Will they make it? Do under performers
have a right to live? Can they show that they are not just a five-point-somebody but a five-point-
THE 3 MISTAKES OF MY LIFE
In late-2000, a young boy in Ahmadabad called Govind dreamt of having a business. To
accommodate his friends Ish and Omi‘s passion, they open a cricket shop. Govind wants to
make money and thinks big. Ish is all about nurturing Ali, the batsman with a rare gift. Omi
knows his limited capabilities and just wants to be with his friends. However, nothing comes
easy in a turbulent city. To realize their goals, they will have to face it all – religious politics,
earthquakes, riots, unacceptable love and above all, their own mistakes. Will they make it? Can
an individual‘s dreams overcome the nightmares offered by real life? Based on real events, this
is another witty tale about modern India.
RED EARTH AND POURING RAIN
Vikram Chandra's first book, which a tale told by a young Indian student and a typing monkey,
and also a novel about exile, about Indians abroad and foreigners in India, about the processes
of national and cultural and personal redefinitions implicit in these juxtapositions. This is also a
novel about how stories are born and how stories sustain us. The stories in this book take in
19th century India, punk bands in L.A., MTV, Rajput warriors.
LOVE AND LONGING IN BOMBAY
Vikram Chandra's second book, a collection of short stories. In a waterfront bar in Bombay, an
enigmatic civil servant tells stories to a group of friends. In "Dharma," an old soldier returns
home to find that his house is haunted by the spirit of a small child; in "Shakti," two great ladies
engage in ruthless drawing-room warfare; in "Kama," a policeman investigating a murder
journeys into the mysteries of his own heart...
Sacred Games is a literary novel that is also a crime novel, a detective story, and a thriller.
Sartaj Singh, a seasoned and cynical Bombay police officer, is summoned by an anonymous tip
one morning, by a voice which promises him an opportunity to capture the powerful Ganesh
Gaitonde, criminal overlord of the G-Company. Around this story, Vikram Chandra has
constructed an opulent, exhilarating narrative, one that bridges the serious and the popular,
recalling the great and capacious novels of the 19th century. Sacred Games moves through
many landscapes: a police officer falls in love; a young woman comes to the big city to become
a film star; a young girl tries to understand what has become of her family in the midst of
political chaos and mass murder; a widow battles poverty and the urban pressures that distort
the lives of her young sons; a freshly-trained, inexperienced intelligence officer leads an army
patrol into the bleak iciness of Himalayan peaks; an idealistic graduate student, hounded by the
police and local politicians, seeks refuge in the ranks of Maoist guerillas; a right-wing religious
leader conducts an enormous yagna or sacrifice for the citizens of Bombay.
A NEW WORLD
Divorced writer Jayojit is taking his son Bonny back to Calcutta for the summer holidays, to stay
with his elderly parents. This story details the lives of his parents, entrenched in the
unquestioning roles of their past, and of Jayojit's marriage, now sharply severed in two.
FREEDOM SONG: THREE NOVELS
The plot of "A Strange and Sublime Address" is slight--a young boy spends his summer with
relatives in Calcutta--and consists mainly of a series of episodes strung together. But the
characters are so lovingly limned and the places so intimately described that not even a one-
way ticket to India could rival Chaudhuri's rendering.
He works similar magic on Oxford and Bombay in the second novel, "Afternoon Raag." Again,
the story is almost inconsequential: a young Indian student at Oxford must choose between two
women. What's really important here, however, are the character's memories of his music
teacher back in Bombay; his mother's morning rituals; his father clipping his fingernails onto an
old copy of The Times of India.
Likewise, in the third novel, "Freedom Song," plot takes a back seat to the delicate workings of
familial relationships as two clans attempt to marry off a "problem" relative. What makes these
three short novels so satisfying is the fact that the author's remarkable sensibility is more than
matched by his literary skillfulness. For readers in love with language, Freedom Song is the
answer to a prayer.
The Immortals is about the powerful undercurrent of cultural and familial tradition in a society
enthralled with the future. Bombay in the 1980s: Shyam Lal is a highly regarded voice teacher,
trained by his father in the classical idiom but happily engaged in teaching the more popular
songs to well-to-do women, whose modern way of life he covets. Sixteen-year-old Nirmalya
Sengupta is the romantically rebellious scion of an affluent family who wants only to study
Indian classical music. With a little push from Nirmalya‘s mother, Shyam agrees to accept
Nirmalya as his student, entering into a relationship that will have unexpected and lasting
consequences in both their lives. The two families come to challenge and change each other.
With exquisite sensuous detail, with quiet humor, generosity, and unsentimental poignancy, The
Immortals gives us a luminous portrait of the spiritual and emotional force of a revered Indian
tradition, of two fundamentally different but intricately intertwined families, and of a society
choosing between the old and the new.
THE HOUSE OF BLUE MANGOES
―A gripping family chronicle, "The House of Blue Mangoes" spans nearly half a century and
three generations of the Dorai family as they search for their place in a rapidly changing society.
The novel brings vividly to life a small corner of India, while offering a stark indictment of
colonialism and reflecting with great poignancy on the inexorable social transformations of the
THE SOLITUDE OF EMPORERS
Suffocating in the small-town world of his parents, Vijay is desperate to escape to the raw
energy of Bombay in the early 1990s. His big chance arrives unexpectedly when the family
servant, Raju, is recruited by a right-wing organization. As a result of an article he writes about
the increasing power of sectarian politicians, Vijay gets a job in a small Bombay publication, The
Indian Secularist. There he meets Rustom Sorabjee — the inspirational founder of the
magazine who opens Vijay‘s eyes to the damage caused to the nation by the mixing of religion
and politics. A year after his arrival in Bombay, Vijay is caught up in violent riots that rip though
the city, a reflection of the upsurge of fundamentalism everywhere in the country. He is sent to a
small tea town in the Nilgiri Mountains to recover, but finds that the unrest in the rest of India
has touched this peaceful spot as well. As the discord surrounding the local shrine comes to a
head, Vijay tries to alert them to the dangers, but his intervention will have consequences he
could never have foreseen. The Solitude of Emperors is a stunningly perceptive novel about
modern India, about what drives fundamentalist beliefs, and what makes someone driven, bold,
or mad enough to make a stand.
THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS
The Inheritance of Loss won the Booker Prize in 2006. It is set in Kalimpong, in the Himalayan
Foothills near Darjeeling in the 1980s, it revolves around a retired judge, and his relationship
with his Grand-daughter. It explores a life lived between the past and the present.
HULLABALOO IN THE GUAVA ORCHARD
Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard is a wryly hilarious and poignant story of life, love, and family
relationships - simultaneously capturing the vivid culture of the Indian subcontinent and the
universal intricacies of human experience. Sampath Chawla is born in a time of drought into a
family not quite like other families, in a town not quite like other towns. After years of failure at
school, failure at work, of spending his days dreaming in the tea stalls and singing to himself in
the public gardens, it does not seem as if Sampath is going to amount to much. One day
Sampath climbs a guava tree in search of peaceful contemplation and becomes unexpectedly
famous as a holy man. Sampath's newfound fame sends the tiny town of Shahkot into turmoil.
In short, none of Kiran Desai's outrageous characters goes unaffected as events spin
increasingly out of control.
IN AN ANTIQUE LAND
In the 1980s the author moved into a converted chicken coop on the roof of a house in a village
in Egypt. This is the story of his decade of intimacy with the village. Mixing conversation and
research, imagination and scholarship, it is also a history of the relationship between Egypt and
THE HUNGRY TIDE (2005)
Man-eating tigers, river dolphins, crocodiles, mangrove forests, lunar rainbows, and the great
cosmic metronome of the sweeping tides that inundate the Sundarbans, a vast archipelago in
the Bay of Bengal, are all in this tale about the conflict between wildness and civilization. His
characters are just as alluring as the setting, and the chemistry among them is just as complex
and powerful as the natural forces they confront. Piya Roy, a self-possessed cetologist born in
India but raised in America, is searching for an increasingly rare river dolphin, and she finds the
ideal assistant in fisherman Fokir. Kanai, an urbane translator from Kolkata, is visiting his
formidable aunt, who gives him his late uncle's harrowing account of a violent confrontation
between government officials and refugees who settled in a wildlife preserve. Through his
characters' very different mind-sets, Ghosh posits urgent questions about humankind's place in
nature in an atmospheric and suspenseful drama of love and survival that has particular
resonance in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami.
SEA OF POPPIES (2008)
Ibis, a ship engaged in transporting opium across the Bay of Bengal, varied life stories
converge. A fallen raja, a half-Chinese convict, a plucky American sailor, a widowed opium
farmer, a transgendered religious visionary are all united by the smoky paradise of the opium
seed. Ghosh writes with impeccable control, and with a vivid and sometimes surprising
imagination: a woman‘s tooth protrudes ‗like a tilted gravestone‘; an opium addict‘s writhing
spasms are akin to ‗looking at a pack of rats squirming in a sack‘; the body of a young man is ‗a
smoking crater that had just risen from the ocean and was still waiting to be explored.‘
Ghosh weaves together the experiences of two families--one Bengali, the other English--to
illustrate the hard reality and ultimate fragility of human boundaries. The narrator is an Indian
boy whose identity is shaped by the stories he is told, and tells, about private lives and public
events that span three generations. Moving back and forth through the 20th century by artful
time shifts, the boy reaches beyond "the seductive clarity of ignorance" to "a final redemptive
mystery." Unlike the author's first novel, this is not a work of magical realism, but the magic not
in the tale abounds in the telling.
THE CIRCLE OF REASON
In his first novel, The Circle of Reason, Ghosh touched on the themes of emigration, exile, and
cultural displacement. In a vivid and magical story, The Circle of Reason traces the
misadventures of Alu, a young master weaver in a small Bengali village who is falsely accused
of terrorism. Alu flees his home, traveling through Bombay to the Persian Gulf to North Africa
with a bird-watching policeman in pursuit.
THE GLASS PALACE
Set primarily in Burma, Malaya, and India, this work spans from 1885, when the British sent the
King of Burma into exile, to the present. While it does offer brief glimpses into the history of the
region, it is more the tale of a family and how historical events influenced real lives. As a young
boy, Rajkumar, an Indian temporarily stranded in Mandalay, finds himself caught up in the
British invasion that led to the exile of Burma's last king. In the chaos, he spies Dolly, a
household maid in the royal palace, for whom he develops a consuming passion and whom
years later he tracks down in India and marries. As their family grows and their lives intersect
with others, the tangled web of local and international politics is brought to bear, changing lives
as well as nations. Ghosh ranges from the condescension of the British colonialists to the
repression of the current Myanmar (Burmese) regime in a style that suggests E.M. Forster as
well as James Michener.
Siddhartha is an allegorical novel by Hermann Hesse which deals with the spiritual journey of an
Indian man called Siddhartha during the time of the Buddha. It is beautifully written and remains
The story of Kim occurs on the backdrop of the ‗Great Game‘ (the political conflict between
Britain and Russia in Central Asia). Kim is an orphaned beggar, who befriends a Tibetan Lama
who is on a quest to free himself from the ‗Wheel of Life‘ (cycle of life and death).
The novel describes the struggles and hardships of a Bengali couple who immigrate to the
United States to form a life outside of everything they are accostomed to.
The story begins as Ashoke and Ashima leave Calcutta, India and settle in Central Square, in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. Through a series of errors, their son's nickname, Gogol, becomes
his official birth name, an event which will shape many aspects of his life.
Interpreter of Maladies and Separate Journeys are collections of short stories, one by
Jhumpa Lahiri, the daughter of Indian Bengali immigrants to Britain now living in America, and
the latter by 13 women writers across India whose work has largely been translated into
English. Two places to start to compare these works are urban versus rural, and residency –
one lives outside India and the other authors have perhaps never left. Lahiri‘s work received the
Pulitzer Prize and she charts the emotional voyages of characters seeking love beyond the
barriers of nations, cultures, religions, and generations. Imbued with the sensual details of both
Indian and American cultures, they also speak with universal eloquence and compassion to
everyone who has ever felt like an outsider. (Houghton, Miffler, Harcourt, 2011) As a Year 12
text there are a number of excellent study guides available.
The stories included in Separate Journeys powerfully evoke Indian women's lives in diverse
settings, from urban to village to rural. Unfolding the complex interplay of gender, language,
class, and ethnicity characteristic of this part of the world, and running from the passionate to
the poignant, from the personal to the universal, the stories are a moving testament to the
human spirit. (Goodreads, 2011).
The story of one woman and her nation, this novel tells the history of modern India in the years
leading up to independence. Jaya Singh is born into the old, princely India and stands as a
living symbol of the changes the continent struggles to make to bring itself in line with the 20th
century. It includes interesting historical information about the lives of the Princes and their
estates during their last years of reign, including their often, contradictory relationship with the
In 'Karma Cola' the Gita Mehta trains her ―journalistic eye on jaded sadhus and beatific acid
burnouts, the Bhagwan and Allen Ginsberg, guilt-tripping English girls and a guru who teaches
gullible tourists how to view their previous incarnations‖
A sequence of delicate, tragic stories evokes the profound presence of tradition and desire. A
retired bureaucrat has escaped the world to spend his twilight years running a guest-house on
the banks of the country's holiest river, the Narmada. But he has chosen the wrong place for
peace and quiet: too many lives converge here and he meets a series of unusual characters
including a privileged young executive bewitched by a mysterious lover; a neophyte Jain monk
moving from opulence to poverty; and an intense ascetic who resurfaces in a surprising
AN END TO SUFFERING
The Buddha, his life and legacy -- refracted through one man's search for identity and one
nation's experience of independence An accomplished history of the Buddha, An End to
Suffering is also a deeply personal story -- the story of Pankaj Mishra's search for meaning, for
truth and peace in the modern world and, specifically, in post-colonial, independent India.
BUTTER CHICKEN IN LUDHIANA
A travel book about small-town India, where the village and the city, the folk and the kitsch, and
the comic and the violent threaten to converge.
Pankaj Mishra's remarkable debut, The Romantics, is that rare novel in which the nature of the
story perfectly matches the means of its telling. In precise, brooding language, the narrator,
Samar, relates his own tragic romance and demonstrates his struggle for self-understanding. At
times, his tone and descriptive power seem akin to an outsider's celebration of the "exotic," yet,
ironically, he is a native Indian—a Brahmin intellectual trapped in a homeland where he does
not feel at home. His very language betrays the contradiction he lives.
A FINE BALANCE
Set in mid-1970s India, a subtle and compelling narrative about four unlikely characters who
come together in circumstances no one could have foreseen soon after the government
declares a 'State of Internal Emergency'. It is a breathtaking achievement: panoramic yet
humane, intensely political yet rich with local delight. It provides readers a glimpse of the lives of
the poor, during one of India‘s most challenging political periods since independence.
SUCH A LONG JOURNEY
It is Bombay in 1971, the year India went to war over what was to become Bangladesh. A hard-
working bank clerk, Gustad Noble is a devoted family man who gradually sees his modest life
unravelling. His young daughter falls ill; his promising son defies his father‘s ambitions for him.
He is the one reasonable voice amidst the ongoing dramas of his neighbours. One day, he
receives a letter from an old friend, asking him to help in what at first seems like an heroic
mission. But he soon finds himself unwittingly drawn into a dangerous network of deception.
Compassionate, and rich in details of character and place, this unforgettable novel charts the
journey of a moral heart in a turbulent world of change.
Shortlisted for the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Family Matters is set in Bombay in the
mid-1990s, Family Matters tells a story of familial love and obligation, of personal and political
corruption, of the demands of tradition and the possibilities for compassion.
THE SCREAM (2008)
Set in a Bombay apartment, The Scream is narrated by a man at the end of his life, who is
angry at the predicament of old age, at his isolation from his family and from a world that no
longer understands him. He rails and raves in ways that are both hilarious and moving, and
which touch us with recognition.
KAMAL JHA RAJ
THE BLUE BEDSPREAD
The Blue Bedspread’s author was born in Calcutta, studied in America and now lives in New
Delhi. The novel is set in Calcutta and told from the view point of a brother whose long
estranged sister has died in a hospital during child birth. He must now claim his sister‘s body
and the infant. He has one night with the baby, before it will be given away to a couple who
wishes to adopt. The book is his letter to the child, explaining to her, her highly dysfunctional
family. The themes of incest, secrets, sexual molestation, identity and fear in a modern Indian
city make powerful topics for senior students.
IF YOU ARE AFRAID OF HEIGHTS
‗If You Are Afraid of Heights‘ is about the private journeys that people go on in their minds;
about imaginations fuelled by the images and narratives of a city - Calcutta. The result is a
breathtaking, riotous odyssey that draws you deep into the longings of human beings.
In February 2002, in the Indian state of Gujarat, an arson attack on a train left 59 Hindus dead.
Mob violence erupted across the state and around 1,000 died in the violence, most of them
Muslims. Jha takes this and turns it into a novel - the city of Ahmedabad is on fire – dark,
disturbing, surreal that evokes unbearably tragic events with a sense of mystery
THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS
―The God of Small Things is set in the state of Kerala. Armed only with the invincible innocence
of children, the twins Rahel and Esthappen fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of
the wreck that is their family. When their English cousin and her mother arrive on a Christmas
visit, the twins learn that Things Can Change in a Day. That lives can twist into new, ugly
shapes, even cease forever. The brilliantly plotted story uncoils with an agonizing sense of
foreboding and inevitability. Yet nothing prepares you for what lies at the heart of it.‖
Winner of the Booker of Bookers. ―Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's
independence, and found himself handcuffed to history by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001
children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent. This is a
family saga set against the background of the India of the 20th century, tracing its history
through a journey of fantasy‖
THE MOOR'S LAST SIGH
―What do we do when the world's walls - its family structures, its value-systems - crumble? The
central character of this novel, 'Moor' Zogoiby, only son of a wealthy, artistic-bohemian Bombay
family, finds himself in such a moment of crisis. His mother, an emotional despot, worships
beauty, but Moor is ugly, he has a deformed hand.‖ This booked set in the South of India, is
recommended for those delegates embarking on the ‗Spice Tour‘.
BURIAL AT SEA
―After Nehru, Victor Jai Bhagwan is Mahatma Gandhi's favourite Indian--a brilliant young man
with the temperament of a leader and fiercely committed to his country. Though Victor adores
and respects Gandhi, he disagrees with the Mahatma's vision for the future of India. He returns
from university in England determined to bring the benefits of modern industry to the
subcontinent, and within a few years of India's independence, becomes the country's biggest
tycoon. But this is not the only ideal of Gandhi's that he defies: facing a midlife crisis, he falls
passionately in love with a tantric god-woman who introduces him to the pleasures of unbridled
sexuality, but also becomes the reason for his downfall.‖
Q and A
Q and A has been made into the film Slumdog Millionaire. It begins: ‗I have been arrested. For
winning a quiz show.‘ And tells the story of how a penniless waiter in Mumbai becomes the
biggest quiz show winner in history.
All deaths are not equal… There’s a caste system even in murder.
Seven years ago, Vivek ‗Vicky‘ Rai, the playboy son of the Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh,
murdered Ruby Gill at a trendy restaurant in New Delhi simply because she refused to serve
him a drink. Now Vicky Rai is dead, killed at his farmhouse at a party he had thrown to celebrate
his acquittal. The police cordon off the venue and search each and every guest. Six of them are
discovered with guns in their possession and are taken in for questioning. Who are these six
suspects? And what were they doing in the farmhouse that night?
Rabindranath Tagore, was one of the most important writers in 20th-century Indian literature.
Among his expansive and impressive body of work, "Gitanjali" is regarded as one of his greatest
achievements, and has been a perennial bestseller since it was first published in paperback in