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Posts Tagged ‘Delhi’


Fire in The Unnameable Country
Ghalib Islam | Fourth Estate | Rs 499

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.55.09 PMThis debut is as exciting as it is befuddling. Ghalib Islam, born in Bangladesh and living in Canada since the age of seven has penned a novel that wraps around an unnamed country that to an Indian reader would appear to point to Bangladesh. But the country is not named. What is named is a colonial past, a terrorist infested present, a mind-reading government department, a man who speaks many languages, a flying carpet and a long birth. It’s ambitious, clever and dressed in magic realism. A reader’s puzzle.

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Field Guide To Happiness
Linda Leaming | Hay House | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.54.45 PMLinda Leaming, originally from Nashville, Tennessee, US made her home in Bhutan sometime in the mid-90s. In between she taught English and wrote articles for women’s magazine, traveller guides and newspapers. “I have now lived in Bhutan all my adult life. My happiness comes because living in this ancient culture forces me to think differently – about time, work, money, nature, family, other people, life, death, tea, kindness, generosity, washing machines, waking up, and myself,” writes Leaming as she unveils her journey to self-discovery. The story comes packaged as a self-help manual.

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Business Unusual
Sharmila Kantha | Rupa | Rs 295

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.54.58 PMIt’s a refreshing to read writers using India’s historical capital, Delhi as the backdrop for a thriller or detective genre books. In ‘Business Unusual’ former corporate functionary, Sharmila Kantha, situates a murder in an upper class businessman’s household that includes a calculating ‘Mataji’, warring sons, servants and hangers on and an unemotionally efficient detective, Ramji. There are also, of course, dead bodies that link the mystery together and a sultry seductress, Lata that enters Ramji’s life at the most confusing time. A fun detective adventure aimed at young adult reader.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 22 February 2015)

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Grey Hornbills At Dusk
Bulbul Sharma | Aleph | Rs 295

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 4.14.21 PM“The Large Grey Babblers… are the only birds I know that can eat and argue at the same time,” notes Bulbul Sharma, a painter, birdwatcher and writer, best known for her books for young readers. Divided into – winter, spring, summer & monsoon – this book re-tracks the author’s rambles through parks and bird sanctuaries in and around Delhi. It also includes her charming sketches of our winged friends. Delhi is known for hosting as many as 450 species of birds, some of them from as far as Siberia. Get to know them, before they disappear.

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The Lost Language of Cranes
David Leavitt | Bloomsbury | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 4.15.30 PMEight years ago, David Leavitt, wrote ‘The Indian Clerk’ a fictional biography of S. Ramanujan’s tryst with G.H. Hardy, the leading mathematician of the western world just before the outbreak of WWI. ‘The Lost Language of Cranes’, first published in 1986 now re-issued, tells the story of human relations and sexual confusion of a New York family – when a son’s confession of being a homosexual forces the father to confront his own demons. It’s a complex and a brave novel, one that is bound to find resonance among Indian readers.

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Don’t Die With Your Music Still In You
Serena J. Dyer & Dr Wayne W. Dyer | Hay House | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 4.15.12 PMThis self-help book is a mish-mash of pop-psychology that prods the reader to listen to one’s own intuition – or song – in order to be happy and successful in life. Written by daughter-father duo it advises us to follow our dharma (interpreted here as passion or calling in life), to keep an open mind, to embrace silence, learn to solve problems, not be resentful and have courage to be what you want to be. It teaches by examples sourced from the writers’ own lives. Pick it up, if that’s what you need.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 25 January 2015)

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Hello I am back! It’s been quite some time since I posted my last entry. Two years, almost! I’d like to make up for this time. But it is going to be difficult since there is a huge backlog. I review three books in a week for The Sunday Mail Today published from Delhi. That makes for roughly 100+ missed entries in the last two years.

To overcome this gird-lock, I have decided to restart the blog with the latest reviews. I will try to add select entries from the past by either matching them by theme or relevance. This way, I hope, with time I will be able to put most of the reviews on the blog.

The other entries on this blog currently include material that may or may not have been published in print. I will be adding new things here. Including a free-wheeling take on Indian contemporary pop culture which I have decided to call INDIAN POPCORN. This section (a new page) will be started soon.

Happy reading.

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Making News, Breaking News, Her Own Way
Ed. by Latika Padgaonkar & Shubha Singh | Tranquebar |Rs 250

In the 1980s, “Newspaper owners, all male, hired editors, all male, who in turn hired other males to cover politics, the economy and foreign affairs,” writes Shahnaz Anklesaria Aiyar in this collection of essays that highlights the lonely road women reporters took to break the mould. Men those days “… hustled in and out of power structures like the North and South Block, defence and foreign affairs ministries …leaving vast areas affecting human condition to be covered by women.” It’s been four decades since and some things still remain the same. But there has been change too, as the essays in this book attest.

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Delhi OMG
Vinod Nair | Om Books International | Rs 195

Over the last decade there has been a perceptible change in the way Indian writers are looking at India and her mores. Interestingly, many of them do so after a brief stint in the West. Suddenly, all that they grew up with becomes offensive and worthy of disdain. Nair, who trains his guns at Delhi, is one of them. The city of Delhi, he informs us, has pavements that are used by hawkers not people; has women journalists that are no better than prostitutes of GB road; and, has cinema halls that screen blue films in the morning shows. Need one say, anything more?

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Over the Rainbow
Paul Pickering | Simon & Schuster| Rs 450

Over the Rainbow is an unusual story about love and conflict that takes a leaf from the famous medieval tales of Amir Hamza. On the face of it, the story of love is told through its two protagonists, an Irish American pilot, Malone and a female Pakistani ISI agent, Fatima Hamza and the conflict is served up by war-ravaged Afghanistan, yet beyond it is a tale that’s much older, more poignant than anything that the West has known. In its pages you’ll encounter the Taliban, the American and German soldiers, war and brutality, as well as poppy farmers, Djins, devas and yes, good and bad witches.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 29 April 2012)

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The Peacemakers
Manu Bhagavan | Harper Collins| Rs 499

Meticulously researched and lucidly written, Prof Bhagavan’s The Peacemakers, resuscitates the Gandhi-Nehru ideal of ‘One World’ that has over the last 50 years been dismissed by the policy makers and political establishment as an idea that had worn its time. The book makes three distinct historical claims. One, that Gandhi and Nehru agreed that the idea of ‘nation states’ was pernicious and oppressive. Two, India played a central role in splitting civil and political rights from economic rights at the United Nations in the 1950s, and three, Nehru’s foreign policy of ‘Non-alignment’ was not an incoherent practice of neutralism but a pro-active policy of engagement.

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Rivers Past
Amiya Banerjee | Whitewater Publications| Rs 175

Rivers Past draws a picture of a hapless Delhi that over the last 20 years spilled over the banks of Yamuna and lost its moorings. For Banerjee, a psychiatric by profession, the perplexity of modern day human condition mirrors the incoherent and bullish rise of the townships that dot East Delhi’s landscape. There was a time, says the author, when we were a great nation. “It didn’t last long. We’ve fallen fast, in just one generation. Then, we were willing to pay with our lives for what we believed in. Now, the opinions and principles of a man can be bought and sold in cash.”

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Take Charge
Gaurav Marya| Entrepreneur India| Rs 495

How do you develop an entrepreneur mindset? The writer of this book, says, hey look at me! Marya’s first book, we learn, was a primer on franchising based on his business experiences. His second, Take Charge, argues for a way that “would empower successful entrepreneurs to distill knowledge from their experience and disseminate this knowledge through books, seminars and workshops.” It seems, Marya’s venture into publishing, (Entrepreneur India Publishing Ltd is his own venture) is his first step in this direction. The book just wrote itself. With the help of references from books past and uninhibited downloads from the Internet.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 22 April 2012)

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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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