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Archive for the ‘Travel’ 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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English Poetry
Ed by Sudeep Sen | Harper Collins | Rs 599

This 550 page compendium of modern Indian English poetry is an attempt by poet and literary editor, Sudeep Sen, to put together a collection of poems that “one would think of as a body of contemporary works that reflects a movement in new English poetry by Indians.” What that movement is he does not say. He does not also explain the reason for choosing one poet and ignoring the other. You will not find Arvind Krishna Mehrotra here or the brilliant Manohar Shetty, for instance. What he does however, provide us with, is a doorstopper of poems, some middling, some brilliant.

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With My Body
Nikki Gemmell | Fourth Estate | Rs 399

Gemmel’s first book The Bride Stripped Bare created ripples when it came out in 2003. Though written anonymously, the author was quickly identified. Reviewers variously tagged it as ‘literary porn’ and ‘outrageously, brutally honest book’. In the first book, says the author, “the plan was to examine sex within marriage.” In her second book, With My Body, she turns her gaze on sex in an extra marital affair. The prose, starched and stiff, is not easy to read. Gemmel, though, claims that the book is “in similar vein to Fifty Shades of Grey”. It isn’t. But it does come with a disclaimer that says ‘Adult Material’ on the cover.

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Meet Me At The Border
Inder Raj Ahluwalia | OM Books | Rs 295

One of India’s most prolific travel writers, Inder Raj Ahluwalia, has been writing on travel and aviation for past 30 years. In this book he presents various vignettes from his travel to far away lands. “There is a huge, wide world waiting out there,” he says, “It shows many faces and many images that range from ‘subtle’ to ‘stark’. Though I have tried to understand them all, it is the starkness that has floored me.” The 32 stories contained in this collection will take you from French Riviera to Polar Arctic, from Istanbul to Tokyo and beyond – on a journey of man who discovers others and sometimes, himself too.

(The above reviews first appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 4 August 2012)

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A Mysterious Death at Sainik Farms
Rukmani Anandani | Rupa | Rs 195

“Ugrasen couldn’t sleep… He tried to puzzle it out” – is how Rukmani starts off her story. Like Chetan Bhagat, the author does not shed any sweat over the language. But she does weave a challenging and chilling mystery. And in detective fiction this is what matters. Rukmani’s detective, a Tam-Bram named Ganpati Iyer with “a typical south Indian moustache” and a love for quoting couplets from Kural sets out to solve the murder of a rich Punjabi businessman living in Sainik Farms. The story holds together well, and the end, includes a surprise.

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October Coup
Mohammad Hyder | Roli Books | Rs 295

Hyder’s account of the last days of the Hyderabad State before its annexation to the Indian Union proves that that truth has many faces. In February 1948 Hyder was appointed as Collector of Osmanabad district. As a civil servant of the Hyderabad State it was his responsibility to maintain law and order in the district. In this memoir he recounts the border incursions and campaign of violent raids by armed militia manned by the then Congress party workers. He also recounts his encounters with the Arabs and Pathans and most importantly the dreaded leader of the Razakars, Qasim Razvi. Fascinating account.

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Treasures of the Thunder Dragon
Adhi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck | Penguin | Rs 499

Between 1999 and 2006 Adhi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, made several journeys to different parts of her beautiful country. On her journeys, she says, she experienced, “enthralling landscapes, breathless climbs and knee-crunching descents. But nothing was more rewarding than the encounters with the people…and the generosity with which they shared their lives and homes.” Bhutan or the Land of Thunder Dragon (Druk Yul) as it’s also known, is often described as the last Shangri La. In Wangchuk’s account it emerges as a land deeply steeped in Buddhism and in love with nature and its animals.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 24 June 2012)

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The World In Our Time: A Memoir
Tapan Raychaudhuri| Harper Collins| Rs 399

One could view Prof Raychaudhuri’s memoir – parts of which have been serialised as ‘Bengal-nama’ in the literary journal, Desh – as a retelling of the modern Indian history. He offers enough anecdotes to relive it, yet what sets this memoir apart is the writer’s commitment to historical accuracy. The horrific mass killings on August 16, 1946 in Calcutta – that led to death of some 50,000 people – says the historian, could well have been orchestrated by the British administration in cohort with provincial government. For the first three days of rioting the police and army stayed away. Sounds chillingly familiar in the context of 1984 and 2002. If only the government would throw open the archives. But would it?

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Pilgrim’s India
Ed by Arundhati Subramaniam| Penguin Ananda|Rs 399

About a decade ago, says the writer of this charming anthology, she felt a need to travel to sacred destinations around the country. The journey, she says, was a shape-shifting experience till she found her guru. But the experience led her to seek answers in the scholarly and the mystical narratives of other travellers – a glimpse of which she offers us in this collection of poems and writings by ancient, medieval and modern wanderers and witnesses. To sum up, the hazards of a voyage are acceptable to some of us more than collective notions of fixity and life insurance. The enduring answers, after all, are perhaps found in the jugular?

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India After The Global Crisis
Shankar Acharya| Orient Black Swan| Rs 399

Written between January 2009 and September 2011, this collection of essays culled from articles written for Business Standard by Acharya, elucidates the Indian government’s stand on the economic crisis facing the country. The writer, former Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India (1993-2001) was ‘deeply involved’ by his own admission, in the economic reforms of the 1990s. His diagnosis? The world crisis did not destroy us because our banks and PSUs were not unfettered like in the West. But we are making a mistake in rolling out social entitlements and bowing down to environmental lobby. All this is detrimental to investment and growth.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 19 February 2012)

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