Githa Hariharan

"Other people's stories. How did they get stuck in her head, how did they become hers?"

Mala's home in Delhi is empty, save for a lifetime of sketches left behind by her late husband Asad and the memories they conjure. Sifting through them on restless afternoons and sleepless nights, Mala summons ghosts from her childhood, relives the heady days of love and optimism when Asad and she robustly defied social conventions to build a life together-and struggles to understand how events far removed could so easily snatch away the certainties they had always taken for granted.

As their story unfolds, others emerge: of Sara, Mala and Asad's daughter, who, unable to commit to a cause that will renew her faith in her parents' ideals and her own, embarks on a search for purpose that brings her from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, the venue of recent carnage. Of Yasmin, whom Sara meets across a lately created 'border', a survivor of mayhem secretly dreaming of college and the miraculous return of her missing brother, Akbar, as she navigates menacing by-lanes to reach her school safely every day. Of innumerable other lives trapped in limbo-some caught in a mesh of memory, anguish and hate, others seeking release in private dreams and valiant hopes.

Marked by an astonishing clarity of observation and deep compassion, Fugitive Histories exposes the legacy of prejudice that, sometimes insidiously, sometimes perceptibly, continues to affect disparate lives in present-day India. In prose that is at once elegant, playful and startlingly inventive, Githa Hariharan portrays with remarkable precision the web of human connections that binds as much as it divides.

From Reviews

“To Githa Hariharan’s great credit, she looks unflinchingly into the ugliness of sectarian destructiveness and strife with an almost photographically realistic lens, but always remains within earshot of her protagonists’ small, personal voices… As subtly constructed as a Chinese box, concealing narratives within narratives and yet remaining blindingly clear in all its exposition of public and private realities. Complex though it is, Fugitive Histories is Hariharan’s most compellingly simple book…”
Aamer Hussein, Tehelka

“…Spartan, elegant and nuanced prose… Deftly weaves political events into private lives… At times lyrical, at times luminous and sharply perceptive, Fugitive Histories is perhaps Hariharan’s most mature work to date…”
Outlook

“…Her prose (has) an exquisite awareness… the daily lives of individuals and those of history appear to blur and seep through time and memory till they… become all of a piece. It’s a measure of Hariharan’s tenacity as a writer that even while moving from the very same cut-rate story of communal hate and horror that has been played so many times in the media by social activists and documentary film-makers, she is able to colour it with her own brand of fierce integrity (so) that we are able to look at it again…”
India Today

“…An unblinking look at subtle and not-so-subtle religious and cultural prejudices: a compassionate, controlled, compelling narrative.”
Mint

“Multiple narratives… constantly shifting from present to past, seamlessly connecting the two… effortless straddling of different geographies. …Delightfully nuanced... strong political undertones… deft use of strong metaphors…”
New Indian Express

“A powerful read… about people bewilderingly adrift, trying to find a place… once the very foundations of their lives have been betrayed; about a nationalism that needs to be more human, this is a quiet, powerful churning in which the whole heavy weight of history comes to rest on you, asking of you an engagement…”
First City

“… Sparkling clear prose… lays bare disturbing truths… a distressing but redemptive book.”
Elle

“Memory mingles with documentary, and personal histories become the filter through which public record is viewed… Hariharan’s writing in spare, punctuated with passages of brilliant clarity and compassion.”
Verve

“There are many compelling stories wrapped in the pages of Fugitive Histories but none more so than Yasmin’s. The revisiting of life in Gujarat after 2002, and Yasmin’s story, in particular, draws you to Githa Hariharan’s powerful new novel like little else. Before we get to Yasmin, the writer holds up a mirror to other aspects of society, not least the purpose of art…”
The Financial Express

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Fugitive Histories

'Stark, intimate and playful in turn'

Penguin Books India, 2009

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