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Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category


If Truth Be Told: A Monk Memoir
Om Swami | Harper Element | Rs 499

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.56.54 PMAmit Sharma grew up in Patiala and flew to Australia to study and eventually work in the IT software industry. Then one day, he decided to renounce his family, wealth (including a Porsche) and friends in Sydney to embark on a spiritual journey because he says, he “wanted to devote his life to the search of Truth”. He returned to India, sought out Kashi, gurus, tantric yoga and wisdom. He says he attained “enlightenment” in a forest and that ‘tantra’ is not about tantric sex but realizing the self. Today, he runs an ashram in Uttaranchal and seeks followers.

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Item Girl
Richa Lakhera | Rupa| Rs 195

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.56.39 PMThe story hidden between the pages of this thriller – set in the underbelly of Bollywood studios – zeros on rape, blackmail and ‘ma-behen’ invectives to paint what the blurb at the back of the book announces as “the dark side of showbiz”. It’s a tedious read – the ramble, the hectoring, the sloth of thought and the language of tired clichés (the plants were rotting alive; feet sounding brittle and hard on scratchy shabby grass; her first film turned out to be a stellar hit). Rupa needs to tighten its editing skills and Lakhera her story telling abilities.

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For Tibet, With Love
Isabel Losada | Bloomsbury | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.56.25 PMIsabel Losada, a journalist from Battersea, England, travels to China, India and London to decipher how Tibet can win autonomy from Chinese rule. Along the way, she learns that world can’t be changed by staging world concerts or by calling the Chinese evil. Aptly subtitled as a “beginners guide for changing the world”, Losada in this book finally reaches out to Dalai Lama asking him what she and others who felt like her could do? He tells her to continue writing, learn from Gandhi’s ‘constructive determination’ and accept the ‘humanism’ of the Tibetan culture. Wise.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 15 February 2015)

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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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Bloodline Bandra
Godfrey Joseph Pereira | Harper Collins | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.16.17 PMThis is a story that belongs to late-1980s. A time when Bandra was a village populated with ‘Cat-licks’ who spoke a quaint version of ‘bleddy’ English. “I wanted to capture the sarcasm, the humour, the double entendre, the innuendo…its bloody brilliant,” writes Pereira. But this is only one part of the novel. The second part, details the ‘legal slavery’ of Indians working in New York. “Part II is a searing scream of anguish…of the Indians whose voices have been castrated by other Indians,” says Pereira. Honestly told, it’s a book that will thrill and chill you.

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Beauty At Your Fingertips
Dr Nirmala Shetty | Westland | Rs 295

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.16.54 PMThe back flap tells us that Dr Nirmala Shetty is a renowned naturopath and that she has ‘officially’ attended to Miss India International and Miss India World contestants. Flip the book. Search acne. Adolescents should not burst pimples, says Shetty. “They should also avoid shellfish, prawns, cashew nuts, iodized salt, coffee, tea and sugar.” That’s quite a strange statement to make for teenagers. But then, Dr Shetty, we are assured, knows what she’s writing about. Her cure for acne includes Neem and mint leaves! What’s new about this ageless home recipe?

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Whisper the Dead
Alyxandra Harvey | Bloomsbury | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.17.11 PMSecond book in the Lovegrove series introduces the reader to Gretchen, one of the three witches in Mayfair, London. Gretchen is a whisperer, a girl who can hear other witches in her head. Sometimes they make so much noise that her ears start to bleed. Gretchen, Emma and Penelope – are the three cousins whose job is to keep the terrible Greymalkin Sisters from rising again. In the first book, ‘Breath of Frost’, Emma had them bottled. She was the star of the story. Now Gretchen has to avert the doom. Fun read.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 4 January 2015.)

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Duryodhana
V. Raghunathan | Harper Collins | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.17.01 PMIn a creative re-telling of Mahabharata, V Raghunathan, banker and author, takes the side of Duryodhana to give an alternative reading to the epic. “While most popular versions of Mahabharata portray Duryodhana as the perpetrator of all that is wrong, it seems to me that there is good reason to view him as the wronged party instead.” And so, Raghunathan, voices Duryodhana’s questions, “Was it my fault if Shakuni was a better player of chaupar than Yudhishtra? Am I to be faulted for agreeing to give away Indraprastha to the Kuntiputras in the first place?” Interesting.

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The Temporary Bride
Jennifer Klinec | Virago | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.17.37 PMSubtitled ‘A Memoir of love and food in Iran’ Klinec’s tale is a diary of a 30-year-old Western woman’s journey to modern day Iran. Klinec was a financial executive in London, when she decided to head out to Iran to learn more about its cuisine. In Yazd she encountered a fabulous cook who taught her some awesome recipes. She also fell in love with her son. She has since returned to UK and is now thinking of a food journey to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. A sequel to ‘Temporary Bride’ she says, will follow next.

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The Legend of Ramulamma
Vithal Rajan | Hachette | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.17.56 PMIn this collection of 12 stories set in a Andhra village you’ll meet a Dalit midwife, a police officer, an NGO activist and a foreign visitor who end up being at the centre of one crime or another. There is a hit and run case, a rape and a mysterious death, passports get lost and a disease brings death. Each of the stories tells of the poor man’s struggle to survive everyday life. Greed, lust, deceit are as much characters here as the Dalit midwife or the author, is. Quick read.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 7 December 2014.)

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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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Only Connect!
Ed. by Meenakshi Bharat & Sharon Rundle | Rupa | Rs 195

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.23.31 PM‘Only Connect!’ presents a mixed bag of short stories. Some good, some middling. Some ephemeral. It includes tales by Indian, Sri Lankan and Australian writers. The theme is technology and how it impacts people. What do these stories tell us? For one, people crave human contact. Texting, facebooking and emailing is artificial and misleading. On the other hand, too much proximity forces people to seek an alternative space that is accessible at a push of a button. Third, there is politics and surveillance, and our attempt to escape it. Readable.

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Understanding India
Rohitashya Chattopadhyay | Sage | Rs 695

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.30.35 PM“Although this is an ethnography of media production, the central narrative of the book is structured around the issue of Indian identity,” writes Rohitashya Chattopadhyay in the introduction to the book. Can Indian identity be compartmentalized in an age of cultural hybridity? What are the reasons behind the mythic dimension of cricket-themed commercials? These and many other questions find their answers in this dissertation, which asserts that TV commercials connect consumerism with the nation-state and thus offer the viewer their country as a consumable product. Interesting.

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Harley Loco
Rayya Elias | Bloomsbury | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.30.53 PMDaughter of a rich farmer and landowner émigré from Syria, Rayya Elias grew up in Detroit. While her parents were conscious of their migrant status, Rayya embraced America and drugs. In 1983, as a successful hairdresser, she arrived in New York and Lower East Side. Neglected by parents and brother, bullied by schoolmates and ridiculed by society around her, she sought escape in pot, boys, mescaline, acid and coke. Till she found out she was a lesbian and found herself homeless in Tompkins Square Park. Life changed. This is her story.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 9 November 2014.)

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