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Posts Tagged ‘Ashok K Banker’


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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Portraits From Ayodhya
Scharada Dubey| Tranquebar| Rs 295

“Can we permit politics to use emotional triggers like ‘faith and ‘identity’ to amass followers?” asks Dubey in this excellent compilation of oral history, drawn from the interviews conducted with Ayodhya’s famed residents. Returning to the city two decades after the demolition of Babri Masjid, Dubey unflinchingly records the city’s multi-layered existence. “Even before 1949, there was a gang of five people who used to go around establishing temples in place of Muslim graveyards. My father was one of the five,” Vineet Maurya, a dalit farmer living next to the remains of the Masjid, tells the author. Don’t mistake this book for a travelogue it’s a socio-political document that deserves to be read.

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The Forest of Stories
Ashok K. Banker | Westland |Rs 295

After writing the immensely appreciated ‘Ramayana Series’, Banker returns with the retelling of the great epic, Mahabharata. A work, that is part of a larger project in which the author wishes to recap ancient Indian texts dealing with ‘mythology, itihasa, history and future history’. “Unlike my Ramayana series, where I often took great creative liberties,” says Banker, this version of the Mahabharata sticks closely to Vyasa’s Sanskrit epic. He reminds the reader that the famed epic is, “not a religious polemic. Not a historical document. Not Itihasa.” But just “a great story”. For those who have always wanted to read it in accessible English translation, it’s a welcome treat.

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Grandma’s Bag of Stories
Sudha Murty | Puffin| Rs 199

Sudha Murty’s books for children create an aura of magic that’s at once charming and riveting. In this book, Murty, retells the stories she had heard from her own grandmother, Krishtakka, while growing up in Shiggaon, a sleepy town in north Karnataka. Her stories are tales of everyday life encountered in a world free of  modern technology – there are kings here, thieves, monkeys, mice and gods. Each story has a moral and a lesson for tiny tots, and each is accompanied by lively illustrations drawn by Priya Kuriyan that any child will enjoy spending time with.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 26 February 2012)

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