India Through 10 Books – My List

Read this post very recently by my blogging friend – The Greedy Reader. It was done long back in 2013 and here we are in 2016. Though it was a very old one, I had enjoyed it so much that I had to do a post myself to bring back memories of few decades and condense into a post. Let me start the list of books/author’s that introduced me to India. I am only talking about the books I read in English (some of them were translations). I will go in the sequence of my discovery of those books, not necessarily the same order as they were published. It was really difficult to get the list down to 10.

  1. Parineeta, Devadas , Final Question and many more by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay: Tagore might have won the Nobel Prize, but it was Sarat Chandra’s novels that I was first introduced to. Malathi Chandoor, the telugu novelist has introduced his books to us through her monthly reviews. I do not remember which one she reviewed but then that was enough for me to start on the voyage. There was a collection of the translations in a neighbour’s house. Life in Bengal, the river Ganga and Padma being an integral part of the story, the well etched heroines were some of the factors that fascinated me.
  2. Gora, Fireflies, Ghare Bhaire and many by Rabindranath Tagore: Our library had an overflowing collection of Tagore books. Gitanjali was the first one I read by this author and to say I was fascinated is an understatement. I have captured my feelings reading this book here. Getting to his novels, Gora and Ghare Bhaire introduced Bengal during the independence struggle. Though there were many similarities with Sarat Chandra’s books, but there was also a social element to Tagore’s books.
  3. Volga Se Ganga Tak by Rahul Sankrutyayan: The title of the book intrigued me into reading this book. Growing up in the 80’s with heavy Soviet influence, and having reading every issue of Sputnik, Volga was not an unknown to me. Added to the fact that we had a wonderful  teacher who made us love our Hindi poems with the energy and the feel he put into reciting those. Tried reading in Hindi but could not get past couple of pages. Then I took the English translation and loved the stories. Part fictional and part historical the stories were based on the theory of Aryan migration from the central Europe to India. One of the many books that took me back to the days of yore.
  4. The wonder that was India by AL Basham: I loved the title and started reading the book. Extremely comprehensive which gives a bird’s eye view India through the ages. It is on a heavy side and cannot be read through like a novel especially with the language being the Independence era style. It is a good introduction of India through the ages. The social structure of the society which was through the eyes of an Englishman. I did not find anything equally good by an Indian author that is as entertaining as this one. Guha’s  – India After Gandhi comes close but it is more of a political history. If you know of one, please do recommend.
  5. All books of RK Narayan: All lovers of RK Narayan’s Swami should visit the small town of Agumbe and see the 100 year old house where the TV Series Swami was shot. The streets of the town still have the old world charm that RK introduced us to. Every day life of a small kid growing up in the post Independence era and the small morals that were taught through them make a good time read even now.
  6. A History of South India by KA Nilakanta Sastry: Slightly difficult to read because of the language but an interesting one. This was my first detailed introduction to the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Vijayanagar dynasty, the Bahami sultans and the kingdoms of yore. It started on my quest to read more and more about South Indian kingdoms specifically. Though I had to labor to finish this book, it finds a mention here because of the succinct introduction and raised my curiosity.
  7. Ruskin Bond – Trees grew in Dehra, The blue umbrella and many more: I do not know why I did not pick up Bond early on. Once I  did there was no turning back. I got the omnibus collection and read from start to finish in couple of days. Lovely account of life in lower Himalayas.
  8. River Dog – A journey down the Brahmaputra by Mark Shand: I am fascinated by rivers especially the mighty Brahmaputra. A colleague from Assam introduced me to this book about the account of tracing the  river Brahmaputra. The original plan was to trace the whole route from Tibet through India and Bangladesh, but then could not get permissions to explore the Chinese side. So it is only the India and Bangladesh parts of the river that is traversed. Amazing read.
  9. India after Gandhi by Rama Chandra Guha: Independence, acquisition of the Indian states, the Kashmir controversy, the Indo Pak wars, the Sino Indian conflict, the North East issues – this book has touched on the origin and the history on all these topics. Gives a better understanding of the current affairs and the seeds of dissent. Read this to understand more about what is going on currently.
  10. The Lost River: On the trail of Saraswati by Michael Danino : Indus Valley Civilization – the ascent and decline and how it was intertwined by the rivers especially the mythical river Saraswati. Anyone who is a history buff will love this book, though one need be one to read the book. Interesting facts, well presented.

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