Chandrahas Choudhury is a writer and literary critic. His first novel, Arzee the Dwarf, was released in 2008, and most recently, he edited India: A Traveller’s Literary Companion, an anthology of writing that is rooted in specific regions of India. [And he’s even signed the copy of the book that we have at Tenderleaves!]
He’s written for Mint, The Caravan, Foreign Policy, and others. You should check out his writing about books at his blog, The Middle Stage, for some excellent book reviews.
Since his newest anthology required him to study a lot of Indian Writing, we asked him to choose a similar theme for his Must-Read List. He thought over it and finally decided on Indian books that meant a lot to him in his childhood. Here goes:
The Village By The Sea, by Anita Desai. The book by which I first came to an awareness of the pleasures of Bombay before I arrived there myself at the age of nine. The protagonist is a small boy from a Maharashtra village who comes to the city to work because of family troubles. I must have read this book once every year between the ages of eight and thirteen.
A Room On the Roof, by Ruskin Bond. Although more into James Bond than Ruskin in my early teens (the women were sexier in Fleming), I enjoyed very much this autobiographical novel of a boy reaching adulthood in Dehradun, written when Bond himself was only 17. Since then rooms on roofs have always held a particular mystique and allure for me.
Swami And Friends, by RK Narayan. As a schoolboy in Orissa I thought about cricket all day long, buying up old copies of Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack and reading all the biographies and autobiographies I could lay my hands on. This book was the literary side of my cricket reading, an unforgettable story of a few schoolboys in RK Narayan’s fictional town of Malgudi who want to start a cricket club of their own. The scene in which some fabulous cricket gear arrives by mail order was for many years a childhood dream of mine for myself.
Sunny Days, by Sunil Gavaskar. Gavaskar was one of few Indian cricketers who wrote his own books and (more than he does today) spoke his mind. I loved reading and re-reading this book (his autobiography) and his tribute to cricketers he admired, Idols. The bit where he speaks of being switched in the hospital where he was born with a fisherman’s baby, only for a eagle-eyed relative to notice the mix-up, always seemed irresistible to me, and allows us to imagine an alternative Sunny today as a wizened Koli fisherman on some shore in Bombay.
Azhar by Harsha Bhogle. Mohammad Azharuddin was my boyhood hero, a magician with the bat and on the field. I used to copy his own stooping walk, arms held out slightly on either side with palms open, when I played cricket at school and now, I realise, even when I played more seriously at university. Harsha Bhogle’s detailed and sympathetic book took me closer to my hero, and was something I read practically every six months.