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14 Books that best capture India

Last updated on: August 14, 2014 10:54 IST

14 Books that best capture India

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IconRediff.com flags off its Independence Day celebrations, looking at the books that capture the weft and warp of the wonder that is India.

 

A Suitable Boy

An economist from Oxford and Stanford, Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy is one of the longest novels ever published in English.

It has more words than Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

It is 1,349 pages long and was published in 1993.

The book is based on a mother's search for a suitable boy for her daughter and follows the story of four families in the 1950s.

Seth is working on the sequel A Suitable Girl, which is expected to be published in 2016.

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Shantaram

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Written by an Australian prisoner who fled to India, Shantaram is a semi-autobiographical account of Gregory David Roberts' life in Mumbai.

Roberts spent most of the ten years in the city before he was captured in Germany and extradited.

Filmmaker Mira Nair was to make a film on the book featuring Johnny Depp and Amitabh Bachchan, but the project never took off.

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The City of Joy

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When French journalist-author Dominique Lapierre first came to Calcutta in 1981, he had no intention of writing a book.

Till Mother Teresa took him to a slum called City of Joy. Lapierre spent the next two years researching a book whose title has come to define Kolkata.

Roland Joffe made a film on the book starring Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and Patrick Swayze.

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Midnight's Children

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Salman Rushdie's second book Midnight's Children won the Booker Prize in 1981 and made him a literary star.

The novel also won the Booker of Bookers and is among Penguin's great books of the 20th Century.

Midnight's Children is the story of Saleem Sinai who is born on the cusp of midnight, at the dawn of Indian Independence. The book follows Sinai whose destiny is entwined with India's history.

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Butter Chicken in Ludhiana

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An amusing and incisive travelogue through small-town India, Pankaj Mishra brilliantly captures change just as the country is getting its first taste of globalisation.

Mishra's first book takes him through Ambala, Shimoga, Mandi, Ranakpur, Kottayam, Malda...

He does not visit Ludhiana though! The title is based on something he overheard.

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Maximum City

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Suketu Mehta's Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prizes and is a chronicle of India's most interesting metropolis.

Twenty-one years after he left Bombay, Mehta returned in 1998 and stayed on for two-and-a-half years to research this book.

Like City of Joy for Kolkata, Maximum City has become an apt descriptor for Mumbai.

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Delhi

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'It took me 25 years to piece together this story spanning several centuries of history, wrote Khushwant Singh in his foreword to Delhi. 'My only aim was to get (my readers) to know Delhi and love it as much as I do.'

The magnum opus is on the city and the people who shaped it over 600 years.

Khushwant Singh, who passed away at 99 in March, will always be remembered as one of India's most prolific and best-loved writers.

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Tamas

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Five Days.

Bhisham Sahni's Tamas, meaning 'Darkness', is the story of the horrors of Partition experienced over five days.

Sahni's novel was adapted into a television series by Govind Nihalani in the late 1980s and is arguably the defining commentary on the murderous violence and trauma that accompanied Partition.

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A Fine Balance

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Rohinton Mistry's novel is set during the Emergency when political upheaval, forced sterilisation and imprisonment mired Indian democracy in its darkest hour.

Indira Gandhi, the architect of the Emergency, is not named in the book and is only referred to as prime minister.

A Fine Balance was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1996.

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The God of Small Things

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Arundhati Roy burst on the literary scene with her debut novel set in Kerala.

The brilliant narrative about a complicated family against the backdrop of discrimination and Communism won her the Booker Prize in 1997 -- the year India celebrated 50 years of Independence.

She was the first Indian citizen to receive the Booker (Salman Rushdie was a British citizen).

It is her first and only novel.

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A Million Mutinies Now

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Vidhiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, wrote A Million Mutinies Now as the concluding part of his trilogy on India from where his ancestors had migrated to Trinidad in the late 1800s.

A Million Mutinies Now is a far more sympathetic account of India, than An Area of Darkness, which he wrote in the 1960s, and India, A Wounded Civilisation, which he published in the 1970s.

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The Inheritance of Loss

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Kiran Desai won the Booker Prize for The Inheritance of Loss, set in a run-down large house in Kalimpong, West Bengal.

It is the story of an orphan arriving at her grandfather's doorstep and the ensuing saga of the characters across continents.

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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Katherine Boo, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, wrote Behind the Beautiful Forevers after three years of meticulous reportage on the Mumbai slum of Annawadi.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is about the hopes and aspirations of Indians living in the slum situated next to three five star hotels and is being adapted for the stage by the National Theatre in UK.

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The Age of Kali

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William Dalrymple's The Age of Kali, is a series of essays on his encounters and travels in India and the subcontinent.

Dalrymple provides riveting accounts of Bombay parties, meeting erstwhile maharanis, nawabs, the widows of Vrindavan...

You can buy The Age of Kali here.

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