Aavo Padharo, words of welcome in the language of Gujarat because it is here that these words ring truly and the guest is ‘God’. The people of Gujarat are gregariously friendly and will entice you to come again and again for the delectable food, handicrafts, colourful festivals, Asiatic lions, and elaborately gorgeous temple towns. Get a sneak peek into the homeland of Gandhi through this list of books, which we like to call Gujarati Files.
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Title: The Stepchild: Angaliyat
Author: Joseph Macwan
Translator: Rita Kothari
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Blurb: Angaliyat tells the story of oppression and exclusion by transforming the vanquished into the victor, by turning the periphery into the core. The portrayal of Methi and Kanku as ‘pure’ women challenges the age-old perceptions of higher castes which denigrate the practice of remarriage among ‘backward’ communities. The stepchild who follows the mother to a new home holding her finger or angali, remains on the periphery of the stepfather’s family. Significant from several points of view, the novel provides a view of the ‘history from below’. Caught in external and internal forms of colonization, the community of weavers, the Vankars, is subject to oppression from the more powerful upper caste of the Patels.
Price: Rs. 445 || Pages: 272
Title: A Gujarat Here, a Gujarat There
Author: Krishna Sobti
Translator: Daisy Rockwell
Publisher: Penguin India
Blurb: Delhi, 1947. The city surges with Partition refugees. Eager to escape the welter of pain and confusion that surrounds her, young Krishna applies on a whim to a position at a preschool in the princely state of Sirohi, itself on the cusp of transitioning into the republic of India. She is greeted on arrival with condescension for her refugee status, and treated with sexist disdain by Zutshi Sahib, the man charged with hiring for the position. Undaunted, Krishna fights back. But when an opportunity to become a governess to the child maharaja Tej Singh Bahadur presents itself—and with it a chance to make Sirohi her new home once and for all—there is no telling how long this idyll will last.
Part novel, part memoir, part feminist anthem, A Gujarat Here, A Gujarat There is not only a powerful tale of Partition loss and dislocation but also charts the odyssey of a spirited young woman determined to build a new identity for herself on her own terms.
Price: Rs. 299 || Pages: 272
Title: Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy
Author: Siddharth Varadarajan
Publisher: Penguin India
Blurb: This book is intended to be a permanent public archive of the tragedy that is Gujarat. Drawing upon eyewitness reports from the English, Hindi and regional media, citizens’ and official fact-finding commissions – and articles by leading public figures and intellectuals – it provides a chilling account of how and why the state was allowed to burn.
With an overview by the editor, the reader covers the circumstances leading up to Godhra and the violence in Ahmedabad, Baroda and rural Gujarat. Separate sections deal with the role of the police, bureaucracy, Sangh Parivar, media and the tribals, the economic and international implications of the violence, the problems of relief and rehabilitation of the victims, and, above all, their quest for justice. The picture that emerges is deeply disturbing, for Gujarat has exposed the ease with which the rights of citizens, and especially minorities, can be violated with official sanction. The lessons of the violence ought to be heeded and acted upon by the public. For, in the absence of this, can another Gujarat be prevented from happening elsewhere?
Price: Rs. 384 || Pages: 472
Blurb: Taking a closer look at the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the authors explore the political tensions, social dynamics and economic forces that contributed to making the state what it is today: the impact of the British policies; the process of industrialization and urbanization, and the rise of the middle class; the emergence of the idea of ‘swadeshi’; the coming of Gandhi and his attempts to transform society and politics by bringing together diverse Gujarati cultural sources; and the series of communal riots that rocked Gujarat even as the state was consumed by nationalist fervour.
Price: Rs. 321 || Pages: 344
Author: Govardhanram Madhavaram Tripathi
Translator: Tridip Suhrud
Publisher: Penguin India
Blurb: A novel of epic proportions, written in four parts from 1887 to 1901, Sarasvatichandra is both an enactment and the embodiment of the life philosophy of one man, and his sole mission. Though the novel was published in four parts, each part has a distinct thematic content, its own cast of characters and independent beginnings and ends.
Written sixty years before Independence, the novel holds up a fascinating mirror of Gujarati society of that time, the joint family, particularly the role of women, and life in the princely states, against the backdrop of a nation in transition at the turn of the century—culturally, politically, and ideologically.
Before the advent of Gandhi, arguably no other work has so profoundly influenced the ethos and imagination of Gujarat as Sarasvatichandra.
Price: Rs. 595 || Pages: 408*
Title: Prince of Gujarat: The Extraordinary Story of Prince Gopaldas Desai (1887-1951)
Author: Rajmohan Gandhi
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Blurb: Born in 1887 into a clan of princely Patels, Darbar (or Prince) Gopaldas was not only a beloved and just ruler of the people of his tiny state in Saurashtra, but he was also an active and courageous participant in the struggle for India’s freedom and for social justice. Championing Dalit rights long before that became acceptable, he declared, when his wife Bhaktilaxmi was pregnant with their last child, that if it was a girl he would marry her to a Dalit boy, he stood out also for his concern for Gujarat’s Muslim minority and for his defence of women’s rights.
In this biography, bestselling author Rajmohan Gandhi uses letters, rare documents, personal accounts and historical narratives to recreate in vivid and moving detail the life and times of a leader of supreme honesty and unalloyed patriotism who a hundred years ago also battled, as a prince, against the hierarchies of Indian society. With the surge of interest in personalities from Gujarat, not least because of the election of the controversial Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India, there is no better time for a biography of a great son of Gujarat and one of India’s forgotten heroes.
Price: Rs. 435 || Pages: 284
Title: Endurance: A Droll Saga
Author: Pannalal Patel
Translator: V.Y. Kantak
Publisher: Sahitya Akademi
Blurb: Manvi Ni Bhavai aka Endurance: A Droll Saga tells the love story of Kalu, son of Vala Patel, and Raju, daughter of Gala Patel. They love each other and want to marry, but they are betrothed to other people. Patel set the love story during the time of the Indian famine of 1899-1900, and the last scene in the novel ends with the first drops of rain, which symbolizes the end of the famine.
Price: Rs. 270* || Pages: 436
*As Listed on Sahitya Akademi Website
Blurb: Gujarat MLA Jagubhai finds himself on the fast track to a coveted ministership after a local newspaper lists his name amongst the probable. His base of supporters swells overnight. Officials, businessmen, supporters and even close family members, line up to remind him of old favours given and promises to be kept. Jagubhai’s nephew, Rajshekhar, an inconsequential government officer, joins his team as his self-styled personal secretary. As a political crisis brews, we see what a rollercoaster ride a politician’s life can be. Dramatic, humorous and full of intrigue, this novel is as real as it gets. It could well be the biography of any politician we read about in the papers every day.
Price: Rs. 221 || Pages: 174
Author: Dalpat Chauhan
Translator: Hemang Ashwinkumar
Publisher: Penguin Hamish Hamilton
Blurb: Gujarat, 1964. The agrarian system of renewable annual contracts mandates full-time labour on the houses and farms of landlords. In these bleak circumstances, Iso, a tanner by birth, graduates from being a child labourer to an adult serf on the estate of Mavaji.
His life is one of humiliation, hunger and drudgery, and the only respite comes in the form of Diwali, Mavaji’s daughter. Between them exists a physical relationship that is shrouded in secrecy, shame and fear. Even as Iso creates distance between them, a chance encounter turns to violence and tragedy, and he faces the brutal sword of caste patriarchy.
Based on the blood-curdling murder of a Dalit boy by Rajput landlords in Kodaram village in 1964, Vultures portrays a feudal society structured around caste-based relations and social segregation, in which Dalit lives and livelihoods are torn to pieces by upper-caste vultures. The deft use of dialect, graphic descriptions and translator Hemang Ashwinkumar’s lucid telling throw sharp focus on the fragmented world of a mofussil village in Gujarat, much of which remains unchanged even today.
Price: Rs. 452 || Pages: 328
Title: Karan Ghelo: Gujarat’s Last Rajput King
Author: Nandshankar Mehta
Translator: Tulsi Vatsal, Aban Mukherji
Publisher: Penguin India
Blurb: In the grip of lust, Raja Karan Vaghela abducts the beautiful Roopsundari, his prime minister Madhav’s wife. Fuelled by a desire for revenge, Madhav escapes to Delhi and persuades Sultan Alauddin Khilji to invade Gujarat and destroy the Patan fort. This unleashes a dramatic chain of events that forever ends Rajput rule in Gujarat, heralding the dawn of a new age.
Rich in psychological insight and imbued with a poetic vision, Karan Ghelo tells the spellbinding tale of a man who tragically failed his land and its people.
Price: Rs. 283 || Pages: 344
This list of books is curated by Amritesh Mukherjee for Purple Pencil Project’s Instagram.