HarperCollins presents Fire on the Ganges Life among the Dead in Banaras by Radhika Iyengar
A Fourth Estate book
‘In the land of the dead, there is life all around.’
NEW DELHI, Sept. 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Fire on the Ganges is the first attempt to chronicle the everyday realities of the Doms in Banaras. Through their tales of struggle and survival, betrayal and love, it tells the at-times-heartbreaking, at-times-exhilarating story of a community struggling to find a place beyond that accorded to it by ancient tradition.
Hardback | Non-Fiction | History | 368 pp | Rs 599
Releasing 29th September 2023
“Vividly told and richly detailed, Radhika Iyengar’s Fire on the Ganges is an untold story that will shape our collective understanding of India.”
– Sonia Faleiro, author of The Good Girls
“Radhika Iyengar makes her subject spring to life through her eye for detail and her immersion in the world she’s writing of.”
– Amit Chaudhuri, writer, musician and author of Sojourn
“A book of humanity and intimacy, hope and resilience, Radhika Iyengar has chronicled that which is often overlooked—the enduring power of the voice. This is oral history at its finest.”
– Aanchal Malhotra, oral historian, author of Remnants of a Separation
“You might think of Manikarnika as a place for the dead. This fine book is a reminder that the burning ghats are a place for the living.”
– Amitava Kumar, author of The Blue Book
“With admirable elegance and empathy, she tells stories of a community that has not been spared caste prejudice despite their traditional “prerogative” of cremating Hindus at the most auspicious ghats along the Ganga.”
– Manoj Mitta, author of Caste Pride
“A worthy illustration of show-don’t-tell, Fire on the Ganges leaves you both hopeful and anxious about the possibilities of breaking through the barriers imposed by the caste system, for those who are placed at its very bottom… Iyengar’s work stands out for its dogged curiosity and immersive storytelling.”
– Snigdha Poonam, author of Dreamers
ABOUT THE BOOK
Banaras, Uttar Pradesh. A place where life and death co-exist in the most unimaginable way.
The Doms are a Dalit sub-caste in Banaras designated by tradition to perform the Hindu rite of cremation. They have ownership of the ‘sacred fire’ without which, it is believed, the Hindu soul will not achieve liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Despite this, the community is condemned to the lowest order in caste hierarchy, and its members continue to be treated as ‘untouchables’.
Fire on the Ganges is the first attempt to chronicle the everyday realities of the Doms in Banaras. It plunges into Banaras’s historical past, while narrowing its lens on a few spirited characters from the Dom community. Through their tales of struggle and survival, loss and ambition, betrayal and love, it tells the at-times-heartbreaking, at-times-exhilarating story of a community struggling to find a place beyond that accorded to it by ancient tradition.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Radhika Iyengar is an award-winning journalist with a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York. She won the Red Ink award for Excellence in Indian Journalism (2018). In 2020, she was awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust fellowship at University of Kent, UK. She received the Bianca Pancoat Patton Fellowship in 2019 and was a recipient of the Sanskriti-Prabha Dutt Fellowship (2016–17).
Fire on the Ganges is her first book.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @radhika_iy
Author, Radhika Iyengar, says, “In Banaras, the Doms are a community of corpse-burners, treated as ‘untouchables’ by a majority of dominant caste Hindus. Yet, within this community, there are a few individuals who are striving to become much more than what tradition and society dictates. This book documents their courageous, life-altering decisions and experiences, of how they are doggedly changing their own narrative. This is my first book and I am immensely proud of it. I am grateful to HarperCollins for seeing its potential and for giving it a place in the world.”
Executive Publisher, HarperCollins India, Udayan Mitra, says, “Fire on the Ganges is one of the sharpest, most powerful works of non-fiction publishing this year: it is an unforgettable encounter with lives that have been shrouded in mystery, captured in chiselled prose. We at HarperCollins are thrilled to bring this exceptional book to readers under our prestigious Fourth Estate imprint.”
Associate Publisher, HarperCollins India, Swati Chopra, says, “The strength of Radhika’s writing ensures that the characters and events in the book remain with us long after we have turned the last page. It is a delight to publish such an assured debut as part of our non-fiction list this year.”
MORE PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
“In this vivid work of slow journalism, Radhika Iyengar guides us into the brutal world of the Doms, a subcaste of Dalits, or ‘untouchables’, who have tended the corpses and lit the funeral pyres at Banaras for as long as anyone can remember. By observing their world with a keen, unflinching eye, Iyengar is able to render the lives of her subjects with compassion and insight while delivering a story that is both uplifting and heart-breaking. Fire on the Ganges is the work of a first-rate reporter and a gifted writer, whose narrative moves like the river, slow and deep, to the ancient rhythms of Indian life.”
– Don Belt, former senior editor, National Geographic Magazine
“With the narrative drive of a novel, this is a non-fiction book that illuminates a profession, a tradition and a society. An absolutely fascinating read!”
– Tabish Khair, author of The Body by the Shore
“Deeply-reported, thoroughly-researched, with writing that leaves your skin cold, Fire on the Ganges is a book about the hum of life arranged around death. It will teach you about growing up sleeping amid corpses waiting to be lit, stealing shrouds, and carrying the stench of death lodged deep inside your fingernails. It will force you to wonder whether life is often crueller than death.”
– Mansi Choksi, author of The Newlyweds
“Deeply alarming and yet never alarmist, Radhika Iyengar’s Fire on the Ganges is essential reading—wise, sensitive, and unsettling.”
– David Hajdu, author of A Revolution in Three Acts
ABOUT HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS INDIA
HarperCollins is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, having begun publishing in India in 1992. HarperCollins India publishes some of the finest writers from the Indian Subcontinent and around the world, publishing approximately 200 new books every year, with a print and digital catalogue of more than 2,000 titles across 10 imprints. Its authors have won almost every major literary award including the Man Booker Prize, JCB Prize, DSC Prize, New India Foundation Award, Atta Galatta Prize, Shakti Bhatt Prize, Gourmand Cookbook Award, Publishing Next Award, Tata Literature Live! Award, Gaja Capital Business Book Prize, BICW Award, Sushila Devi Award, Sahitya Akademi Award and Crossword Book Award. HarperCollins India also represents some of the finest publishers in the world including Harvard University Press, Gallup Press, Oneworld, Bonnier Zaffre, Usborne, Dover and Lonely Planet. HarperCollins India has won the Publisher of the Year Award four times at Tata Literature Live! in 2022, 2021, 2018 and 2016, and at Publishing Next in 2021 & 2015. HarperCollins India is a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers.
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