HarperCollins is proud to announce the publication of Sahela Re by Mrinal Pande Translated by Priyanka Sarkar


NEW DELHI, May 3, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Mrinal Pande’s Sahela Re is a heartfelt ode to an era when music was sacred. Translated masterfully by Priyanka Sarkar, it will stay with you like the unforgettable memory of a precious song.

Sahela Re

Published under Harper Perennial

Paperback | 268 pp | INR 499

Available wherever books are sold | Releasing on May 13, 2023

A tale finely told, where writing and music form body and soul. With a rare combination of poetic imagination, sociological insight, and historical understanding, Sahela Re is a nostalgic but unsentimental evocation of the vanished golden age of Hindustani music and a lament for its present predicament. With truly creative unconcern for political correctness, it shows that, ironically, the golden age was in a colonized feudal society and its withering has come about in democratic India. It brings to life women artistes who pursued their beloved art uncompromisingly, following their emotions and dreams at a heavy personal cost. A tale that will haunt you long after you’ve read it. Geetanjali Shree, Novelist & Short Story Writer

Mrinal Pande, well-regarded Hindi writer and mediaperson, is also a trained Hindustani classical singer. Drawing from her knowledge of the art form and its history, she explores the world of Hindustani music with deep understanding and empathy. Her narrative mixes the tragic and the comic, and reveals the grace and grandeur, the sufferings and ironies, the darings and failures of lives involved in music. Sahela Re is a human document. A rare fictional account of a lesser-known ethos, the novel is a triumph of creative imagination.” – Ashok Vajpeyi, Notable Poet, Essayist & Literary-Cultural Critic

Like a lyrical detective, the writer takes us on a journey into a forgotten and forsaken world of music. As the book unspools, the hidden notes turn out to be as beautiful as the ones heard.” – Namita Devidayal, Author & Journalist

About the Book

When Vidya, a music scholar, sets out to write a book on the history of Hindustani classical music, she uncovers the remnants of a time and a tradition fast receding: when singers embodied the ragas in their purest forms; when patrons were worshippers, not followers. 

Revealed through fascinating anecdotes, correspondence, legend and gossip are the highs and lows of the artistes’ lives, as they loved and lost, and moved on from mehfils to gramophones; we witness, too, the passion music provoked in the lives of its connoisseurs. Making our way through Benares, Calcutta, Bombay and New York, we meet Anjali Bai and Hira Bai – a mother-daughter duo known as much for their singing as for their beauty and intelligence; the gifted Allarakkhi Bi, a friend to Anjali Bai; the famous singer Husna Bai, Allarakkhi’s mother; and their descendants, who attempt to salvage what remains of the old music for new listeners on foreign shores.

Mrinal Pande’s Sahela Re is a heartfelt ode to an era when music was sacred. Translated masterfully by Priyanka Sarkar, it will stay with you like the unforgettable memory of a precious song.

According to the author, Mrinal Pande,“Sahela Re is a bit of many things, biography, a nineteenth century Hindi detective fiction, colonial and post colonial history, anthropology and reflections handed to me by many musicians and their groupies. It had to be called a novel because to hang everything together that I wanted to, I had to invent fairly large chunks of it. My role though as author, remains limited to being the eye of a camera capturing images honestly. The ultimate aim was to create through all these an artful (not arty) collage of disparate things that go to create an epoch and its music makers. Like their lives and times, the narrative is full of uncertainties, mysteries, doubts and violence. But the narrative refuses to reach out for journalistic fact and reason. This was the form the matter shaped for itself, as it proceeded, and I went with the flow. It is a novel for those curious about classical music beyond Ravi Shankar and flower children. Those who wish to locate something human to hold on to in a thicket of academic theory and exaggerated but vacuous myths created by the media.”

Priyanka Sarkar, who translated the book, says,“Translating Sahela Re was nothing short of joining the detective journalist Vidya Rani on her adventures as she tried to piece together the tantalizing mystery of Anjali Bai and Hira Bai. The major as well as minor characters come alive and each one of them is unique and interesting in their own way. For me, the novel is as much a foray into the world of Hindustani Classical music as it is about the power of music, women fighting for their autonomy and independence, the often-complicated relationship that mothers and daughters have, long-standing friendships and even the pain and confusion of being away from one’s motherland.”

About the Author

Mrinal Pande is a veteran journalist, television personality and author. She was the first woman in India to be the chief editor of a Hindi daily, Hindustan; the first woman chairperson of Prasar Bharati (2010 to 2014), the apex body of the official Indian Broadcast Media; and the founder-president of the Indian Women’s Press Corps, a national body of India’s women journalists. Pande has authored several books in Hindi and English, including The Journey of Hindi Language Journalism in India: From Raj to Swaraj and Beyond, The Other Country: Dispatches from the Mofussil, My Own Witness: A Novel, Devi: Tales of the Goddess in Our Time, Daughter’s Daughter, That Which Ram Hath Ordained or the Tale of Manna Seth and The Subject Is Woman. She has also translated into English Gathering the Ashes, written originally in Hindi by Amritlal Nagar, and 1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising, written originally in Marathi by Vishnu Bhatt Godshe Versaikar. Pande has studied Hindustani (vocal) music from the Gandharva School, and drawing, design and the history of art and architecture at the Corcoran School of Art, Washington, DC. In 2006, she was awarded the Padma Shri for her services in the field of journalism.

About the Translator

Priyanka Sarkar is an editor, translator and writer. She has translated Shivani’s Bhairavi (2020) and Chitra Mudgal’s Giligadu (2019) into English. Her translations of short stories from Hindi to English have appeared in anthologies published by Yoda Press, OUP India, Women Unlimited, South Asian Review and Macmillan. Her translations have also featured on Scroll.in and Audible. As an editor, she has worked with Oxford University Press and Random House India and was also the head of editorial at Konark Publishers. She is currently associated with the Rama Mehta Writing Grant, which aims to encourage creativity in English, Hindi, Urdu and Rajasthani among unpublished Rajasthani women writers.


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