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Posts Tagged ‘caste’


A History of the Jana Natya Manch
Arjun Ghosh|Sage | Rs 695

In 1970s and 1980s Delhi, the presence of the leftist street theatre group, Jan Natya Manch, could not be ignored. Their Machine had us riveted, Moteram Ki Satyagraha had us in splits and Bakri had us crying. That was, till Safdar Hashmi was alive. Post his murder in 1989, the group has been reduced to a propaganda mandali that can be hired by anyone, anytime – Anna Hazare’s team paraded them in April 2011. Ghosh tries to fight off this reality by conflating Janam with Hashmi, but he does not shy away from asking the question either. Despite this, the author’s resistance to probe “caste” in Left’s cultural politics leaves us wanting.

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The Twentieth Wife
The Feast of Roses

Indu Sundaresan| Harper Collins | Rs 399

The writer’s first novel, The Twentieth Wife – a fictional account of the life and times of Nur Jahan – published in 2002, won the Washington State Book Award in 2003.  Its sequel, The Feast of Roses, did not garner the same attention but it did help the author find a place for herself on America’s history-fiction bookshelf. In India, the last book in the Taj trilogy – the two novels were followed by a third, The Shadow Princess (2010) that tells the story of Mumtaz Mahal – is yet to make its appearance. Like Barbara Cartland, Sundaresan’s florid prose can be taxing, but her tale holds true.

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The Wednesday Soul
Saurabh Pant| Westland| Rs 250

Touted as one of the country’s top ten stand-up comedians by a national daily, Pant delivers the punches – for e.g.: “Depressive celebrities had a magnetic charisma that explained the careers of Nirvana, Amy Winehouse and Bengali writers”; “Living in India you can automatically earn one an honorary Ph.D in Queues” or “That’s your plan? Disguise me with sunglasses. I am not Shahid Kapoor at his own movie screening” – but fails to give us an equally enthralling story. In the opening note to the book, the author admits that it took him five years and 87 re-writes to put together The Wednesday Soul. It shows.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 1 April 2012)

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Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism
Jyotirmaya Sharma| Penguin| Rs 299

Hindutva, says the author of this book, is the dominant expression of Hinduism, not just a perverted manifestation of it. Those who say, ‘Hinduism is a way of life’, miss the question that follows: Who is a Hindu? What does a Hindu do? To Sharma, the writings of Dayananda Saraswati, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda and V D Savarkar show consonance on six critical areas related to building Hindu identity – importance of monochromatic identity, masculinity, its relation to other faiths, victimhood, importance of Vedas and Upanishads and abuse and aggression as a legitimate tool of public discourse. This is the second imprint of Sharma’s book and includes a revised introduction and an additional essay. Must read for anyone interested in Indian polity.

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My Father Baliah
YB Satyanarayana| Harper Collins| Rs 299

In this touching tale of hardship and resilience, dreams and determination, Satyanarayana recounts the tale of three generation of Madiga (chamar) family and its journey from caste-riddled Vengapalli in Karimnagar district in Telangana to the modern world that the casteless cities represent. The story of the struggle has all the ingredients of poverty and caste hate that the author’s family suffered. The horror of growing up untouchable, says Satyanarayana, lies in its practice by society and its internalization by the dalit. Education helps get rid of this complexity. But it can’t be done in one generation. It requires time. In the case of his family, it took three generations to fully integrate with progressive idea of India.

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Talking Numbers
SS Khaamba| Akshar Publications| Rs 294

“I have named my work Talking Numbers because the numbers present in the dates of birth, really talk, always giving guidance,” says the author of this book. Khaamba claims to have perfected the ‘calculative number science’ based on the series of numbers evolved by medieval Italian mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci. Fibonacci became famous in 12th century for introducing Hindu-Arabic numeral system to European commerce. It was particularly suited for commercial book-keeping, conversion of weights and measures and the calculation of interest. How this applies to numerological predictions, one doesn’t know. Khaamba, however, claims to have reinvented it for everyday use – enumerating how to act in the present and what to expect in the future – based on the date of birth.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 15 January 2012)

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