Category Archives: Indian/Asian Literature

Literature set in Asia/by authors of Asian origin

THE LONELINESS OF HIRA BARUA: Translated Work

Today I am sharing my thoughts on THE LONELINESS OF HIRA BARUA, a collection of Assamese short stories that ooze the essence of my beautiful motherland Assam.

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(This blog posts also contain a review copy that was sent to me by publishers. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external parties)

The Loneliness of Hira Barua, by Arupa Patangia Kalita
The Loneliness of Hira Barua, by Arupa Patangia Kalita
synopsis

Hira Barua, an ageing widow living in a conflict-ridden region of Assam with her beloved Tibetan spaniel fears she is beginning to resemble a lonely Englishwoman from her past. A vicious sexual assault by the invading military drives a group of women into a shelter home. On a fateful night, a group of prostitutes make an extraordinary sacrifice for the safety of their companions.

In these, and thirteen other piercing, intimate portraits, women navigate family, violence, trauma, ambition and domesticity with caution, grace and a quiet resilience.

Originally published as Mariam Austin othoba Hira Barua, this remarkable collection by one of Assam’s finest living writers won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2014. In this brilliant English translation, Arupa Patangia Kalita’s powerful voice is brought to fresh and vivid life. Written in a variety of styles, from gritty social realism, folklore to magical realism, The Loneliness of Hira Barua is a modern classic of Indian literature. 

Check out my reading vlog for this book here!

my review

The Loneliness of Hira Barua is a collection of 15 short stories by Arupa Patangia Kalita. It was translated from the original Assamese মৰিয়ম আষ্টিন অথবা হীৰা বৰুৱা, by Ranjita Biswas. It is a collection of tales set in the beautiful land of Assam and a wonderfully visual one at that. Thank you to PanMacmillan India for sending me a copy of this amazing collection!

The Women in these Stories

At the core, these stories all revolve around women in various stages of life – young Mainao, the outspoken and righteous Surabhi Barua, married Nibha-Bou, to Kuntibala who showers love blindly upon her son, Brinda khuri, and ending with the eponymous Hira Barua. Along with the diversity in their ages, these women face various problems and Biswas’s translation sets a beautiful motion for the storytelling. The reader is ensnared by this lyrical and poetic writing, which is often interspersed with these various serious and sometimes tragic issues.

Themes

These women all face oppression in different ways – from archaic rules of society, and the patriarchal bonds that clip their wings, to blind emotions that bind them and make them blind to some perhaps not so right things. These stories deal with the militancy that once ravaged the state and at the same time, the loneliness that grips so many people especially in the late stages of their life.

It is also because of these serious topics that reading this collection was an intense affair for me. I would put it down and take a break for a while because my heart would break reading these stories. But then I would always go back to it because such is the allure of this beautiful collection of store. There is an astounding depiction of my dear motherland. Assam and her beauty are unfurled as if Bohagi has let open her voluminous hair leaving behind a beautiful aroma.

The Loneliness of Hira Barua, Books-as-Outfits Challenge
The Loneliness of Hira Barua, Books-as-Outfits Challenge

Overall, I loved this book and am surely going back to rereading it soon! 5/5 stars! Check out my Youtube reading vlog for this book here.

If you want to see more such book-related content check out my Book Instagram page, and Youtube Channel!

Check it out on:

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Trust The Universe: A review

Trust the Universe by Dhiraj Taneja is a book that really puts forward the law of attraction. As long as you work hard and wish for something, the universe surely grants it to you.

synopsis

You are the universe.

Our strongest, most powerful connection to all the stars, the cosmos, and everything else around us that can guide us, is actually within us.
So often, when we get caught up in thinking that we need to “trust the universe,” we somehow think some external force is going to swoop into our lives and save us from all the challenges we are experiencing.

You know those moments when you tell yourself, “I just gotta trust the universe.” Whether it’s because things in your life feel chaotic or just plain overwhelming, sometimes you just know you need to surrender and learn to trust that things will work out.

In this book, the author wants to tell you that the universe indeed is a wish-granting machine. This universe literally gives you what you wish for. 

Also from the author Master the Money Game – Financial Freedom

my review
Trust the Universe

I was looking forward to picking up this book as I had previously read another one by this author ( Master the Money Game – Financial Freedom ), which was comparatively different – on finance. So, of course, I had to pick it up and see how it goes for myself.

What I learned

Here are some valuable lessons I took from this book:
1. You should always practice gratitude and the art of giving.
(This is also something that the author stressed upon in FINANCIAL FREEDOM)

2. The author also begins by talking about assets and liabilities. Having read both these two books, I found that this particular aspect of repetition dragged the flow, a bit. As such, I do think you should read this book first before you pick up FINANCIAL FREEDOM.

3. The importance of learning. As my father keeps on telling me, knowledge is like an inverted pyramid and there is no end. As such, always keep learning.

4. The author also talks about budgeting, how expenses should be lesser than income, etc. He also included some helpful debt repayment tips and tricks, which I am sure will be helpful for many.

5. Planning ahead – and I personally agree with this because having a bullet journal has really improved my life.

6. He also stresses a lot on the importance of lifestyle changes. It is very important and beneficial for us to surround ourselves with people who will inspire us and push us forward in life, instead of dragging us down.

Other aspects of the book

The author also talks about how one can grow his confidence, avoid procrastination, understanding perseverance, etc. Overall, the book is divided into concise 9 chapters, each of which delves deep into the various topics which will undoubtedly be helpful to many of the readers.
Honestly, if you are looking for some short inspirational read that instead of boring you will actually propel you forward, then definitely go ahead with this one.

What did not work for me

However, having read FINANCIAL FREEDOM, it is easy to see that the ideas he shares in that book pretty much evolved from this book itself. And as such, I found it a bit repetitive and that is where the problem came in for me. However, apart from that, I do think it was a very good book that was beneficial in its essence.

Verdict:

It was an interesting read overall and I rated it 3/5 stars!

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Youtube video review of TRUST THE UNIVERSE

Youtube video review of MASTER THE MONEY GAME: FINANCIAL FREEDOM

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What a Time to be Alive: A Review

“What a Time to be Alive” by Ajay Ramanathan is a fun yet introspective poetry collection, reflective of modern society.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external forces.

what a time to be alive
what a time to be alive
synopsis

This book may make you smile or this book may make you sigh. This book may make you ponder or it may force you to surrender. This book may challenge your convictions. It may even change your mind. But in the end, this book will make you say- ‘Ah! What a time to be alive’

my review

From the very beginning “What A Time to be Alive” grabbed my attention and I was thoroughly touched, amused, introspected, was despondent, and also laughed. This is a collection of poems that are varied in their subject matter, and their seriousness (or lack thereof), but are all interconnected by the same voice which seems to the recite the poems in the same modernist detached tone, while also imperceptibly talking about emotions. 

Diversity of topics:

That is to say, I was buoyed by the sheer diversity of the range of topics of these pieces. The poet makes references to global warming, sexism, and rape culture, survival versus living, social media as a boon/bane, the resolute nature of man in the face of hardships, anxiety, modern afflictions and addictions, illusions that mock us and our desires, and so on. But then, there are also quite a few really funny poems that will make you laugh out loud and just have a good time.

My favorites!

Before we continue, here are a few of my favorite ones. They are the weird but oh-so-real kind, that as a reader who liked them, I need to question what that says about myself! So in no particular order, my favorite poems from this collection include,

  • I want to
  • Conveyor Belt
  • The Ideal Relationship
  • Just Can’t Find the Feeling
  • Bags

Writing style

The writing style, like I mentioned before is kind of at a stark contrast with the emotions the words portray. In that, I believe that author has been able to well portray the kind of modernist emotional detachment of the modernist man from his emotions. Even when he talks about these deep thoughts, the modernist man is at least superficially, if not emotionally as well, is shrouded by a layer of detachment.

There is also a rhyming scheme present at times which makes the tones and the recitation a delight to thrive in. I would recommend perhaps reciting out loud the poems for that is a different experience altogether!

Title

The title is an apt one for this collection I believe. Despite the seriousness (or lack thereof) of the poems, they are all emotions and experiences we all go through, albeit at different points in our life. In that, the author has hit the nail right on the head! I love that on one level or the other, the reader is able to connect with them, just because of this relatable nature of each of these poems.

Verdict:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this poetry collection and it is one I definitely recommend to all the readers out there. I rate it 4.5/5 stars!

Links:

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Book review: Krishna’s Sister by Priyanka Bhuyan (#BIRTHDAYBLOGHOP)

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external forces.

synopsis

This is the story of a woman who had everything yet who lost everything and rose when everyone gave up to finally lead the empire of Bharatvarsha. For the first time, take a sneak peek into the life of the sister of the God who shaped Mahabharata to become the progenitor of the Kuru race after everything was reduced to nothing in the battle of Kurushetra.
Krishna’s sister is a mythological fiction of the life and story of Princess Subhadra in the backdrop of the great Mahabharat war and the sacrifice and pain that she went through. It also explores the relationship she shared with her brother and mentor Lord Krishna as well as her husband Arjuna and co-wife Draupadi. Subhadra is also worshipped as a deity in the Jagannath Puri, one of the holiest shrines in India.

my review

KRISHNA’S SISTER is the story of Subhadra (sister of Krishna and Balaram, and wife of Arjun). The reason that this book is interesting is that it brings forth a story and gives a voice to this (yet another) lesser-known woman from the Mahabharata. Recent mythological fiction novels have become a popular source and stronghold for the feminist viewpoint, with the help of which, the female characters are given a chance to bring their stories to the forefront. We all know that the Mahabharata is full of a multitude of related stories, but often they are ignored so as to not confuse the reader. However, this was a great attempt by the author to share the story of Subhadra, a sister of a God, but also a warrior and an independent and strong woman, on her own terms, as well as a goddess herself, worshipped in the Jagannath temple at Puri.

Krishna's Sister (ebook)
Krishna’s Sister (ebook)

The story was an emotional one that tugged on my heartstrings. It is about Subhadra – her life, her struggles, and the utter tragedies that befell her. But most of all, it is about how she overcame them all to emerge victoriously.

The author has written the story in a fluid way – we see the elements of family brought in, along with the love shared among brothers and sisters, the romantic love and subsequent pining she finds with Arjuna, and her later strife as a woman in society. The narration was on point, because despite the fact that all of this happened in the epics, thousands of years ago, the reader cannot help but relate with Subhadra. I cried with her, her pain, and her sacrifices. And like her, I too questioned the ways in which women have to sacrifice so much.

The author also explored her journey from being a Princess of the Yadav clan to being a queen in the Kuru dynasty, her relationships, and the dynamics among the Pandavas, with Draupadi and Kunti. Her relationship with Krishna was an adorable one and I loved the glimpses we got of the Lord.

Like all epics, the theme of destiny and fate is very powerful and prevalent here. Just like in the Greek dramas of West – of Sophocles, Homer, and Euripides – the inevitability of fate catching up to you, or the human strife (and further inevitable failure) to outrun it and escape it is very powerful in the Mahabharata as well. Especially if you consider the end of the Yadav clan but the fateful continuation of the Kuru clan with the help of Krishna’s intervention.

The author with her concise writing has kept the reader intrigued and engaged until the very end. I truly enjoyed reading this book and I hope the author comes up with the rest of the books in the series soon! I rated it 4/5 stars!

Nika with Krishna's Sister
Nika with Krishna’s Sister

Corporate Communication professional, an avid travel blogger, foodie, and movie buff all rolled into one, Priyanka Bhuyan has been doing freelancing since her college days. Her debut book-Kaleidoscope of Love, a collection of short stories is on the varied emotions of love was published in the year 2019 and was adjudged among the top 100 debut authors by Literature Light. She hails from the beautiful green state of Assam and Guwahati is where she calls her home. Currently in a workaholic phase, she has her parents, brother and her dog as her family. For more info you can follow her on girlsliketotravel.com

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A coming-of-age: Suncatcher

An absolutely beautiful and poignant coming-of-age,  Suncatcher is set against the political unrest in the 1960s Ceylon and it is a coming-of-age which I definitely recommend to you all!
Suncatcher by Romesh Gunesekera

An absolutely beautiful and poignant coming-of-age, Suncatcher is set against the political unrest in the 1960s Ceylon and it is a coming-of-age which I definitely recommend to you all!

A coming-of-age novel!

This was my first Gunesekera book and by god, am I a fan now! Suncatcher was a beautiful and poignant coming-of-age novel, or a bildungsroman, as we lit grads like to put it.

Setting and background:

The story is set in the 1960s Ceylon, erstwhile Sri Lanka, and it is a time of great political change all around; the reverberations of these political happenings resonate throughout the book and control how the adults act or what they say.

Themes of illusions and traps

One of the important themes that I could figure was that of illusion. Be it the adults or Jay himself, everyone seems to be deliberately altering the way he or she perceives reality and moreover, an entire section on the construction of the cage and the way how Jay perceives it towards the end is reminiscent of the way the system has caged the people. Society, class, economic situation, language, etc are all dividing lines.

Coming-of-age: The protagonist

At the center, we have the protagonist Kairo, a pretty much normal guy whose life takes for an exciting turn when he meets the worldly and confident Jay.

The similarity to The Great Gatsby

For all his dreams and hopes, Jay reminded me of Fitzgerald’s famous character Jay Gatsby. Jay is a boy whose personality greatly mesmerizes and influences Kairo and he comes off as an idealistic visionary, a talented naturalist and a rebel. There are many layers to his personality, however, and as the story progresses, we learn more about him.

A coming-of-age: Jay and Kairo

However, as Jay seems to be oblivious to the unstable situation all around him, Kairo seems to be a more emphatic and emotionally intelligent boy who takes stock of the things going on around him, although at the time he may not understand their significance. Jay and Kairo as a pair, seem to be a juxtaposition of two vastly different worlds; where Kairo belongs to the bourgeoisie, Jay can be said to belong to the ‘landed gentry’, for lack of a better term.

The similarity to Rhett Butler!!

Another character who was very interesting was Uncle Elvin. If Jay reminds me of Jay Gatsby because of his visionary ways, Elvin seems to embody Rhett Butler in his manner of living. I do not know why, but I somehow saw Clark Gable, more specifically his persona as Rhett Butler as Elvin, which is full of fast cars, girls and his extravagant ways.

A realistic writing style

As for the writing, the language is descriptive and so wholesome! The author has been able to well portray the thinking of youngsters burgeoning in their pre-adult years. There is a sense of rivalry that seems to be present, the need to be the leader and to dominate, etc. The use of the native words adds a very original flavor to the book.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book and I hope I can pick up more from the author’s milieu. I rate it 5/5 stars. Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy of this book. Also, the postcard is so aesthetic!

Recommended reads:

  1. An Atlas of Impossible Longing
  2. City of Girls
  3. The Dutch House

Links:

  1. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48348802-suncatcher
  2. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Suncatcher-Romesh-Gunesekera/dp/1526621584/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3U20JYQ6SXBVS&keywords=suncatcher+by+romesh+gunesekera&qid=1574268544&sprefix=suncatcher+by+romesh%2Caps%2C456&sr=8-1