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Little Princes
Conor Grennan| HarperCollins| 308 pp, Rs 399

One of the many untold stories of Nepal’s decade long civil war between 1996-2006 is the story of the stolen children. Unofficial estimates put the figure to several lakhs while official statistics are hard to come by. Grennan who spent three years in Nepal between 2004-2007 tells the story of the Humla children taken away by child traffickers to Kathmandu – children that were voluntarily given up by parents for fear of Maoists taking them away. The writer doesn’t interact with the Mao brigade but gives us a touching account of the tiny tots that he and his NGO was able to unite with their families. A work they continue to engage in and raise funds for.

*

Song Without End & Other Stories
Neelum Saran Gour| Penguin| 284 pp, Rs 299

Never mind the market, write for yourself – is a mantra that seems to sum up this collection of 15 short stories. The book jacket promises effortlessly written prose, trenchant wit and captivating tales. But it offers none of that. The prose is laboured, the wit missing and stories, pretentious. ‘If they’d only get along better, there could be such identity of attitudes between them’ goes one line in a story. This could well sum up Gour’s pen. There is no guarantee that when you dip into The Iliad or Tagore’s Geetanjali you’d come up with a ‘captivating’ tale. A story needs a life of its own. And borrowing doesn’t always work.

*

Balasarswati, Her Art & Life
Douglas M Knight Jr| Tranquebar| 325 pp, Rs 599

It is difficult to deny that Indian publishers and writers are singularly disinterested in bringing out biographies of classical musicians and dancers. After all who is interested in the classical arts? Tranquebar seeks to undo this lack of balance by brining out a scholarly dissertation on the life and times of one of India’s greatest dancers, Balasarswati. Bala, as she was affectionately called, grew up in the much maligned devdasi tradition and defied the moral injunctions of her peers to keep her craft alive. She danced, sang and emoted as no other, since. And we are richer for having her immortalised in this book.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 11 December 2011)

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