These three new works of non-fiction with women protagonists make for essential summer reading.
The Women Who Ruled India Archana Garodia Gupta, Hachette, Rs 499
Writer and researcher Archana Garodia Gupta has compiled stories of 20 powerful women from the archives of Indian history in one eminently readable collection, offering us a glimpse of their fascinating lives along with a narrative of the socio-political context they lived in. From Begum Samru, a courtesan who went on to become the head of a mercenary army and the ruler of Sardhana, to Didda of Kashmir, known for her keen political instinct and ruthlessness, the writer is unabashed in her portrayal of these queens’ vices and virtues. “They are not hagiographies – because these women were not saints,” she writes, adding, “We will not hold women leaders up to impossible standards, different from the measures we use for men.” It is this ‘warts-and-all’ candour that makes this book a must-read.
The Travel Gods Must Be Crazy Sudha Mahalingam, Penguin Random House, Rs 299
Her work as an energy economist had one unexpected outcome for Sudha Mahalingam – frequent travel to exotic destinations around the world, once going on 18 international conferences in a single year. This happened to suit her travel-obsessed personality very well. Gifted with a humorous, engaging writing style, Sudha has put together some of her wildest travel stories in this memoir. In it, you’ll find hilarious anecdotes such as “suffering the collective flatulence of eighty co-passengers while sailing on a serene Asian river” and having to “cross a pack of hyenas en route to the loo”, peppered with practical travel advice. If you’re looking for engrossing in-flight reading, this book is it.
That Good Night Sunita Puri, Hachette, Rs 599
An American-born doctor of Indian immigrants tries to make sense of the contrasting worlds of modern medicine and traditional faith. The result is this sensitively written memoir that gives a reader an insightful look into the medical industry, where facts, reason and machines decide destinies, juxtaposed with the spiritual seeking and human resilience that she observes at home and during various conversations with patients. The book is comparable with Atul Gawande’s bestseller
Being Mortal and Paul Kalanithi’s touching memoir When Breath Becomes Air – both Indian-American doctors who dwell on questions of mortality, morality and medical ethics. But to be fair, Sunita Puri’s candid recounting of her own personal life and challenges adds a unique, female perspective to her work.
First published in eShe magazine