In a spectacular new initiative, Penguin Random House India will be publishing two timeless novels -- "Paro" and "Priya" by acclaimed writer Namita Gokhale in a double bill edition.
The publisher remarked that both of these novels are "wickedly funny, occasionally tender, and utterly unforgettable," and have been game-changers in the landscape of women's writing of the Indian subcontinent. And why not if you look at the time when "Paro" was first published and the magnitude that it has travelled so far.
First published in 1984, it came at a time when Indian publishing was far from being what it is today. Multinational publishing firms were yet to find a footing in India, the likes of Arundhati Roy and Vikram Seth were far from making a mark in the world of words and above all, it was a huge gamble on the part of Gokhale, coming from an otherwise illustrious background to explore the "world of privilege and Scotch whiskey that the rich inhabit".
Perhaps India's first social comedy written originally in English, lulled in ecstasies and even erotica to a large extent, "Paro" has stood strong against all tests and trials of time.
"Priya" on the other hand, came much later but here too, Gokhale resurrects some unforgettable characters from her 1984 cult, and plunges them neck-deep into Delhi's toxic waste of power, money and greed.
The publisher informed IANS that this volume takes the liberated, brazen and all-too human Paro and her natural counterpart, the more cautious "Priya" to new readers and old.
"My debut novel 'Paro: Dreams of Passion' has been continuously in print for 35 years now, managing to amuse if not instruct succeeding generations of readers. I am absolutely delighted that the double bill edition of 'Paro' and its sequel 'Priya' has been brought out in a unique flip format -- it's fun to read the two books together! The novel is social form and these two books document the India of the eighties as well as the new landscapes of urban India -- I am looking forward to a journey into the not so distant past as we celebrate the splendid double edition," Gokhale commented about the upcoming launch, scheduled to take place here on Wednesday.
While both novels have already reached out to thousands of readers, this exciting and elegantly packaged double bill edition is sure to find many new takers. Above all, both "Paro" and "Priya" are novels that one can read again and again and yet never cease to be mesmerised by the utter craftsmanship of a master storyteller at work.
For curious readers too, these novels hold immense significance as they are reminders of the Delhi and the Bombay of the eighties and the nineties. No serious study of contemporary Indian literature can be complete without careful study of the given volumes. While they are fitting reminders of how novels were once written -- without the sight of gala events and promotional pressures -- they are also instrumental in sketching the journey of modern Indian writing.