Hey Guys, here are the top 4 reads this November. I hope you will like them and Happy Reading!
1. Harp- TALE IN NOSTALGIA
Ashok travels the world from India to Europe to the US and back home to be trained at and exposed to the dairy business throughout the world in the 60s. He falls in love, explores himself and balances between the traditional world and new.
Set in the context of the zeitgeist and idealism of the late sixties, Harp is about love, longing and coming of age. The three main protagonists – a young man travelling in a Europe-less-travelled including the Iron Curtain, a young woman who has a calling to music, and another young woman who has loved and lost once – provide the frame of this narrative about journeys we make across countries, even as we embark on a private quest within to know ourselves better, and to seek what it is we really want from life. Moving through India, Europe and USA, Harp follows the lives of these three young people even as they engage with the cultural, sexual, student revolutions, and the music of the sixties.
Excerpt: He left France for the shores of Polska via Frankfurt, not quite with an aching heart but the young experience an intensity that only they know about. It was the month of May.
Maybe he would come across his true love like this whether he was ready or not. Who knows about these things. And these encounters were as much about finding himself he pondered. To understand his sexual self. To know what really mattered to him.
There was no Dairy Scholarship in Pologne. It probably wasn’t that advanced in Dairy Technology anyway but there was an invitation to visit factories in Warsaw, Wroclaw (Breslau when it was German), the Nowa Huta area and Cracow. Might gain something. Would be interesting to visit Poland in any case.
Warsaw was dull and grey in its architecture, soul-destroying monstrous Soviet style construction, block after block with tiny windows and a nonhuman scale. Most of Warsaw had been destroyed. There were hardly any resources. The Communists had to re-build quickly, cheaply and on a mass scale. Aesthetic appeal wasn’t a relevant parameter. These were more basic, survival issues.
The girls were good looking, many of them. Well defined, well proportioned features, refined faces.
No wonder they were considered the best looking in Europe. He had been hearing this. It seemed well deserved.
In Warsaw, the factory was on the other side of the river - in Praga, the poorer part. The milk bottling equipment was Angielski - Udeck. The same pasteurisers, cream separators. Machines from Vulcan Laval, Koltek Oy in Finland. The milk powder was spray dried - an atomiser at the top of the huge cone. The machines were all Western but not state of the art. He had assumed it would be technically more advanced than in India, if not like the West. In fact some of the Management control systems were not as efficient. Indian business could teach them a thing or two. Of course, the Communist era was still very much there. The dairy staff were all white coated but they did not have the same air of briskness about them. There was an underlying lack of care. The lab did not give off the same sense of cutting edge research or of purpose.
Should he cut short his visit and go back to the West. There may be nothing to pick up here. But lessons are not only technical. Besides, his programme was tightly set.
He had been given the choice of staying with a family in Mokotow or one of the Orbis Hotels. The hotel was characterless and depressing. There was a stale air about it, the view was monotonous - of plain grey cement façades and tall buildings. Ashok would feel neurotic here.
The family in Mokotow was warm and friendly, characteristic of Poland, even in Warsaw. Of course, nobody minded their own business.
The husband worked for the Foreign Ministry and spoke some English. The rest of the family, like most of Poland then, had no acquaintance with English. Ashok peered at the letters. They were Roman. How could the language be so completely different. At least in French there were obvious similarities with many mots en anglais, even if the prononciation was different.
Piotr the husband settled down in the evening with some golden piwo with froth at the top, in an invitingly shaped convex glass. He offered him some. The piwo was surprisingly good and 10 bottles came for 25 zlotys. The official exchange rate was 1 US $ = 24 zl. The unofficial rate was 135 to the dollar.
Ashok was learning to adjust fast. He felt settled enough the next evening to take a tram. A ticket which had to be punched into a machine inside the tram was just 1 zl, bought from kiosks called Ruchs. They sold newspapers, cigarettes, condoms and other items of hour to hour need. These were open for long hours and you could just step out on to a street and find one, not too far away. They were even more ubiquitous than the piping hot sausage stands downtown.
Sometimes there was a Wild West feeling. Groups of men stood around some of the main city streets. As he neared one such group of rough looking young men he felt some tension. Was it his imagination or was something happening. As he drew quite near the tension increased. One of them said in a gruff voice “masz agnia”. In a flash Ashok thought of agni in Sanskrit. The young man was testing him for the group. Young children did it more innocently when they saw a foreigner by asking “ktura jest godzina?” - ‘what is the time’, to see if he understood Polish. Ashok lit a match and offered it to them. He had passed. He was one of them. They let him be. He might have just escaped being roughed up.
He took his place in the queue at the tram stand. A tram arrived with the clanging of bells. It said 31. It was headed for Zoliborz and various destinations beyond. None of the destinations or stops meant anything. What the heck, he would just take it. He would probably never be in Poland again.
The tramlines lay thick across the city. Often two trams would pass right next to each other going in opposite directions. The trams were brightly lit from the inside highlighting the characters standing or sitting. There seemed to be no passenger limit in these peoples’ transports.
Author: Nidhi Dalmia, Publisher: AuthorsUpFront, Pages: 414, Price: ₹ 295/-
Author: Moti Nandy, Publisher: Penguin, Pages: 256, Price: ₹ 399/-
Author: Krishna Udayasankar, Publisher: Hachette India, Pages: 408, Price: ₹ 399/-
4. Pound of Flesh
Author: Mukul Deva, Publisher: Westland, Pages: 502, Price: ₹ 350
Let me know in the comments below, if you like my selection of books for read. Happy reading!