Posts Tagged ‘India’

The Best Thing About You is You!
Anupam Kher | Hey House| Rs 399

“I have found, that unhappiness is a great leveler,” says Kher in this pocketbook of schmaltzy advice on happiness, unfulfilled relationships and regret. Remember Rudyard Kipling? Arthur Miller? Francois de la Rochefoucauld? Never mind if you don’t. Kher brings them – and many others – on board, through a sprinkling of quotes here and there, while flitting between dispensing self-absorbed truisms and reflecting sporadically on his life as theatre and film actor. This is Brand Anupam – a modern day celeb guru of hope and love – beaming at you beatifically and saying, “In time of change, we all seek the same old wisdom but from new-age gurus. That is why we need life-coaching books in stores.”


Wild Child
Paro Anand| Puffin Books| Rs 150

In this collection of 10 tender stories, the author gets under the skin of teenagers to talk about contemporary life and events in modern day India. Things we often skim over, hoping the horror, hurt and humiliation would fade, disappear. A 10-year-old boy gets his nose rubbed in the dust by his classmates for being Muslim in post 26/11 Mumbai. He returns home to ask his parents, “Why didn’t you tell me about religion before, were you ashamed?” A girl breaks down in a class when a teacher decides to discuss the issue of domestic violence. How can she tell that her father beats her mother? In Paro Anand our children are not mute spectators. They have a voice.


Gaurav Rastogi & Basab Pradhan| Penguin| Rs 499

Offshore business model, argue the authors, is not going anywhere it is the future of work. But, unlike automotive industry that judges its profits and solidity by numbers of car units sold, or telephone companies that count monies by number of minutes clocked, offshore companies work in ‘abstract’ terms. Terms that cannot be counted except maybe for two things, increase in employee headcount and two, increase in billings. If our business outsourcing companies are to grow, new revenue models need to be invented. It cannot suck the benign tax regime in India forever. In fact, the tax holiday is expiring, say the authors. Looks like its time for our BPO and IT industry to roll up its sleeves.

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

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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.


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?


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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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Ganesha on the Dashboard
V. Raghunathan & M.A. Eswaran| Penguin| Rs 299

Aisa lagta hai ki Indra devta hamse naraaz hai,” [It seems Lord Indira (rain god) is unhappy with us] said Delhi’s CM Sheila Dixit, replying to the delay in preparations for the Common Wealth Games in 2010. There is something wrong with Indians, say the authors of this book, when people accept that appealing to god is perfectly justified for the government. Could this be because Indians lack a scientific temper? Raghunathan, a banker, who writes a column for a daily economics newspaper, and Eswaran, a retired nuclear physicist, come together to collate their responses to our nation’s obsession with gods and god men, astrology, numerology, rituals etc. Especially readable is Eswaran’s ruminations on science’s relationship with god.


The Magic
Thonda Byrne| Simon & Schuster| Rs 399

Fifteen years ago, Rhonda Byrne, suggested in her book The Secret that simply thinking about a thing one can manifest its existence. Therefore, positive thinking, she argued, created a positive life. Her subsequent two books, The Power and now, The Magic has taken the argument to the moral plane. In The Power Byrne argued that change could only be powered by thought and now in the latest book,  The Magic she says that magic is powered by gratitude. In the words of science, one’s existence is a factual reality. The thoughts and emotions that guide you, spring from the moral universe that surrounds you. In other words, divinity is a matter of faith.


Fish in a Dwindling Lake
Ambai| Penguin| Rs 250

Fish in a Dwindling Lake is Ambai aka Dr. C. S. Lakshmi’s third collection of short stories to appear in English. In these stories, the writer uses the female body as tool to make sense of love, longing and life among Mumbai’s Tamil community. “The only reality is the body…,” she tells her translator Lakshmi Holmstrom, “We exist, because the body exists.” Ambai, who writes in Tamil, is known for her criticism of 1970s Tamil literature that focused on “male angst and alienation”. As a feminist, her interest has been to bring the woman, as an independent powerful entity, back into contemporary Tamil narrative.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 11 March 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.


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.


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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The World In Our Time: A Memoir
Tapan Raychaudhuri| Harper Collins| Rs 399

One could view Prof Raychaudhuri’s memoir – parts of which have been serialised as ‘Bengal-nama’ in the literary journal, Desh – as a retelling of the modern Indian history. He offers enough anecdotes to relive it, yet what sets this memoir apart is the writer’s commitment to historical accuracy. The horrific mass killings on August 16, 1946 in Calcutta – that led to death of some 50,000 people – says the historian, could well have been orchestrated by the British administration in cohort with provincial government. For the first three days of rioting the police and army stayed away. Sounds chillingly familiar in the context of 1984 and 2002. If only the government would throw open the archives. But would it?


Pilgrim’s India
Ed by Arundhati Subramaniam| Penguin Ananda|Rs 399

About a decade ago, says the writer of this charming anthology, she felt a need to travel to sacred destinations around the country. The journey, she says, was a shape-shifting experience till she found her guru. But the experience led her to seek answers in the scholarly and the mystical narratives of other travellers – a glimpse of which she offers us in this collection of poems and writings by ancient, medieval and modern wanderers and witnesses. To sum up, the hazards of a voyage are acceptable to some of us more than collective notions of fixity and life insurance. The enduring answers, after all, are perhaps found in the jugular?


India After The Global Crisis
Shankar Acharya| Orient Black Swan| Rs 399

Written between January 2009 and September 2011, this collection of essays culled from articles written for Business Standard by Acharya, elucidates the Indian government’s stand on the economic crisis facing the country. The writer, former Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India (1993-2001) was ‘deeply involved’ by his own admission, in the economic reforms of the 1990s. His diagnosis? The world crisis did not destroy us because our banks and PSUs were not unfettered like in the West. But we are making a mistake in rolling out social entitlements and bowing down to environmental lobby. All this is detrimental to investment and growth.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 19 February 2012)

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