Life | Off The Shelf

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Off The Shelf
Published: Volume 18, Issue 12, December, 2010

Dramatic tales, thrilling suspense, fascinating fables, works laced with humour…. Verve lays out a lavish spread of reads, as the year draws to a close

Luka And The Fire Of Life
Salman Rushdie

Random House India
This lyrically crafted fable is a book for all ages. A gift to Rushdie’s son on his 12th birthday, the work is filled with a play of words that delves into themes of devoted love and mortality. The story is of 12-year-old Luka who must embark on a journey through the Magic World, encountering obstacles to steal the Fire of Life and save his father.

The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos
Margaret Mascarenhas

Hachette India
A beautiful blend of myth, dreams and reality (synonymous with South American literature), the story is of a 15-year-old girl who disappears into the Venezuelan jungle. The non-linear narration tells the story from different points of view, even as it explores themes of love, truth, and belonging. By the end of the book, you’ll want to read more about Venezuela.

Samit Basu
Hachette India
This hyper-real novel is set in an overdramatic 21st-century Indian subcontinent with all its Bollywood hungama, radical religious parties, cricket fever, terrorism scares and TV shows. Add to that a bunch of people who have suddenly developed superpowers (that they didn’t even ask for) to change the world. What you get is a tale that is sharp and witty.

The Goat, The Sofa and Mr Swami
R Chandrasekar
Hachette India
A breezy read that deals with the confused state of Indian diplomacy. Toss in cricket, politics and India-Pakistan banter and you have enough material for sarcastic humour. The goat? Well that’s a gift from the Pakistani government to the Indian government. And the sofa? That’s what our PM gets built. It’s the subtle, comical style makes it an amusing page-turner.

Beautiful Thing Inside The Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars
Sonia Faleriro

Penguin India
The title says it all. Through the story of Leela, a bar dancer, this non-fiction account journeys into the dark corners of Mumbai’s sex industry, the ban on the dance bars and its outcome which left thousands of women unemployed. It’s an allegory about who we are as people and how we treat each other.

Bollywood On The Bend
Sangeeta Wadhwani
San Creatives
This fascinating novel on the contemporary Bollywood factory weaves in the author’s true life encounters with the industry’s A-listers. It’s the fictional account of four young talents who shoot a blockbuster ‘noir’ Bollywood film in the backdrop of changing values, different styles of working and new age ideas and relationships, all of which mirror contemporary Indian society.

AUTHOR speak

To live in Delhi doesn’t necessarily mean that you know it well, says Mayank Austen Soofi, better known as ‘the Delhiwalla’, who tells Verve how he writes books about a city he has fallen in love with

First, let’s start with your name, what’s with the alias?
People get judgemental when they hear your last name. In my case, the alias, some say it is to bring in that Amar Akbar Anthony caste no bar effect...but it’s not. I am a simple man who does a simple day job and lives in a simple private library (I know living in a library sounds romantic and unreal but it is romantic, and real). Moving on, Mayank is the name my parents gave me, Austen is because I am a Jane Austen fan and Soofi because I am in love with Nizamuddin Auliya, I go to his shrine everyday. Simple!

How are these books on Delhi different from any other guidebooks?
I come from Nainital and I’ve lived in this city for six years. It’s a dusty, dirty, difficult and complicated city but there are so many beautiful things too. There is plenty to write about it, even if it has been written in the past. These books are not only for outsiders or travellers who don’t know the city and want to explore it, but they are also for the people of Delhi who want to know more about it, even if it is from the comfort of their living room. They are for anyone who cares about this city. Besides, the photographs used in the books are vibrant, with people alongside the monuments. It showcases a real city with real people.

Which are your favourite sections of the series?
Initially, the book on the monuments was my favourite, but now, I like the one on food and drink more. It talks about local food joints (including the roadside ones) that lend colour to Delhi. Over the years, so many food vendors have been thrown out and the city now accommodates branded chain outlets. I miss those individual nameless (or fancy named) stalls of aloo tikkis and chaat that added vibrancy to Delhi. These stalls were the bread and butter of hundreds of locals from Eastern UP, North India and Bihar who have absolutely nothing to go back to.

Blogging or writing books, what’s easy?
When I write, I just do that. Writing about something is like watching a movie and watching people watch that movie — I think of why they came to the place and what they think about it. While I try not to think who I am writing for, it’s only logical that blogs give the liberty of space and one has to keep the audience in mind when writing for a book. Then there are places that I couldn’t mention in the book. That itself says it all.

How do you work and what’s next for readers?
I scribble on my notepad, carry my camera around all the time and then get up at 2 or 3 am and simply write. I am working on a non-fiction account of Delhi’s red light areas and work is also underway for a novel but that will take some time to publish.

(Published by Harper Collins Publishers India, The Delhi Walla is a series of three slim volumes with photographs that complement the concise text by author Mayank Austen Soofi covering hangouts, food and drinks and monuments of Delhi)

CHEF talk

Chef Soundararajan, Corporate Executive Chef, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts talks about his book The Essential Culinary Guide

Why is it important to go back to the basics?
Flavours and ingredients may vary the world over but the basics never change. You can bring out the gourmand in you if you know the techniques and things like temperatures and characteristics of ingredients, the rest is the same.

What are techniques?
Techniques are a blend of right ingredients, manpower and equipments which are universal. So, in the book, I have treated Indian cuisine on the same platform as international cuisines.

What’s next?
While Indian cuisine is popular, it is yet to find its way into fine dining menus abroad. I’m working on making my book a part of culinary schools abroad. Next, will be my book on ‘Menu management’, followed by, ‘What to eat to live for 100 years’.

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