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Addicted to Fiction? Here’s Your Emergency Read-covery Kit

Ready to unleash your inner bookworm? The one that’s addicted to fiction? Yes?
Well then buckle up for a whirlwind tour of 12 sizzling fiction reads, each one a portal to a world as unique as you are. From chilling thrillers to laugh-out-loud rom-coms, we’ve got something for every mood.

Are you ready to get hooked? 😉

 

The Housemaid's Secret
The Housemaid’s Secret || Freida McFadden

“Don’t go in the guest bedroom.” A shadow falls on Douglas Garrick’s face as he touches the door with his fingertips. “My wife… she’s very ill.” As he continues showing me their incredible penthouse apartment, I have a terrible feeling about the woman behind closed doors. But I can’t risk losing this job-not if I want to keep my darkest secret safe…

This absolutely explosive and shockingly twisty sequel to international bestseller The Housemaid will keep you racing through the pages late into the night. Anyone who loves The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose, The Woman in the Window and Gone Girl will be totally hooked! This book can also be enjoyed as a standalone.

 

Strange Sally Diamond
Strange Sally Diamond || Liz Nugent

Sally Diamond cannot understand why what she did was so strange. She was only doing what her father told her to do, to put him out with the rubbish when he died.

Now Sally is the centre of attention, not only from the hungry media and worried police, but also a sinister voice from a past she has no memory of. As she begins to discover the horrors of her childhood, recluse Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends, finding independence, and learning that people don’t always mean what they say.

But when messages start arriving from a stranger who knows far more about her past than she knows herself, Sally’s life will be thrown into chaos once again…

 

The Last Devil to Die
The Last Devil to Die || Richard Osman

Shocking news reaches the Thursday Murder Club.

An old friend in the antiques business has been killed, and a dangerous package he was protecting has gone missing.

As the gang springs into action they encounter art forgers, online fraudsters and drug dealers, as well as heartache close to home.

With the body count rising, the package still missing and trouble firmly on their tail, has their luck finally run out? And who will be the last devil to die?

 

None Of This is True
None Of This Is True || Lisa Jewell

Celebrating her 45th birthday at her local pub, podcaster Alix Summer crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie is also celebrating her 45th.

A few days later, they bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie says she thinks she would be an interesting subject for Alix’s podcast. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.

Alix agrees to a trial interview and indeed, Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated. Aix finds her unsettling but can’t quite resist the temptation to keep digging.

Slowly Alix starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it Josie has cajoled her way into Alix’s life – and into her home.

Soon Alix begins to wonder who is Josie Fair really? And what has she done?

 

Happy Place
Happy Place || Emily Henry

Two exes. One pact.
Could this holiday change everything?

Harriet and Wyn are the perfect couple – they go together like bread and butter, gin and tonic, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.

Every year, they take a holiday from their lives to drink far too much wine with their favourite people in the world.

Except this year, they are lying through their teeth, because Harriet and Wyn broke up six months ago. And they still haven’t told anyone.

But the cottage is for sale so this is the last time they’ll all be here together. They can’t bear to break their best friends’ hearts so they’ll fake it for one more week.

But how can you pretend to be in love – and get away with it – in front of the people who know you best?

 

Pineapple Street
Pineapple Street || Jenny Jackson

Pineapple Street in Brooklyn Heights is one of New York City’s most desirable residences, and home to the glamorous and well-connected Stockton family . . .

Darley, the eldest daughter, has never had to worry about money. She followed her heart, trading her job and her inheritance for motherhood – but ended up sacrificing more of herself than she ever intended.

Sasha is marrying into the wealthy Stockton family, who are worlds apart from her own. She feels like the outsider, trying to navigate their impenetrable traditions and please her new mother-in-law – plus her hesitancy to sign a pre-nup has everyone questioning her true intentions.

Georgiana, the youngest, is falling in love with someone she can’t (and really shouldn’t) have – and is forced to confront the kind of person she wants to be.

Witty, escapist and full of heart, with an unmissable cast of loveable – if flawed – characters, Pineapple Street is a beautifully observed novel about the complexities of family dynamics, the miles between the haves and the have-notes, and the all-consuming insanity of first love – while also asking the age-old question, can money really buy you happiness?

 

The Housemaid
The Housemaid || Freida McFadden

Working here is my last chance to start fresh. I can pretend to be whoever I like.
Every day I clean the Winchesters’ beautiful house top to bottom. I collect their daughter from school. I cook a delicious meal for the whole family before heading up to eat alone in my tiny room on the top floor.

I try to ignore how Nina makes a mess just to watch me clean it up. How she tells strange lies about her own daughter. And how Andrew, her husband, seems more broken every day.
But as I look into Andrew’s handsome brown eyes, so full of pain, it’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to live Nina’s life. The walk-in closet, the fancy car, the perfect husband.
I soon learn that the Winchesters’ secrets are far more dangerous than my own…

I try on one of Nina’s pristine white dresses once. Just to see what it’s like. But she soon found out…and by the time I realize my attic bedroom door only locks from the outside, it’s far too late.

I reassure myself though: the Winchesters don’t know who I really am.

 

Romantic Comedy
Romantic Comedy || Curtis Sittenfeld

With a series of heartbreaks under her belt, Sally Milz – successful script writer for a legendary late-night TV comedy show – has long abandoned the search for love.

But when her friend and fellow writer begins to date a glamorous actress, he joins the growing club of interesting but average-looking men who get romantically involved with accomplished, beautiful women.

Sally channels her annoyance into a sketch, poking fun at this ‘social rule’. The reverse never happens for a woman.

Then Sally meets Noah, a pop idol with a reputation for dating models. But this isn’t a romantic comedy – it’s real life.

Would someone like him ever date someone like her?

 

Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Wrong Place, Wrong Time || Gillian McAllister

It’s late. You’re waiting up for your son.

Then you spot him: he’s with someone. And – you can’t believe what you see – your funny, happy teenage boy stabs this stranger.

You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your son is charged with murder. His future is lost.

That night you fall asleep in despair. But when you wake . . . it is yesterday. The day before the murder.

Somewhere in the past lie the answers – a reason for this crime.

And your only chance to stop it . . .

 

The Woman Who Lied
The Woman Who Lied || Claire Douglas

Emilia Ward lives quietly in suburban London with her husband and two children.
Just an ordinary wife and mother. But also a bestselling crime writer.
When she starts writing her tenth Detective Miranda Moody novel, however, life takes a frightening turn: an incident straight out of one of her novels occurs in real life.
Just an unsettling coincidence, she thinks. Until it happens again.
Then someone she knows dies exactly like a victim in the book she’s still writing . . .

Why is someone doing this?
How do they know what she is writing?
And how long before Emilia and her family are next?

 

 

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow || Gabrielle Zevin

 

Two kids meet in a hospital gaming room in 1987. One is visiting her sister, the other is recovering from a car crash. The days and months are long there. Their love of video games becomes a shared world — of joy, escape and fierce competition. But all too soon that time is over, fades from view.

When the pair spot each other eight years later in a crowded train station, they are catapulted back to that moment. The spark is immediate, and together they get to work on what they love – making games to delight, challenge and immerse players, finding an intimacy in digital worlds that eludes them in their real lives. Their collaborations make them superstars.

This is the story of the perfect worlds Sadie and Sam build, the imperfect world they live in, and of everything that comes after success: Money. Fame. Duplicity. Tragedy.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow takes us on a dazzling imaginative quest as it examines the nature of identity, creativity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play and, above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love.

 

Assistant To The Villain
Assistant To The Villain || Maehrer, Hannah Nicole

ASSISTANT WANTED: Notorious, high-ranking villain seeks loyal, level-headed assistant for unspecified office duties, supporting staff for random mayhem, terror, and other Dark Things in General. Discretion a must. Excellent benefits.

With ailing family to support, Evie Sage’s employment status isn’t just important, it’s vital. So when a mishap with Rennedawn’s most infamous Villain results in a job offer-naturally, she says yes. No job is perfect, of course, but even less so when you develop a teeny crush on your terrifying, temperamental, and undeniably hot boss. Don’t find evil so attractive, Evie.

But just when she’s getting used to severed heads suspended from the ceiling and the odd squish of an errant eyeball beneath her heel, Evie suspects this dungeon has a huge rat…and not just the literal kind. Because something rotten is growing in the kingdom of Rennedawn, and someone wants to take the Villain-and his entire nefarious empire-out.

Now Evie must not only resist drooling over her boss but also figure out exactly who is sabotaging his work… and ensure he makes them pay.

After all, a good job is hard to find….

Let’s go time travelling!

It’s time to step back in time!

History is full of exciting stories and people! Who wouldn’t want to go back and witness all the events and places that have shaped up our present world?

As always, these diverse books are here to take you on an adventure through time and space!

~~

Queen of Ice
Devika Rangachari
Queen of Ice || Devika Rangachari

 

Didda, princess of lohara, is beautiful, intelligent—and lame.
Despised by her father and bullied by his heir, Didda’s childhood is miserable and her future, bleak. When she is married off to the dissolute ruler of Kashmira, she must learn to hold her own in a court ridden with factions and conspiracies. But Didda is no ordinary queen. Ruthless and ambitious, she wants to rewrite history. Will she succeed?

 

A Bagful of History
Subhadra Sen Gupta
A Bagful of History || Subhadra Sen Gupta

 

Let’s take a walk through history

And as you travel back in time . . .

~ Dine with Mughal princess Jahanara Begum

~ Have a jugalbandi with Miyan Tansen

~ Compete with the nawabs of Chandni Chowk in a kite-flying duel

~ Be a part of Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s fight for the education of the girl child

~ Revolt with Indian sepoys in the Mutiny of 1857

. . . and witness many more exciting events!

 

The Incredible History of India’s Geography
Sanjeev Sanyal,  Sowmya Rajendran
The Incredible History of India’s Geography || Sanjeev Sanyal,, Sowmya Rajendran

 

Could you be related to a blonde Lithuanian?

Did you know that India is the only country that has both lions and tigers?

Who found out how tall Mt Everest is?

If you’ve ever wanted to know the answers to questions like these, this is the book for you. In here you will find various things you never expected, such as the fact that we still greet each other like the Harappans did and that people used to think India was full of one-eyed giants. And, sneakily, you’ll also know more about India’s history and geography by the end of it!

 

Rattu and Poorie’s Adventures in History: 1857
Parvati Sharma
Rattu & Poorie’s Adventures in History || Parvati Sharma

 

‘Come along, then,’ said Lakshmi Bai and Jhalkari Bai.

‘Come along and listen.’

So begin Rattu and Poorie’s grand adventures in the Uprising of 1857, and their encounters with its heroes: from Rani Lakshmi bai of Jhansi and Nana Sahib of Kanpur to the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar.

 

 

Let’s go Time Travelling!
Subhadra Sen Gupta
Let’s Go Time Travelling || Subhadra Sen Gupta

 

Did they design jewellery in Harappa? Was King Ashoka fond of chewing paan? Who played pachisi, chaupar and lam turki? Mulligatawny was a soup, but what was pish pash?

Find the answers to all these weird, impossible questions in this fascinating, quirky book about how people lived in the past. Go time travelling through the alleys of history and take a tour through the various ages, from Harappa to the Maurayan, Mughal to the British!

 

The Night Sparkled and So Did All of Us

Memory of Light is a tender romance of two young courtesans in Nawabi-era Lucknow. The entire novel unfolds through the narrator, Nafis Bai’s memory of events, lending it her unique voice, which stays with the reader.

Intrigued? Read an excerpt from the book below:

Late at night before the big occasion, I tried the outfit on her; the fabrics I had chosen kissed her skin, her skin not washed-out white like the English ladies’ but kanak kamini, warm as wheat, as gold.

‘Like lightning flashing in the summer sky,’ I said, as I tied the silver drawstring with its pearl pendants, gleaming through the pale blue swirl of the peshwaz and dangling below its hem.

While I dressed her she undressed me, discarding the purple I had selected for myself.

‘Purple doesn’t suit you,’ she said. ‘Parrot-green blossoms on you. Wear this green one with—let’s see.’ She threw her red orhni over me. ‘There—it’s like a flame on you.’

Until then purple had been my favourite colour. I’ve never worn it with pleasure since.

The night sparkled and so did all of us, lit by the sheen of youth. Even I felt beautiful when her eyes touched me. The whole town seemed to be there, troops of merchants with tributes for the English, foreigners with heavily powdered hair, and every dancer worth the name. Bands were playing foreign instruments, organs bellowed and fireworks fizzed above. A group of hijras performed and then Ratan. I looked up from a dark corner where I was adjusting Chapla’s shoes with their long curling toes, to see Sharad framed in a lighted doorway, chest half-visible through lacy white embroidery—a flowering tree covered with leaves and buds. His hair was abundant in those days, long curls almost out of control, and his eyes were on Ratan.

Mir Insha was in his element—flitting from group to group, alight with laughter. ‘Even the buds are proffering their glasses,’ he whispered to me, as champagne bubbled up in crystal for a fat European lady and her young daughter. ‘Look, flowers and bunches, all are imbibing.’ I giggled; the lady’s dress, billowing stiffly round her, did make her look a bit like a bunch of large showy flowers, the kind that the white people favour.

Then he whispered to Chapla:

Chaar naachaar hu’a jaana hi Landan apna
Le ga’i chheen ke dil ek firangan apna

No choice, I have to go to London now
A foreign woman has snatched away my heart

At this, both of us burst out laughing and Ammi threw us a reproachful glance.

He brought it all to life again in his poem—glasses, bottles, free-flowing liquor, lights in the trees, delicacies laid out on tables. He ignored Azizan resplendent in magenta and gold, and devoted his attention to Chapla, doing justice to my handiwork:

With a silken drawstring flowing like water,
Satin trousers blooming like foliage,
A light blue silk peshwaz like a cloud,
Its skirt edged with silver like a moonflower,
A veil of moon and stars like a moonlit night,
Anklets tinkling like drops of rain,
Chapla Bai stood up to dance.
Seeing her, Khutan gazelles forget to leap
Nature made her replete with beauty
From her face the Pleiades borrow radiance
The envy of fairies, she’s called ‘Lightning’
Light’s world turns dark when she departs . . .
Who can praise the breasts of that infidel idol?
Oh lord, their curves and that rising youth—
Half-blossomed lotuses, two fine founts,
They shine like round swelling whirlpools
Or like chakva and chakvi sitting on two shores,
The string of pearls between is Jamuna . . .
That ring-watch blooming with delicacy
I’d sacrifice to it hundreds of sounding organs . . .
Her plait like the shade of a kadamb tree . . .

What an eye he had for detail—the verse I liked best described how her red heels made the white beads on her pearlescent white silk shoes reddish like ratti, those poisonous seeds used to weigh gold, or like red champa flowers with their creamy insides:

Those two arms boughs of the tree of Paradise—
Obtain from them what your heart desires

Her forearms male and female skinks
The sight of them drives men and women wild . . .
Those red heels make the pearls on her shoes
Look like red ratti seeds or champa flowers
. . . Today’s the fourth day of the month of June
This happy day shines with special beauty


To know what happens next, check out Memory of Light

The Star of India – An Excerpt

From the glitz of Hollywood to the lush chambers of Indian royalty, The Star of India weaves a spirited tale of a strong-willed woman whose fate was deeply entwined with the momentous birth of modern India.

Read an excerpt from the book below:

 

 

But this weekend, it would be just us.

It was low tide. I ran down to the water, planted my legs and felt the icy surf rush over my feet. Sporty rolled up his trousers and followed, capturing me in his arms.

As we walked along the hard-packed sand, he told   me of a boyhood passed in two worlds, the traditional one where he was a demi-god to his people and the modern one where he studied at Cambridge and lived with a freedom he could not know at home.

‘You’re cast in two different roles—but in real life.

Does it feel confusing?’

His pace slowed. ‘I do need to change hats frequently.’ ‘Or turbans? Handsome, I’ll bet,’ I flirted, thinking how dashing he’d look in royal attire. A piece of dark red sea glass caught my eye. I picked it up and presented it  to

him with my head bowed. ‘Tribute, Your Highness.’

He studied the piece, rubbing his finger over its edges, holding it up to the light.

I was embarrassed. ‘It’s nothing really.’

‘Ah, but this is a jewel from the heart.’ The smile that had flickered across his face faded. ‘After a while, when one is surrounded by so much treasure, these things become commonplace.’ The smile returned. ‘Like pebbles on a beach.’ I glanced at the shoreline, trying to imagine such a life.

Such wealth.

‘I will tell you the story of another gift,’ he said. ‘An ancient ruby, red as blood. It was brought to India by the Central Asian Mughal invaders and passed from father to son as a symbol of their rulership. You may know the name Shah Jahan?’

‘He built the Taj Mahal! For his wife who died in childbirth.’ That I remembered from my research in the library.

‘Before her death, Mumtaz gave him four sons. To prevent their eventual power struggle, Shah Jahan had the Mughal Ruby set in a special ornament, which he alone would place on the turban of his chosen successor. He would, in effect, maintain control of the “crown.”’

I paused, the surf numbing my feet, my ankles.

‘But this was not to be. After all, Shah Jahan had rebelled against his own father. And so it was with his sons, for the most ambitious was his least favourite; he was disrespectful and close-minded. To prevent the ruby from falling into his hands, the emperor bestowed it on a raja of Bengal who had saved his life in battle—the King of Koch, my ancestor. But with the gift came a prophecy: If ever he or his descendants ever lost control of this precious jewel, our family would fall.’ We set off, walking up the beach.

The curse Tony had mentioned. ‘How terrible. Don’t you worry about thieves?’

‘Not really. The ornament is kept with our everyday jewels inside a palace vault, protected by a high official. I wear it on ceremonial occasions.’

Everyday jewels.  ‘I  never  read  about  any  of  that in

National  Geographic.’

‘And you never will. Even our curses remain a secret,’ he said with a twinkle.

‘My lips are sealed.’

Sporty gave me a searing look. ‘I hope not.’

I leaned down and splashed him. ‘You said you’d never known a woman with a real job. But your mother ruled when you were young. Sounds like she had a job, too.’

He tipped his head. ‘Ma was an astute ruler, strong- minded and protective of our people. They revere her, love her.’

‘What does she do now?’

‘Ma is not shy about giving me advice.’ He grinned. ‘She travels quite a bit—friends all over Europe. She leads a different kind of life there. Freer. She is a fascinating woman with a keen intelligence and great style. I want you to meet her.’

‘I’d like to.’ His mother had telephoned his Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow from Paris a few times, and I’d heard them talk about political events back home.

‘When your film is over, we will fly to New York and you can show me around. Then I can show you Paris. How does that sound?’

Boris had hinted Sporty planned to invite me to India, but this was the first mention of travel plans. Giddy with fear and hope, I inhaled the sharp salty smell, gazing down at a ruffle of white foam. When I looked up, the sun had appeared behind his face. For an instant, I couldn’t see his features, only his golden aura. ‘I’ll check my datebook.’ I tried to be nonchalant.

6 Reasons to Read Rohini Chowdhury’s Beautiful Translation

The most popular devotional text recounting the adventures of the Hindu god Ram ‘The Ramcharitmanas’, composed by the poet-saint Tulsidas in the sixteenth century during a dynamic period of religious reform, was instrumental in making the story of Ram-and his divine feats against Ravan, the demon king of Lanka-widely accessible to the common people for the first time.

Rohini Chowdhury’s exquisite translation brings Tulsidas’s magnum opus vividly to life, and her detailed introduction sheds crucial light on the poet and his work, placing them both in the wider context of Hindi literature. Here are a few reasons why you should pick a copy of Rohini’s translation of this timeless epic.

It is a clear and accurate translation of Tulsidas’s epic poem, and conveys, in the best way possible, its scale and grandeur.

~

The author has rendered each original doha and sortha into four lines in English translation.

~

Tulsi’s institution of the Ram Lila may be seen as an attempt at a degree of social integration…this inclusivity remains, by and large, a feature of the Ram Lila even today.

~

Tulsi wrote for an audience which was familiar not only with the story of Ram, but also knew the dozens of ‘backstories’ that weave in and out of the main narrative… Rohini’s translation attempts, in footnotes, endnotes and a glossary, to give as much background information as she could.

~

The Hindu gods all have more than one name, and Tulsi refers to them by these different names, Rohini has kept the names as Tulsi has used them; but to make it easier to the modern-day reader she has added the various names with their meanings under the glossary entry for the relevant god or goddess.

~

Rohini’s translation attempts to give the reader some idea, at least visually, of the structure of the poem. Therefore, the dohas/sorthas are indented; chhands, stutis and shlokas are in italics; and the chaupais form the main body of the text.

~

This translation is a tribute to Tulsidas’ epic poem and brings to the reader the richness and depth of storytelling Tulsi das brought into it.

When Destiny Rolls Her Dice and Flips Fortunes

When the Kingdom of Aum falls under the spell of corrupt forces, all its past glory turns to dust and the land, once lush and fertile, becomes a barren wasteland. It falls upon Saahas, the courageous young General and heir to the throne, to fight the darkness that had shrouded his beloved Aum. But victory eludes Saahas as the play of destiny takes him on a journey both arduous and treacherous.  General Saahas becomes a hunted man and Aum plunges into chaos, submitting meekly to the tyranny of the self-appointed Raja Shunen and the wily Queen Manmaani.

What was this web that Saahas had become entangled in?

Submerged under wave upon wave of dilemmas, Saahas is bewildered by the power of the Saade Saati–the dreaded seven and a half years- yet is determined to find his way towards his destiny.

Gitanjali Murari’s The Crown of the Seven Stars begins with a letter from Destiny which hints at a revelation- ‘And I promise you an enthralling story of one man who dared to fight me, catching me quite unawares, so revealing the truth about these accursed seven and a half years.’

Read on to find out what the period of Saade Saati brings –

The fear of failure

Saade Saati, the dreaded seven and a half years that befall each person at least once in their lifetime, brings with it crushing failure-

‘You fear it, for it results in nothing but failure; failure that eats you from the inside, corroding you, until you wish you were dead. And when you emerge on the other side of it, you weep, not with relief, but because you are quite broken.’

*

There is light at the end of the tunnel

Saade Saati may make the sufferer feel helpless and fearful but it is a finite period which does come to an end and the wheels of fortune turn again. The astrologer Arigotra leaves Saahas with hope for the future but also a reminder of the futility of his battle against Saade Saati –

‘Eight months of it have already passed. Less than seven years remain. Go away, my lord, and only return when the time turns auspicious.’ The dying man’s words smote Saahas with the finality of a hammer. They laid bare his helplessness, making him acutely conscious that the hopes he had cherished on his journey back to Aham were laughably puerile.’

*

The right attitude is key to getting past this play of destiny

Acceptance and patience may help sufferers find value even in a bleak situation. The old priest of Yadoba offers some perspective to Saahas who is consumed with the idea that the period of Saade Saati is ‘fruitless’-

‘But if the soldier were to take a deep breath, calm down and contain his vital energy instead of wasting it by running from pillar to post, he will realize that the Saade Saati, far from being a curse, is a boon. It is the gods telling us to stop and reflect, to know ourselves, learn a new trade perhaps, spend time with the family, study the scriptures. Anything—read, play, evolve.’

*

The learning is in the experience, not in despair

Whatever destiny may have in store for you, the period of Saade Saati can be a learning experience. As Destiny reveals the motive behind this game, a ray of sunshine pierces through clouds of bewilderment-

 ‘You see, I had always planned for Saahas to be king. The Saade Saati, the trials, the tribulations, I had gone to so much trouble to create obstacles for him. Just so he would become the king Aum deserved.’


With destiny rolling her dice at every turn, will Saahas emerge wise and fearless from the maze of the Saade Saati? Would the throne find its rightful heir?

Read Gitanjali Murari’s The Crown of the Seven Stars to find out!

An Exclusive Excerpt from Harinder Sikka’s Newest Book!

Bestselling author of Calling Sehmat, Harinder Sikka is back! His new book Vichhoda, narrates the experiences of another powerful woman, Bibi Amrit Kaur.

Bibi’s life is torn apart in the 1947 riots. She’s now living in a different country with a different identity, a fate she eventually accepts gracefully. She gets married and has two children. Life, however, has something else in store for her. It breaks her and her children apart. And this time the pain is unbearable.

Read an excerpt from the book below:

 

In the meantime, Bibi reached home to find a large group of women assembled in front of her home. They were surprised to see her without her burqa. As the tonga stopped, she stepped down, and, without saying a word to the women, rushed into her home and bolted the door from inside. But like jungle fire, stories about her act of bravery reached every ear in no time. It generated praise and fear in equal measure. Even though Sakhiullah was respected by the villagers, most women feared police retaliation. They were all aware of the brutality with which cops often operated, especially in rural areas where they were treated like demigods. When Sakhiullah arrived that evening, he was shocked to learn about the turn of events. He rushed to the army camp situated near his house and narrated the story to the deputy camp commander, a young army captain named Ishtiaq, who was also his first cousin. ‘I need urgent help, Ishtiaq. We have no time to waste. It won’t be long before the police come banging at our doors. And that could mean serious trouble; not only for Bibi, but for the entire family!’

 

The young captain nodded and called his most senior and experienced jawan at the camp, Subedar Major Mushtaq Khan, for advice. A deep furrow appeared between his brows as Sakhiullah related the story. He mused for a moment and then said, ‘Sir, the camp commandant will have to intervene immediately as this is a case of attack on a serving police officer. But he’s in Islamabad for the entire week. I know the SHO well. He’s politically connected, highly corrupt and most brutal. If he survives, he will take revenge in every possible manner. But even if he doesn’t, his colleagues won’t spare your family. I suggest that you move out with your family immediately. Also, Bibi will have to be sent to India right away if we are to save her.’

 

Captain Ishtiaq looked at Sakhiullah and said, ‘Bhaijaan, if what Mushtaq Sahib is saying is right, then we don’t have much time. Please decide. I don’t even have the authority to do what we are planning, but I shall not spare any effort.’ A helpless and confused Sakhiullah nodded in affirmation and the subedar swung into action.

 

An hour later, two military jeeps arrived at Sakhiullah’s residence. Four army jawans in battle rig and armed with rifles stepped out, followed by a subedar and a young lieutenant. The lieutenant took Bibi into custody while Sakhiullah watched from a distance as a mute spectator. The military officer whispered in her ear that her life and that of her entire family was in danger. He explained to her that the arrest was being made only to evade a counter-attack as the police would not interfere with the military forces.

 

The first jeep left, taking Bibi to an unknown destination. Shortly, Sakhiullah too departed under escort. He was accompanied by his two minor sons and his cousin, Captain Ishtiaq. After travelling for about twenty kilometres, the first vehicle turned left from the narrow highway towards the Indian border while the second one turned right towards the main city. Bibi instinctively realized the plan. She cried and begged for an opportunity to meet her husband and children one last time. But her wails fell on deaf ears. Despite being aware of Sakhiullah’s clout, the young army lieutenant displayed no mercy. He could not have; he was under strict instructions. The jeep reached the border half an hour later. The officer stepped down and went across the border, exchanged pleasantries with his counterpart from India and swiftly handed Bibi over to the Indian armed forces.


What happens to Bibi next? Order your copy of Vichhoda to find out!

Get to Know the Wordsmith Behind ‘A Tale of Wonder’, A.N.D. Haksar!

Aditya Narayan Dhairyasheel Haksar is a well-known translator of Sanskrit classics. For many years a career diplomat, he served at the United Nations and as the Indian high commissioner and ambassador in various countries. His translations from Sanskrit include those of several great works by ancient poets like Bhasa and Kalidasa, Bhartrihari and Dandin, Kshemendra and Kalyana Malla, all published as Penguin Classics. He has also compiled A Treasury of Sanskrit Poetry, which was recently translated into Arabic in the UAE.

His recent translated work A Tale of Wonder talks about Yusuf and Zuleikha’s biblical love story that travels across regions-ultimately reaching medieval India where it is transformed by Shaivite overtones. The result is an exquisite epic love poem of love which also attests to the rich diversity of India’s cultural past.

Magnificent in its simple elegance, A Tale of Wonder is a timeless story that challenges the insidious notion that India has always been dominated by one faith only and insular to other cultural and religious influences.

Read more about his research methodology here!

What is your research process like?

There is no specific research process for my translations from Sanskrit. They began as a method for better learning that ancient language on my own. They have continued over the years for bringing its many wonderful but now less known aspects before today’s readers..

What propelled you to translate Yusuf Wa Zuleikha?

The name you have used is of a famous poem in medieval Persian. It inspired another in Sanskrit called Kathakautukam that I translated as A Tale of Wonder. I came across it while translating for Penguin another based on Arabic/Hebraic sources called Suleiman Charitra, Both are remarkable for depicting a little-noted cultural confluence in India’s great language. What led me to translate this one was its description in Sanskrit of the Founder of Islam as paigambar shiromani, or crown jewel of the prophets, to whom this tale was revealed by a divine messenger. This was the first reference to the Prophet that I have seen in Sanskrit.

How was the experience of translating Yusuf Wa Zuleikha different from your other translations?

All my translations have been from the clear and precise wording of classical Sanskrit. This one was not too different. But, done at a trying time for my health, it was a real tonic for me!

How would you see our relationship with Sanskrit in recent times?

Over the last couple of centuries, Sanskrit has tended to be seen as mainly a religious, philosophic and scriptural language. The work of eminent foreign scholars as well as its study system here have also strengthened this impression. This has overshadowed many other dimensions of its vast literature. Apart from the scientific and didactic, these also include the poetic and narrative comic and erotic, cynical and satirical, and common colloquial rather than refined. More translation is one way to present them before today’s readers, and this process has already begun.

How have various cultural and religious influences impacted traditional literature?

This is a very wide question, difficult for a brief answer, All I can say is that there is a cultural confluence reflected in many Sanskrit works that need more exposure today, as also do its other dimensions, already mentioned.


Read A.N.D. Haksar latest take on Srivara’s classic, in A Tale of Wonder

Beyond the Popular Stories: Hidden Tales about the Elusive but Much-loved God of Gods,the Mahadev

A little girl asks who Shiva is and it is the beginning of a family journey through stories and incidents across the expanse of Shivbhumi.

Writing in the Harikatha style of traditional storytelling, Renuka Narayanan weaves story after story from across India takes us closer to this elusive but much-loved god of gods, the Mahadev.

The Mahadev doesn’t have straightforward, linear stories with a beginning, middle and end like Vishnu has in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam. Instead, like our religion itself, Shiva has no parents, no beginnings. He always was and is. He has “incidents”, he dances in and out of a whole lot of stories.

Read on for delightful, hidden glimpses of the Mahadev behind and beyond the more popular myths!

How the famous ‘Nilakanth myth forms one of the backstories to the Mahabharata

“The vish purush or spirit of Kalakuta sprang out of Shiva weeping in shame at the outrage he had involuntarily committed by burning Shiva’s throat and in despair at the ferocity of his substance. So the Lord, who wanted nothing for imself but gave things away to others, blessed him with a boon, for it was not Kalakuta’s fault that it was so deadly It grew fierce only when fiddled with, and brought out just as so many other things are poisonous if we stir them up ourselves. ‘Lord Shiva granted the vish purush the boon that he would return to Nature by being born on earth one day as the son of Drona and would kill his father’s enemies. So the vish purush was born as Ashvatthama; and Vishnu himself, as Sri Krishna, had to fend him off. Ashvatthama’s spirit is said to still wander the earth, quietly and is called out only if and when we stir up terrible world-destroying poisons . . . like nuclear bombs, I should think.”

 How the Mahadev played with the very idea of  the creation myths

“Very long ago, Brahma the Creator was given the task of making people inhabit the three worlds, which were well connected to each other then. For Bhulok, the earth, Brahma first created four handsome young men to be the ancestors of mankind and they sat down to pray for guidance on the shore of Manasarovar. Suddenly, a great white swan swam up before them.’ ‘It was Shiva, the ultimate free soul or “supreme swan”, the Paramahamsa. The swan swam all over the lake to warn the four young men that the world was merely maya or illusion, and that the only way to escape its bonds was to refuse to become fathers. Shiva did that because he felt that it was only fair to warn them that creation was just a game for the gods.

How the tragic story of Sati became the source for the revered Shaktipeeth

 “Shiva’s fury and sorrow plunged the whole world into deep gloom. To save the situation, Vishnu repeatedly flung his discus at Sati’s body. He cut it up into fifty-one pieces that fell on earth and became high-energy points called Shakti Peeth, places of goddess-strength. The farthest one north-east is Kamakhya in Guwahati in Assam. The farthest one north-west is Hinglaj Devi in Balochistan.”

 How the sacred feminine forms the basis of all Mahadev lilas

“As Dakshinamurthi, He had retreated from the world with no thought for this maya-engulfed universe, its inhabitants or their troubles. Ambika (Shakti) became Kameshvari, love incarnate, and made him Kalyana Sundara to change Him from an ocean of knowledge (in the form of Dakshinamurthi) into an ocean of compassion(in the form of Kalyana Sundara).  Though we say She is instrumental in making Him shower blessings on this world, in reality, it is She who does it. To remain unmoving and static is His nature. All actions are Hers. Still, She made it appear that He was the one doing everything.”

How the stories about the Mahadev’s entourage become the source myths for one India’s most beautiful topographical features

The story goes that Shiva once spent a night in the hills of Unakoti in Tripura on the way back home to Kailash,’ said the guru. ‘With him were 99,99,999 followers, one short of a crore or “Unakoti”. Wanting to get home soon, Shiva asked his followers to wake up well before dawn. However, not one was awake on time except for Lord Shiva himself. So Shiva went off on his own, leaving them behind. When they woke up and realized their mistake, they were too ashamed to move and turned to stone, deciding to stay forever at the place where they had last seen Mahadev. The rocks on the Unakoti hills are said to be the remains of that entourage.”


Read more such facts in Renuka Narayan’s Mahadev

One Story. Two Characters. Many versions.

A Tale of Wonder is the translation of the little-known Sanskrit verse epic Kathakautukam, written by the poet-scholar Srivara in fifteenth-century Kashmir. The original text consists Kathakautukam of over 1300 verses, narrative and descriptive. The story of Yusuf and Zuleikha has been told and retold many times in different cultures and in different languages.

This listicle highlights some of these more well-known versions of the story:

 

 

 


A Tale of Wonder is a timeless story that challenges the insidious notion that India has always been dominated by one faith only and insular to other cultural and religious influences.

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