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10 Awe-Inspiring Memoirs That Will Stay with You Forever

Embark on an enthralling journey through this collection of ten inspiring memoirs that delve into the extraordinary lives of remarkable individuals who faced daunting challenges with unwavering courage and hope. Each of these resilient tales will tug at your heartstrings and remind you of the indomitable human spirit.

Lost To The World
Lost To The World || Shahbaz Taseer

Lost to the World is the remarkable true story of Taseer’s time in captivity, and of his astonishing escape. It is a story of extraordinary faith, bravery and sorrow, with moments of kindness, humour and empathy, offering a hopeful light in the dark years of his imprisonment.

While deeply harrowing, this tale is also about resilience. Taseer countered his captors’ narrative of a holy war by immersing himself in the Quran in search of hope and a means to see his own humanity under even the most inhumane conditions, and ultimately to find a way back to his family.


Water in a Broken Pot
Water in a Broken Pot || Yogesh Maitreya

Incredibly moving and hauntingly honest, Water in a Broken Pot is the memoir of Yogesh Maitreya, a leading independent Indian Dalit publisher, writer, and poet. Encompassing experiences of pain, loneliness, depravation, alienation, and the political consciousness of his caste identity, this intimately moving memoir is a story of resilience and raw brutality. Growing up in a working-class family with meagre wages to get by in life, Yogesh writes of his father’s struggle against alcohol and passion for cinema; of intergenerational dreams shattered; working day and night shifts in factories; the struggle of being lost, overlooked and unmentored in India’s schooling, college and University systems which continue to be casteist, exclusionary and hostile; and feelings of lovelessness, loss and heartaches.


Nowhere Man
Nowhere Man || Shivalik Bakshi

Capt. Kamal Bakshi fought in the 1971 Indo-Pak War and went missing after the Battle of Chhamb–the bloodiest battle of 1971. Although no one from his battalion had seen him get killed, no one had been able to locate his body. And so, the military declared him ‘Missing, Believed Killed’–the ambiguous status assigned to soldiers when their death cannot be confirmed.
However, six years after the war, the Indian government changed its mind. The Ministry of External Affairs announced in Parliament that Indian intelligence agencies have reason to believe that Pakistan had not been truthful when it handed over the list of Indian POWs in its custody. It went on to state the names of at least forty Indian soldiers still believed to be in Pakistani custody and one of the names was Kamal Bakshi’s.
This book has been written by his nephew Shivalik Bakshi. It is his story, recreated from his letters, diaries, recollections of those who crossed paths with him and published accounts of the Battle of Chhamb.


A Walk Up The Hill
A Walk Up The Hill || Madhav Gadgil

A Walk Up the Hill is an account of Madhav Gadgil’s life walking up and down the country’s hills and dales, watching peacocks dance and elephants prance, living among fisherfolk on the west coast, horticulturists on Western Ghats, and the tribals of Manipur and Maharashtra, all the while being a part of a vibrant scientific community.


Faf Through Fire
Faf Through Fire || Faf Du Plessis

In Faf Through Fire, Du Plessis lays bare the story of his growth, from a youth with a questionable moral compass outside of cricket to a leader known for his integrity, values, honesty and empathy for his teammates. He reflects on how influential leaders, such as Gary Kirsten, Stephen Fleming, Doc Moosajee, Graeme Smith, A.B. de Villiers, Owen Eastwood, Russell Domingo, Ottis Gibson and M.S. Dhoni, helped mould him into a man who leads with grit, purpose and a love of people. He also explores the destructive relationships, offering his perspective, in devastating detail, on his final years of international cricket. Neither the changing room nor the boardroom is off limits in this no-holds-barred account.


The Defiant Optimist
The Defiant Optimist || Durreen Shahnaz

From growing up with constrained life chances, to working as the first Bangladeshi woman on Wall Street, to becoming a global leader in impact investing, Shahnaz takes us on a mesmerizing trek of innovation, compassion, and enterprise. We accompany her to villages in Bangladesh where she helps women entrepreneurs learn to proudly sign their names, and on visits to venture capitalists who walk past her to shake her male employees’ hands. We go to a garment factory where women labour for low wages, and to a town in India where microfinance offers women enough capital to run grocery stores and tailor shops. Along the way, the birth of her two daughters only fuels her relentless pursuit of a world where girls are valued. Finally, armed with financial backers and a plan, Shahnaz successfully launches the Women’s Livelihood Bond™ Series, the world’s first tradable financial product for investing in underserved women’s livelihoods.


Kitne Ghazi Aaye, Kitne Ghazi Gaye
Kitne Ghazi Aaye, Kitne Ghazi Gaye || Lt Gen. K.J.S. ‘Tiny’ Dhillon (Retd)

In Kitne Ghazi Aaye Kitne Ghazi Gaye, ‘Tiny’ Dhillon opens a hitherto-closed window, not only to his life but also to Kashmir. He recounts fascinating tales about the toughest challenges he encountered, from age three right up to those from his multiple tenures in Kashmir from 1988 to 2020, where it was his responsibility to maintain a balance between counter-terrorism operations on the one hand and to use military soft power on the other. Dhillon retraces his entire journey, from being a young boy to becoming the Commander of the Chinar Corps, with Kashmir as an inseparable part of this story.


Zikr In the light and Shade of Time || Muzaffar Ali

Muzaffar Ali’s autobiography is a peek into this wealth of experience-a close look at Ali, prince, poet, philosopher, film-maker, automobile aficionado and artist. Zikr is also a rich interior portrait of an artist, as Ali takes us behind the scenes of films like Anjuman and Gaman, speaking of the sensibilities that shaped them and the influences on his work. Above all, this is a book that resounds with a deep love for life.


Lata Mangeshkar A Life in Music
Lata Mangeshkar A Life in Music || Yatindra Mishra

An ode to the majestic life of the late Lata Mangeshkar, Lata: A Life in Music celebrates art in its totality and tells the life story of India’s most loved vocal artists. The result of Yatindra Mishra’s decade-long dialogue with the great singer, it also explores the lesser-known aspects of the great artist, introducing the readers to Lata Mangeshkar as an intellectual and cultural exponent and providing a rare glimpse into the person behind the revered enigma.



Heart Tantrums
Heart Tantrums || Aisha Sarwari

In order to be able to survive, Aisha Sarwari was told, love and devoted acts of service will always light the way. These however, become the very reason of her complete unravelling.

In this large and messy voice of a memoir, Heart Tantrums artfully describes the scatter of catastrophic losses-the loss of her father in early adolescence; leaving behind her family home in East Africa; and trying to fit into a completely different culture in Lahore after marriage. In 2017, when Aisha first held her husband Yasser Latif Hamdani’s brain MRI against the light, she began to also lose the man she loved to a personality-altering brain tumour.

The trappings of an unconventional life

Saeeda Bano was the first woman in India to work as a radio newsreader, known then and still as the doyenne of Urdu broadcasting. Over her unconventional and courageous life, she walked out of a suffocating marriage, witnessed the violence of Partition, lost her son for a night in a refugee camp, ate toast with Nehru and fell in love with a married man who would, in the course of their twenty-five-year relationship, become the Mayor of Delhi. Though she was born into privilege in Bhopal-the only Indian state to be ruled by women for four successive generations-her determination, independence and frankness make this a remarkable memoir and a crucial disruption in India’s understanding of her own past.





front cover of Off the Beaten Track
Off the Beaten Track || Saeeda Bano

Why did I think of writing the story of my life? Well, the entire credit goes to my friend Sheila Dhar, whom I met during the most eventful time in the history of our country, back in September 1947. When she saw the unusual situation I was grappling with during those tumultuous days of Partition, it made a deep impact on Sheila’s impressionable mind. She was quite young at the time; I came across to her as an unconventional woman – one who had chosen to take the road less travelled.


As time went by the circumstances I was dealing with became more exceptional. Sheila was witness to all this. She was older now, mature enough to understand what was happening in my life. Perhaps that is why she encouraged me to start writing. 



Little did I know that one day my circumstances would change so dramatically that by 1947 I would become famous as the first Indian woman to read news for All India Radio’s (AIR) Urdu service. And bless Sheila Dhar, she got me to write this book.  



On the 13th of August I was to reach office by 6am and read the 8 o’clock bulletin in Urdu. Mrs Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, sister of Independent India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, had been a frequent visitor to Lucknow. She was Beevi’s good friend and because of that I met with her quite often. She treated me like a younger sister. During one such meeting I mentioned I had sent a written application to AIR Delhi for a job. Mrs Pandit was a keen supporter of women’s rights and immediately asked me to give a copy of the application to her. ‘I will try and see what I can do.’ She then sent the letter to a certain Dr Syed Hussain in Delhi with instructions that ‘the work should be done.’ And so it was. How could Syed Hussain not honour Vijayalaxmi Pandit’s orders? That is how I came to Delhi. 


I was ready to deliver my very first news bulletin on air on the 13th of August 1947. Prior to this, no woman had been employed by either the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) or AIR Delhi to work as a news broadcaster. I was the first woman AIR considered good enough to read radio news. Of course they had to train me and I was taught how to first introduce myself on air with my name and then start reading the bulletin. The quality of my voice was appreciated. The feedback I got was that listeners were quite impressed by the style in which I delivered the news. The Statesman newspaper even published a few words of praise about me. I believe some people said I must have planted this story. But that’s pure conjecture. 



I am always grateful to the Almighty that people were eager to hear me read news on radio and appreciated my work. But I never gave this public acceptance undue importance. Hundreds of letters would pour in from various parts of the world in praise of my voice. Several gentlemen even expressed a desire to marry me! Though some of the listeners went as far as to curse me, asking that now that Pakistan had been formed why was a traitor like me still living in the enemy state? From this side of the border, some my own countrymen would write in saying, ‘Get out of our country, go to Pakistan.’ 


After a while, this continuous barrage of reproach ended, but hordes of letters continued to arrive regularly. I didn’t give them too much weightage nor did they get to my head. I met and mingled with everyone but I did not know how to tell witty jokes or interesting anecdotes, sing or even make delightful gossip at a social gathering. 



We were in the midst of our discussions when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru saw us. He came over to where we were and asked, ‘What are all of you doing? Have you had breakfast? You guys have to get here so early in the morning, you must be famished. Come over to Teen Murti House… I will give you brown bread to eat… homemade brown bread.’ 


Who could refuse the Prime Minister of India? We reached Teen Murti House (former residence of the first Prime Minister of India) and were made to sit in the front veranda on the top floor. Spread out in front of us were the verdant Mughal Gardens and sitting next to us, Nehruji himself. He was busy giving precise orders to the waiter to bring brown bread, cheese and God knows what. Though we were in seventh heaven my mind was preoccupied. I was worried sick and kept wondering where Asad and Saeed could be. Panditji buttered the warmly toasted brown-bread himself, then he sprinkled it lightly with salt added a dash of pepper and asked, ‘Have you ever eaten bread like this?’ 


‘No I haven’t,’ I replied, thanking him politely as I took the slice. 


He then made another toast for me, which I ate as well. But by now I was extremely anxious. Here was the Prime Minister of our country, being hospitable and there I was worried sick with thoughts of where my children could be. Panditji saw the concern on my face and asked, ‘What is the matter? What is bothering you?’ 


‘My son is lost.’


‘How old is your son?’ 




‘Eleven year old children do not get lost… he will come. Have your tea, it is getting cold.’ 


In my heart I so wished Asad and Saeed could have been with me. They would proudly remember this moment, when they ate toasted brown bread prepared by the Prime Minister of India, who made the effort of sprinkling salt and pepper on it himself before handing it around to us. These thoughts were racing through my mind as we finished breakfast. Then we took permission to leave. As we were walking out, Panditji said, ‘An 11-year old cannot get lost. You’ll find him.’ 


I did a courteous adab and thanked him for his reassurance. As we reached YWCA I saw Asad and Saeed sitting there waiting for me. 


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