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Stay Home & Pick Up a Book, India: Lockdown Reading Suggestions

If you’re one of those who want to use your quarantine to fall in love with reading again, here’s a list.  

Published
Books
4 min read
If you’re one of those who want to use your quarantine to fall in love with reading again, here’s a list.  
i

Staying in has never been more important to the world. India is under lockdown to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly, with the outside world now forbidden, more and more people are discovering the charm of indoor hobbies. And the itch to go read.

If you're one of those who want to use your quarantine to fall in love with reading again, or just want to escape from the chaos of the world a bit, here's a reading list from the world of Indian literature.

Books to Get Lost In

Nothing like having long (and seemingly interminable) stretches of time at hand to read (AND finish) that huge book which has been daunting you forever. Like Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy which is 1,349 pages long. The novel sprawls across geographies, different families, and an ever-expanding list of characters to give you an engrossing and absorbing idea of India in the 1950s. Ostensibly, about a mother's search for a suitable match for her daughter, Seth weaves from the premise a tale you'll not forget.

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Books If You're Getting Back to Reading

Do you want to use your quarantine time to revive your reading habit? Everyone has a genre which helps them to break out of lethargy when it comes to reading, but I find what works the best is a gripping crime/thriller.

Like Sujata Massey's The Widow of Malabar Hills with its intrepid woman detective, Perveen Mistry is a treat, and an insight into gender relations in a newly Independent India. I also overcome a reading lull by reading two volumes of the The Complete Adventures of Feluda by Satyajit Ray. Ray's evocative writing of travelling to different cities like Lucknow, Rajasthan and even Nepal in 1970s India, quaint Circuit houses and villains you can see in everyday India – will make you wistful for a different time, and will whet your sense of adventure that you last experienced as a child.

‘The Complete Adventures of Feluda’ is a great way to get back to reading.
‘The Complete Adventures of Feluda’ is a great way to get back to reading.
(Photo: Penguin)
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Books to Give You Hope (But Not Preachy)

One of the fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a mental health crisis, with people reporting a spike in anxiety and depression. Staying in at home, with the stress of being in the middle of a pandemic, has led people to look for hope, and where better than literature to find it?

A good place to start is Shanta Gokhale’s memoir One Foot on the Ground. Not like your traditional rambling memoir, Gokhale talks of battling life crises, an uneven career and health issues with undeniable wit, and humour. An author, theatre critic and playwright, for Gokhale, every hard moment in life just gives her writing material for her next project.

Books for the Romantic in You

What is life without a good romance? The paucity of quality Indian romance novels is a different debate, but the ones we do have are enough to make you go "romance shomance hai rabba."

Like Andaleeb Wajid's novels. One of the most prolific, and underrated authors in India, Wajid's romance novels are filled with swoon-worthy heroes, feisty heroines and writing that sparkles. I'd recommend Wajid's Twenty-Nine Going on Thirty and The Crunch Factor. If you haven't delved into Anuja Chauhan's delightful novels yet, now is the time. In her novels like Those Pricey Thakur Girls, and The Zoya Factor, she brings forth the humour in falling in love, replete with bustling families, missed connections and zany plot twists.

Anuja Chauhan brings forth the humour in falling in love, replete with bustling families, missed connections and zany plot twists.
Anuja Chauhan brings forth the humour in falling in love, replete with bustling families, missed connections and zany plot twists.
(Photo: Amazon.in)
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Books to Understand India

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit ‘pause’ on everything, India was going through a political churn of its own. Anti-CAA protests were reviving faith in a fast-eroding idea of India, and the violence in Delhi was a stark reminder of how polarised we have become as a country. But what is India?

A good insight into how India came to be can be found in Jawaharlal Nehru's seminal Discovery of India. The tome was written when Nehru was imprisoned in 1942-46 at Ahmednagar fort in Maharashtra by the British. It's a lucidly written account of India's history, from the Vedas to the British Raj. Through Nehru's lens, the India which emerges in his "discovery" is one whose foundation is its secularism , a word which is back in debate these days.

A good insight into how India came to be can be found in Jawaharlal Nehru’s seminal Discovery of India.
A good insight into how India came to be can be found in Jawaharlal Nehru’s seminal Discovery of India.
(Photo: Penguin)

In contrast, the India one sees in Snigdha Poonam's Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing the World is ambitious, and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their dreams, principles be damned. Poonam's reportage takes the reader into small towns, where an intersection of class, technology and desire brings forth incredible stories of young India. Like a government "fixer" who doesn't have time to wonder about right or wrong, and English-speaking classes, where fluency in a colonial language is a do-or-die proposition.

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