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The opening section, ‘Lover’, finds him studying medicine in Jamshedpur. At college, he discovers an all-consuming passion for Samir, a junior, who possesses his body, mind and heart. Yet, on their last morning together, when he asks Samir to kiss him goodbye, his lover tells him, ‘A kiss is only for someone special.’
In ‘Friend’, the young doctor, escaping heartbreak, finds relief in Pakur where he strikes up an unusual friendship with Bada Babu, the head clerk of the hospital where he is posted. In Bada Babu’s house, they indulge a shared love for drink, delicious food and convivial company. But when government bulldozers arrive to tear down the neighbourhood, and Bada Babu’s house, the young doctor uncovers a sordid tale of apathy and exploitation—and a side to his new friend that leaves him disillusioned.
And in ‘Father’, unable, ultimately, to flee the pain, the young doctor takes refuge in his parents’ home in Ghatsila. As he heals, he reflects on his father—once a vital man who had phenomenal success at work and in Adivasi politics, then an equally precipitous downfall—and wonders if his obsessive gardening has anything to do with the choices his son has made.
Written with deep empathy and searing emotional intensity, and in the clear, unaffected prose that is the hallmark of Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s style, My Father’s Garden marks a major talent of Indian fiction writing at the top of his form.
Mohan Chandar lives with his wife and three children in the tiny and remote village of Champakbagh. One day, he rescues a strange creature from the storm that is raging outside. When he brings the creature home, the family is astonished. What sort of animal is this? Is he friendly? What does he eat? Where will he sleep? They name him Jwala Kumar, and as the days go by, they discover that Jwala Kumar is no ordinary animal. He has special powers that he uses to help his human family in their times of need. When the days are dark and hope seems to dim, Jwala Kumar lights up their lives in many ways. But who is Jwala Kumar and will he stay forever?
Jwala Kumar and the Gift of Fire is a captivating story of innocence and friendship, of magic and love, and of gifts that last a lifetime.
‘We are like toys—someone presses our “ON” button, or turns a key in our backsides, and we Santhals start beating rhythms on our tamak and tumdak, or blowing tunes on our tiriyo while someone snatches away our very dancing grounds. Tell me, am I wrong?’
In this collection of stories, set in the fecund, mineral-rich hinterland and the ever-expanding, squalid towns of Jharkhand, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar breathes life into a set of characters who are as robustly flesh and blood as the soil from which they spring, where they live, and into which they must sometimes bleed.
Troupe-master Mangal Murmu refuses to perform for the President of India and is beaten down; Suren and Gita, a love-blind couple, wait with quiet desperation outside a neonatal ward, hoping—for different reasons—that their blue baby will turn pink; Panmuni and Biram Soren move to Vadodara in the autumn of their lives, only to find that they must stop eating meat to be accepted as citizens; Baso-jhi is the life of the village of Sarjomdih but, when people begin to die for no apparent reason, a ghastly accusation from her past comes back to haunt her; and Talamai Kisku of the Santhal Pargana, migrating to West Bengal in search of work, must sleep with a policeman for fifty rupees and two cold bread pakoras.
The Adivasi Will Not Dance is a mature, passionate, intensely political book of stories, made up of the very stuff of life. It establishes Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar as one of our most important contemporary writers.
The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey is the story of the Baskeys—the patriarch Somai; his alcoholic, irrepressible daughter Putki; Khorda, Putki’s devout, upright husband, and their sons Sido and Doso; and Sido’s wife Rupi. Equally, the novel is about Kadamdihi, the Santhal village in Jharkhand in which the Baskeys live. For it is in full view of the village that the various large and small dramas of the Baskeys’s lives play out, even as the village cheers them on, finds fault with them, prays for them and, most of all, enjoys the spectacle they provide.
An astonishingly assured and original debut, The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey brings to vivid life a village, its people, and the gods—good and bad—who influence them. Through their intersecting lives, it explores the age-old notions of good and evil and the murky ways in which the heart and the mind work.