amitav ghosh


A 2008 Man Booker Prize nomination , Amitav Ghosh’s eye-opening work of historical fiction touches upon many contemporary social issues.

Set in the pre-Independence, colonial Indian subcontinent, Sea of Poppies by decorated historian and author, Amitav Ghosh is the saga of a phenomenon. In the first installment of the Ibis trilogy, the narrative of the book traces the lives of a diverse set of characters, forced together into complex social set-ups by the opium trade of British colonies with China and a slave-carrying ship.

On the face of it, the book seems only to be characterised by a Dickensian cast and crew that includes an out-of-place American, an opium addict from China and a European girl who’s actually native; but, there is definitely a lot going on under the surface.The book has many unconventional, honest, and raw women characters who break moulds. There’s Deeti, the widow of an addicted opium farmer, who choses and fights for her freedom by marrying outside of her caste after her husband’s death. There’s Paulette, who decides to run away to Mauritius aboard a slave-ship to escape the dire realities of her life back home and there’s Muniya, a young albeit naive girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. These women not only reflect the verity of our sociological growth as a country but also exhibit a deep insight into the kind of lives that women of our land have had.

The book also delves into an exploration of the caste divide in both rural and urban India before Independence and also talks about the rigidity of the society. Panoramic and rich in satire, Ghosh’s writing expresses what we already know in a manner that is opaque yet atrocious. The story-telling is engrossing and well-punctuated by his masterful weaving of local dialects and colloquial slang into the narrative. Painstakingly detailed historical accounts from the 19th century that reflect deep philosophies of an economically strained and colonised nation make the book a delightful read and coerce you to discern the deeper consequences of the historical events of a two hundred year span of imperialism.

With an absolutely appropriate title, Sea of Poppies is a meaningful read for all those interested in historical fiction that provides a lens to look at our nation and society in the contemporary world.

Feature Image Credits:Penguin Random House Canada

Bhavya Pandey

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Being a fresher at a college can be very tough, it’s a place with no structure so you have no cushion to fall back to, it really takes a while to settle in and adjust but if you are like me where you find solace reading a good book with headphones playing The Doors song, this piece is for you.

What could be better than a consolidated, well-thought list of spectacular books from authors from Delhi University that lets you imbibe the Delhi University vibe without pushing you out of your comfort zone.

Here are,

10 must-reads from authors from Delhi University:


1. Small Acts of Freedom by Gurmehar Kaur


Gurmehar Kaur graduated from Lady Shri Ram College just a few months back. This is her first book which recounts the events of her days at the campus and its effect on her opinions, her values and beliefs, the transformation you are looking for. The book predominantly talks about Kaur’s struggle with her father’s death in the Indian army and the metamorphosis of liberation the women in her family went through. You may think the book was only relevant then when she became a national figure for speaking against Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (student body of the RSS) but the beautiful depiction of her family and quality of writing has crafted the book to be a relatable one.


2. Real Illusion by Mahi Goyal

Mahi at just the tender age of 18 wrote her first novel Real Illusion while being a first-year student at Miranda House. The genre of the book lies between internal reflection and self-help which will help you deal with anxiety you may face. The book is a tale of a woman whose marriage is in shambles, and her journey of reigniting the fire within herself while finding the silver lining in every grey cloud that comes her way.  The book has a great contrast between melancholy and hope. Also, you’d be astounded to know that Mahi actually claims that it was the corridors of Miranda House and her English department faculty that gave her a perfect haven to write her first book.


 3. The Patna Manual of Style by Siddharth Chowdhury

Experimenting with both style and form, he gives us a book that plucks at notes of nostalgia and dark, honest humour. The book consists of nine quirky interlaced stories that feature characters from University of Delhi (DU), characters who are hilarious and over-the-top but genuine, so much so that you can’t help but fall for them. And of course, there is the protagonist Hriday Thakur, who is an aspiring writer, loves literature, and is so cocky that you can’t resist his charm. The book proves how truth is absolute that it will actually make you want to visit the north campus once. The book has high readability, it’s hilarious to its core and will definitely make you look forward to college.


4. Day Scholar by Siddharth Chowdhury

Day Scholar makes you laugh – in a good way – by the end of its very first paragraph, surely an auspicious start to any book. Almost a sequel to Patna Manual Style, this book has the same narrator and offers a glimpse into the politics, the affairs, and the types of people you will bump into on campus. The book is prepped with great hilarity and gives you great insights into the Delhi University’s boys hostel, making it a perfect metro read.


5. The Verdict by Prannoy Roy

Prannoy Roy, a Delhi School of Economics alumnus brings a book that not only decodes Indian elections but also gives you an insight into University politics. Numbers have stories to tell, but they need a mediator. This book plays that role, and unwraps many a fascinating but hidden story behind the stale and often intimidating numbers and tables on Indian elections over decades. But The Verdict is not only that. Besides number-crunching, it is also anecdotal, and in part, a political history of the country.


6. Train to Pakistan by Kushwant Singh

The late Stephanian was a literary genius and this magnum opus of his will take you on a roller coaster ride. Published in 1956, it will give you insight into how politics paved the way for religious and then national hate. Its a narrative of the gruesome events that burned northern India in 1947. The book’s key feature other than brilliant writing is the transformation of characters between all of this chaos.


7. Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

This is one of Anita Desai’s  (a Miranda House alumna), most acclaimed books, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999. The characters in Fasting, Feasting exist within the typical set up of an Indian family. The novel is character-driven. While it focusses on the theme of gender bias and parental expectations, it also touches upon themes like loneliness, betrayal and loyalty. The story raises many needed questions making it a must-read for all.


8. My Journey by Ali Sardar Jafri

This book is for all the poetry enthusiasts, the book is a collection of poems in English/Hindi and Urdu. After reading this one, you will definitely fall in love with the art of speaking more in less. The book gains a momentum of reading with each new page and will give you a reason why his poetry was so appreciated in his days in Zakir Hussain College.


9. The Circle of Reason by Amitav Ghosh

This list could not see the light of day without Amitav Ghosh’s English fiction. And out of all his novel, his debut novel right after his days at University seemed the rightful choice. In a vivid and magical story, The Circle of Reason traces the misadventures of Alu, a young master weaver in a small Bengali village who is falsely accused of terrorism.  It shows beautifully how religion gives you power as well as helplessness and the inevitable journey of being more than just a caste.


10. Things to Leave Behind by Namita Gokhale  

Things to Leave Behind is the newest novel of this Jesus and Mary college alumna, Namita Gokhale. We discover the lake Nainital—“Naineetal” in the novel at times of British Raj. It is a time when, as the novelist reminds us more than once, there is an Upper Mall Road and a Lower Mall Road, the latter meant for dogs, servants and Indians. Gokhale’s light touch also masks her more serious musings upon the painful clamp of caste and religion, the lack of education and independent property.


These few books will definitely sort your walks in the campus, the metro rides, the missing your school friends night and much more. Happy reading!


Image credits : Scroll


Chhavi Bahmba

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