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Archive for the ‘Popular Culture – World’ Category


Prince of Gujarat
Rajmohan Gandhi | Aleph | Rs 500

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.41.56 PM“It was not until 1980s, while I was working on my biography of Sardar Patel, that I discovered interesting facts about Darbar Gopaldas, and the part he played, despite being a prince, in the satyagrahas of 1920s,” writes Rajmohan Gandhi in the preface to the biography on Prince Gopaldas Desai. Darbar, as the prince was known, worked with Sardar Patel and the Congress but spurned high office choosing instead to mentor the next generation of politicians. Three of them became CMs of Gujarat, and one founded Amul, the famous milk cooperative. A fascinating read.

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Teresa’s Man
Damodar Mauzo | Rupa | Rs 250

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.42.17 PMYou could view this is a collection of 14 short stories or a powerful commentary of the social life of Goans. Written originally in Konkani by novelist and literary critic, Damodar Mauzo, the stories build on various characteristics of human behaviour to tell timeless stories about the condition of man. Sensitively translated by Xavier Cota, these stories, also recall a life, language and social customs that are fast receding from our collective memory – of evening games of ‘tablam-khel’, local taverns, snakes and lakes, Europe bound families and sand castles on the beach. Arresting.

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Brainstorm
Daniel J Siegel | Hachette | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.42.42 PMLos Angeles-based behavioral scientist, Daniel J Siegel, cautions parents against treating adolescence as a ‘time of immaturity’ or as something to be endured. Adolescence, the period between 15-24, is a time we move from ‘me’ to ‘we’. When we realize that we are dependent on others and interdependent as a group. At the same time it is also a period during which we engage in intense emotional and social relationships and everything is new, exciting and worth exploring. Siegel calls it MWe and prescribes it for adults as well.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 21 December 2014.)

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Arvind Krishna Mehrotra: Collected Poems
Introduction by Amit Chaudhuri | Penguin | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.29.21 PMIt’s a delight to see Penguin bring out a collection of poems by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra covering the period from 1960s to the present. It includes not only his own poems but also his translation of Prakrit love poetry, Kabir’s ‘dohas’ and string of Hindi, Bengali and Gujarati contemporary poets such as Nirala, Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh, Adil Mansuri and Shakti Chattopadhyay. Wish there was more – as Mehrotra invokes Kabir, “There is enough ink/To fill the seven seas,/Enough paper/To cover the hills,/It won’t even do/For the first verse, says Kabir.”

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When Google Met Wikileaks
Julian Assange | Navanya | Rs 295

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.28.49 PM“Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has. The firm’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed within the foreign policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower,” warns a blurb on the back flap. Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, knows a thing or two about this having met Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt while living under house arrest in London. He says people, “Don’t appreciate how much large technology firms can threaten the liberty of individuals” and they don’t really understand what Google can do, if it turns rogue. Frightening.

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Young Turks
Shareen Bhan & Syna Dehnugara | Random House | Rs 599

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.29.08 PMAnchor and series editor of ‘Young Turks’ on CNBC-TV18, Shareen Bhan, says that in the last 15 years she has met people who have the ‘courage and tenacity to think differently, think big, and challenge the status quo’. In this book she selects 13 such entrepreneurs. The list includes a mobile data base company, bus ticketing firm, online retailers, internet marriage bureau and digital asset managers. There is not a single woman entrepreneur among them. The tech industry in India, it seems , is driven by the same fund traditional businesses are. Men invest in men.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 14 December 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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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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The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty
Dan Ariely | Harper Collins | Rs 399

Most people cheat. Ask insurance companies. When people are faced with loss of property due to robbery many exaggerate their loss by 10 to 15 per cent: A 32-inch TV becomes 40-inches and an 18k necklace becomes 22k. You are visiting your dentist. He tells you that you have a miniscule crack in tooth enamel. He can repair it with the state-of-the art machine he’s just bought. You agree to it. A few months later you have to have your tooth out. But the fact of the matter is, there was no need to treat the tooth fissure in the first place. Would you fault the dentist? Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University, provides the answers as to why we act the way we do and what we can do to avoid it.

(The above review appeared in the Saturday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 25 August 2012)

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United Breaks Guitars
Dave Carrol | Hay House | Rs 299

It’s every travelling musician’s worst nightmare. How to make sure airline staff does not damage his/her expensive music instrument. In March 2008, Dave Carrol faced just that, while travelling from Canada to US on a music tour. The United Airlines ground staff mishandled his guitar case causing irreparable damage to his guitar. Of course, they refused to compensate. So Carrol did what no one had done before, he used the social media to bring the corporation to its knees. He did this by posting a video ‘United Breaks Guitars’ on youtube and proved, that at least in America, customer is always king.

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The Governor’s Wife
Mark Gimenez | Sphere | Rs 350

Gimenz opens his tale with a quote from Edna Faber’s book Giant that hits close to home. “We really stole Texas, didn’t we? I mean. Away from Mexico” she wrote. Gimez follows in the footsteps of the quote and creates a chilling politico-legal thriller in which a wife of Texas governor takes on her husband and the political establishment in an attempt to save a life of a young Mexican criminal caught in a no man’s land between Rio Grande and the US. Gimenez’s ability to replicate the vernacular idiom and slang has many readers hooked. Question now is will Gimenez upstage John Grisham? He just may.

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Wings of Silence
Shriram Iyer | Westland | Rs 199

What strikes one about this debut novel, is not the story or its terrible prose, but the depiction of a parent – in particular an authoritarian father figure who treats his grown up children as minions. Sadly, the author’s focus is on telling a story about two aspiring sportsmen. One wants to make it to Olympics, the other to the Wimbledon. What to say? Indians generally speaking, like to dream big, even if they don’t have it in them to make it to the top. Much like the author of this book who aspires to be a writer without even attempting to deliver a grammatically correct sentence.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, dated 12 August 2012)

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