In caring for stray animals during a pandemic, thoughts on the transformative relationships between humans and dogs
My growing concern about humans was also a result of my relationship with street dogs over the years. Since these are very social animals — who not only depend on people for food but also genuinely like being around us — I had access to this vantage point: how sad and empty a human-free world might look through the eyes of a creature that has evolved socially alongside us over tens of thousands of years, become one of our most steadfast companions, emotionally enriching many of us along the way. | Jai Arjun Singh writes
Despatches from a room: In these stories set in confined spaces, imagination helps decipher an inaccessible world
In this month's #MyBookshelves column, Jai Arjun Singh writes about stories centered on immobilised people in an unnatural situation, using what resources they have to stay productive and to find a form of escape: whether it involves travelling into the past, moving towards physical freedom, or re-evaluating the mechanics of an outside world that is temporarily out of reach.
Errors of curation: On collections edited by Otto Penzler, and how even respected anthologists can get things wrong
When we trust someone as an expert in a field, we want them to be informed as well as scrupulous. Otto Penzler's errors are a caution not just to editors but also to critics and teachers who are tempted to sound more knowledgeable than they are about a book or film.
New memoir of Balraj Sahni by his son is heartfelt — and revealing of contradictions in actor's well-intentioned life
The Non-Conformist: Memories of My Father Balraj Sahni is a heartfelt memoir by Parikshat Sahni, who was an actor himself but stayed in the shadow of his famous dad. Though affection and respect are the dominant tones of this book, there is also a real sense of the missteps, delusions and contradictions that can mark even the most sincere and well-intentioned life | Jai Arjun Singh writes in 'My Bookshelves'
The hitman as philosopher: The strange and compelling narrative of Agni Sreedhar’s The Gangster’s Gita
Sacred Games’s depiction of the stoicism and banality of underworld lives (Ganesh Gaitonde casually mentions hacking an informer to pieces, returning home, eating “a little sabudane ki khichdi” and going to bed), came back to me while reading Agni Sreedhar’s The Gangster’s Gita | Jai Arjun Singh writes
Far from ideas of imposed 'purity', many Indian books make a case for the country's variedness
Trying to understand what Indianness might be necessarily means learning new things all the time; you’re a student for life, constantly re-evaluating your assumptions. And there are a number of books that make you thrill to the possibilities of being impure or unfixed | Jai Arjun Singh writes in 'My Bookshelves'
Of Devapriya Roy’s Friends from College, bridges to the past, and second-hand nostalgia
The writing of Devapriya Roy's Friends From College is reminiscent in some ways to a particularly observant series of journal entries, the sort that the more “writerly” of us might have maintained in our college days, creating narratives about ourselves and our friends
Shivaji Sawant’s Mrityunjay illumines mind of Mahabharata's Karna, at the point of his moral faltering
It was only on reading Shivaji Sawant’s Mrityunjay that I felt an author had got into the mindscape of Karna, a hugely complex character
Reading Gerald Durrell: How a boy on an idyllic Greek island inspired generations of nature-lovers, readers
As is the case with much comfort reading, revisiting these books also brings a tinge of melancholia, as one reflects on the small ways in which one’s own life paralleled (or might have paralleled) the author’s — and the very big ways in which it diverged.
Lessons from reading Richie Rich comics in a plush penthouse (as a resident of a soft-socialist country)
I wonder sometimes about the appeal — escapist or forbidden — that these Richie Rich comics must have had in a country with a soft-socialist history. They weren’t so much an unabashed celebration of capitalism as a goggle-eyed ode to a sort of demented-capitalism-on-drugs where one had so much wealth — in so many forms — that one couldn’t realistically do anything but arrange it in many pretty ways | Jai Arjun Singh writes in his monthly column #MyBookshelves
Child-appropriate literature: Should young readers be shielded from certain kinds of writing, or characters?
Much as I would today like to reply “Children should read whatever they bloody well want”, it would be silly to pretend there can be a one-size-fits-all answer
How to read anthologies, and learn about the adult world through Guy de Maupassant’s short stories
Much of Guy de Maupassant's writing was adult in ways that had little to do with sexually explicit content. It opened a window of insight into the mysteries of adult behaviour, and examined ideas and conflicts I had no firsthand experience of, at the time
Amar Chitra Katha's dark side: Recalling the morbid story of a jackal who ate an elephant
Author Jai Arjun Singh writes about the first book that he read, Amar Chitra Katha's Panchatantra – How the Jackal Ate the Elephant, examining the morbid stories and illustrations in a book meant for children