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Posts Tagged ‘China’


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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Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce
Judy Balan| Westland| 199 pp, Rs 150

Two Fates is a puerile romp that’s as breezy, infantile and forgettable as a Bollywood teenage flick. The writing as imaginative as the aspirations of the pushy writer, “Judy is a single mother who has no real achievements to her credit…Two Fates is her first book through which she hopes to become famous, sell movie rights and fight with Amir Khan.” And yes, she has website and claims to write ‘other stuff’ like reviews, interviews and stories, no not for boring newspapers or magazines, but (how cute!) for her five year old girl. What she would really like is for the world to get over Carrie Bradshaw and give her a column. Any takers?

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Indian Defence: Crises & Challenges
Dr NC Asthana & Dr Anjali Nirmal| Pointer Publishers| pp 356, Rs 2400

In this book on comparative strength and weaknesses of Indian, Pakistani and Chinese military might, an IPS officer tells us that the whole world is impotent in front of US might. The Chinese are ruthless and Pakistan is desperate. And we, we lack a national character and are easily waylaid by media and politicians who at a drop of a hat turn peaceniks. Asthana received the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2011, has served as IG CRPF Kashmir and IGP CoBRA. He describes himself as the last polymath, hates sports, which he considers juvenile but practices kickboxing and enjoys doing bench presses. Together with his wife they have authored 16 books.

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The Perfect World
Priya Kumar| Embassy Books| 319 pp, Rs 275

The incredible changes that have taken place across the world can be disturbing, elating and confusing all at the same time. The uncertainty of where we may be heading as people, society and individuals can be unsettling. Inter-personal relations come under stress, as does our approach to the work we chose to do. Increasingly we are confronted with a neurosis that can be destructive and self-defeating. In India the tradition has been to seek out gurus to pull us out of life’s spiral. The west falls back on what it calls self-help books and ‘motivational speakers’. Priya the darling of Punjabi NRIs is one of them.

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War of the Worldviews
Deepak Chopra & Leaonard Mlodinow| Rider Books| 315 pp, Price not mentioned

Which worldview is right? Does science describe the universe or do ancient practices like meditation unravel mysteries that are beyond the worldview of science? Deepak Chopra the most famous student of Guru Maharishi Yogi and Leonard Mlodinov, professor at the Caltech take diverse positions on the evolution of the universe, quantum physics and neuroscience. This book has evoked intense reactions. There are those who see Chopra as a man who has repackaged Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s philosophy and mixed it with psedo science and pop psychology, and those who revere him as a new age guru. Mlodinov, a famous physicist and writer who has co-authored book with Stephen Hawkins – besides scripting the cult Star Trek: The Next Generation – allege some, has been duped by marketing agents into co-authoring this book.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 18 December 2011)

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RumiA New Translation
By Farrukh Dhondy |Harper Perennial | 165 pp, Rs 299

After Prof Arvind Krishna Mehtrotra’s seminal translation of Kabir’s poems and Ranjit Haskote’s mystical rendition of Lal Ded, comes Farrukh Dhondy with a clutch of Rumi verse. This small book apart from Jalaluddin Rumi’s couplets also packs an introduction to the Sufi saint’s life and work, a personal note from the translator and a Q&A. Dhondy says he was tempted to translate Rumi after reading a trashy translation on flight to Australia. “I looked for other versions. They all seemed to be written by new age spiritual freaks who took Rumi to be endorsing some mixed-metaphoric burden of wistful romance.” In Dhondy’s rendition, Rumi’s off the cuff ruminations are shaped as much by reason as by rhyme, word or meter. Each line, delightful and each couplet, telling.

He who spreads evil
 Is one who plants weeds
Don’t waste your words
Don’t sell him rose seeds.”
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Souls in Exile
The Return of Ravana Book 3

By David Hair |Penguin Young Adult| 309 pp, Rs 250

In Pyre of the Queens, the first in the Return of the Ravana series, Ravana named Ravindra Raj devised a secret ritual to acquire deadly mythical powers. In Swayamvara, the second volume, he chased Ram, who has been reborn as the great warrior, Prithviraj Chauhan. In the third volume, Souls in Exile, Abbaka Rani and Rani of Jhansi fight against Ravana to defend their kingdoms. Vikram (Ram), Rasika (Sita), Deepika and Amanjit are the super four that take on the evil demon. Everything is real yet unreal. The historical events are reproduced faithfully, as are major episodes from the epic, Ramayana. But the action takes place in modern day India – in Varanasi, Jhansi, Kannauj, Mumbai, Delhi. David Hair spins a yarn adding a twist here and there to accelerate the plot for the four super heroes. And creates a fantasy world that’s at once unbelievable and charming.

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Beijing Welcomes You
Unveiling the Capital City of the Future

by Tom Scocca| Riverhead Books| 367 pp, Rs 699

At the very onset, the writer notes that China has a lot of people. He then asks why did the International Olympic Committee grant Olympics to China? He assumes that it’s because the world wants China to join the ranks of leading nations. But isn’t it already a leader among nations? Scocca admits that as an American, he was in habit of viewing People’s Republic of China as a momentary aberration, “something that would go away if we refused to accept it.” Now, he knows better. Scocca spent four years in China, from 2004-2008 during which he wrote for Slate and the New York Observer. What he wrote finds its way into the book. As the book jacket honestly records – Beijing Welcomes You is “a broad yet close record of urban place we don’t yet fully comprehend”. In short, a bit of everything that a foreign reporter’s journal can hold.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, 23 October 2011)

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This beautiful pass is home to one of India’s largest glaciers, the Bara Shigri Glacier. Standing here, at 4,830 meters, all one can see are hill ranges and valleys covered in a blanket of ice and snow. Himalayas here are larger and mightier. The rugged mountain terrain awesome in its nakedness. And most charmingly, utterly oblivious of man.

I am not the first to cross it, nor the last. The path leading through the mountainous terrain has been used since the ancient times, connecting India with the inner Himalayan kingdoms, and beyond – China, Mongolia and the far away region of the Hindukush. This is the road through which people travelled, met, exchanged goods and ideas. It’s a road where almost nothing has changed since the earth convulsed and created the Himalayas.

Nothing…except climate change that has shrunk the glacier by a few inches, increased the volume of water in the already swelling Chenab and turned its lower valleys into apple growing orchards.

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