Thursday, September 04, 2014


There is this thing going on in Facebook. They call it #BookBucket challenge, where a friend posts a list of 10 books which has stayed with him/her on his/her wall and ‘tags’ a few of his friends, who in turn posts his/her own list and tags some more friends. The idea is to make the chain grow. The idea is to keep the love for books alive. Whatever.

But, I wanted to this. Just to show off probably, or to see, how the list turn up if I really have to draw a list of just 10 books. Finally, my friend Arjun Chaudhuri tagged me, and made a list…

I wrote before the list… Of course, your favourite books never always stay with you. They leave and come back again, and at times, they are replaced by others. As Roger Ebert said a list is valid only for the occasion, it is never absolute.

Once I had posted the list (I did receive some likes. Whatever again.), I was thinking of books which have stayed with me and which did not make to the list. Following Roger Ebert again, the next day, I decided to make other alternative lists, four of them.

Now, here they are all together, the original and the alternatives…

The Original List/
1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Not surprising, I guess
2. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. A cornucopia of a continent of a book
3. Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg. “I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.” I have
4. Our Lady of Flowers by Jean Genet. “My heart’s in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand’s in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught.”
5. Anuradhar Desh (Anuradha’s Country), a novel in Asomiya by Phanindra Kumar Dev Choudhury. The epic love story of our generation. “Anuradha does not have a country. She is the woman of this country.”
6. Kothopokothan (Conversations) by Purnendu Patri, especially the poems translated into Asomiya from original Bangla by Homen Borgohain. Modern love
7. Majhe Vidyapeeth (My University) by Narayan Surve. A Marathi poet from Bombay for working class India
8. The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s elementary, Watson
9. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman. Will and Lyra and the subtle knife and the witches and the Iorek Byrnison the bear and everyone else
10. The Complete Sandman by Neil Gaiman. This is how dreams are made

Alternative List 1/
1. The Mahabharata. Several translations, both in Asomiya and English, including works of C Rajagopalachari and RK Narayan and even Devdutta Pattanaik; because this is the story of Bharat
2. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Because a friend gifted it to me; because a friend stole it from me; because another friend gifted it to me; because I have several different editions; because it is the greatest fantasy novel ever
3. Jejuri by Arun Kolhatkar. A series of poems as geography, history, mythology; Indian modernism at its best; because I have been to the place several times
4. The Dasyu Bhaskar Series by Rongmon. A series of detective/adventure thrillers in Asomiya published in 1960s-70s, now rare in print; because it fuelled my sense of adventure during childhood, because of the memory of my dead friend Bhai, now lost
5. Jangam by Debendranath Acharya. A great novel on the impact of WWII on India and Myanmar, in Asomiya; because I want to translate the book into English
6. Another Country by James Baldwin. Because everyone else loves Giovanni’s Room; I think Baldwin is more political and more hard-hitting here than anywhere else
7. The complete poems of TS Eliot. Because he inspired me to write poetry, read poetry, because his poems tell stories
8. The ghost stories of Sharadindu Bandopadhya. Because they are unique, out of this world
9. Agamemnon by Aeschylus. Various translations; because this is the first major Greek tragedy available; because I am translating it into Asomiya; because “men has to suffer to be wise…”
10. The complete poems of Hiren Bhattracharya. The greatest Asomiya poet of his generation, period

Alternative List 2/
1. The complete poems of Nabakanta Barua. Because he gave me an autograph when I was in school; because he is a great poet and a great translator; because I translated his works
2. The Pa-Fu series by Prem Narayan Dutta. A series of detective/crime-thriller with a very positive patriotic anti-British slant, written in the 1940s, very popular during the time, now rare in print; because he was our Conan Doyle, our Poe
3. Sanglot Fenla by Parag Kumar Das. Because it’s a document of a revolution lost written during the time when it was on the way down, a prophetic voice full of compassion and understand, written by a talent silenced by bullets
4. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Because of the unfathomed possibilities of Florentino Ariza’s love
5. Shame by Salman Rushdie. The controversial, influential author’s best work, how a country losses it
6. Delhi is not Far by Ruskin Bond. Because it’s Ruskin Bond, the chronicle of small town India, as if he is on a treasure hunt and found all his treasures
7. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. I guess, it was inevitable; but it was Damboldore’s sexual orientation that clinched it
8. The complete works of Pablo Neruda. Because it’s him; this guy
9. Bhok (Hunger) by Dr Dhrubajyoti Bora>. This is the guy who wrote classic Asomiya novels like Katha Ratnakar and Kalantoror Gadya trilogy, but this early novel about a daily wage labour is a real gem
10. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Because it’s Oedipus, because its fate

Alternative List 3/
1. Kalpurush by Davendranath Acharya. Story of a spy during the Ahom rule, a historical masterpiece, down to every word he has written; classic
2. Bai Saheba by Dhirendranath Borthakur. The life and death of the queen of Jhansi though the eyes of a common soldier; a classic historical novel in Asomiya
3. Samiran Barua Aahi Aase by Manoj Kumar Goswami. The classic short story collection in Asomiya
4. The early poems of Nilim Kumar. He who inspired a whole generation of Asomiya youths read and write poems, this poor fellow included, because he started writing non-poems
5. The Night of January the 16th by Ayan Rand. No, not Fountainhead, no Howard Roark but this slim book
6. Ka by Roberto Calasso. The best modern retelling of India origin myth, written in Italian by an Italian, and it is astonishing in its scope and imagination
7. The Indian Poems of Octavio Paz. Especially Muthra, I did not see it when I went to Mathura, but I see Mathura in the poem, through his eyes
8. The Boyfriend by R Raj Rao. Because I typed the manuscript and got paid for it; because I know the real story behind the fiction and I am not telling
9. Thief’s Journal by Jean Genet. Because its Genet, you want to emulate his adventure but it’s a dangerous proposition
10. Same Sex Love in India by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai. Because a friend send a Xerox copy to me from Germany before the book was available in India, because the book helped me get a Ph.D. degree

Alternative List 4/
1. How Green was My Valley and The Lost World respectively by Richard Llewellyn and Arthur Conan Doyal. In Assamese first, translation done to the perfection by Dr Raihan Shah; a gift of my childhood
2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Because of the memory of Bhaskar who is now gone, among other things
3. The complete stories of Roald Dahl. Because it is Dahl
4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. Oh, Father Faria and Mercedes
5. The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Because the book is equally rivetting
6. Gora by Rabindranath Tagore. Because it’s the only Tagore work I could really connect to
7. Mahakabyor Pratham Paat by Bipuljyoti Saikia. A great poet, not just because he made that internet site on Assomiya literature, why did he stop writing poetry? I hope he did not
8. The complete poems of Sananta Tanty. Because I am translating it into English
9. Wuthering Height by Emily Bronte. Because you cannot claim to have studied Eng Lit without this book, Heathcliff
10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Because Pip’s story it could have been mine; otherwise I would have chosen A Tale of Two Cities

PS. As I finish writing this, I know missed several other books. I did not mention The Hobbit, none of Shakespeare, no Robin Cook, no Nirupama Borgohain, no Homen Borgohain…

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