New books on the blog...

Women Unlimited are bringing out A Very Strange Man, a translation of Ajeeb Aadmi by Ismat Chughtai. The translator, Tahira Naqvi is Urdu language lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. She has translated the works of Sa'dat Hasan Manto, Munshi Premchand, Khadija Mastoor, and Ismat Chughtai. She also writes fiction in English and has published two collections of short stories. She recently completed her first novel and is currently translating Chughtai's novel Masooma.

About the novel: Set in the Bombay film world of the 1940s and ’50s, this is the riveting story of Dharam Dev, the famous actor, director and producer, and his all-consuming and doomed passion for Zarina Jamal, the young dancer from Madras whom he brings to Bombay and transforms into a great actress. He looks on in anguish as his betrayed wife, Mangala, a well-known playback singer, sinks slowly into alcoholism. When Zarina abandons him, he is overwrought and dies of an overdose, friendless and alone.

In an interview for the journal Mehfil in 1972, Ismat Chughtai described this novel about the Bombay film industry as based on the life of a film producer who committed suicide after the dancer whom he had made into a big star left him in the lurch. ‘I go into why he commits suicide, why girls run after him and producers like him, and the hell they make for these men and for their wives.’

A Very Strange Man is not only a close, personal look at an actor’s rise to fame and glory, but an insightful and critical examination of the Bombay film scene of the time, by one who knew it at first hand. This irreverent, sharply observed narrative is vintage Chughtai!

Ismat Chughtai was born in 1915 in Badayun and was the first Muslim woman in India to acquire both a BA degree and a degree in teaching. She is counted among the earliest and foremost women Urdu writers. She focused on women's issues with a directness and intensity unparalleled in Urdu literature among writers of her generation. Author of several collections of short stories, three novellas, a novel, Terhi Lakir (The Crooked Line), and Kaghazi Hai Perahan (The Paper-thin Garment), a memoir, she is chiefly remembered for her controversial story ‘Lihaf’ (The Quilt). With her husband, Shahid Latif, a film director, whom she married against her family’s wishes in 1942, she produced and co-directed six films, and produced a further six independently after his death.

This edition is a paperback, 240 pages, and is listed at Rs. 250.

Yoda Press' new book, Imperial Conversations: Indo-Britons and the Architecture of South India by Shanti Jayewardene-Pillai should be out by the end of the month. This book is about the architecture of Imperial South India, that developed against a backdrop of conflict, from the 17th century onwards. A process of cultural sharing and exchange of knowledge resulted finally in the creation of a distinctive architecture in southern India in the 19th century.

The eighteenth century was a time of profound upheaval when economic and political control of southern India passed from native kings to the East India Company. Hand-in-hand with the resultant conflicts and skirmishes, a process of cultural sharing was gaining ground which went on to manifest itself in the form of a flourishing imperial culture in the nineteenth century. The development of an ‘imperial’ architecture in the Indian subcontinent forms one strand of this saga of intercultural exchange. In this valuable new book, Shanti Jayewardene-Pillai tells the story of the Indians and British, whom she refers to as the Indo-Britons, as they developed a mutual exchange of architectural, construction and design knowledge from the seventeenth century onwards, which ultimately led to the creation of a distinctive architecture in southern India in the nineteenth century.

Moving away from the ‘received view’ that Indian architecture was in ‘decline’ during the nineteenth-century, the book unveils a complex and exciting design interface between indigenous engineers and architects and European soldier-engineers, responsive to the demands of Indo-British patrons. Supplemented by more than 100 illustrations, photographs and maps, the book brings into view an entirely new perspective about an architecture which was as much richly indigenous as it was splendidly hybrid.

ISBN: 81-903634-2-5, 348pp., Hardcover. Rs 895.

And now for something completely different. Daya Books bring out Medicinal Plants: Conservation Cultivation and Utilisation by A.K. Chopra, D.R. Khanna, G. Prasad, D.S. Malik and R. Bhutiani, drawing attention to the fact that local health traditions cannot be revitalized without ensuring the health of their medicinal plants resources base. For a long term and sustainable utilization programme for medicinal plants, it is imperative that these are not only domesticated and put under cultivation, but also conserved in the wild. This book is first of its kind thereby adding a new dimension to the cultivation, conservation and utilization of medicinal plants.

According to current estimates about three fourth of the herbal drugs produced in India are used for curing human ailments. Based on different researches, strategies on conservation, cultivation and utilization on medicinal plants, the book profiles over a hundred such plants. It will be of use to research institutes, agencies, NGOs, scientists, academicians, suppliers, agriculturists, as well as people interested in alternate medicine.

The book is hardcover, xxiii+434p., 54 chapters. 20 colour plates, figures and tables. ISBN 8170354862, Rs 2200.  


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