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Archive for January, 2015


Start-Up City
Moloy K Bannerjee, Siddharth Bannerjee & P. Ranganath Sastry | Collins Business | Rs 450

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.49.35 AMIndia’s software technology sector came into existence sometime in mid-1980s. It picked up pace in 1990s and today, it is the most talked about aspect of foreign investment in the country. ‘Start-up City’ tries to capture how 10 Bangalore-based companies became part of this story. The writers provide some interesting insights – Indian entrepreneurs they aver know how to ‘adapt and adjust’. Many built their companies by selling computing and analytics software like, Tally or by providing technology solutions to government agencies or projects. They are mostly risk averse, preferring to ‘play safe’. Instructive.

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Inside Chhattisgarh: A Political Memoir
Ilina Sen | Penguin | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.50.04 AMIn 1980s Dr Ilina Sen and her husband, Dr Binayak Sen joined the fiery political philosopher and trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi in coal mining district Dalli-Rajhara, Madhya Pradesh, as political activists. After spending seven years working here the couple shifted to Raipur in 1988. In Raipur, they moved away from political activism. They bought an acre of land, built a mud house, started the Rupantar Trust and got involved in health worker training in Bagrumnala village nearby. Then came Binayak’s arrest, the fight to free him and the couple’s exit from Chhattisgarh.

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Kerrigan in Copenhagen
Thomas E. Kennedy | Bloomsbury | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.49.50 AMIf you’ve been to Denmark it’s likely you stopped by Copenhagen. Next time, take Kerrigan with you and read him in the city to top up on alcohol, history, literature, art and jazz. You guessed it right. This is a guidebook to city’s drinking joints. Kennedy has written three other novels on Copenhagen. This is his fourth. In this one the author tells the story of “the city of ever changing lights” by discussing with the reader beer, wine, Hans Christian Andersen and Goethe, sculptures of dead men in parks and women in bars. Hic!

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today dated 18 January 2015)

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One Part Woman
Perumal Murugan | Penguin | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.50.53 AMFirst published in Tamil as ‘Madhorubagan’ in 2010, this heart-stopping tale from Tamil Nadu follows a series of twists in a life of a couple as they seek to conceive a child. Kali is a farmer married to beautiful sensual Ponna. People envy their union. Is Kali impotent, they wonder or is  Ponna barren? The two, beseech gods, undertake pilgrimages and do every penance suggested. Then in the festival of ‘The Chariot’ the wheel of life tumbles forward. Myth and ritual propel Ponna towards a night with a stranger in a forest and a loss that can’t be undone.

(The above review appeared in the Mail Today dated 4 December 2013.)

NOTE: Critically acclaimed writer and thinker, Perumal Murugan made news last week when he declared in a post on Facebook that “Author Perumal Murugan is dead. He is no God. Hence, he will not resurrect. Hereafter, only P Murugan, a teacher will live.” He made this statement after facing a sustained and ugly backlash from his community in Thiruchengode, Tamil Nadu, India. At the heart of the controversy is the book mentioned above.

The story, set in Thiruchengode some 100 years ago, agonises over a love of a man for a woman, their desire for a child and their eventual participation in a socio-religious carnival that offers a possibility of impregnation. In 2005 Amol Palekar’s film – Paheli (‘A Riddle’) – raised a similar issue by imaging a Rajasthan folk lore that had a ghost character impregnate a lonely wife. It raised tempers but did not escalate to the level protests against Murugan have grown. 

Clearly, political muscle lent to anti-Madhorubagan protests accounts for the ugliness that the writer is facing now. Silencing and hounding a writer cannot stop memories embedded and encoded in folk tales, songs, poetry, architecture or mythology. Not in Tamil Nadu, not in Rajasthan. It can only highlight how irrational and small minded we can be. Don’t kill the author. Kill prejudice.

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