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Beautiful Country
Sayeda Hameed & Gunjan Veda| Harper Collins| Rs 399

“Sayeda has the ability to make things come alive in a way that government reports festooned with official statistics can never do,” writes deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia in the forward to the book. We agree. This beautifully written book tells the story of the country’s inability to deliver basic human rights and facilities, in a manner that makes you feel as if tremendous achievements have been made. That takes talent. And so we learn that MNREGA, despite its flaws, has provided assured livelihoods; Sarva Shikha Abhiyan, has increased school enrolment; and, the National Rural Health Mission, is reaching out to all. History of the rulers always rings sweet to establishment ears.

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The Maharajas of Bikaner
Rajyashree Kumari Bikaner | Amaryllis| Rs 695

When members of a royal family write books about their kingdom they present their families in glorious aura. This book, written by daughter of Dr Karni Singh, is no different except for one detail, which runs into two chapters at the end of the book. These chapters deal with the drama of succession that rocked the Rathore clan in 2003, in which the royal faction insisted that history of Bikaner would be obliterated if a male successor was not chosen, the rest, including the female members of the royal family, opposed it. “Mercifully,” she writes, “the rights of women are enshrined in the Constitution of India” giving them the right to ancestral property and history. Clearly, it pays to be part of world’s largest democracy.

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The Average Indian Male
Cyrus Broacha | Random House | Rs 199

There are two parts to this book. In author’s own write, “Book One contains letters from various anguished people thirsty for answers, which is interspersed with witty and profound observations from me. Book Two lists my experiences about being around.” In the first part, Cyrus explains why Indian men have thin legs (it’s because they are obsessed with feet and chest); are irritable (it’s all due to short height); and, smile stupidly (when you don’t understand you smile, even Obama does it). The latter half, he tells us why his father wears boxers and he underwear, and why meeting fellow Indians on the street is never a meeting of equals.

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

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