My favourite books...very hard to compile a list...reason being... at different stages and times perspective changes but great books leave you with an impression, a feeling which stays.
1. The Hungry Tide It will continue to be my favourite...there is a call of this unknown mysterious mangroves the Sundervans...i could feel Sundervans in my senses and get mesmerized by the chemistry of Piya and Fakir.... two characters so different yet so alike. The storms depicted in the forest and eye contact with the man eater bordering between surreal and myth was something which transcended words and you begin to live in the mysterious jungle.. A short book with depth and breeziness of a thriller. My all time cherished book by Amitav ghosh.
2. The River of Smoke Since i began with Amitav Ghosh it is justified i bring the name of River of Smoke ,second in the about to be trilogy after Sea of Poppies, history and fiction had this superb blend and the reader gets caught in the lives of the protagonists as they witness changes in the pages of history. The political diplomacy, shrewdness, behind the scene agreements...the doom of a race, the victory of the colonists with tales of deceit...the reader is left with a series of emotions and a virtual tour of Canton city with its cuisine, boat houses where the protagonist meets his love...business centres and deals, the tussle between business and moral ethics as the drug catches on the entire country. Again it has a thriller like aspect which draws one to the book and has the reader captivated till the end.
3. Na Hanyate I read this book in my teens and realised that it was a must read for every Bengali growing girl of course at that time. It was this vibrant, intense love story and i was upset that a seemingly blockbuster Hindi movie had been made out of this at least copying the basic idea and some frame by frame remakes without any acknowledgement to the original. But for those who had read the original, the love story between the foreigner who comes for Sanskrit lessons from a renowned scholar and his daughter was a mirror of the society at that times... when a new India was waking up to new values and new education and the winds of modernization had began to flicker a burning passion and love between the two characters. Their love fall apart, the foreigner disciple ousted from their house once their affair is caught... basically the passion of a true love story spell bounds the reader along with the hard reality of Indian society amidst the veneer of modernization.
I also read La Nuit Bengali ( Bengal Nights) by Mircea Eliade after some years when i could get hold of it just to feel the totality of love and the account of a foreigner in love with an Indian woman.
4. Mother Being a Bengali brought up in a joint family my entire house brimmed with different kind of books. From religious to literary and from literary to revolutionary! I read Mother when i was young and through the eyes of an illiterate mundane mother how the seeds of a revolution was being sown and how the lady woke up to the bitter truths she had lived all her life and the changes her son and his group of friends planned to bring to the world. I felt awakened through her eyes, how an entire notion rose to their freedom, how new ideas were coined. Mother left me with strong memories as i grew up.
5. Lost Horizon Read in my school days again there was this story of Shangri La a land away from this material world where time ceases to run. Shangri la caught me in a web of dreams and imaginations in a land somewhere far in Tibet where four characters get stuck after a plane crash. The mystery of Shangri la where abundant gold mines exist and the residents do not fight for gold where nobody ages where the Lamas pray and lead a simple life... a land isolated from he world. The main protagonist Conway gets attracted by the land yet cannot get rid of earthly feelings for the woman who was also stuck here and finally how the real world wins over and he flees leaving Shangri la... the magical land. The book played with my imaginations and perhaps a Shangri la is still imprinted on the mind.
6. Prothom Pratisruti This classic by Ashapurna Devi was all about the rise of a woman from the shackles imposed on her by the society since her birth. Her struggle with the blessings and love of a tyrannical father and a struggle to write her own destiny and when she fails miserably as her little daughter Subarnolata was married off by her husband and conspiring mother in law in her absence. The struggle of a woman, a powerful intelligent woman well ahead of her times as she tries to be the harbinger of change...the fruits of the change we are savouring now.
7. Prothom Alo I have grown on a staple diet of Sunil Gangopadhyay,s books since childhood be it the feisty Kakababu or took a peek from ' Poorbo Paschim' that used to come on the Bengali weekly Desh or his various novels and rare sometimes his poetry. Prothom Alo was published serially in Desh and i remember we all took turns reading it... starting from my father, my grandma and then finally me. Well along with history there was this lure of adult world for me but the date with hisory takes over as i read about Tagore,s life weaved in the story...his journeys through his Bajra ( decorated boat) his relations and their aspects, his encounter with the Tripura Maharaja...and various other characters like Nati Binodini, Girish Ghosh all who were an ode to the renaissance in Bengal and India...hence the nomenclature Prothom Alo.
8. Gora Though people say as compared to his poetry and short stories Tagore's novels could not scale the same heights... but Gora cast a deep impact on me during my teens. Though Brahmo Samaj...the debate between formless and idol worship was inspiring, it was basically the intelligence and intensity of Gora and the growing love between him and Sucharita crafted in Tagore,s poetic language had me spell bound and the identity crisis Gora comes to term with.
9. Aranyer Adhikar I know Bengali books will rule my chart but i do not see a a reason to be guilty... blessed with a language so rich in literature and history...i always have found my soul in books of this language. This novel by Mahasweta Devi was my journey into the lands of the real India.. neglected and overpowered by the shrewd and financially stronger. It was a cry from the dwellers of the forest to give back their land ,their life... their peaceful coexistence with the forest from ages. Birsa Munda,s struggle to claim his land, a life for his people moves the reader to tears...and indeed a reminder of the struggle by the inhabitants of India to retain their identity, claim their rights.. a war which still goes on in the unexplored heart of India.
10. Aranayak A classic by Bibhuti Bhusan Bandopadhyay, a novel, a travelogue... which took me through the forests of Munger, Bhagalpur and the virgin lands of Bihar. I remember this book invariably as i travel through the heart of Bihar in my journey to Guwahati from Delhi at least once a year...his dreams woven in this land... i recall the writer riding his pony in a path washed my milky moonlight in a breathtakingly beautiful forest. Well no one can live nature in his writings as Bibhuti Bhusan does and Aranyak remains eternal in my heart.
I know i have missed many, conspicuous by missing few bestsellers... and i do not know whether translations are available for all i mentioned but these gems i carry in my heart..and remember at times.