Archive for December, 2014

Fire Under Ash
Saskya Jain | Random House | Rs 499

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.34.45 PMIt’s “an audacious debut” says the PR blurb from the publishers. Is it? What’s audacious about this debut? Nothing, if you ask me. Just a PR word. Saskya Jain’s debut novel about Delhi’s rich meeting aspiring middle-class Bihar is a look at the class and regional divide that continues to scar our country. Caste makes no appearance here. Delhi, New York and Patna do. Jain’s clever use of advertorial hoardings to capture the signature tune of changing India is arresting. As is her ability to chain her characters to the architecture that surrounds them. As for the rest, she has a story and she tells it well.


Skin Talks
Dr Jaishree Sharad | Random House | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.35.10 PM‘Skin Talks’ begins with several endorsements from the entertainment industry. The forward bears the signature of Amitabh Bachchan. The book takes you through the various regimens that help keep one’s skin healthy and beautiful. But the strongest pitch is made for Botox, fillers (hyaluronic acid) and derma lifts that are expensive and debatable. If you are the kind that relies more on skin doctors than home remedies, this book is for you. Whatever your age, skin type and characteristic, Dr Jaishree Sharad has an answer. Consult it, if you want. Risk, is yours.

The Taste Of Words
Ed. & Transl. by Raza Mir | Penguin | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.35.21 PMIt’s a treat for poetry fans. Raza Mir, a management teacher at an American university, has put together an anthology of Urdu poems that he has translated into English. It’s a quirky collection that starts with Amir Khusro and ends with Gulzar. It includes many well-worn verses as well as some new sharp voices such as Ishrat Afreen’s:

Mera qad
Mere baap se ooncha nikla
Aur meri ma jeet gayi”

(I grew taller than my father/My mother had won.) Whether you know or don’t know Urdu, this ode to Urdu tehzeeb (culture) is going to charm you.


(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 2 November 2014.)

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Filmi Jagat: A Scrapbook
Ed. by Kaushik Bhaumik, Debashree Mukherjee & Rahab Allana | Art Heritage/Niyogi Books | Rs 995

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.15.58 PMWhat do you do when you find a cinema lover’s scrapbook from the Early Talkies days? For Rahab Allana, a curator with Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, the answer came in the form a book that not only features pages from the scrapbook but also tries – with the help of insightful essays – to decode how images in 1930-40s were consumed. This kind of reading opens doors to many ways of understanding our past. Basically, seven films made between 1938-42 find their mention here – Jawani Ki Hawa, Duniya Kya Hai?, Apni Nagaria, Naya Sansar, Behen, Jhoola and Kunwara Baap. Great to leaf through, except it would have been more fun had the publishers recreated the scrapbook as it was with its pockets and slide-outs.


Natural Kingdoms
Dr Rajan Sankaran | Penguin | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.16.10 PMEven though the scientific community across the world has debunked homeopathy as – ‘a product that is no better than a placebo’ – this form of treatment is very popular in our part of the world. Homeopathy doctors in India can be found in big cities, small towns and even in villages. Dr Rajan Sankaran, a Mumbai-based homeopath is one of them. He claims to have evolved a ‘sensation method’ of homeopathic treatment. Does it work? Science has made its opinion known. India is yet to debate the subject seriously.

Mid-Wicket Tales: From Trumper to Tendulkar
S. Giridhar & V.J. Raghunath | Sage | Rs 525

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.16.23 PMThere are books on cricketers and there are books that discuss cricket. Each has its special place in our hearts. This book falls in the latter category. The authors are cricket fans who have contributed articles to the ESPN-owned website, Cricinfo, since 2008. This book contains 27 of their essays that detail and discuss every aspect of the game. Though the 20-20 game is mentioned and analyzed, it is the test format that is the favourite. “If cricket is to survive then test cricket must thrive,” Venkat tells the authors. We agree.


(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 26 October 2014.)

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My Paper Half
Shrishendu Mukhopadhyay | Niyogi Books | Rs 195

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.01.55 PMTranslated from Bengali by Soma Das, ‘My Paper Half’ tells a story of young unemployed youth who lives off others to feed his stomach. Upal, the protagonist of this slim novel, first published as ‘Kagjer Bou’, owes allegiance to no one. Not even his conscience. He is a thief, a floater and a cad. But is he the only one? His college friend Subinoy, a gentleman about town, is no different. Neither are the women that appear on the pages of this slim novel. Mukhopadhyay says, life is about insatiable hunger. A hunger for love. A hunger for violence. A hunger to be. To live.


Success Mantra Of BrahMos
A Sivathanu Pillai | Pentagon Press | Rs 395

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.02.11 PMThis book by defence technologist, Dr. A Sivathanu Pillai, details the journey that went into the making of the made-in-India anti-ship missile we all know as BrahMos. Jointly developed by India and Russia, BrahMos is capable of striking targets at sea and land. “I consider this book a valuable narration to young scientists, technologists, techno-managers and the youth who aspire to excel in this competitive world,” says Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in the introduction to the book, who as Director of DRDO, gave the programme the impetus it needed.

Left-Wing Extremism and Human Rights
K.V. Thomas | Sage | Rs 995

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.02.21 PMFormer Director of IB, Ministry of Home Affairs, K.V. Thomas takes on the role of civil liberties groups in Andhra Pradesh to suggest what can be done to defang LWE in the country. Citing the example of AP, the writer, argues that government should rope in NGOs to deliver ‘social goods’; reinvent the ‘development paradigm’; encourage ‘better relations’ between NGOs and civil liberty groups; train police force to respect human rights guaranteed under the Constitution; solve land reform issues; and, create a comprehensive plan to wean away marginalized societies from LWE. Doable? Doubtful.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 19 October 2014.)

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Kamadeva: The God Of Desire
Anuja Chandramouli | Rupa | Rs 295

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.47.22 PMIn telling the story of Kamadeva, Anuja Chandramouli picks up stories from the Atharva Veda, the Puranas and the Bhagwad Gita to draw a linear narrative of the life and times of the God of Love. In her tale, women talk of equal rights but accept that they need to be ‘protected’. There is also a passage that describes a royal feast that includes: biryanis and kababs (delicacies that arrived in India with the Mughals). And then there is the written language – Queen’s English peppered with British sit-com gags like ‘don’t get your underwear in a bunch’ and the Indian English favourite, ‘bloody good’. Oh!


Consiglieri: Leading From The Shadows
Richard Hytner | Profile Books | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.47.36 PMRichard Hytner was the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi. Then he chose to be Deputy Chairman in the company. Why? He says he decided to become a deputy because he was rarely happy making the big, ugly decisions he had to make as the top man. In the hierarchy of numbers the importance of being an alpha male in a company can be self-destructive. “Other than in communist idylls and Hot Chocolate lyrics, not everyone can be a winner all the time,” he says. It’s time, Hytner asserts, to give due to the second rung in command.

One Hundred Days
Shweta Modgil | Tara | Rs 199

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.47.48 PMIf you want a lesson in how India’s rich young adults live and dream, this book will give you one. Neel gives up her job to find her ‘dream’. Her friend decides to chronicle her ‘search’. They have set 100 days to achieve the target. There is no struggle here, just vapid self-absorption, aided by mollycoddling family members. Neel wants to learn acting. Rich doctor brother in USA enables it. In between the girls dine in upscale South Delhi restaurants and swim in boutique hotel in the hills and encourage each other to ‘dream’.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 12 October 2014.)


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The Planner
Tom Campbell |Bloomsbury| Rs 450

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.14.03 PMMany young people join the government sector with the idea of contributing to society. But when they find themselves at work, as Tom Campbell’s character the 32-year-old James does, they feel that somehow life is not what it seems. James’ friends appear to be happier and more successful. He envies them and tries to change – by planning a new life for himself. Located in London, the writer explores the nagging anxieties that dog men in capitalist society. This book will resonate with those who leave their government jobs to join corporate world in India.


Leadership: The Gandhi Way
Virender Kapoor| Rupa| Rs 195

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.22.52 PMGandhi is always fashionable. He figures on our currency notes, looks down on us in school and government lobbies and offices, and of late, he has been invoked in government scheme kicked off by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Virender Kapoor, a self-professed thinker and inspirational guru points out how Gandhi can be relevant in liberalized industrial India. Some of his tips include: an emotional appeal always works, leaders must practice what they preach, diplomacy is a form of non-violence and last but not least, find yourself a guru, someone who’s wiser than you.


Back in Time
Andaleeb Wajid| Bloomsbury| Rs 250

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.25.31 PMAimed at young adult reader, ‘Back in Time’, written by a Bangalore-based writer, Ansaleeb Wajid, is part of trilogy in which a teenaged girl, Tamanna travels back in time to the 1980s to discover reasons for the way her life is in 2012. In the second book, Tamanna finds herself back in 1980s and becomes privy to dark secrets that emerge as she interacts with her new found boyfriend, aunts, grandmother and strangely, her mother and father before they get married. A delightful, fast read.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 5 October 2014.)


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