Athila Hussain

When the world is aloof being quarantined, there are a number of books to be read, at least to create a positive vibe and to boost our mental health. According to Ezra Pound “Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand”.- Listing countless benefits of reading, it improves empathy, staving off dementia, improves mental flexibility. Reading is a key to creativity as the readers of fiction is found to accept more ambiguous thoughts. 

Every reader possess an inner self of a child,thus let us begin our reading session with Totto- Chan, the Little Girl at the Window. It is an autobiographical memoir written by Japanese television personality and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. It is a series of childhood recollections tells about the ideal school in Tokyo during World War II. The school Tomoe Gakuen was founded by headmaster Sosaku Kobayashi. He consider children as free souls and great personality, believed in freedom of expression and creativity. Totto Chan is expelled from the public school because she kept disrupting her class and her  mother was forced to put 6her to Tomoe Gakuen. The classroom trains where destroyed by Tokyo air raids,but Headmaster promises to rebuild it. A sentence that captures our mind from the book, “He wanted to teach the children that all bodies are beautiful”. It changes our perception towards the childcare.     

The second book is an epic novel written by K.R.Meera, Hangwoman or Arachar, which is translated by J Devika. The novel is about 22 year old Chetna Grdha Mullick, who is hailed from a family of hangmen and the clan claims an exotic pride on their professional lineage, which had historic relevance since 400 BCE. Her 88 year old father has done 451 hangings, at the course of time Chetna was appointed as the hang woman. She is visualized as the symbol of strength and self respect for woman, but she is a utensil of the patriarchal society. The family is hit by a number of tragedies. The novel is enriched with symbolism. History and myth recoils and play a major role in the power production of the story line. The novel also details with poverty ,gender ,society ,media manipulation and the place of woman in in society. “Twenty seconds…Declared dead!” the magistrate announced loudly. My body was tensed and overwrought ,like a stretched rope.” The novel possess powerful language of feelings.     

Freedom at Midnight is a non-fiction by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. It describes events around Indian Independence and partition in 1947-48. The book compresses the story to a tight one year time frame. The novel beginning with appointment of Lord Mountbatten of Burma as the last Viceroy of British India and ending with the death and funeral of Mahatma Gandhi. The book is a result of deep research into events often neglected by other historians. The book was an International Best Seller. The whole chronicle is illustrated with masterful character sketches of how Briton had come to India, how they ruled it and how they had been forced to leave it divided. Readers create a hard feel against Jinnah. It is a horrifying and realistic account of tragedy of partition and its bloody aftermath. The discourse could be exemplified in the quote ‘On 23 June 1757,marching through a drenching rainfall at the head of bare foot and 2000  Indian Sepoys, an audacious general named Robert Clive routed the army of a troublesome Nawab in the rice paddies outside a Bengali village called Plassey.     

Silent Spring is an environmental science book by Rachel Carson. It documents the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. ‘A heron lay in frozen stubble. Its wings were stud to the ground by frost. Its eyes were open and living,the rest of it was dead. As I approached, I could see it whole body craving into flight. But it couldnot fly. I gave it peace and saw the agonised sunlight of its eyes slowly heal with cloud. “Rachel Carson was the first to give voice to the ecological concern, in a way that came through loyal and clear to the society. Powerful synthetic insecticide such as DDT were poisoning food chains, from insects upwars. The book created a wide awareness to the west. Thus the book is a must read in reader’s cart.     

Final Solutions is a breaking play from Contemporary Indian Theatre, by Mahes Dattani, which has an increasing relevance in the current Indian political scenario. It is an authentic expression of the first hand experience and knowledge of socio-cultural environment. He holds a mirror to make reality visible to the audience. The theme of communalism, Dattani applies the religion consciousness and the prejudices towards different religions. “Should we be swallowed up? Should we be swallowed up? Till they cannot recognize us? A drop of oil cannot merge with an ocean of milk.One reality cannot accept another reality. Dattani question it by deliberately stick to the plural solutions, thereby questioning the final. This is a short list of books of different genres which opens a mere window to the world of reading, widens the perspectives of quarantined minds and light the rays of hope.

(Athila is currently pursuing her MA in English from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi)


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