It was a bright warm day in June, and the clocks were striking eighteen. The plan was in place, the game was afoot. The office party allowed me to slip out after half an hour of eating and mingling. As I rushed out the door, I formulated Sherlockian routes, time-optimized, of the New York City subway.
The best case scenario involved 2 well-timed switches and a brisk walk. The worst (and dreadfully boring) was 38 minutes on the local. It wasn’t going to cut it. Why not take an express as far as it could go? Aha! Because the express from Wall Street makes 2 extra stops before meeting the local at Chambers. Local-Express-Local was the way to go.
The uptown trains were crammed full of tourists and rush-hour suits. Thankfully, we’d ditch the former in that great cesspool of Times Square. 3 stops and 20 minutes to go. The ride came to a nail-biting finish with me entering the place with just 3 minutes left on the clock. Reserves, scanned, packed and out in 2. The fruits of my labour:
- Midnight’s Furies
- In 1947 a country believed to be on the cusp of a civil war was divided into two: India and Pakistan. Political leaders thought it was the only way to avert the bloodshed that seemed imminent. They were wrong. The largest mass migration in history resulted in somewhere between 200,000 to 2,000,000 deaths. Freedom at Midnight? Midnight’s Furies.
- The Pity of Partition
- Saadat Hasan Manto was born in pre-Partition India and died in post-Partition Pakistan. He is described as a “writer, playwright and author considered among the greatest writers of short stories in South Asian history”. As a South Asian and a voracious reader, I was surprised that I had never heard of him. I find that popular works that have strong ties to India but originate in the western “Muslim” parts of the world have been purged from our national consciousness, like Shahnameh. The Pity of Partition.
- Bombay Stories
- Manto’s short stories about a city that we both love.
- Pink Sari Revolution
- A movie called Gulaab [Pink] Gang is supposed to be based on a true story of women in rural India fighting the traditionally patriarchal society that they were born into. It stars two fine, older actresses that I rather like. Though the women’s group is several years old and the movie is a couple of years old, I stumbled upon them on Netflix and was intrigued by their story.
- Would It Kill You To Stop Doing That?
- How did I get here? Was it Goodreads? My brain on the Internet processes too much information to remember where it got it from. A (hopefully) light-hearted read in the midst of all this heavy stuff.
- Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
- The survivor is a Polish Jew.
Nazi fascism and its atrocities are drawn as a literal cat-and-mouse (completely un-fun) game.
Man, all of my reading this month sounds like its going to be wholly distressing and heart-rending followed by questioning the necessity of the existence of humanity, the monsters that can do the absolute worst to each other.
A Goodreads recommendation based on Persepolis. Have I mentioned that I love Iran? The Iranians that I have met are so friendly, their culture is so rich and varied that it reminds me of India, and miraculously, their food is delicious even though it isn’t spicy (in the traditional Indian sense: “Asian countries within the sphere of, mainly, Chinese, Indian, and Japanese cultural influence, traditionally consider pungency a sixth basic taste.”)
- The survivor is a Polish Jew.
- Girls of Riyadh
- This one is contentious. It’s either got 4-5 stars or 1 in its reviews. The low rated reviews are in Arabic and so I assume that they must be more authentic. While I am wary of views of the East influenced by Euro-centrism, this was the most reviewed Saudi Arabian book written by a Saudi Arabian woman on Goodreads. While I do intend to read outsiders’ and male accounts of the Middle East, I must admit that I am most interested in what the Middle Eastern women have to say: Elif Shafak, Marjane Satrapi, Ayesha Jalal, Rajaa Alsanea.