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Archive for the ‘Mythology’ Category


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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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!

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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.

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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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Kitnay Admi Thay?
Diptakirti Chaudhuri | Westland | Rs 275

Billed as “Completely useless Bollywood Trivia”, this book offers an interesting compendium of anecdotes and trivial facts sourced from books, film magazines and news media about India’s national obsession – Bollywood and its superstars. Presented as lists – e.g., 10 Songs That Became Movies; 10 Films Within Films or 10 Trains You Should Not Miss – the books includes answers to questions such as: Can you name the films or dialogues that made it to Amul’s billboard ads? Can you identify the two diseases that exist only in Bollywood films? Aishwarya Rai has acted as a sister to two superstars, who are they?

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That’s the Way We Met
Sudeep Nagarkar | Random House | Rs 125

Nagarkar’s present novel – a story about a man who seeks to reclaim his love by writing a book that he hopes his estranged girlfriend will one day read – is as banal as it is intriguing. Interestingly, this book is a sequel to his debut novel, Few Things Left Unsaid, which according to sale figures on flipkart, India’s book delivery portal, was a ‘bestseller’. It is likely that its readership resides in the small towns, where the young try to imagine how it is to live in metro cities like Delhi or Mumbai. But who knows? It could be the ‘masses of India’ as the author says in acknowledgements.

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March of the Aryans
Bhagwan S Gidwani | Penguin | Rs 599

“A civilization is kept alive only when it’s past values and traditions are recreated in men’s minds,” says Gidwani in the preface to the novel – an adaptation of his earlier book called Return of the Aryans. According to the author, the Aryans originated from India, traveled the world and returned home. He proposes that Aryans existed prior to the dawn of Harappan Civilization (3300-1300 BCE) in the age of Sanatana Dharma i.e., sometime between 8000-4000 BCE. That would place it in Stone Age, a period when man lived caves. But this does not seem to ruffle Gidwani, who also glibly admits that the book is “a work of fiction”.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 29 July)

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Sarojini Naidu: Her Way With Words
Ed. by Mushirul Hasan | Niyogi Books | Rs 395

In modern day slang, you could say Sarojini Naidu had the gift of gab. In the tumultuous years that she worked closely with Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru (roughly from 1914-49) they called her “India’s Nightingale”. In this work, Prof Hasan takes a fresh look at Naidu by collating essays by PK Ghosh, Bina Roy and VV John, on her life as an orator and freedom fighter and a poet. The book also includes her essay on Gokhale and a selection of her poems introduced by the late British poet, critic and literary magazine editor, Arthur Symons.

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The Devil Colony
James Rollins | Orion | Rs 350

This sticky thriller on a tribe of Israelites cheated out of American future takes its cue from the author’s interest in the Mormon belief that that Native American clans originated from a fleeting lost tribes of Israelites. “While modern DNA emphatically disputes this, pointing to an Asiatic origin for early American natives,” he says there is no reason to disbelieve the Mormons, either. Many people would disagree with Rollins particularly since there was much friction between Mormon settlers and Native Americans in the mid-1800s, including massacres and wars. But for those who like to dwell on conspiracy theories, The Devil Colony is a thriller worth Delhi’s summer sweat.

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The Valmiki Syndrome
Ashok K Banker | Random House | Rs 250

In his introduction to the book, Ashok K Banker bemoans the fact that we seem to be neck deep in culture dedicated to the cult of self-help. “Dharma,” he says “was not a ‘concept’ created to teach the corporate executives the importance of business ethics. Yoga was not intended to be taught as an alternative to aerobics. Bhagwatgita is not a management textbook.” So what is The Valmiki Syndrome about? “It’s a set of stories. Call them parables,” says Banker. All of which answer one basic question: Is all life just about getting richer, sexier, leaner, fitter, faster, higher, stronger? Or is it something more?

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 1 July 2012)

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Life in a Rectangle
Sujit Sanyal| Finger Print| Rs 395

In this delightful pocketbook memoir on advertising business in Kolkata between 1970-90s, ad guru Sujit Sanyal, recalls the advertising agencies, the ideas and the people that shaped the industry in its incumbency. He talks extensively of Clarion (Satyajit Ray started his career at the agency, the communist student leader Prasanta Sanyal was its managing director) as well as its campaigns (the agency designed the first ever campaign for a political party in 1977 – ‘You vote for yourself when you vote for Congress’). But not only. Other agencies also get a mention, as do the people that headed them. An absorbing read, whether you are an ad man or a lay reader.

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Mahabharata
Shiv K Kumar| Harper Collins|Rs 399

“One wonders,” says Prof Kumar, “why most versions of the Mahabharata do not visualise its potential as a story rich in poetic beauty and aroma.” While this may hold true, it cannot be denied, that the epic has been translated into many languages and in many imaginative ways at different points of time as well. The Mughals did it, so did the Brits. Like AK Ramanujan’s collection and retelling of Three Hundred Ramayanas, there is no reason why there should not be many retellings of Mahabharata. Each age and each writer brings his or her sensibility to the mega tale. Prof Kumar’s version is a welcome addition to the lot.

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Embassytown
China Mieville| Pan Books| £ 7.99

In this skillfully crafted science fiction tale, Mieville, looks at problems of communication and the potency of language. Action takes place in the future – in a universe formed of “homo-diaspora” where humans engage in barter economy around living biotechnology – a world where hosts speak only truth and aliens, lies; where subjugation and propaganda are complicit in the language. Could it be possible that language is not just a tool of oppression, but that it could be the instrument of resistance? Mieville says he deals with “monsters”. His imaging of the future of language, its role and power, is his battle with one.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 25 March 2012)

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