Week Three: Parwaaz – Urdu Short Stories By Women

This is the third book in the books I’m reading this year. Around now I should be writing the review of my  seventh book. Hopefully the new blog will inspire me to write more! This book was read from 13th January to 19th.

Short Mein Bole Toh: This was my first serious reading of this year. Though my reasons for reading this book were purely academic (borrowed from library); I think I’ll read the short stories once again someday.

If you’ve time, then please read the rest of my opinion of this book.

I never understood what “afsana likh rahi hoon” meant. The introduction to this collection of short stories is so brilliant and well researched that it makes a case for reading all stories even if they may not all be good. This particular genre is called the afsana literature in Urdu writing and though preferred by women for most part, the influence and some seminal works by men are talked of too.

“Parwaaz” is a compendium of short stories by women authors translated from Urdu by Sayeeda. S. Hameed and Sughra Mehdi. Though “short” at only 11 stories, the book is by no means a light read. Some of the stories are so deeply disturbing, that I wished at times that I could stop picturing them.

Parwaaz in Urdu means to rise or to soar (translation mine, anyone have a better term?) With stories that come from India and across the border from Pakistan, the most obvious theme would be the partition; however, the condition of women and the life in purdah form the main theme.

The authors in this collection are Rasheed Jahan, Hijab Imtiaz Ali, Khursheed Mirza, Ismat Chugtai, Saliha Abid Husain, Razia Sajjad Zaheer, Qurratulain Hyder, Hajira Masroor, Khadija Mastur, Jeelani Bano and Wajida Tabassum. I’ve previous read a couple of them, but a majority of these women were revelations for me and I think I’ll treat this book as an index to their works.

Perhaps, the most upsetting story was the last one by Tabassum called Cast-offs (Utran). If you’ve seen the popular show on Indian television by the same name, you’ll know how the story begins but there’s no possibility of being able to predict the end.

Parwaaz

This is my fifth compendium of translated writing in India by women in the last three months. After ten stories or so, the themes start to blend and every character feels the same. A couple of stories stayed with me much after I finished reading this book, and that’s saying a lot when you read literature like you consume ordinary media.

The best part about reading this book may turn out to be the fact that I am, once again, interested in learning and reading more Urdu.

Who Should Read: If you’re interested to get a woman’s perspective into the excessive crimes of the partition and want to read stories that may be very very ordinary but special at the same time.

Who Should Not Read: If you cannot handle moderate to extreme violence and prefer happy endings. If translated works are not your thing.

If you would like to read someone else’s opinion on the same, you can read it here.

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Week Two: The Book of Humour by Ruskin Bond.

There were supposed to be four posts by now, but this is only the second! Though I am continuing with my weekly book promise to myself, writing a post about it too is proving to be quite a task! Here’s to hoping I improve soon! This book was read from 7th January to 12th!

Short Mein Bole Toh: I wish I had a life as wonderful as Bond’s. If nothing, then an uncle as eccentric as his.
If you’ve time, then please read the rest of my opinion of this book.
Perhaps the first Ruskin Bond story I read was Night Train to Deoli. It was in the Maharashtra State Board English textbook along with Lady on Platform Number 8 and The Cherry Tree. I remember thinking then that the story was so good, it would make such a beautiful and haunting movie.
I’ve read scores of books by him including his biographical stories, books on road trips, places, people etc., but never an anthology solely on humour. The Book of Humour is divided into several parts that are all “crazy”. Crazy relatives, crazy places, crazy animals etc. and ends with Crazy Writer.
He signed my book at the Times Literary Carnival '14! :) I'm the one in green.

He signed my book at the Times Literary Carnival ’14! 🙂
I’m the one in green.

My most favourite among all would be about the crazy crow that is the first story of the second part. In a book that is laced with the typical brand of Bond’s humour, it is difficult to not like anything, frankly. But my fear of birds aside, this crow was nice. The story makes you wonder exactly what would have prompted Bond to think from a crow’s perspective. If this story is inspired by true incidents, then I think I would be perfectly cast in the role of one who is tormented by the crow! 🙂

If you’ve read his writing before, then you know that humour and quirky writing comes to Bond effortlessly. It’s the underlying feeling even in his ghost stories! With this book, he raises the notch another level. It’s mirth and emotion along with a dash of introspection into the life of everyday Indians who stay in a world very different from mine.
I was hooked to this book, I laughed in trains, buses and outside the dentist’s waiting room. Made people wonder what on earth was wrong with me when I giggled at the silly events in Bond’s life. The stories never let you off once its fangs are dug into you. Give it a read.
I’ve gifted friends, younger cousins, my teachers etc. with a Ruskin Bond book for a long time now. Reading this book made me appreciate the author and realise how generations of readers could read his works and still enjoy them. I’m glad I gift his books to people!
Who Should Read: Anyone who can read. Or can be read to. Seriously.
Who Should Not Read: I cannot, for the life of me, think of anyone who would not want to read this book!