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Archive for the ‘Politics – India’ Category


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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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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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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The Last Love Letter
Minty Tejpal | Hachette| Rs 395

“Somewhere, the fairytale romance of marriage wore off and the female character wanted her own identity. Female empowerment is good, but it has its issues,” says Tejpal of his debut book, The Last Love Letter. He’s not fibbing. He is in every page of the book, his own man. Written in a first person narrative, the thinly veiled autobiography, takes the reader through his two divorces and the twists his career took. Women in the book are an addiction and a necessity. But rarely equal. In the end, Tejpal comes across as a man who wanted things on his terms. When that did not happen, things fell apart.

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Once Upon A Hill
Kalpish Ratna | Harper Collins | Rs 499

The story of Andheri’s Gilbert Hill is somewhat akin to the story of Delhi’s Aravali Range. Where there were hills once, we have modern townships and garbage. In Kalpish Ratna, Mumbai’s geological feature – a stand-alone hill once part of a range that stretched from Andheri to Versova – get’s a voice. In a topography that has been completely erased by relentless quarrying, the consequences are there for everyone to experience. Change in rainfall patterns and flooding, is just one part of the story. “Gilbert Hill is the still point in the flux of opportunism and greed,” says Kalpana Swaminathan and Ishrat Sayed aka  Kalpish Ratna. We agree.

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The Fix
Damian Thompson | Collins | Rs 399

In The Fix, Thompson looks at the modern world through the prism of Aldous Huxley’s ‘negative utopia’ – where everyone takes a state produced drug called ‘soma’ that produces intervals of perfect spiritual pleasure. Rest of the time they’re mostly shopping or having recreational sex. “The awkward truth is that acceleration of technological progress can’t be divorced from the fast production of addictive substances and experiences,” says Thompson, arguing that it is not the experience of pleasure, but experience of desire that continues to tantalize us. In other words, there is an addict in each one of us.  What’s your fix? Food, binge drinking or sugar?

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 16 September 2012)

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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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