This book is the story of the author’s uncle, Shanti Behari Seth who is in his eighties and lives in London and his German wife.
Shanti was born in Lucknow and immigrated to Germany in the 1930s for his studies. He lived with a Jewish family there where he meets his future wife, Helga Gerda Caro.
The author traces their story individually and then together. Shanti, an Indian living in Germany in the 30s and Helga, a Jew who went through the tumultuous journey that all Jews went through during that period.
While he moves to London as he cannot get a license to practice dentistry in Germany, she moves there years later to escape the Holocaust.
The book is an interesting read, tracing the love story of an Indian man and a Jewish woman traversing through Berlin and London during a period when the world was burning.
Since only his uncle was alive when the author was writing this book, it is from largely his voice while Helga’s journey is traced through the letters she exchanged with her family and friends.
This is where the book gets a little tedious and long as her voice in the letters is not given justice by the author. In the middle the book becomes a collection of letters Helga exchanged with her near & dear ones who were still living after the Holocaust. The book somewhere loses the plot & reading becomes a task.
However, the book has a wave of nostalgia which all younger generation people have for their grandparents and how they lived their lives. The book ends on that very note, perhaps a little bitter.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
An Israeli professor holding a Ph.D started teaching an online course on A Brief History of Humankind. This course became extremely popular which made the lecturer write a book on the same.
That book is Sapiens and the lecturer is Yuval Noah Harari.
This extremely popular & highly recommended book traces evolution and puts human beings and our race in its place. Starting from the time when humans were three different species till the current age, the book traces our journey right from removing other human species from the face of the earth to now destroying other species as well.
The best thing about this book is how it puts our entire journey in perspective and what we have left behind. Wiping out other species and exploiting nature to the extent that we are on the brink of disaster is what humans as a species has been all about. Although what I do refer to as humans here is one of the species of humans which has survived.
This book is an eye-opener and should be a must read for everyone!
The Golden Gate
Yes, Vikram Seth is another Indian author I enjoy reading thoroughly. This book is a story written entirely in verse.
I do not write a lot of poems nor do I read them and that is why I was a little hesitant in picking up a book written in verse. But I am glad I did. This was Vikram Seth’s first novel & gained him instant popularity in the US & India. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in English in 1988 for this novel.
The book is based in San Francisco and was released in 1986 which is a reflection of the changes happening in the city during that time. It was emerging as the center of liberal activism and counter-cultural movement along with a rejection of set standards & celebration of alternate lifestyles.
It is important to understand this background of the city to understand the characters in this book as well. Two of them are gay and several other characters discuss homosexuality, feminism, civil disobedience and religion.
This book brings joy and sadness as it takes us to San Francisco in different seasons as love blooms and withers away and lives continue to move on. The book is a delight to read and just whisks us away to this beautiful city which has continued to be the center of a liberal art & culture, along with technology today.
It is a delight to read this book, even for those who do not enjoy poetry.