Five Hindi books you must read this year

Quartz india
Quartz india

If 2014 seemed to be a good year for Hindi publishing, giving us a lively mix of young, restless writers and reliable old names, this year promises to be better. Young commercial fiction will be everywhere, engaging the generation that has pre-ordered the books online, but there’d be enough space for interesting titles in biography, historical nonfiction and memoir. Here’s the best of the Hindi publishing pipeline for 2015.

Ishqiyapa, Penguin

The second novel of Bihar-born Pankaj Dubey is a dark tale of love in the time of globalisation in which nothing is what it seems and no character is above evil. The love story of Lallan Jha, the wannabe entrepreneur, and Sweety Pandey, the wannabe film-star, goes from Laloo-era Bihar to city-of-dreams Bombay, and promises to pack in more drama than one expects in a single novel. 36-year-old Dubey, who also writes scripts for Bollywood, feels there is a marked difference between the pre-1991 and post-1991 love (the latter submitting to the rules of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge at some point or the other), and his aim with the book is to draw it out while giving his readers a fun time.

Like his last book, the “cow-belt story” titled Loser Kahin Ka/What a Loser, Ishqiyapa comes out in Hindi and English at the same time, the English version, translated by Dubey himself, named To Hell with Love. Now famous for writing his books in Hindi and English simultaneously, Dubey tells me he does it to tap into the two distinct markets, and because “there is no better way to promote Hindi than to do it through English.”

Goa Galatta, HarperCollins

In his last novel, Colaba Conspiracy, 75-year-old Surender Mohan Pathak’s latest anti-hero Jeet Singh (“Zurm ki duniya uske liye aisa kambal ban gayi thi jise woh choddta toh bhi woh use nahin choddti”) saves his ex-girlfriend from the charge of murdering her rich husband by solving the mystery at the heart of the plot. Jeet Singh’s new challenge is set in Goa.

“Amidst many intrigues and conspiracies at the gambling den of Club Kokiro in Goa, Jeet Singh meets the don of the city, Lawrence Briganza, who offers him a contract to kill. Who is he going to kill next?” goes the brief from the publisher. At the launch of his last book, Pathak, who has written more than 250 books that boast a combined sale of over Rs2.5 crore, said he hadn’t spent a day off writing in his life. “If I’m losing time, I’m losing money.” He also damned the whole new generation of Hindi writers with the statement that for them “writing books was on the same level as having a pizza”.

Mamma ki Diary, Hind Yugm

According to the publisher Shailesh Bharatwasi, this might be the first original work in Hindi on motherhood and parenting. Written by Anu Singh Choudhary, a 35-year-old media professional whose Neela Scarf was among the most talked-about Hindi books of 2014, Mamma ki Diary looks at the larger story of the urban working mother through the writer’s own experiences.

The book covers a range of themes around modern Indian motherhood, from big ones like conflicts between career and parenting to specific issues like tantrums or post-partum depression. Talking to women all around her (“parks, coffee shops, school”) consolidated what had been her personal notions about motherhood in the context of a changing society, Choudhary told me. “I realised that motherhood for this generation is so much about learning new skills. My mother didn’t drive, but I drive. She could never think of travelling alone with the children, but I do. It’s the men whose patterns of life have not changed.”

Vajah, HarperCollins

This is the story of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s life and his relationship with his second wife, Rattanbai ‘Ruttie’ Petit alias Mariam Jinnah, written by Rajendra Mohan Bhatnagar, a prolific Hindi writer who’s published novels like Dilli Chalo, Neele Ghhodey Ka Sawaar andPremdeewani. The book narrates their story against the backdrop of the freedom struggle.

Bhatnagar’s account traces their relationship from the summer of 1916, when Jinnah met Ruttie at the Darjeeling house of his client and friend Sir Dinshaw and was “enchanted with Ruttie’s intelligence and beauty”, to February 1929, when Ruttie, separated from Jinnah and living at the Taj Hotel in Bombay as an emaciated recluse, died as a 29-year-old.

Zindagi Aais Pais, Hind Yugm

This the second collection of short stories by Nikhil Sachan, a 30-year-old who works as a financial consultant in Gurgaon. Sachan’s first book, Namak Swadanusar, came out in 2013 and has been one of the most frequently ordered Hindi books on the Internet ever since.

Once again, most of Sachan’s stories revolve around children, as evident in the title, but his idea of childhood has little to do with innocence. There are also stories of nostalgia, felt by the overworked employees of multinational corporations about things they have left behind in their small towns.

Among the politically sharpest writers of his generation, many of Sachan’s stories show the cruel hilarity of communal politics in India. He attributes his remarkable grip on the fixations and hypocrisies of Hindutva politics to the years spent at Kanpur’s Madan Mohan Malviya Vidyalaya, “an institution with deep RSS ethos”.

This time Sachan takes on saffron-style moral policing through the story Vicky Malhotra ka Pyaar, whose titular character is incidentally lying about his name to get ahead in love and life. Sudhir Kumar has decided to call himself Vicky Malhotra because it’s the kind of the name that screams cool confidence and wins over the girls. It’s the name Shah Rukh Khan’s character in Baazigar, Ajay Sharma, assumes to fool his enemy into handing over to him not only his daughter but also, famously, the power of attorney to his business empire.

Several other promising books are scheduled to come out this year, some of them being Zero Line Par Gulzar, a book on Gulzar’s life and writing by the painter and writer Ashok Bhowmick; Baat Niklegi toh Phir, Jagjit Singh’s biography by former Femina editor and writer Sathya Saran; Chunav 2014, a translation of Rajdeep Sardesai’s book The Election that Changed India; and Agni Varsha, a translation of the new novel by Amitav Ghosh, Flood of Fire.

This post first appeared on Scroll.in

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