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Short Takes 171


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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Short Takes 170


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.)

Short Takes 169


The Ex-Files
Vandana Shah | Penguin | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.07.05 PMTechnology has made us believe that we all live in a global village, ground facts however are different. Each nation and each society is bound by its own mores and social inequities. Vandana Shah’s coming of age autobiography about a 3-year-old marriage and a 10-year-long divorce reflects the conflicted India we live in. On one had we have ‘well-to-do’ and ‘well-educated’ people who feel entitled to control women (be it fathers, relatives, husbands, sons), and on the other we have Shah, who’s asking, “Will someone please get up and change this system?” It’s a long battle. Still.

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The Small Big
Steve J Martin, Noah J Goldstein & Robert B. Cialdini | Profile Books | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.07.27 PMModern studies in the field of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, social psychology and behavioral economics have given us many insights about how we react and why. The authors of this book have gathered some of these ‘insights’ to help people organize their businesses and manage their employees. These tips warn the writers need to be used judiciously and wisely, “Trying to use too many tools of persuasion at once could actually make it more difficult to achieve the outcome you are hoping for.” In other words, the tips may not work all the time!

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Pathfinder
Angie Sage | Bloomsbury | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.07.43 PMEveryone needs magic. Angie Sage re-kindles it in her story of Alice Tod Hunter Moon, a young Pathfinder who leaves her seaside village in search of a lost friend, Ferdie. Rumour has it that Ferdie has been taken by the mysterious creature caked Garmin and Alice needs to rescue him. Set against the backdrop of Cornwall marshlands, this story is part of a trilogy sequel to the adventures of Septimus Heap and Jenna, the princes. For those who love the warmth and humour of Sage’s stories this trilogy is a special gift this season. Enjoy it.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 28 December 2014.)

Short Takes 168


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.)

Short Takes 167


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.

*

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.)

Short Takes 166


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.)

Short Takes 165


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.)