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Jude Sequeira’s drunken escapades in Bombay’s Orlem

Philomena Sequeira knows what she wants by the time she turns fourteen. Her father wants something else. Her neighbours deal with adultery, abandonment and abuse, by hoping for a place in heaven.

Life is unyielding for the tenants of the rundown Obrigado Mansion in Orlem, a Roman Catholic parish in suburban Bombay. They grapple with love, loss and sin, surrounded by abused wives and repressed widows, alcoholic husbands and dubious evangelists, angry teenagers and ambivalent priests, all struggling to make sense of circumstances they have no control over.

Gods and Ends takes up multiple threads of individual stories to create a larger picture of darkness beneath a seemingly placid surface. It is about intersecting lives struggling to accept change as homes turn into prisons. This is a book about invisible people in a city of millions, and the claustrophobia they rarely manage to escape from.

**

The well appeared to have been there forever, sunk into the earth at a time when there couldn’t have been too many people around to use it. And yet, as any careful observer might have noticed, it had once been cared for, its sides carefully scoured, solid stone steps marking circles as they disappeared into its gloomy depths. Until the outer wall collapsed, sliding slowly into the murky green water, there may have been a few informal meetings held nearby. Some of the early residents of Orlem may well have stopped to chat around it on sunny mornings, to discuss dissolute husbands or the latest scandal from the goan villages they came from, while stooping down to draw water.

On the night of 24 December, only one voice was heard. It was between 1 and 2 a.m., and the water lay undisturbed, its opaque surface broken only by lethargic leaves slipping, sliding, gliding down from laburnum trees looming darkly above and around the well. The only other sound came from an unsteady stream of urine pattering down, over the ruined edge, through a space where the wall once stood.

front cover of Gods and Ends
Gods and Ends || Lindsay Pereira

 

‘Come from England, come from Scotland, come from Ireland,’ the voice slurred tunelessly. ‘Looking out for a pleasant holiday? Come to Bombay, meri hai.’

Jude Sequeira pissed his cares away. He was dimly aware about urinating into a source of drinking water for some of his neighbours, but was too drunk to care. The half bottle of cheap whisky he had consumed lay volatile in his stomach, warming him, while making his head swim ever so gently. The song he was singing continued to pour out of him, its lyrics a jumble. After singing it twice, he looked up and stopped in awe. Above him, in a hole cut out through the trees that formed a canopy, a few stars twinkled brightly. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen stars.

Smiling to himself, he shook his penis half-heartedly, the last few drops wetting his toes. As he tried to zip up, something caught his eye. A mouse? A cat? Swaying slightly, he turned. There was a sudden moment of clarity when he recognized the figure standing before him. His lips moved as he struggled to articulate something that seemed to be just out of reach. Teetering for a few seconds, suddenly on the brink of sobriety, he slipped. The splash echoed briefly before receding into the night. The waters closed over, stifling a scream before it reached his throat. As he went down, Jude found the name he was looking for.

On the ground above, all that remained were his slippers: a pair of grimy Bata chappals, their blue straps long faded. In time, a milky sun rose, its appearance heralded by noisy sparrows.

**

Little Swara’s tryst with the locked down world

You left your jokes and funny faces in my mind.
You left our secrets and your knitting behind.
I’m still sad. I’ll always be.
I love you times infiniteeeeeeeey.
You don’t mind
that I can’t rhyme.
I don’t know how to end this,
will someone help me?

To help Swara, you’d have to dive into her world during the lockdown. Feel the almost-nine-year-old’s heart break as she loses her favourite person ever, Pitter Paati. Swara pursues clues to find her, but stumbles upon a crime instead. VExpectedly, no one believes her.

Will Swara and her VAnnoying friends from the detective squad find the Ruth of the Matter in time?

Told with humour and sparkle, When the World Went Dark is a compassionate story about finding light in the darkest times of our lives. Here’s an excerpt from the book wherein Swara is trying to understand why the rules of the world around her have suddenly changed.

**

 

The times were dark, alarming, threatening. Clouds of fear kept people bolted and barred into their own homes. You couldn’t open a window to draw in a deep breath. You couldn’t trust anything that anyone else had touched. In fact, if you remember, you couldn’t even put a toe out of your front door.

Swara should know because she tested it out.

Ruth was the one who’d thrown her the challenge. She claimed to be her best friend, although you might doubt it after this. They lived in apartments opposite each other and often they sat cross-legged on their doormats and chatted, yelling to and fro. It was Ruth who said, ‘Swara, you cannot put even a toe out of your door.’

Swara scoffed at this. ‘Why? What if I do?’

‘Try and see. It is banned! There is a high-tech app that will make your toe shrivel up and fall off.’

If you’ve been almost nine, like Swara was, you knew what absolutely had to be done if thrown down such an outrageous challenge. Swara quite naturally, had to still her beating heart, hold her breath, kick off her chappal and wiggle her big toe an inch out of her open door. It did not fall off and land on the doormat. It stayed firm on her foot.

‘You are full of lies, Ruth!’

‘I am not. I am the Ruth, the whole Ruth and nothing but the . . .’

‘Fine, but my toe is fine too. It is my toe, the whole toe and nothing but the toe.’

‘It will not be. Keep watching it. Over the days, it will turn red, purple, black and then fall right off. Just you

wait.’

Swara retreated, scared. And since then began to watch the toe for signs.

The times were like that as we’d mentioned. Dark, alarming, threatening times.

And then, of course, holidays were declared— out of the blue! No waking up to a screaming alarm clock, or drinking milk while sleepwalking, or pulling on the uniform and buttoning it down wrong, or running down to catch the yellow school bus and missing the favourite seat.

front cover of When the World Went Dark
When the World Went Dark || Jane De Suza

 

Like most kids, she spent the first week playing, eating, sleeping and like most kids, got fed up of it all. Nothing fun was on the Allowed List. No playing downstairs, no eating out, no meeting friends. To add to her dismay, her toe sported a smallish reddish spot one morning, which turned as white as a sheet (just a saying). She held her toe in one hand and hopped over to Appa, who examined it and opined that it was a harmless insect bite and would disappear soon.

‘My toe? My toe will disappear?’

‘No, Swara, the red spot will disappear.’

What was high up on the Rotten List was that she couldn’t meet her favourite person in the world, her paati. Not Madurai Paati, her father’s mother, but her Pitter Paati who lived on the outskirts of Bengaluru. In the same city and not meetable! VStupid (Very Stupid)! Everyone was locked down—Pitter Paati, Thaatha, Anand Maama, Maami and the twins. The whole city was locked into their houses. The whole world, too, from what the TV showed. You could see people in Italy singing and waving while hanging over their balconies. Swara made a point of letting Ruth know that no one’s arms were turning purple, shrivelling up and falling off.

She video called Pitter Paati many times a day, to show her a new poem, the suspicious red-spotted toe, the view of no one on the streets outside, a line of ants creeping towards the dustbin, her fake moustache, anything actually. PP was always interested in whatever Swara was up to.

 

**

 

 

 

Crime, corruption, and the freedom to dream

Megha Majumdar’s electrifying debut novel, A Burning, is about the cost and freedom of dreams in a world burdened with class and socio-political power-structures.

She traces the lives of three protagonists Jivan, Lovely and PT Sir – which get entangled after a terrorist attack on a train in Kolkata. The responsibilities for both Jivan’s false charges and her freedom lie in the hands of PT Sir and Lovely – who too are battling with the daily indignities of their life.

With entrenched injustices, fascism, politics of religion, and betrayals coming into play – these characters become reflective of daily human struggles in a country spinning towards extremism.

*

 

Jivan

 

‘If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’

Jivan is a Muslim girl living in a slum in Kolkata. She witnesses the aftermath and carnage of a terrorist attack on a train and reshares a video on Facebook with the caption given above. Days later she is arrested for the attack and thrown into prison undoing tears of work she has spent clawing her way out of poverty.

 

 

PT Sir

 

‘PT Sir knows who she is. Isn’t she the ghost who begs him for mercy? Isn’t she the ghost who searches the gaze of her teacher, hoping that he might offer rescue? Maybe that is why they had the white curtain up at the court— not so that Jivan could not influence his testimony, but so that he would not have to face her.’

A gym coach, PT Sir is Jivan’s former physical education teacher who turns against out of his thirst for recognition. He embraces a political career, getting entangled in extremist politics, inextricably connecting his political rise with Jivan’s fall.

 

 

Lovely

 

‘Uff! Don’t make me say it, Lovely. I can’t do this marriage scene with a half man.’

Lovely is a transgender woman from the same slum as Jivan – who dreams of making it big in Bollywood and attends a local acting class. She faces day-to-day ignominies because of her gender-identity. She has a husband named Azad. Lovely has an alibi that can prove Jivan’s innocence – but it would cost Lovely everything she holds dear.

*

 

A Burning|| Megha Majumdar

 

Jivan, Lovely and PT Sir present to us an unforgettable character-arc that explores the complexities of possessing morals in today’s world. As each of them face profound obstacles and inequalities, Majumdar gives us one searing question to explore through them: Who is allowed to dream?

What Happens in Haruki Murakami’s ‘Men Without Women’?

In Men Without Women master storyteller Haruki Murakami returns with his signature style, but with a twist. Revolving around the themes of love, loss and existential conundrums, Men Without Women also asks if curiosity is always necessary. It’s this curiosity in which lies the secret of Murakami’s ‘Men Without Women’.
Here’s taking a visual peek into Murakami’s new book.
Drive My Car
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Yesterday
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An Independent Organ
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Kino
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Scheherazade
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Samsa in Love
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Men Without Women
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Powerful, thought-provoking, intense, Murakami’s Men Without Women dives deep into those crevices of your heart you didn’t quite know existed.
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A ‘Great Tragedy’: ‘Raymie Nightingale’ — An Excerpt

‘Raymie Nightingale’, by Kate DiCamillo, is a beautiful story of friendships born in a storm. As Raymie realised that everything in her world depends on her, she finds herself competing with her close friends and coping with loss and grief. What emerges as a result are everlasting bonds of friendship that change their lives forever.
Here’s an excerpt from the novel.
There were three of them, three girls.
They were standing side by side.
They were standing to attention.
And then the girl in the pink dress, the one who was standing right next to Raymie, let out a sob and said, “The more I think about it, the more terrified I am. I am too terrified to go on!”
The girl clutched her baton to her chest and dropped to her knees.
Raymie stared at her in wonder and admiration.
She herself often felt too terrified to go on, but she had never admitted it out loud.
The girl in the pink dress moaned and toppled over sideways.
Her eyes fluttered closed. She was silent. And then she opened her eyes very wide and shouted, “Archie, I’m sorry! I’m sorry I betrayed you!”
She closed her eyes again. Her mouth fell open.
Raymie had never seen or heard anything like it.
“I’m sorry,” Raymie whispered. “I betrayed you.”
For some reason, the words seemed worth repeating.
“Stop this nonsense immediately,” said Ida Nee.
Ida Nee was the baton-twirling instructor. Even though she was old – fifty at least – her hair was an extremely bright yellow. She wore white boots that came all the way up to her knees.
“I’m not kidding,” said Ida Nee. Raymie believed her.
Ida Nee didn’t seem like much of a kidder.
The sun was way, way up in the sky, and the whole thing was like high noon in a Western. But it was not a Western; it was baton-twirling lessons at Ida Nee’s house in Ida Nee’s backyard.
It was the summer of 1975.
It was the fifth day of June.
And two days before, on the third day of June, Raymie Clarke’s father had run away with a woman who was a dental hygienist.
Hey, diddle, diddle, the dish ran away with the spoon.
Those were the words that went through Raymie’s head every time she thought about her father and the dental hygienist.
But she did not say the words out loud any more because Raymie’s mother was very upset, and talking about dishes and spoons running away together was not appropriate.
It was actually a great tragedy, what had happened.
That was what Raymie’s mother said.
“This is a great tragedy,” said Raymie’s mother.
“Quit reciting nursery rhymes.”
It was a great tragedy because Raymie’s father had disgraced himself.
It was also a great tragedy because Raymie was now fatherless.
The thought of that – the fact of it – that she, Raymie Clarke, was without a father, made a small, sharp pain shoot through Raymie’s heart every time she considered it.
Sometimes the pain in her heart made her feel too terrified to go on. Sometimes it made her want to drop to her knees.
But then she would remember that she had a plan.
Join Raymie on her quest to find her father, order your copy today!
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5 Quotes from Akhil Sharma’s ‘A Life of Adventure and Delight’ Which Make His Book a Must-Read

Stories are, after all, nothing more than accounts of the workings of the human heart and mind in relation to the world. And the mark of a successful storyteller, as we all know, is nothing more than the ability to get under the reader’s skin and tug at their heartstrings. Akhil Sharma’s new collection of short stories — A Life of Adventure and Delight, consolidates his reputation of a master storyteller with eight stories of the fragile human heart, told in a way that’s “as hypnotic as those found in the pages of Dostoyevsky”.
Here are 5 instances from Sharma’s new anthology to convince you to pick up a copy right now.
A retired divorcé, in search of love and companionship, decides to relearn how to impress a woman by reading women’s magazines. But how does his search end?
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A young boy explores his relationship with the divine and negotiates with God to get what he wants.
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A young boy observes his older cousin grow up to break norms and lead a life that often leaves him in a state of shock.
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What happens when you wake up and fall in love with your husband, only for a day?
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An ordinary man’s life takes some exceptional turns during a few extraordinary moments. Does his life change forever?
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Grab your copy of Akhil Sharma’s fascinating new collection of stories here now!
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