Books en Thu Oct 01 13:38:45 IST 2020 crime-and-punishment <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>To purge his mind of the demons of his past, former gangster Rahul Jadhav went on a 60km run down the Mumbai-Pune highway. As Rahul remembered his victims (“the men who lay bloodied on the floor as the gangster walked away, proud”), his imprisonment, torture and his family’s penury after giving all they had to secure his bail, he ran like a madman, “his loud, piercing cries reverberating through the mountains”. According to Puja Changoiwala— award-winning crime reporter and author of Gangster on the Run, the story of Rahul’s life—the 60km run built courage in him to repent of his crimes and build a new life. Thus began his truly inspirational journey of recovery from a lifetime of murder, addiction and ultimately, madness.</p> <p>Changoiwala painstakingly charts his life, from his childhood when he loses his best friend to suicide, to his 12 years as a gangster and murderer. After his arrest in 2007, he becomes a shell of his former self, falling prey to alcohol and drug abuse. Three years later, when his family secures his release after borrowing heavily from friends and neighbours, he abuses his mother’s anti-psychotic pills, consuming three of them daily. He was ultimately diagnosed with schizophrenia. “Rahul’s health deteriorated to the extent where he could not tell morning from evening,” writes Changoiwala. “He could not cross the road without help....,” He gets admitted six times to the Muktangan Rehabilitation Centre in Pune before finally pulling his act together and finding redemption in running ultra-marathons. Today, he has run nearly 10,000km—including a 2019 run from the Gateway of India to India Gate.</p> <p>Changoiwala, who has previously written the true crime book, The Front Page Murders: Inside the Serial Killings That Shocked India, has a no-frills style of writing which works fantastically. Rahul’s story is so powerful that it needs no additional adorning. But Changoiwala’s real triumph is in her ability to tease out the minutest details of Rahul’s life. “I first met Rahul to interview him for a long-form news feature,” she said. “Those six hours told me that the man was walking around with a book in his belly.” Rahul’s account of his life combined with inputs from his family, friends, co-accused, former gangsters, counsellors and investigators in anti-extortion units, who helped her dig out old documents, make the book a riveting read. It begs to be made into a movie. Anurag Kashyap, are you listening?</p> <p><b>Gangster on the Run: The True Story of a Reformed Criminal</b></p> <p><b>By Puja Changoiwala</b></p> <p><b>Published by HarperCollins</b></p> <p><b>Price 1260; pages 296</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Nov 13 11:18:46 IST 2020 review-life-and-culture-northeast-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There are picture books, and there are books to read. This book, however, is that rare offering which has both, eye-catching visuals and a very informative text. The authors have covered the history and geography, the biodiversity and the people of the north eastern flank of India through over 300 photographs, 12 detailed maps and a compelling narrative.</p> <p>North east India initially referred to the seven sisters: Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. However, now Sikkim is also included in this grouping. The north east is an exotic place. It remains largely untouched even now, for reasons like difficult terrain, political unrest and insurgencies and a general apathy. Thus, even now, it is not the top destination on the domestic tourism circuit, and in many areas, there are restrictions on foreigners. The scene is slowly changing, with political outreach and the need for travellers to find new locations. Yet, there is still not enough knowledge about this region in the rest of India.</p> <p>The authors, through this coffee table book, present the phenomenal diversity of these lands. There are more ethnicities here than perhaps in an other region of the country. From the Lepchas, Bhutias, Ahoms, Bodos, Naga, Maiti, Kuku and Mishim —each ethnicity is unique and has its own rich history and culture. There are also many diverse faiths co existing—Buddhism, Islam (Assam has the famous Pao Mecca mosque of 1657, known to have a quarter of the sanctity of Mecca itself), Christianity and various forms of Hinduism—Tantricism, Shaktism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism.</p> <p>The authors take the readers on a journey through time and space, bringing out amazing nuggets from the histories of these places, which remain largely untold by CBSE text books. In a region which boasts of three UNESCO world heritage sites, there is no dearth of opportunity to take brilliant pictures. The wildlife side of the region comes alive as the camera move from snow clad dwellings of the yak and snow leopard to the tigers and rhinos of the plains. Myriad butterflies and birds of brilliant plumage flit through the pages, bringing out gasps of “wow” and “ooh” from the reader.</p> <p>The authors have done their research well, whether they discuss the history or the demographies. One realises how easily India could have lost this land, since the British were thinking of handing over Assam as part of East Pakistan, and how some intense diplomacy by Gopinath Bordoloi helped India retain it. Unfortunately, having got it as part of India, the Centre has ignored development in this north eastern region for decades. This book is an appreciation of what we have.</p> <p>The only bit missing in the book, however, is what the modern day north east looks like. The unplanned urbanisation, the new aspirations of the people, the new North East India, as such, isn't there in any of the pages. A little bit of everyday exotica could have been injected into the visuals and narrative.</p> <p><b>Title: Life and Culture in Northeast India</b></p> <p><b>Authors: Dipti Bhalla Verma and Shiv Kunal Verma</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Mapin Publishing</b></p> <p><b>Pages : 259</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 2,950</b></p> Wed Nov 11 17:59:18 IST 2020 review-azim-premji-the-man-beyond-the-billions <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Quick. If I mention "Azim Premji" what immediately comes to your mind? Billionaire entrepreneur? Trailblazer and part of the Indian IT services boom in the nineties and beyond? Gives away a lot of money to noble causes?</p> <p>And what else?<br> </p> <p>That is the very curious question that journalists-turned-authors Sundeep Khanna and Varun Sood hope their just-launched book,&nbsp;<i>Azim Premji: The Man Beyond the Billions</i>, will answer. After all, despite the fact his name is one of the best known in Indian business for decades now and with the country’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan, adorning his mantelpiece, Azim Premji has remained diffidently reclusive as much as he is known to be irritably thrifty.</p> <p>The latter trait is pretty well-known. Keeping the purse strings tight, be it his company’s or his own is something the billionaire has practiced over the years, even if that has meant senior executives got miffed at not getting fat bonuses or his insisting on driving cars like his ‘lucky mascot’ Premier 118NE (and later an Innova) much to the chagrin of even his accounts guys. This writer himself encountered Premji across the aisle in cattle class on a flight from Bengaluru to Delhi a few years ago (he finally gave up his insistence on travelling economy just a few years ago, the book informs us).</p> <p>While he refused the inflight meal as I noticed, a love of food is one of the few indulgences the man has. But, according to the authors, it is not Michelin-starred restaurants or exotic culinary delights from top luxury hotels that delight him—his penchant is for street food, be it a potion of chaat in Indian cities or a falafel at a New York curb.&nbsp; And chocolates.</p> <p>These tidbits about the man who is a public figure but about whom the public knows very little, raises this biography into a smooth and interesting read. This is an authorised biography, and while Premji did not grant an interview to the writers, several former and present Wipro officials shared anecdotes and information with the writers, helping scope out a family legacy right from his father being selected by Mohammed Ali Jinnah in the mid-1940s to head the planning committee of the Muslim League, to Azim’s rude initiation into business (he had to drop out of Stanford when his father died suddenly in 1961), the diversification of Western India Palm Refined Oil Limited, or Wipro as we know it now, into IT business, and significantly, Premji’s ‘Wipro values’, the ethical path he had laid out for himself and his employees, as well as his philanthropic initiatives.</p> <p>The good thing with this book is that it does give oodles of tidbits about the personality behind the public persona, even if one comes away getting a feeling that it is not satisfying enough. While enough ground is covered regarding his love for street food, his love of dogs, his back problems etc, his personal life is skipped right over. His brother moving to Pakistan, his wedding and family life (though the book informs us that the wedding was a simple affair of less than 100 people, with no photographer!) and the problems with his son (the authors mysteriously write "his youngest son Tariq struggles a bit to find his way in life" but then offer up no explanation to it) are all chapters an authoritative biography could have dealt with for that deeper human element.<br> </p> <p>But, the book is indeed on more solid ground while dealing with the progress of Wipro, including all its successes, as much as its failures. The company’s chequered growth through the first two decades of this century, including the by-now in-famous sacking of joint-CEOs a few years ago, are dealt with at length. Even more ink has been spent detailing his philanthropic endeavours. And rightly so, for the two ideals that the man flaunts on his sleeves, running a business in an obsessively ethical manner, as well as the lofty idea of giving away your immense corporate wealth to help others (beyond CSR tax saving), are both lessons more Indians business leaders could do well to pick up.</p> <p><b>Azim Premji: The Man Beyond the Billions</b></p> <p><b>By Sundeep Khanna &amp; Varun Sood</b></p> <p><b>Harper Business</b></p> <p><b>224 pages; Rs699 (Hardbound)</b></p> Tue Nov 10 21:39:26 IST 2020 thirukkural-and-india-way-of-diplomacy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India, as a civilisational power coming back on the international stage, must draw inspiration from its own ethos and epics and express itself in a distinct ‘India Way’, says External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in his book <i>The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World</i>. He has made this clear in the preface itself with a couplet from Thiruvalluvar, the ancient Tamil poet: ‘Wisdom is to live in tune with the mode of the changing world’</p> <p>From <i>Thirukkural</i>, Jaishankar goes on to <i>Mahabharatha</i> which holds lessons to deal with the complexities of the uncertain world. The dilemmas of statecraft permeate the story, among them taking risks, placing trust, and making sacrifices. It gives the most vivid distillation of Indian thoughts on statecraft with a graphic account of real-life situations and their inherent choices. The courage required to implement policy is, perhaps, its most famous section – the Bhagavad Gita in which Krishna provides strategic guidance, diplomatic energy and tactical wisdom in navigating challenges. Focusing on the importance of the sense of duty and the sanctity of obligations, it is also a description of human frailties.</p> <p>Jaishankar emphasises that brand differentiation is especially important for a rising and aspirational power. He calls for introduction of our own diplomatic terms into the discourse as it is intrinsic to the process of India’s international emergence. </p> <p>He sums up the foreign policy strategy in one sentence, “India should engage the US, manage China, cultivate Europe, reassure Russia, bring back Japan into play, draw neighbours in, extend the neighbourhood and expand traditional constituencies of support”.</p> <p>The India Way includes among other things:</p> <p>- pursuit of multiple approaches and multiple alliances and partnership with global interests</p> <p>- keep up the many balls up in the air and reconcile commitments to multiple partners with skill. There will be convergence with many but congruence with none. In this world of all against all, India’s goal should be to move closer towards the strategic sweet spot. India must reach out in as many directions as possible and maximize its gains in the new world matrix of many sides, many players and many games.</p> <p>- respond with engagement than by distancing; deal with contesting parties at the same time with optimal results; engage a broader set of partners more creatively; forge convergences and manage divergences taking advantage of the opening of a world of multiple choices at different levels; assess the disruptions underway and the trends that accelerate, mitigate or counter new directions.</p> <p>-make many friends, few foes, great goodwill and more influence with a stronger competitive spirit and a sharper strategic sense.</p> <p>- Constant advancement of goals and interests, using all pathways that the world has to offer. And since that often means plunging into the unknown, it requires both judgement and courage. </p> <p>- take on global responsibilities and act as a constructive player</p> <p>- move over from the Delhi Dogmas of passivity and pessimism stuck in the past history and dilemmas of defensive and argumentative mindset.</p> <p>With his experience as Ambassador to China, he says that India should learn from the rise of China which should sharpen India’s competitive instincts. China has risen as a formidable global power drawing on its own cultural attributes. China Way has elevated dissimulation to the highest level of statecraft. This is exemplified by popular aphorisms such as, ‘Deceiving the heavens to cross the ocean’ or ‘making a sound in the East to then strike West’ or ‘decking trees with false blossoms’. Unlike in India, there is neither guilt nor doubt in dissembling in the Chinese mind. In fact, it is glorified as an art. Its virtues are repeatedly lauded in the Three Kingdoms epic, where many of the decisive encounters are won by trickery rather than by force. Using the above strategy China has been winning without fighting, while the US is stuck in fighting without winning in recent years.</p> <p>Some of his prescriptions for specific foreign policy issues:</p> <p>China: In dealing with China’s might, India should use “ Nimzo-Indian Defence”, moving from the past strategic posture similar to the “ Indian Defence” in chess. The border and the future of ties cannot be separated. India should not give free pass to China to make use of the open Indian market while keeping its own market protected. One of the ways to deal with China is try to create multipolar Asia with a stable balance.</p> <p>US: The playbook of dealing with US needs rewriting in view of the new priorities and problems of US and its growing tensions with China. India has to maintain a narrative of its value in the US and customise it for the President of the day.</p> <p>Pakistan: There is no one-time fix. A mix of fortitude, creativity and perseverance with prompt Uri and Balakot responses to counter mischiefs. It is important to note the minimal space Jaishankar has devoted for Pakistan which has become a disproportionate morbid obsession for the Indian media and TV talking heads. India needs to focus on the larger picture without being distracted too much by the Pakistani nuisance.</p> <p>Policy towards neighbours: simple answer in two words—generosity and firmness.</p> <p>Non-alignment: it suited India in the days when the country was weaker and was caught in the cold war between the two potent super powers. There was comfort in group mentality and non-involvement. But multi-alignment is the new India Way. It is more energetic and participative.</p> <p>Policy towards the West: India has both the ability to work confidently with the West when required and differ with it when its interests so demand. As India goes up in the international order, it will advance its own narratives, and, on occasion, question Western ones.</p> <p>Jaishankar has avoided a favourite and passionate foreign policy subject of many Indians: permanent membership of United Nations Security Council. Some in India get carried away with the outrage at the injustice of keeping India outside this organ of power. Even the Ministry of External Affairs has wasted energy on this issue by sending special envoys to the capitals of Belize and Haiti seeking their support. Big powers such as France and UK take India for a ride promising support and getting return favours, sure that that the day of reckoning is very very far. India should keep strengthening itself and wait for the day of disruption of the world order when it should be ready to kick open the doors of UNSC.</p> <p>In the past, India’s foreign policy has made some mistakes or missed opportunities due to passivity, delays and dilemmas in decision making. Jaishankar draws attention to Satyajit Ray’s movie “Shatranj ke kilari” (chess player) in which two Indian nawabs are engrossed in a chess game while the British are taking over their Awadh kingdom.</p> <p>The new India has to be alert to the changes in global politics and be prepared to make its own moves promptly as a proactive player.</p> <p>Jaishankar ends the book with a chapter on the Chinese-origin corona virus which has made the world even more uncertain than the disruption caused by China’s rise in the world. In its systemic impact, the corona virus may be the most consequential global happening after 1945. It adds to global turbulence by encouraging policy departures across geographies. This opens up opportunities for India whose value to the world will probably increase even further after the virus. He concludes the book with an optimistic and diplomatic message, “Let us take it as a sign of the (coronavirus) times that the world has discovered the virtue of Namaste, the India Way of greeting with folded hands”</p> <p>The 'India Way' is a timely message to the new India which is becoming stronger and is seeking its due place in the world. The book is not a mere academic analysis or erudite exercise. It is the call of a serving External Affairs Minister with experience of four decades of distinguished career as a diplomat. He has a unique opportunity to practice what he has preached in his book. He is lucky as a policy maker to have the confidence of a politician as prime minister who shares his vision for India’s future in the world.</p> <p>Jaishankar argues that as India rises in the world order, it should not only visualize its interests with greater clarity but also communicate them effectively. That’s what he has done in the book eloquently and authoritatively. The book will be read carefully by the foreign ministries and think tanks around the world. He has not shied away from commenting on sensitive topics such as the Trump phenomenon, American parsimony or the Chinese strategic deception.</p> <p>Jaishankar is the first Tamil to become External Affairs Minister of India. He had made use of his mother tongue in interactions with the Tamil Tigers when he was posted in Sri Lanka during the crucial period of IPKF operations. His father K Subramanyam, from Tiruchirappalli, served as IAS officer in the Tamil Nadu cadre. After shifting to the Central government in Delhi, he became the leading defence and security expert and was known as the doyen of India's strategic affairs community. Jaishankar’s son Dhruva is also a brilliant expert on international affairs.</p> <p>Jaishankar’s bold, dispassionate, candid and clear articulation fits the description of diplomacy by Thiruvalluvar in his poem: “Diplomacy is articulation according to the need of the time with profound knowledge and without fear.”</p> <p><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Nov 10 14:09:38 IST 2020 review-ramayana-revisited-an-epic-through-a-legal-prism <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The test of a classic lies in its ability to transcend the limits of time, be retold in a thousand ways and lend itself to myriad interpretations. The Ramayana is a perfect example of this, its numerous versions and retelling is proof of the epic's lofty position in the classical canon.<br> The mythological classic has been revisited yet again, and this time, it has been analysed using modern jurisprudence and seen through the lens of the Indian Penal Code.<br> <br> Senior journalist Anil Maheshwari and his nephew Vipul Maheshwari, a lawyer in the Supreme Court, have undertaken an innovative exercise of narrating the Ramayana through the processes provided by modern legal systems.<br> <i>'amayana Revisited – An Epic Through A Legal Prism</i>&nbsp;presents various situations and debates in the epic through the modern legal set up. For example, the book discusses the case of Manthara, Queen Kaikeyi's attendant, and argues if she is guilty of treason on account of her role in the banishment of Rama from Ayodhya, which eventually resulted in the untimely death of King Dashratha.<br> <br> The case against the hunchbacked retainer and confidante of Queen Kaikeyi is argued in the format of modern court proceedings, and her defence is also presented. The prosecution seeks suitable punishment against Manthara for conspiring against the state and abetting the death of King Dashratha. Her defence counsel, however, argues that she is not responsible for King Dashtratha's demise. “There needs to be an act intending towards death or an intention of causing bodily harm that could result in death to be liable for murder u/s 302 or culpable homicide not amounting to murder u/s 304 of the IPC. This kind of causation is too remote to be punishable,” is Manthara's defence.<br> <br> There is an interesting look at the story of Ahalya, and it is debated whether she is an adulteress or a victim of sexual assault. Ahalya points out that her marriage with Sage Gautama was illegal as she was a child when she got married. “Such a marriage is prohibited under law. Second, Sage Gautama shouldn't have agreed to marry me as he had raised me as his child.”<br> <br> On the abandonment of Sita by Rama, the book states that he should have, in fact, punished the dhobi who had raised questions about her fidelity. It says that the launderer should have been punished for rumour-mongering under the defamation law.<br> <br> </p> <p>Ramayana Revisited – An Epic Through A Legal Prism</p> <p>Anil Maheshwari and Vipul Maheshwari</p> <p>Bloomsbury</p> <p>Price Rs 499; Pages 262</p> Sat Nov 07 14:24:41 IST 2020 finding-balance <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Right in the introduction to ‘Breathe Believe Balance’, Shayamal Vallabhjee makes an unabashed confession: “I have been honest, transparent and emotionally vulnerable. If somewhere in your heart, you are holding on to the dream of a better life, I am going to give you the tools…. I have held nothing back. I know what pain feels like, and this is an honest attempt at giving you a chance to heal your pain.”</p> <p>Stirring stuff, isn’t it? It’s the kind of appeal that can move even a frumpy old cynic like me. Unlike me, if you are better disposed towards those who promise to heal your heart and mend your soul, Vallabhjee’s emotive lines should have you leaping towards your favourite book portal. As it turns out, your tribe is growing at a faster clip than mine.</p> <p>Lord Byron once said while it is possible for a woman to have no lovers at all, it is rare for a woman to have only one. In a sense, that holds for the self-improvement literature too. There are many people who have never read a self-help book, and appear none the worse for it. But there’s hardly a soul who’s read only one. He or she who reads one and is taken up with it will find the therapeutic effects wearing off after a while, and will soon be on the lookout for fresh supplies. This has kept self-help industry chugging for close to a century with every year seeing a new harvest of the genre.</p> <p>This year brought us Vallabhjee’s effort to systematically, and perhaps scientifically, transform yourself into a happier human being.</p> <p>Vallabhjee is a man of many parts – and startlingly different ones at that. By turns, monk of the Hare Krishna movement, performance coach, scientist (by his own admission) and the technical analyst who was part of the support staff of the Indian cricket team in the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa. (You will remember it as the one where an inspired Sachin Tendulkar tore apart Shoaib Akhtar).</p> <p>Vallabhjee’s first step on the road to the triple ‘B’ is to unravel the self – excavating emotions buried deep in the subconscious. That’s a long and tricky journey by itself, and Valabhjee guides us with a series of exercises. Doing them is hard work, but you need to stay the course. Your rewards along the way are a number of fascinating anecdotes drawn from books on psychology, philosophy, the works.</p> <p>There are many performance truths to be re-learnt. These include the discipline of sticking to something long enough for change to be visible. You revisit the lesson that ‘it takes 3,000 repetitions to transfer a skills from the conscious to the sub-conscious mind’, and build muscle memory. You also get tips on ‘getting into your zone’ – that magical space where everything flows your way, and you can achieve your best.</p> <p>There is certainly good stuff – pearls of wisdom if you like – in ‘Breathe Believe Balance’ but you need to dive deep into turgid waters to find them. Also, it is not easy doing all that Vallabhjee recommends. But then nothing worthwhile is ever a cake walk. If you really want to improve yourself, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to plough through 300 odd pages, and turn into a happier version of yourself.</p> <p><b>Breathe Believe Balance</b></p> <p><b>Author:&nbsp; Shayamal Vallabhjee</b></p> <p><b>Published by: Pan Macmillan India</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 350</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 293</b></p> Mon Nov 02 20:23:17 IST 2020 what-stopping-india-becoming-super-power <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In July 2019, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman created a flutter while arriving in parliament to present the budget. Instead of the trademark briefcase, she carried a bahikhata, the traditional Indian ledger. Her move was lauded as yet another effort to shun the baggage of India's colonial past and to adopt the Indian way of doing, appearing to do, things.<br> <br> Aparna Pande, in her latest book, <i>Making India Great: The Promise of a Reluctant Global Power</i>, uses this episode as an illustration of the “confusion about India's desire to be a great global power and the means to get there.'' She argues that instead of focusing on building economic and military strength, the country's leaders believe that symbols and slogans demonstrate India's great power, or soon to be superpower status.<br> <br> Pande is forthright in her writing, as she examines India's potential and the gap between the actuality and this potential. She delves into India's record with social development, its foreign policy and military outlook, as well as its economy, and highlights the big gaps everywhere, even as she points out the political bombast in every sector.<br> <br> She compares India's progress with its immediate neighbours, as well as similarly developing nations across the world, and shows, through statistics, just where and how India lags behind. For instance, she points out that while the literacy rate may be 74 per cent, India ranks second, after Malawi, in a list of 12 nations wherein a grade two student could not read a single word of a short text. She shows another survey which reveals that 95 per cent of Indian engineers are not fit to take up software development jobs in India. She stresses on the need for the country to invest in human development.<br> <br> She is critical of the political move of free electricity and other subsidies which burden the government treasury and limit India's capacity for large scale production. Pande draws frequent comparisons with China in every aspect of India. She writes that while China used the last four decades of peace with India to create its economic miracle and modernise its military, India's economy did not grow consistently and its military modernisation is decades behind what its should be. In fact, she points out that while India sees China as a match with regard to civilisational heritage and potential, China does not see India as an equal.<br> <br> Pande concludes that India's foreign policy challenge is in reconciling its realism with tis idealism. She stresses that there are two immediate priorities -- balancing China's influence in the region, and find ways to work with the United States.<br> <br> Her opinions may be too critical, but she bolsters every argument with well researched data. She also gives a historical perspective to every issue she has taken up in the book. As such, this is a good book for someone who needs to understand what India is, right now. A book that a foreign diplomat, investor or policy maker will find handy. At the same time, it is a book that provides some good insights for Indians, themselves, whether they agree with her or not.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: Making India Great: The Promise of a Reluctant Global Power</b></p> <p><b>Author: Aparna Pande</b></p> <p><b> Publisher: HarperCollins<br> Price: Rs 599<br> Pages: 208</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Oct 21 16:57:44 IST 2020 decoding-national-education-policy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The National Education Policy 2020 has dominated discussions ever since it was announced a few months ago. The policy brings about sweeping changes in the way India has approached education so far from KG to PG. It has enclosed nursery schooling into the formal school programme, using the pedagogical approach. It has made vocational subjects on par with the non-vocational ones. It is introducing a flexible, liberal arts degree programme with multiple entry and exit options.</p> <p>The policy is timely, given that India is going through a very important stage in its demographic progression, with the demographic dividend to be availed of during the next decade.&nbsp;</p> <p>Narendra Jadhav, in this book, discusses the need for the right policies and approach, whether it is in further increasing female participation in education or developing the right skill enhancement programmes, to harness the benefits of the demographic dividend.</p> <p>The book is well researched. It traces the history of the country's education policies since independence, flagging important markers, such as a near 100 percent enrollment at primary level (the mid-day meal scheme being the game changer), the decreasing gap between male and female participation in education, and the Right to Education Act.</p> <p>It does a detailed critique of the Kasturirangan Committee's draft on the National Education Policy. However, since the policy itself came out a few months ago, the author added a few hasty chapters, analysing the policy itself, and comparing it with the draft.&nbsp;</p> <p>As such, it is the first book on the Indian Education System after the policy was announced and the first book to discuss the policy itself.</p> <p>The author, however, should have edited certain parts of the chapters on the draft, specially where he makes recommendations for their inclusion or total removal from the policy. Such arguments are dated when the policy itself has been announced.&nbsp;</p> <p>The bits where he compared the draft with the actual policy, on the other hand, are insightful.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jadhav says the policy has the potential to be a great game changer, taking the country's education into a world class standard. He, however, points out the missing bits in the policy. One of this is an inadequate approach to tackle the "Out of School Children" problem. Another is that the policy falls short of transition to Education 4.0, along with the industry's transition into the fourth industrial revolution, with not enough focus on subjects like blockchain technology, internet of things and additive manufacturing.</p> <p>&nbsp;"The New Age Technology ought to find a place in the curricula right from high school education," argues Jadhav, who is a former member of the Planning Commission and currently a visiting professor at Ashoka University.</p> <p><b>Title: Future of the Indian Education System</b></p> <p><b>Author: Narendra Jadhav</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Konark Publishers</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 332</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 900</b></p> Sat Oct 17 17:19:57 IST 2020 sonnets-of-hope <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In her new book for children, <i>C is for Cat, D is for Depression</i>, Kairavi Bharat Ram, 22, uses a number of metaphors to describe depression. She compares it with a movie “full of colour and so bright, that loses all vibrancy, and is now black and white”. Or with walking around with a dark cloud over your head. “Around you it is sunny, but on you, there is a storm instead,” she writes. Bharat Ram says she has only ever been able to write in verse, and that, too, when she is very emotional. When she was diagnosed with depression in Class 12, her chaotic feelings lend themselves beautifully to poetry.</p> <p>In the waiting room outside her therapist’s office, she used to see children as young as five or six needing counselling. She wanted to help them express their feelings, so came up with these metaphors that describe “a treasure chest of different emotions”.</p> <p>The book works, and not just for children, because it is honest. It captures the essence of depression in a way only poetry can, because poetry lends itself so beautifully to emotions which prose struggles to pin down. The writing also has a pleasing effortlessness to it. Priya Kuriyan’s illustrations accompanying the poems are spot-on and give them sparkle.</p> <p><i>C is for Cat...</i> ends on a note of hope. “The only thing you cannot control is that things change,” says Bharat Ram. “No matter what you are feeling today, tomorrow will come.” Perhaps that is the reason for the pages beginning in black and ending in yellow. Because when the sun comes out in the morning, it will bring its paint box with it.</p> <p><i>C is for Cat, D is for Depression</i></p> <p>By Kairavi Bharat Ram</p> <p>Published by Scholastic</p> <p>Price Rs495; pages 65</p> Thu Oct 15 18:35:13 IST 2020 life-as-trespass <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is very little Devaki Jain, 87, has not done. She once drove a Land Rover from London to Kabul, eloped, lived with her lover for a year before they got married, worked with freedom activist Vinoba Bhave and befriended women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. One of the leading economists of her generation, the Oxford-educated Jain’s memoir, <i>The Brass Notebook</i>—a twist on Doris Lessing’s <i>The Golden Notebook</i>—is worth its weight in gold for younger women, and not just because of her academic accomplishments.</p> <p><i>The Brass Notebook</i> begins with a quote from Moroccan feminist writer Fatema Mernissi: “To live is to look outside. To live is to step out. Life is trespassing.” Jain has done plenty of that. The book is a powerful testimony of that wonderfully freeing idea of life being a trespass.</p> <p>Jain writes engagingly—and incredibly honestly—about her life. Her lessons in gender started young. She was eight when her sister had her first period. Her aunts decided it was important to celebrate her entry into womanhood. “Thus, as the day of her first period arrived she was put into a room where she was completely isolated,’’ writes Jain, who was chosen to live with her for four days. “We were like animals in a zoo.”</p> <p>There are very few books that come endorsed by Amartya Sen, Desmond Tutu, Romila Thapar and Steinem—all of whom she knows personally. But that is not reason enough to read the book. <i>The Brass Notebook </i>is essential reading because it chronicles her life beyond her achievements. It is her adventures—and she has many—which make the book engrossing.</p> <p>Her relationship with her husband, Lakshmi Jain, began while he was engaged to someone else. “He was ‘my man’, even though he belonged to the inconvenient caste….’’ she writes. “I plotted to be with him on our way to a wedding.” The story of their romance, in the face of opposition from her father, is thrilling. The power couple of that time, Jain writes about their public life and their contribution to the cooperative movement.</p> <p>Along with writing passionately about passion—a rarity in the field of academics—Jain also brings alive the dream of India. There are her interactions with global stalwarts like Sen and her work for the Indian Cooperative Union. But more than that, the book is the story of a woman who is idealistic, determined, courageous and in love with life.</p> <p>Not squeamish, she writes about her abortions during her live-in relationship with Lakshmi, about desire as well as pleasure. It is this candid, almost brutal honesty—a trespassing of forbidden boundaries—that makes the book extraordinary.</p> <p><i>The Brass Notebook: A Memoir</i></p> <p>By Devaki Jain</p> <p>Published By Speaking Tiger</p> <p>Price Rs599; Pages 215</p> Thu Oct 15 16:41:33 IST 2020 t-is-for-tharoor-and-tour-de-force <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Under-secretary general at the UN, writer, politician, Union minister, charming socialite, and now, a fledgling stand-up comedian, Tharoor comes close to the ideal of the Renaissance man—except that he has a splendid sense of humour, something I don’t think Da Vinci was famous for. And of course, Da Vinci had little occasion to speak English, while Mr Tharoor, like Amitabh in <i>Namak Halal</i>, can leave the ‘<i>Angrez’</i> behind. He can talk English, he can walk English, he can laugh English, and it’s that last characteristic that turns his new book <i>Tharoorosaurus</i> into a tongue-in-cheek tour de force.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Tharoorosaurus</i> is the author’s first book where he decides to step down from the high pedestals of fiction, history (read Brit bashing), social analysis or faith, and decide to have fun. This book is a dictionary of 53 long and complex words—in Tharoor’s own words—one for every week of the year ahead, plus a bonus for staying the course. The origin of the words and the process by which they evolved into their current avatar are lucidly spelt out.&nbsp; Few of the words are likely to be useful to us in everyday conversation, and the book could have turned into a musty anchor for cobwebs in your grand-uncle’s library. But Tharoor is a good story-teller and the pages are bright with wit and whiplash satire.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excellent as his vocabulary undoubtedly is, I have always believed that if Dr Manmohan Singh was the ‘accidental Prime Minister’, Tharoor is an accidental artiste of the long word. Indeed, his early forays into this domain were not entirely happy. He burnt his fingers at the barbecue, so to speak, with his ‘cattle class’ comment. Not being twice shy, he soon came up with ‘interlocutor’, and all hell broke loose. Tharoor was not at fault but in these matters, it is not so much right or wrong but perception which carries the day. In the perception of the general public, the ‘inter’ prefix put ‘interlocutor’ perilously close to ‘intermediary’, and as is well known, any form of mediation regarding Kashmir is our red rag. The fires were doused only after Tharoor gave us all an English tutorial. Gradually, the number of Tharoor-isms and their popularity increased, and amplification through social media soon made him the prince of the polysyllabic expression.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In this book, Tharoor makes no attempt to hide his political affiliations. So the 300-odd pages throws up plenty of opportunities to take a swipe at the ruling party and its leader, and he doesn’t miss a trick. Perhaps a more objective lexicographer would have cast an equally critical eye at the Opposition (such as it is) too. So, ‘V’ for Vigilante talks about the brand of justice that <i>gau rakshaks</i> deals in. ‘G’ is for goon, e.g., the goons who assaulted students at JNU. Both these contemptuous references are undoubtedly well deserved. But then, ‘D’ is for ‘Defenestrate’, and not ‘Dynast’ or god forbid ‘Dunderhead’. Yes, Tharoor has his biases, but to paraphrase Churchill, it’s the kind of biases we admire.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Enlivened by Mihir Joglekar’s delightful illustrations, <i>Tharoorosaurus</i> is the ideal book to leave on your coffee table, and kindle a conversation. From the words that the author uses, the conversation will gather steam to develop into a spirited debate about the many lives that he leads. You can be sure there is not going to be dull moment after that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A couple of weeks ago, Tharoor had complimented Chetan Bhagat for an op-ed piece written by the mass-selling novelist. Bhagat being Bhagat requested Tharoor to load his compliments with some heavy-duty words, and Tharoor duly obliged. Now, it’s up to Bhagat to rustle up a story about a boy who serenades his lady love in words not less than sixteen letters drawn from <i>Tharoorosaurus</i>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Sun Oct 11 18:02:59 IST 2020 capital-contest-tracing-aap-journey <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There has been a lack of clarity over whose idea it originally was that the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement should lead to the formation of a political party and whether social activist Anna Hazare wanted the campaign to remain apolitical and did not favour the creation of the Aam Aadmi Party in 2012.</p> <p>A new book <i>Capital Contest – How AAP and Kejriwal won Delhi</i> by AAP leader Deepak Bajpai and journalist Sidharth Pandey claims that it was actually Hazare who suggested that the IAC could be taken forward in the form of a political party.</p> <p>The book quotes an account made by Ankit Lal, who is the social media in-charge of the AAP, of Hazare's hospitalisation in Medanta, Gurgaon in January, 2012. Hazare had taken ill during a protest in Delhi. Lal was in the hospital with Hazare when journalist Punya Prasun Bajpai called on the activist.</p> <p>“While Lal says he was outside the room, it was at this meeting that Hazare and Bajpai apparently discussed the formation of a political party,” says the book.</p> <p>The AAP was born in 2012, with several members of the IAC joining Kejriwal in the political outfit. There were many others who felt that the campaign against corruption should remain apolitical.</p> <p>This turn of events has been much debated over the years. The writers note that there have been competing versions of the exact sequence: was it Kejriwal who came up with the idea of forming a political outfit or Hazare or someone else?</p> <p>Journalist-turned-AAP leader Bajpai claims it was Hazare who had first asked him how others in IAC felt about forming a political outfit and whether this was the way to proceed. “Bajpai had told Hazare that IAC had achieved what it could, but as it wanted to change the political system from within, that would only be possible through a political route. Hazare also seemed convinced and agreed,” according to the book.</p> <p>Bajpai says that when he came out of Hazare's room and informed Kejriwal and others of what Hazare had said, they almost lifted him up on their shoulders and said that he had done the impossible.<br> <br> <b>Capital Contest – How AAP and Kejriwal Won Delhi<br> By Deepak Bajpai and Sidharth Pandey<br> Rupa Publications<br> Price Rs 195; Pages 148</b></p> Thu Oct 08 15:57:25 IST 2020 plot-clot <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>At nearly 1,000 pages, <i>Troubled Blood</i> is a wrist-breaker. And the longest you get to spend with the author’s famous characters—private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin Ellacott. Still, one wonders, is it a tad too long? J.K. Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, loves stories with diverse characters and side-plots. Her latest is cluttered with them. Each character, even the minor ones, are etched out in great detail with elaborate back stories, even if red herrings.</p> <p>It all starts with a cold case. At a pub in Cornwall, a woman asks Strike to find out what happened to her mother, Margot Bamborough, a doctor and former Playboy Bunny who disappeared 40 years ago. Bill Talbot, the first investigator in the case, was attacked by the serial killer Dennis Creed, who tortured and murdered several women. Margot’s daughter, Anna, was only a year old when her mother disappeared. Now, she wants closure. Anna’s partner Kim—this is the first time Rowling is introducing a lesbian couple, after facing flak for her comments on the transgender community—is not too keen. Strike, too, is hesitant, what with the cold trail, dead witnesses and an imprisoned Creed.</p> <p>You do not turn to Rowling for fast-paced thrillers. Her stories are for those who love wonderfully eccentric characters and rambling plots, but even for the most enthusiastic Rowling fan, this book is tedious. The messy lives of the characters and the different threads in the story are too much to keep up with. The thrill of the first two books in the series, including the delicious chemistry between Strike and Ellacott, fizzles out in <i>Troubled Blood</i>. They spend most of their time bickering or being grumpy. Consequently, instead of a sinfully-satisfying experience, Strike’s fifth outing is a let-down—not fun, frothy or eminently sinkable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Troubled blood</i><br> </p> <p>By Robert Galbraith</p> <p>Published by Hachette India</p> <p>Price Rs899 Pages 929</p> Thu Oct 01 14:45:29 IST 2020 game-of-thrones <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is not a story of true love, but there are lovers aplenty. <i>The House of Jaipur: The Inside Story of India’s Most Glamorous Royal Family</i> is a tale of romance, opulent palaces, infidelity, scandal and princes who lived large—all wrapped up in an irresistible fairy-tale with no happy endings.</p> <p>Author John Zubrzycki traces the history of the family that truly put Indian royalty on the international map. The book is the delicious tale of the most glamorous couple in India, who dined with the Kennedys and counted the Windsors as their friends—Gayatri Devi, or Ayesha as she is referred to in the book, and her husband Sawai Man Singh II, or Jai.</p> <p>Zubrzycki has written about opulence before; <i>The Last Nizam</i> was a fascinating glimpse into the intrigue around the world’s richest man. Here, too, he is wonderful at blending fact, gossip and history into a heady cocktail. He vividly recreates an almost impossible-sounding world—of champagne, cocktails, <i>shikars</i> and parties—that existed at the cusp of Independence. It is also an ode to Gayatri Devi. Zubrzycki makes no bones about where his sympathies lie. She is the heroine of the story, but he also peppers it with the delightfully eccentric characters who surround her.</p> <p>While the story of the royal couple’s whirlwind romance is well known, Zubrzycki paints it as an unequal relationship, with Jai continuing to have affairs with other women. But more than just the romance, glamour and wealth, that might seem straight out of The Arabian Nights, there is also a glimpse into the kind of turbulent times in which these characters grew up. Jai, who was adopted by Sawai Madho Singh II, was just nine years old when he ascended the throne. The fear of him being murdered was so real that his meals (sampled beforehand by food tasters) were served in special poison-detecting plates.</p> <p>The extent of British control over the princes’ lives included even their sexuality. When Jai got married to 24-year-old Marudhar Kunwar, they were not permitted to consummate the marriage until he became more mature. In 1927 came the disturbing news that she had intoxicated her 15-year-old husband with wine, slept with him and was now pregnant. This turned out not to be true as each of his visits had been chaperoned. But the paternalistic attitude of the British to Jai’s sexuality reached its peak in the summer of 1927, writes Zubrzicki, when it was recommended that he not sleep with his wife until he turned 17. The reason was his alleged interest in boys and her propensity to drink. During his last year at the Mayo College for Indian Chiefs, however, he was allowed conjugal visits once a fortnight.</p> <p>Peppered with fascinating stories and characters, the book is a compulsive read. Jai’s second wife, Maharani Kishore Kanwar, or Jo, was lively and struck a firm friendship with Virginia Cherrill, her husband’s lover. Jo and Virginia wrote to each other regularly. While Jai was busy writing love letters to Virginia, he was also wooing Ayesha, who later became his third wife. Then there was the powerful Roop Rai, or “the female Rasputin”, Madho Singh’s favourite concubine, who, according to British intelligence, had “hypnotic power” over the Maharaja and had convinced him that she could speak with his dead wife.</p> <p>But perhaps the most fascinating character he writes about is Indira Devi—Ayesha’s mother, who spurned the Baroda Maharaja to instead marry Jitendra Narayan, who later became the Maharaja of Cooch Behar. She brought chiffon into fashion, had several affairs and was close to Jai. One of her paramours was Khusru Jung, the dashing Hyderabadi nobleman who was private secretary to the crown prince of Kashmir, Hari Singh, and with whom she had a daughter. Thrilling, deeply satisfying and engaging, the book is a must-read.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The House of Jaipur: The Inside Story of India’s Most Glamorous Royal Family</i> </p> <p>By John Zubrzycki<br> </p> <p>Published by Juggernaut</p> <p>Price Rs599 Pages 358</p> Thu Oct 01 14:41:47 IST 2020 pk-rosy-the-mother-of-malayalam-cinema <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Back in the 1920s, Malayalam cinema's first ever heroine, P.K. Rosy, experienced art in its purest form in <i>Kakkarissi Natakam</i>—a folk musical drama enacted in Malayalam and Tamil, usually plotted around Shiva, Parvathi and Ganga descending on earth to decimate the demons and the bandits. This night-long theatrical form was not allowed to be performed in high-caste temples of the time.</p> <p>In the book, <i>The Lost Heroine: A Novel</i> (Speaking Tiger, 176 pages, Rs 299), when Rosy is taken to see her first ever <i>Kakkarissi</i> play, she is enamoured by the character of Parvathi who denounces the heathens to turn into cats, lizards and owls, whose dancing and singing were as dainty as they were divine in Rosy's eyes. So, when she learns that neither Parvathi, nor Ganga or the Queen in the play were female actors, she wonders in surprise, "Can the men transform themselves to become such beautiful women?"</p> <p>The first ever English biography on the life of Rosy, translated from Vinu Abraham's <i>Nashta Naayika</i>, goes on to recount two important transformations—much more significant than men transforming into beautiful women: Rosy went on to become the first woman to perform in a <i>Kakkarissi</i> play. And later she became the first Dalit girl to transform into an upper-caste Nair woman in the first ever Malayam film made in 1928. In fact, she is the first Dalit girl in Indian cinema.</p> <p>Just that in this fascinating story of firsts, the heroine from a poverty-stricken Pulaya family has to succumb to vicious caste violence, forcing her to flee town to save her life and honour. The tragic story of Rosy is well-known in Kerala, but for non-Malayali readers 'The Lost Heroine: A Novel' is an enlightening primer on the sexual abuse and discrimination that women from poor Dalit families faced at the hands of rich upper castes through the prism of the making of <i>Vigathakumaran</i> (The Lost Child), the first Malayalam feature film, released in 1930.</p> <p>In a matter of weeks, Rosy, a poor Dalit Christian girl of the Pulaya caste, was transformed into Sarojini—the beautiful Nair girl who lived in a grand <i>tharavad</i>, wore <i>mundus</i> and blouses of the finest silk and gold jewellery from head to toe. Sarojini, with whom the handsome Jayachandran falls in love at first sight as she sits at her window playing the veena in <i>Vigathakumaran</i>. But when the film is screened at the Capitol Theatre in Trivandrum, stones are pelted when the handsome hero kisses the flower he removes from Sarojini's hair. At the premiere, a nervous, excited and demure Rosy, sitting in a corner of the hall with her proud parents, is gheraoed and condemned as in a witch-hunt. Later, her house is set on fire by a rampaging mob. Rosy narrowly escapes death while fleeing town. She goes on to marry the truck driver who saves her life, Kesava Pillai, and spends the rest of her life in anonymity. It is only in a forgotten roll of film that her story lives on. This is the origin story of the Kerala film industry. She could aptly be called "the Mother of Malayalam Cinema".</p> Tue Sep 22 16:31:18 IST 2020 lockdown-reading-the-divine-boys <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>The Divine Boys&nbsp;</i>(Los Divinos in Spanish) is the story of five boys who form a gang called Tutti Frutti in school. The boys—Muñeco, Tarabeo, Duque, Pildora and Hobbo— are into pranks, games, alcohol, drugs, girls, and the nightlife of Bogota.</p> <p>Inspired by “One for all and all for one” they have a pact “One for Tutti and Tutti for Frutti”. Their common code: Worship of drink, the dominance of females and scorn for the weak.&nbsp;They carry on their boyhood bonding even in their thirties by getting together to relive the nostalgia and push the social boundaries.<br> </p> <p>The hero of the gang is Muñeco, also known as Mi-Lindo, Ken and Baby-Boy. He&nbsp;is handsome, wealthy, athletic, stylish, charmer, talker and party animal. He is short-fused, prone to rages and gets into brawls ending up sometimes with black eyes and broken bones. His appetites grow wild and twisted. After having exhausted a vast repertoire of sexual deviations and perversions, he goes after a little girl, rapes and kills her. He seeks the help of his brotherhood to help him out after the crime. But he is caught and convicted.&nbsp;</p> <p>The other four members of the brotherhood are: Tarabeo (aka Dino-rex, Rexona, Taras Bulba) is a playboy and master of the art of seduction. He makes plans and decisions for the group. He and Muñeco are known as the Divine boys; Duque (aka Nobleza, Dux) is a perfectionist. He is the wealthiest and has a country home where the Tutti Frutis meet for poker and drinking binges; Pildora (aka Pildo, Pilulo, Dorila) is the errand boy. He does whatever he is asked to do: shopping, driving, picking up things for others and supplying party drugs to the gang from his mother’s pharmacy; Hobbit (aka Hobbo, Bobbi and Job) is an introvert who is into literature and has a phobia against physical touch by others.&nbsp;He does not belong to the rich class of the other four. But the others take him in for his complementary qualities missing among themselves. There is a girl who joins the boy's group occasionally. She is Alicia (aka Malicia), the girlfriend of Duque&nbsp;but she has a secret affair with Tarebeo&nbsp;and flirts with Hobbit.<br> </p> <p>Laura Restrepo, the author makes the characters come alive with her graphic descriptions and&nbsp;elaborate&nbsp;narratives.&nbsp;She develops each character with their own phobias and fetishes, craziness and creative talents, inner demons and outer appearances. She describes how an individual is shaped as a monster in brotherhood gangs.&nbsp;She gives a glimpse of the Colombian society through the adventures and circumstances&nbsp;of the characters.&nbsp;Hobbit exclaims, “This country of ours has had so much war—so very much, borne for too long a time—that we the living have grown inured to it”.&nbsp;Colombia has suffered so much violence and death from ideological conflicts, guerilla wars and drug trafficking. Much more than any other Latin American country.</p> <p>The only disappointment is that after building up the&nbsp;characters and the story&nbsp;so steadily and elaborately,&nbsp;the author&nbsp;finishes the novel fast at the end. The reader who is settled in for a long journey is woken up and asked to get off the train before the imagined destination. But I had enjoyed long fantastic journeys in her&nbsp;other novels&nbsp;such as <i>Leopard in the Sun,</i>&nbsp;<i>Delirium</i>, <i>The angel of Galilea</i>, <i>The dark bride</i>&nbsp;and <i>Too many heroes</i>.</p> <p>Laura Restrepo is a gifted writer and guide to Colombian and Latin American society. Her works are not just pure imagination. Some of them are based on her own political experience and personal witness to violence, crime and wars. She combines the facts and fiction seamlessly and creatively in her novels. Her life is as interesting as her fiction. She has seen life from different angles as an academic, journalist, political leader, member of the guerrilla movement, writer and novelist. As a journalist, she was in the frontlines covering the US invasion of Grenada and the Contra war in Nicaragua.&nbsp;</p> <p>When she was working for a Colombian TV channel, she wrote the script for a miniseries on the theme of a deadly feud between two families involved in drug trafficking. But the channel did not air it since they received the visit of a lawyer who " mentioned about blowing up the office building of the TV channel"<br> </p> <p>In1982, President Betancur of Colombia nominated Restrepo as member of the commission to negotiate peace with the&nbsp;<a href="" title="19th of April Movement">M-19</a>&nbsp;guerrillas.&nbsp;She received death threats after voicing her loud opinions and comments on the peace negotiations and the guerrillas. She was forced to go on exile to Mexico for six years. During this time she wrote the novel " Isle of Passion" about the Mexican revolution after which an army group is stuck in an island off Mexico.<br> </p> <p>She started her career as a professor of literature at the National University of Colombia. She worked as editor of the popular magazine <i>Semana</i>&nbsp;for twelve years. and was later involved in the politics of Colombia and was a member of the Trotskyite party. She became a member of the Socialist Workers Party of Spain where she lived for three years. She was in Argentina for four years as part of the underground resistance fighting against the military dictatorship. This experience comes out in her novel,"No place for heroes". She was briefly married to an Argentine politician with whom she had a son.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</b><br> </p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> Sun Sep 13 19:29:06 IST 2020 consumerist-encounters-understanding-the-psyche-of-the-consumer <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is not clear if author and academic Sreedeep Bhattacharya approves of Rhea Chakraborty, despite their common ‘Bong’ness. But they do have a certain T-shirt connection, as it turns out.</p> <p>The actress, who was the epicentre of a media storm the past few weeks over the investigation into the death of her former boyfriend Sushant Singh Rajput, had famously worn a T-shirt deriding patriarchy on her last day of interrogation with the CBI and NCB. In his new book just out, titled ‘Consumerist Encounters’, Bhattacharya spends an entire chapter crunching down the socio-economic connotations of the humble T-shirt. After going through various examples ranging from text to colour to shade to genre (no, feminist tropes did not find a mention), he gives his opinion, “T-shirt captures the ephemeral tendencies of consumers to whimsically pick up ready-to-wear things and discard them soon, too. The T-shirt…is not eternal but ephemeral - till it lasts the wash.”</p> <p>This new book dwells deep on the various facets of post-liberalisation culture of consumerism in India. But before you groan, hear us out. This is not another celebration of MTV and Levi’s jeans, or all the shopping malls that everyone’s scared to go in these pandemic days anyway. Bhattacharya’s approach is much more in-depth, as he looks at various aspects of our culture that have been transformed, and defined by the economic changes brought about by (and since) the 1991 Union budget.</p> <p>For example, beside the just mentioned reference to T-shirts and how they went up in popularity despite (or because of) their apparent ‘ordinariness’, he narrates the ordinary individual’s relationship with commodity (product, item, object, whichever way you want to look at it), the importance of images in popular culture, how the need for ‘identity’ as defined the evolution of Indian society even from colonial times and how consumer culture has fundamentally changed in the last three decades. Somewhere right at the start of his discourse (it is difficult to call this a book, as many chapters have been individually presented as lectures at various forums), he comments, “Ephemerality ensures the rapidity of choosing, usage, and disposal of things and their images. That pace of moving on is unprecedented as the basket of choice has increased and the lifespan of things has shrunk.”</p> <p>The biggest strength, and weakness, of this book is the fact Bhattacharya, a sociologist and associate professor at Shiv Nadar University, uses a lingo normally found more in doctoral dissertations than in paperbacks. Every analysis is jazzed up with complex ‘academese’, with dutiful references and footnotes offered on every page for the more-curious. And that’s a pity, since a more reader-friendly text could have taken his incisive observations on anything from the nature of advertisements, how they have changed us a consumerist society and the milestones we’ve crossed in popular culture and its representation, to a much bigger, and appreciative, audience.</p> <p><b>Book: Consumerist Encounters: Flirting with Things and Images</b></p> <p><b>Author: Sreedeep Bhattacharya</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Oxford University Press</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 292</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 1,599 (Hardcover, on</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Sep 12 19:32:19 IST 2020 parveen-babi-unraveled <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When Parveen Babi, yesteryear's glamour diva in Hindi cinema, went to college in Ahmedabad in the 1960s, her hostel friends didn't really consider her an 'ideal roommate'. Babi's corner of the room was always a cluttered mess of unwashed clothes, books and loose sheets of paper. Babi's friend Mala recalls, however, that on rare occasions when Babi did clean up, her drive to sort out the mess would border around the obsessive.</p> <p>When the tall, slim, cigarette-smoking cool Babi was betrothed in college to a Karachi-based pilot, she would doodle his name in pillowcases and notebooks. And then on her wrists with a pin pressed hard on her skin, mesmerised by the trickle of blood oozing out and persisting with it to carve out the perfect initials of her long-distance beloved.</p> <p>Karishma Upadhyay, in her sumptuous biography of the glamorous star, situates this fanatical trait as an ominous warning. "One wonders if what might have passed off as the ultra-romantic gesture of a girl pining for her first love was, perhaps, the earliest marker of an obsessive mind. Later, the same disturbing behaviour would later manifest itself in Parveen's obsession with her co-star of many films—Amitabh Bachachan."</p> <p>In her biography of the actor, 'Parveen Babi: A Life', Upadhyay opens the book with the mentally broken starlet returning from a stage show in London engulfed in melancholy. She had left for the London tour excited and full of hope because Bachchan, her co-star from several films, was also part of the performing group. But she wasn't the centre of his attention there. After her return from the show, a scene of complete meltdown unfolds in that first chapter where Babi starts attacking her mother like a psychotic person.</p> <p>Upadhyay, a seasoned film journalist, unpacks the life and legend of the bold and beautiful Babi with meticulous research and care. She traces the journey of a shy, curious-eyed girl from an aristocratic family in Junagadh to an unconventional showstopper in the 1970s and 80s Hindi cinema who broke the "pious, nice girl" template to carve her own niche in over 50 films in a career spanning 15 years, with great commercial success in films like <i>Deewar</i>, <i>Shaan</i>, <i>Kaalia</i> and <i>Amar Akbar Anthony</i>. A complete outsider who blazed like a comet, defining her own rules. Paced easy with simple, flowing language, the gritty and gregarious subject herself with her glittering tale takes the plot forward without much effort.</p> <p>A free-spirited boheme, she was the darling of gossip columns in her time. The author unveils lesser-known facts about the actor's doomed romances, her delusional attachment to a spiritual mentor who counseled her to quit films, and her struggles with mental illness. Friends, former lovers, co-stars, parents and relatives have all been roped in to reconstruct the life of an extraordinary public figure whose rollercoaster ride of finding fame, love, money and losing it all is the stuff of great cinema history and lore.</p> <p><b>Parveen Babi: A Life by Karishma Upadhyay</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Hachette</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 299</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 599</b></p> Wed Sep 09 11:50:54 IST 2020