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Archive for the ‘Contemporary Events – India’ Category


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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India 2050
Ramgopala Agarwala | Sage | Rs 995

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.27.03 PMAccording to economist Ramgopala Agarwala, India needs to adopt ‘neo-Swadeshi’ model of development to emerge as world leader by 2050. At the moment, he warns, by blindly aping the West we are in danger of walking into a ‘middle-income trap’ that America is facing. This trap comes with attendant ills – inequality, corruption, corporate power and the like. Agarwala proposes an economic solution where Gandhi’s principles of moral and frugal living are married to ‘Adam Smithian mechanism’. This, he says, is the best roadmap for India. We reckon, the PM, may want to read this.

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The Dead Men Stood Together
Chris Priestley | Bloomsbury | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.27.43 PMChris Priestly is an English cartoonist and writer. Ghost stories fascinate him. In this book he retells the story of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” with a contemporary twist. It’s a short story that has been converted into a novella. A young boy goes to sea with his mysterious mariner uncle, believing he is sailing in his late father’s memory. But the voyage is damned by curse when the ship enters treacherous landscape of ice. Priestly has been described as a master “of contemporary macabre”. The book is aimed at young adults.

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She & Me
Bhawarlal H.Jain | Rupa | Rs 195

Originally published in Marathi as “Ti an Mi”, Bhawarlal. H Jain’s memoir is a story about a successful marriage and entrepreneurship of a small time kersone oil trader who rose to become a successful businessman. “It is also a story about then and now, when large joint families were the norm and when family values, traditional and cultural principles were still respected and followed,” the book’s blurb informs us. Jain is the founder of Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd that supplies micro-irrigation solutions to farmers. This book, we are informed, is also available in Hindi.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 11 January 2015.)

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My Experience in Governance
Dr MA Ibrahimi | Har Anand Publications | Rs 595

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.03.39 PM In this entertaining memoir, the former chief secretary to Bihar government, Dr M.A. Ibrahimi, describes his years as government servant in some of Bihar’s most notorious districts. In late-1980s Dhanbad, he says, coal mafia ruled the district and many mafia dons were former labour union leaders. In Bhagalpur he describes the communal killings that followed the transportation of bricks, called Sheel Raths, to Ayodhya. He also talks of caste, regional and religious affiliations among the bureaucrats, police and in some cases, the judiciary. These things need to change, he says. We agree.

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The Fuss About Queens And Other Stories
Darius Cooper | Om Books | Rs 225

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.04.21 PM“Every story worth telling has to begin from some extraordinary premise or thesis. The ordinary just has no place in any good story,” says Darius Cooper in his introduction to 11 short stories presented in this book. He says he has written these stories to understand the sense of ‘daily homelessness’ that he has experienced as a member of Parsi community in India. In his first story ‘The Metaphorical Spot’ he writes, “These days Socrates swims in Neelkantha’s bloodstream,” cleverly using the image of Shiva having swallowed the poison just as Socrates or more obliquely, Parsis have done.

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Think Like A Freak
Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubner | Allan Lane | Rs 499

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.04.05 PMIn their first book ‘Freakonomics!’ economist, Steven D Levitt and journalist, Stephen J Dubner pushed for thinking out of the box, in this book, they tell us that people are more self-interested than they admit and that they don’t mean what they say. If you want to quit, do it. Don’t wait. Quitting is not about failure. It’s a choice. “The two of us have had more luck and fun writing books together than we could have imagined,” they write, though at one point, they could not imagine quitting what they did before.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 30 November 2014.)

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Colours Of The Cage
Arun Ferreira | Aleph | Rs 295

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.40.30 PMIn May 2007 human rights activist from Bandra, Arun Ferreira, was arrested by the Nagpur Police. He was charged with criminal conspiracy, murder, possession of arms and rioting. He was branded a Maoist. It took him four years and eight months to prove the State wrong. Ferreira was held in the notorious Nagpur jail – which he describes in this book in great detail. He speaks of the corruption, torture, code of conduct between prison mates, the general air of helplessness and the small things that keep hope alive. A chilling story, simply told.

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Fewer, Bigger, Bolder
Sanjay Khosla & Mohanbir Sawhney | Penguin | Rs 699

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.40.46 PMSanjay Khosla is a former president of Kraft Foods and Mahanbir Sawhney is a consultant in business innovation. Both currently work at Kellog School of Management. The flap mentions a third person, a longtime editor of ‘Chicago’ magazine, Richard Babock as a writer and teacher in Chicago – who we suspect is the actual writer of this tome. The book comes with a foreword by former chairman and CEO, Kraft Foods, Irene Rosenfeld who reveals that Khosla helped the company sell ‘Oreo’ cookie outside US. This book, she hopes, will be a ‘classic’ like ‘Oreo’.

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Turning Point
Ed. by Nikita Singh | Offshoots | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.41.01 PM‘Turning Point’ presents 8 short stories by young Indian writers that includes a vampire going through an identity crisis, a ghost stuck in the world of the living, a closet psychopath, a boy in love and a crime buster in Ahmedabad. The writers include Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, Durjoy Dutta, Judy Balan, Harsh Snehanshu, Shoma Narayanan, Parinda Joshi, Atulya Mahajan and the editor of the anthology, Nikita Singh. “Every story,” says Singh, “starts or ends at a turning point. Or maybe revolves around one. Things change – that’s one truth of life.” Where have we heard this before?

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 16 November 2014.)

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No One Had A Tongue to Speak
Utpal Sandesara & Tom Wooten | Rain Tree | Rs 495

This is one book you could thank the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi for. He gave the authors an access to state archives that others refused to share. The book stitches together the narrative on one of India’s worst manmade disasters – the collapse of Gujarat’s Machhu Dam in 1979 and the subsequent floods that according to official records claimed 25,000 lives and destroyed the many small towns and villages, including the industrial town of Morbi. It’s a valuable addition to debate on large dams, even though the narrative barely stops to take a breath and analyse and instead, gushes through, like a flood.

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It’s Your Life!
Vinita Dawra Nangia | Times Group Books | Rs 250

Billed as reflections on contemporary life, Nangia, a columnist with a national daily, now offers a book comprising some of her best O-Zone columns. Nangia’s strength lies in her unabashed middle-class conservatism. Today’s young adults are sexually active she tells us. She mentions the condom but she’s delighted that some parents send bodyguards with their daughters to prevent a ‘backseat canoodle’. Eating at a restaurant, she is taken aback by youngsters downing beers, after all this was no ‘seedy joint’. Matronly and patronizing, Nangia’s insights are more of a commentary on 1980s puppy generation than modern day India she ostensibly writes on.

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Will There Be Donuts?
David Pearl | Harper Collins | Rs 399

In 2011 the author’s agent called some of the most hardened publishing professionals from Harper Collins for a meeting. Pearl wondered, why would they come, it they did at all? Had they seen the manuscript? Did the subject interest them? Were they convinced of its irrefutable logic? Or maybe they liked his prose? “I told them I’d bring donuts,” said his agent. If the donuts are the most interesting thing about your meetings, if it’s the first thing that pops into your head when being asked to attend a conference, a seminar or a presentation, this book is for you.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 26 August 2012)

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Making News, Breaking News, Her Own Way
Ed. by Latika Padgaonkar & Shubha Singh | Tranquebar |Rs 250

In the 1980s, “Newspaper owners, all male, hired editors, all male, who in turn hired other males to cover politics, the economy and foreign affairs,” writes Shahnaz Anklesaria Aiyar in this collection of essays that highlights the lonely road women reporters took to break the mould. Men those days “… hustled in and out of power structures like the North and South Block, defence and foreign affairs ministries …leaving vast areas affecting human condition to be covered by women.” It’s been four decades since and some things still remain the same. But there has been change too, as the essays in this book attest.

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Delhi OMG
Vinod Nair | Om Books International | Rs 195

Over the last decade there has been a perceptible change in the way Indian writers are looking at India and her mores. Interestingly, many of them do so after a brief stint in the West. Suddenly, all that they grew up with becomes offensive and worthy of disdain. Nair, who trains his guns at Delhi, is one of them. The city of Delhi, he informs us, has pavements that are used by hawkers not people; has women journalists that are no better than prostitutes of GB road; and, has cinema halls that screen blue films in the morning shows. Need one say, anything more?

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Over the Rainbow
Paul Pickering | Simon & Schuster| Rs 450

Over the Rainbow is an unusual story about love and conflict that takes a leaf from the famous medieval tales of Amir Hamza. On the face of it, the story of love is told through its two protagonists, an Irish American pilot, Malone and a female Pakistani ISI agent, Fatima Hamza and the conflict is served up by war-ravaged Afghanistan, yet beyond it is a tale that’s much older, more poignant than anything that the West has known. In its pages you’ll encounter the Taliban, the American and German soldiers, war and brutality, as well as poppy farmers, Djins, devas and yes, good and bad witches.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 29 April 2012)

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Beautiful Country
Sayeda Hameed & Gunjan Veda| Harper Collins| Rs 399

“Sayeda has the ability to make things come alive in a way that government reports festooned with official statistics can never do,” writes deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia in the forward to the book. We agree. This beautifully written book tells the story of the country’s inability to deliver basic human rights and facilities, in a manner that makes you feel as if tremendous achievements have been made. That takes talent. And so we learn that MNREGA, despite its flaws, has provided assured livelihoods; Sarva Shikha Abhiyan, has increased school enrolment; and, the National Rural Health Mission, is reaching out to all. History of the rulers always rings sweet to establishment ears.

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The Maharajas of Bikaner
Rajyashree Kumari Bikaner | Amaryllis| Rs 695

When members of a royal family write books about their kingdom they present their families in glorious aura. This book, written by daughter of Dr Karni Singh, is no different except for one detail, which runs into two chapters at the end of the book. These chapters deal with the drama of succession that rocked the Rathore clan in 2003, in which the royal faction insisted that history of Bikaner would be obliterated if a male successor was not chosen, the rest, including the female members of the royal family, opposed it. “Mercifully,” she writes, “the rights of women are enshrined in the Constitution of India” giving them the right to ancestral property and history. Clearly, it pays to be part of world’s largest democracy.

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The Average Indian Male
Cyrus Broacha | Random House | Rs 199

There are two parts to this book. In author’s own write, “Book One contains letters from various anguished people thirsty for answers, which is interspersed with witty and profound observations from me. Book Two lists my experiences about being around.” In the first part, Cyrus explains why Indian men have thin legs (it’s because they are obsessed with feet and chest); are irritable (it’s all due to short height); and, smile stupidly (when you don’t understand you smile, even Obama does it). The latter half, he tells us why his father wears boxers and he underwear, and why meeting fellow Indians on the street is never a meeting of equals.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 15 April 2012)

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