Head around the heart

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan | Updated on October 12, 2018

Doing that thing you do: Author Sandeep Jauhar looks at the heart as an organ and a metaphor   -  REUTERS/ RUPAK DE CHOWDHURI

This month’s list of books should bring you closer to yourself

“There is a wisdom of the head. And a wisdom of the heart,” wrote Charles Dickens in Hard Times. I began to think of this much-written-about organ for my book recommendations this month — whether it is non-fiction on the actual heart, or a book about love or a crushing heartbreak. The heart, we know, is not connected to our emotions — all that happens in the brain — but when I look at my partner, my heart beats faster, when I am low, my heart seems to go slower than usual, every thump is morbid and echoes inside my chest. It’s the first thing a pregnant woman hears during a scan to show her that her child is alive inside her, and, I imagine, the first thing we all hear when we grow ears in the womb is the swish-swish of our mother’s hearts. It’s a good time of year, the last few months are here, to reflect on what makes our hearts what they are, and this month’s three books should bring you closer to some sort of realisation.

Water cooler


Heart: A History Sandeep Jauhar Penguin Random House Non-fiction ₹599


I admit, I don’t spend a lot of time with medical memoirs. I begin them, and then somewhere, the science begins to shut me out, getting more and more technical as the book unfurls. But with Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar, I felt the science was a little more personal. My family has a history of heart complaints, and I think about my heart more at my age than my mother probably did at hers. It’s a personal thing, the heart, and in the hands of a less-gentle writer, the book could have come across as pedantic. Instead, Jauhar moves between his own history, and his family’s and the history of heart surgery and stays engaging through the book. He’s not just a doctor talking about one of your most vital organs, he’s also someone who is meditating on what the heart means, both as an organ and as a metaphor. The amount of animal experiments doctors have had to do throughout history to get us this far in medical science will probably disturb the animal lovers among you, but I’m not going to argue about ethics when it comes to saving the life of someone I love.



A City Happens in Love Ravish Kumar Translated by Akhil Katyal Speaking Tiger Fiction ₹250


Ever since a friend told me about how good journalist Ravish Kumar’s books were, I’ve been wanting to pick them up. Unfortunately, my Hindi isn’t fluent enough to read them in the original, so I was pleased to see that his bestselling micro-fiction Ishq Mein Shahar Hona had been translated by poet Akhil Katyal and released as A City Happens in Love. It’s a small, sneaky paperback that slides up on you, even as you’re turning the pages. While there are brief passages about Kolkata, it’s mostly about Delhi, a love song to the city, as well as a story of lovers who meet on the Metro, inside autorickshaws, at Lodhi Gardens. In one of my favourite sections, the girl yearns for South Delhi while her boyfriend asks her what’s wrong with Rajouri Garden. She replies, “Like what I want to be, [South Delhi] feels like that.” Get it to gift that one confirmed Delhiphile you know.



Bridge To Terabithia Katherine Paterson HarperTeen Fiction ₹237



The saddest stories are the ones about loneliness; even sadder than those are the ones where the protagonist is a lonely child. I’ve read Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson only once and that was enough for me. This skinny middle-grade book made my cynical heart clench in sorrow. Perhaps you’ve seen the film, but it is no match for the book — a lonely boy is made less lonely by a girl moving next door and they create a secret wonderland for themselves in the woods. I’ll say no more, but you should also feel a rebellious thrill while you’re reading it because it is number eight on the American Library Association list of the ‘100 Most Challenged Books’. Why did people want to ban it? Something about witchcraft and atheism, which I do not remember from my reading of it. I just thought they banned it because it was so sad. Read if you’re feeling like you need the catharsis of a good old-fashioned cryfest.




Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of six books, the latest being The One Who Swam With The Fishes;

Twitter: @reddymadhavan

Published on October 12, 2018

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