Best Books to Read of 2023
Floor Coverings from Kashmir by Promil Pande
In her illustrated book, textile researcher Promil Pande delves into the rich tradition of handcrafted carpets, rugs, and mats in Kashmir. Titled “Floor Coverings from Kashmir: Kaleen Carpets, Namdah, Gabba, Ari Rugs, and Wagoo Mats,” the book meticulously explores the diverse array of floor coverings originating from Jammu and Kashmir. Pande traces the roots of Wagoo mats back to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and discusses the emergence of pashmina shawls during the reign of King Zain-ul-Abidin in the 15th century.
The narrative unfolds as shawl weavers transition their expertise to carpet making, providing insights into the historical context, craft production networks, and cultural significance of these finely hand-woven floor coverings in Kashmir. Published by Niyogi Books, “Floor Coverings from Kashmir” also delves into the history of hand-knotted rugs, tracing their origins to the Pazyryk carpet crafted 2,000 years ago, now housed in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.
The book traces the evolution of carpet production in India, with Pande shedding light on the role of Mughal emperors who established imperial karkhanas or workshops. These workshops commissioned master weavers to create rugs for royal palaces. Pande elaborates on the transition from the Persian style prevalent during Jahangir’s reign to the Mughal or flower style under Shah Jahan. The patronage of weavers by Rajput rulers in their kingdoms is also explored.
Highlighting the global exposure of Indian carpet weaving at the London Exhibition of 1851, Pande underscores how this event introduced exquisite pashmina shawls, or param narams, to a wider audience. This exposure catapulted these luxurious items into highly sought-after attire in Europe.
Unherd by Kartikeya Ladha
“Unherd” by Kartikeya Ladha is a mesmerizing journey through the labyrinth of self-discovery, spirituality, and the profound questions that haunt the human soul. Ladha weaves a tapestry of romance, philosophy, mystery, and adventure, taking readers on a ride through the bustling streets of New York to the spiritual landscapes of India.
The story revolves around James Walsh, a successful lawyer in New York, whose life takes an unexpected turn when he encounters Jessica. This chance meeting becomes the catalyst for James’s quest for purpose and meaning in a world dominated by consumerism and herd mentality. The disappearance of Jessica propels James on an odyssey that transcends physical borders, leading him to the mystic realms of India.
The strength of “Unherd” lies in its ability to tackle profound existential questions that resonate with readers on a deep level. The narrative is not merely a story but a reflection of the universal quest for happiness, fulfillment, and the true essence of life. The protagonist’s journey serves as a mirror, forcing readers to confront their own existential dilemmas and search for a higher purpose.
Kartikeya Ladha’s writing style is both engaging and evocative, seamlessly blending introspection with plot progression. The alternating realities of New York and India are vividly portrayed, immersing readers in the diverse landscapes that mirror James’s inner journey. The author’s use of dialogue is particularly noteworthy, with lines like, “Something tells me that we were meant to meet today, and I had to point you in the direction of this mystic,” adding an element of mystique and anticipation.
The character development in “Unherd” is commendable, especially the transformation of James Walsh. His evolution from a driven lawyer to a seeker of spiritual truths is relatable and authentic. The relationships, particularly with Veronica and Jessica, add layers to the narrative, exploring the consequences of societal norms and the importance of genuine emotional connections.
The novel’s exploration of spiritual themes is a highlight, seamlessly integrating Eastern and Western philosophies. James’s journey through India and Tibet becomes a metaphor for the universal quest for inner peace and meaning. The fusion of spiritual ideas into the narrative makes these complex concepts accessible to a broad audience.
In conclusion, “Unherd” is a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant novel that transcends the boundaries of conventional storytelling. Kartikeya Ladha has crafted a compelling narrative that not only entertains but also inspires introspection. It’s a must-read for anyone grappling with questions of purpose, existence, and the pursuit of a truly fulfilling life.