The Next Chapter

Aparita Bhandari recommends three books centred on migration and the idea of home

The Next Chapter columnist reviews Translated from the Gibberish by Anosh Irani, Night of Power by Anar Ali and A Delhi Obsession by M.G. Vassanji.
Aparita Bhandari is a columnist with CBC Radio's The Next Chapter. (Rajesh Duggal)

Having immigrated to Canada from India over 20 years ago, The Next Chapter columnist Aparita Bhandari knows what it's like to have a conflicted idea of home.

She spoke with Shelagh Rogers about three books that examine what it means to live in two or more worlds. 

Translated from the Gibberish by Anosh Irani

Translated from Gibberish is a short story collection by Anosh Irani. (Knopf Canada)

"Anosh Irani is a playwright I was first introduced to through his debut book called The Cripple and His Talismans. It was this macabre book. His work has this dark humour that's quite bleak at times. 

A lot of his work has to do with Bombay, or Mumbai as the city is now called. It is the city that he left behind and the Parsi colony that he grew up in. This book is a memoir-slash-collection of short stories. Irani talks about this idea of home and what it means to him.

This book is a memoir-slash-collection of short stories. Irani talks about this idea of home and what it means to him.- Aparita Bhandari

He says when he's in Bombay, he's thinking about Vancouver; when he's Vancouver he's missing Bombay. It's a fascinating collection of stories that delves into the mind of Anosh Irani, and gives some insight into how it works."

Night of Power by Anar Ali

Anar Ali is the author of Night of Power. (Viking)

Night of Power is the latest book by Anar Ali. I'd read her short story collection Baby Khaki's Wings a long time ago and she's had an interesting career in TV as a writer. It was lovely to see that she's back with this novel.

Night of Power tells the tale about a man named Mansoor who's immigrated from Uganda to Calgary. Mansoor and his wife Layla have a son named Ashif, who is a rising star in a multinational firm. Mansoor owns a dry cleaning business in Calgary. He's hoping to expand his empire and he wants his son Ashif to help him.

There are interesting ideas and themes covered here — it's a different type of immigrant story.​​​​- Aparita Bhandari

Ashif has his own issues that he's dealing with, including depression. The book also explores the idea of home and the legacy of paternal figures. There are interesting ideas and themes covered in this book — it's a different type of immigrant story."

A Delhi Obsession by M.G. Vassanji

A Delhi Obsession is a novel by M.G. Vassanji. (Doubleday Canada)

"I gravitated a lot toward this book because I'm a former Delhiite myself. For me it was interesting to read about Delhi through M.G. Vassanji's eyes. So in this particular story, protagonist Munir Khan is a writer — hint hint — in Toronto. His wife has died and he's trying to grapple with life as a widower.

"He decides, on a whim, to go to New Delhi where his ancestors are from. He meets this charming and vivacious young woman named Mohini who is married and has a daughter. She becomes his guide but they also start a love affair as well.

It's really intriguing to read about my city through a fictional lens. ​​​​​- Aparita Bhandari

"There are a lot of things going on in this particular novel. There is this discovery of Delhi through the eyes of Munir, but also this love story between Munir and Mohini. Munir is a Muslim man, Mohini is a married Hindu woman — and in contemporary India this is an incendiary situation.

"So there are all sorts of layers Vassanji is dealing with. But at the same time, certain things remain the same. I'm really curious as to where fact and fiction is blending in this particular novel. It's really intriguing to read about my city through a fictional lens." 

Aparita Bhandari's comments have been edited for length and clarity.


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