Books en Wed Nov 16 13:18:10 IST 2022 how-prime-ministers-decide-review-gripping-account-of-key-political-decisions <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India’s political history can be decoded through the stories of its prime ministers. Their decisions changed the course of our history. Even their indecision, too. Not all decisions were prompted by the reasons they gave out in the public.</p> <p>Senior journalist Neerja Chowdhury’s book, <i>How Prime Ministers Decide</i>, provides an interesting account of the tenures of the six prime ministers starting with Indira Gandhi. Packed with anecdotes, insights, revealing details, and interviews with primary sources, the book reveals behind the scene activities which influenced the manner in which prime ministers decided on some of the pressing issues of the times.</p> <p>The author also picked up former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajapyee and Manmohan Singh to chalk out their personal profiles, their strategies, pressures, personal struggles and short term political gains which influenced their actions.</p> <p>Before Narendra Modi came on to the scene, the current generation had little experience of powerful PMs who were elected with big mandates. Three decades back, Indira Gandhi ruled with decisive authority. She was routed in the polls held after she lifted Emergency. However, her comeback is a tale of political acumen and deft manoeuvring, which holds lessons for the political class.</p> <p>The book says Indira had thought of retiring to the mountains after the stunning setback of losing her own constituency, Raebareli. A few years before that, she was hailed as Durga after the 1971 war when Bangladesh was created. But when the Janata Party government decided to go after her son Sanjay Gandhi, she decided to fight back. There began a counteroffensive. While out of power, She met her most fierce opponents, Jai Prakash Narayan and Raj Narain, which led to the latter to tone down their criticism. There are no permanent enemies in politics. In 2019, when the Congress aligned with Shiv Sena, they must have been reminded of Bal Thackeray’s support for Indira.</p> <p>The chapter on Rajiv Gandhi takes the reader through the era when “waffling” over Shah Bano and opening the locks of Babri Masjid with an intent to please the faithful in both religions had an opposite impact. The chapter on VP Singh’s Mandal gambit brings to life the machinations during the Janata era which was to change the country’s politics forever. The Mandir politics was also gaining traction during the time.</p> <p>The minute details of the P.V. Narasimha Rao tenure especially during the demolition of the Babri Masjid makes for an engrossing read. The chapters on Vajpayee and Narasimha Rao provide clues to their soft corner for each other and mutual respect. They helped each other during the crisis. Rao had briefed Vajpayee on his nuclear programme and asked him to go for the test which the latter eventually did and also ensured his place in the history books.</p> <p>The author who had spent four decades in covering various prime ministers and politics says she finds incumbent Prime Minister Modi’s decision-making style totally different from his predecessors. As Modi’s tenure is still in progress, people close to him may still be shy of speaking up so the actual details of key decisions may take a few more years. Some estimates put that nearly 500 books have already been written on Modi. Many more will be needed in future to lift the veil off some of the key decisions of his tenure.</p> <p>The racy and crisp writing style makes the book immensely readable. The fascinating stories throw light on the political environment of the time and will take the readers on an engrossing journey. Chowdhury’s book is a valuable addition to the literature on our former prime ministers and their contribution.</p> <p><b>How Prime Ministers Decide</b></p> <p><b>by Neerja Chowdhury</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Aleph</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 999;&nbsp;</b><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">&nbsp;578 pages</b></p> Mon Oct 16 15:50:42 IST 2023 how-business-storytelling-works-review-a-captivating-self-help-book-that-is-fun-to-read <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Who doesn’t like a good story? At the movies, the story, and plot line, is the essential driver that helps us gravitate towards selecting one film over the other. The same for web series and paperbacks, and possibly, every other mode of entertainment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But have you ever wondered, every human being probably needs a story to stand apart from the crowd?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More so with business entrepreneurs and professionals, but literally everyone, as Sandeep Das’s captivating book ‘How Business Storytelling Works’ pans out. It is the No.1 skill you need to succeed in your professional lives amid all the noise, competition and massive technological disruption all around us. As Das himself says, his management teachers focused on logic, analytical skills and rigour. But as it turns out, a successful leader needs more than analysis — a product or brand needs to be accompanied by a powerful story for it to be successful in the marketplace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Storytelling is indeed a crucial skill in contemporary business, but it has always been, as Das essays, pointing to the origin of history, of concepts that got humans working together for a common goal, be it religion or nationalism. What takes this paperback a step further is when he brings these principles closer home, suggesting how important they are for personality and vocation building, just as much as it is for a religion or a political party. Storytelling is not only for CEOs, it is for everyone, from a corporate professional to even a terrorist trying to create global havoc (his words, not ours)!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Das, being a columnist, guest speaker and YouTuber of course knows a thing or two about grabbing reader/viewer interest, and that comes through the simple, yet succinct, flow of the text — a self-help manual peppered with anecdotes may not exactly be groundbreaking, but it is indeed refreshing (and fun to read on) when the many examples stem from popular culture, right from cinema to OTT shows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Das’s latest elevates itself from simply being an airport bookstore staple mainly due to its narrative ease — the chapters feel like a TED talk for dummies, with a smooth-paced, flowy ‘being-talked-to’ feel that is comfy, especially considering the many contemporary and PLU references that pepper virtually every other page. The fact that the insights and takeaways could well add value to your career or business, is indeed an extra bonus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Book: How Business Storytelling Works</p> <p>Author: Sandeep Das</p> <p>Publisher: Penguin Business</p> <p>Pages: 247</p> <p>Price: Rs 399</p> Sat Sep 30 17:12:31 IST 2023 tacit-birds-review-an-ode-to-the-bangladeshi-spirit <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the pages of <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Tacit Birds, </i>former Bangladeshi Brigadier General Abu Bakar Siddiquee brings to life a collection of profound moments in tales of a land where dreams, struggles, and destinies intertwine.</p> <p>Siddiquee's stories are more than narratives; they are living canvases painted with words. With poetic precision, he captures fleeting times and emotions of life his country, weaving them into the very fabric of powerful prose.</p> <p>His stories begin energetically exploring the people and diaspora of the land of lush river deltas formed by the Ganges and Brahmaputra; he puts the stories of their journeys and days in elegant, often exquisite prose.</p> <p>Siddiquee excels in portraying the ephemeral, in creating tantalising images within reach that often recede for the reader providing at once and intimate and distant gaze at the moment. In discrete gossamer threads, Siddiquee's stories become entangled in the mind of the reader by beautiful design and poetry connected through mind tunnels that give the impactful narratives an indelible intensity and, at times, an awe of the immense power that a succession of short stories can hold.</p> <p>The former military man is careful with his words, his prose is a touchstone of brevity and economy of terms. &quot;I serve for bread and butter. You serve for honor and prestige.&quot;</p> <p>He possesses the rare ability to convey deep emotions and complex themes in a few carefully chosen sentences; you get the sense that to Siddiquee, every word matters: &quot;I am a poet. My work is to feel the emotions and to express them poetically. This is my urge, and this is my morality.&quot;</p> <p>Despite their brevity, the people in Siddiquee's stories are vividly drawn and multi-dimensional. He often uses subtext and minimal dialogue to reveal the inner workings of his characters' minds, allowing readers to connect with them on a profound level. Here he is describing the loss of a fortune-teller's ring: &quot;Abdus Sobhan and the fortune-teller were taken aback. They gaped at each other. Ignoring their wide open eyes...&quot;</p> <p>His short stories come across softly, but pack a powerful emotional punch. Here, Siddiquee stories evoke a wide range of emotions, from intense joy to profound sadness. The brevity of his format intensifies the emotional experience for the reader. &quot;Cold! Fear! Or the reaction of my mortified conscience!&quot;</p> <p>There is a kind subtlety in his writings, In a few words, he paints vivid scenes, creates mood, and captures the essence of a moment. &quot;In the morning hours the farmers are found tilling the field...the fishermen remain busy in the tricks of fishing; the boys and girls pluck the violet flowers of water hyacinth; village women collect the stalk of water lily or leafy vegetables...&quot;</p> <p>Over two decades ago, already a noted poet, Siddiquee was in the 11th century city of Ohrid in North Macedonia in the Congress of World Writers Organisation as a poet, essayist and international novelist, a laureate event held amid Saint Sophia's ornate religious frescoes.</p> <p>It took place in the context of the Poetry Evenings festival in nearby Struga which showcases both national and international poets and has become one of Europe's preeminent literary events that has had the participation of Nobel laureates, along with notable international writers who found in it a rare platform during repressive eras.</p> <p>The international air and relevance of Ohrid and Struga in literary and poetic circles continues to grow. Among distinguished participants over the years were Joseph Brodsky, Pablo Neruda and Seamus Heaney.</p> <p>For the past six decades, Siddiquee has been a poet, playwright, literary figure, and accomplished storyteller. Renewed focus on his work <i>Tacit Birds,</i> originally written in Bangla and now available in English, Siddiquee continues channeling the power of the written word to create wonder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Sep 19 16:57:07 IST 2023 when-ardh-satya-met-himmatwala-review-an-encyclopedia-on-hindi-cinema-of-the-80s <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the initial pages of his book <i>When Ardh Satya Met Himmatwala: The Many Lives of 1980s’ Bombay Cinema</i>, Avijit Ghosh writes, “The Eighties was a time of disruption and change in Hindi cinema…The Eighties acted as a hyphen between the past and the future. It was also a decade that tasted the future.” These few lines sum up the essence of journalist Ghosh’s encyclopedia on the '80s era cinema<i>.</i></p> <p>The birth and death of new trends, the parallel workings of paradoxical forces made the 80s the decade that acted as a bridge between the classic old-school 70s and the thriving fast-paced 90s. Ghosh, in his book published by Speaking Tiger Books, breaks down the decade of the 80s Hindi cinema and its many influences and flavours that made it a decade of contradictions and change.</p> <p>Ghosh closely digs into the maturity of parallel and the 'massiness' of masala cinemas, the rise of new stars and the decline of the reigning superstars, the case of launching star sons and promise of new outsiders. He further breaks down the marriage of the northern and the southern cinemas (rather the influence of the latter on the former), the era of cheesy double meaning and suggestive dialogues (Shakti Kapoor in <i>Mawaali</i> says <i>Tumne meri phaadi thhi…pant, Ab main teri phadoonga…pant</i>) and the era of art cinema dominated by the fantastic four – Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri.</p> <p>In doing so, the author exposes several commonalities between the Hindi cinema of the 80s and that of the present times. He writes: “The mainstream Bombay film industry often found ways to laud the government…In Narendra Bedi’s <i>Mahachor</i> (1976), the hero (Rajesh Khanna enlightened the viewer on how the government’s policies will make the country a ‘sone ki chidiya’ again…Those who dared to differ were dealt with sternly” – making the move symbolic of the current wave in the Indian film industry.</p> <p>Like the 80s witnessed an explosion of newer formats of media and film viewing like television, DVDs, VCRs and plagiarism that posed threats to film collections, the 2020s saw OTT platforms pose a stiff competition to theatres. Like the tussle with the censor board that continues till date (A film like <i>OMG 2</i> that dealt with sex education in schools was given an A certificate, leading to exclusion of an important set of audience for whom the film was intended – teenagers), the 80s saw the censor board get into a serious chopping mode.</p> <p>Ghosh writes on how <i>Ram Teri Ganga Maili</i> was cleared without getting censored. “The system was rigged to favour the big cats’ while ‘Manoj Kumar’s <i>Kalyug Ki Ramayan</i> was changed to <i>Kalyug Aur Ramayan</i> to avoid hurting religious sensibilities,” he states.</p> <p>Ghosh who has extensively written on Hindi cinema has a knack for understanding the world of Hindi films and presents a keen study on this subject, contributing significantly to film literature. Each chapter is a comprehensive study into the cinema of the period and details a unique aspect of the time. <i>When Ardh Satya… is his ode to Hindi cinema and reads into the many lives of Bombay cinema.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><br> <br> </p> Fri Sep 08 17:01:52 IST 2023 when-the-super-cop-talks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>John Wayne, the Hollywood icon, was known as the big guy on the side of the right. He was strong, could hit hard and would unfailingly stand up for moral values, fair play, justice, etc. The only other person I know who answers to that description is former police chief Julio Ribeiro. While John Wayne fought the baddies in the unreal world of cinema, Ribeiro had to do the same in a world rife with politicians, big money and the force of public opinion. He threaded his way skilfully through the minefield. It would have been tempting to settle issues by pulling out a gun and letting it speak in the language the bad guys understand. Cops who take that short-cut become folk heroes. Ribeiro did become a folk hero but he took the long and more difficult route: he dealt with criminals while staying within the four corners of the law.</p> <p>Across the years, the articulate, affable, sometimes avuncular, Ribeiro has come to represent all that is good about the police. He has expressed his views frequently. His latest and second book, ‘Hope for Sanity’, is a collection of his published writings from 2002 to 2021. It covers a wide spectrum of issues and is drawn from a plethora of newspapers because Ribeiro could shame a journalist with his speed. You get his views on the dismal story of the rookie policeman who was made Salman Khan’s bodyguard. When the crap hit the ceiling, it was the young cop who lost his sanity and his life. In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput, the actor’s death set off a tug-of-war between warring political factions. Ribeiro talks as dispassionately about police brutality as he does about the hardships that the rank and file face.</p> <p>Above all else, there is the issue of Punjab. He was appointed to lead the police force as DGP in a state pushed to the precipice by militancy in the 1980s. Ribeiro was then given sage advice. He was told the methods he had used to tame Mumbai’s underworld would not work against terrorism. But he proved them wrong. Refusing to change his methods, he soldiered on until we began to see light at the end of the tunnel. As if to reward him for his efforts, the authorities gave him a deputy: the quick gun K.P.S. Gill. In the chapter which describes interactions between the duo, readers are advised to concentrate on the message between the lines. A lot more is said there than in the lines themselves, because Gill was the antithesis to Ribeiro. But together the hastily cobbled partnership succeeded in ensuring that sanity returned to the troubled state.</p> <p>Viewed in its entirety, the collection of Ribeiro’s articles brings out one characteristic clearly: his steel-plated integrity. He is on nobody’s side and his opinions are based on unchanging values.</p> <p>Finally, a word about the title: ‘Hope for Sanity’ is plaintive, wimpy title for a book about a super cop whom even the ungodly respected. I wish this book goes into a second edition, and next time, I hope they then call it something in which John Wayne could have acted; something with the ring of Rio Bravo.</p> <p><b>Title: Hope for Sanity - Selected Writings of Julio Ribeiro</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Yoda Press</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 158</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 499</b></p> Sun Sep 03 11:13:33 IST 2023 a-man-from-motihari-review-gripping-narrative-of-muslim-lives-in-contemporary-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Flipping through the last few pages of Abdullah Khan’s <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">A Man From Motihari </i>may remind one of <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Everything Everywhere All At Once</i> (Academy Award winner for Best Picture in 2022). And not because of the former’s multi-dimensional and layered plot but because Khan tries to pack a lot into his narrative—politics of religion, caste and class, a failed marriage, real political events and their impact on Muslims in India, a majoritarian government, the struggles of an aspiring writer and certain supernatural elements.</p> <p>With the narrative of the story swinging between multiple issues and themes, the geography of the plot oscillates between the protagonist and the author’s hometown, Motihari, to several small towns, Mumbai and eventually ends up in the US.</p> <p>“I was born in a haunted bungalow. And the midwife was a ghost,” writes Khan as he opens his novel, setting the tone of his plot and marking the beginning of protagonist Aslam’s story. But the <i>Patna Blues</i> author is quick to add “Or, so says my family,” leaving it upon the reader to either believe in the djinn/ghost element or consider it a fragment of his imagination as he grew up listening to his aunt’s story of his miraculous birth and the chilling presence of a ‘lady in white’.</p> <p>The ‘lady in white’, as Khan addresses her, appears throughout the narrative, often guiding the protagonist on which direction to take in life, blessing him when he needs it and acting as a guiding light. It is through the ‘lady in white’ that Aslam begins to believe that he was George Orwell in his previous birth and so begins his long journey to authorship.</p> <p>Khan follows an Orwellian philosophy as he places the political events particularly pertaining to the Hindu-Muslim conflicts of the last three decades in the backdrop of Aslam’s story. From the demolition of the Babri Masjid and its aftermath and impact on people of both the communities (Aslam’s father collapses as he hears of the demolition and they are forced to move out of their homes), the use of propaganda techniques over the years – from pamphlets to the controlled media houses, to the Gujarat riots and the brutal unjustified killings based on religion in which Aslam loses his dear friend, the coming to power of a majoritarian government led by a Hasmukh Shah, and their subsequent re-election in 2019, the CAA-NRC bill and the protests that continued, the references are too obvious to miss—the only change reflects in the slight variations in the names used.</p> <p>Like in <i>Patna Blues</i>, Khan addresses the Muslim identity and, in this case, being a Muslim in the contemporary conflicted times. Khan gets autobiographical while talking about Aslam’s career trajectory and his struggles as an aspiring writer – the constant rejections, the drafts and re-drafts, the writer’s bloc and beginning afresh. He has revealed in an interview earlier that to publish his debut novel <i>Patna Blues</i>, he faced 200 rejections and almost lost the confidence.</p> <p>Stacked tightly with a multitude of issues and themes, the narrative becomes overwhelming when the author addresses and stresses a tad too much on Aslam’s toxic marriage to Heba who takes control of him life and dreams, stops him from writing and engaging with his family, abuses him and even controls his finances.</p> <p>Another surprise element springs from Aslam’s sudden meeting and love at first sight with former porn star and actor Jessica and the plot shifts entirely to Los Angeles where they begin afresh. At some point while in India, the new couple finds themselves in the middle of the CAA-NRC protests which sends Aslam into a deep coma, after a brutal attack by a cop.</p> <p>While Abdullah Khan carries on his Muslim identity in contemporary India narrative from <i>Patna Blues</i> to <i>A Man From Motihari</i>, the latter, a fiction published by Ebury Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, tries to be everything all at once and in the process, wins some and loses some.</p> <p><b>A Man from Motihari</b></p> <p>Author: Abdullah Khan</p> <p>Publisher: Ebury Press</p> <p>Price: Rs 399; Pages: 304</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Aug 26 15:15:30 IST 2023 it-rained-on-a-moonlit-night-review-a-thought-provoking-short-story-collection <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>It Rained on a Moonlit Night, </i>a collection of short stories by J. George Pottenkulam, connects with readers at a personal level as the author brings in elements from our inner worlds, as well as the outer.</p> <p>Pottenkulam tries to leave a message of sorts, a moral if you will, in almost every story. While it is outright clear in some stories, it is subtly present in the others. The stories are quite engaging and hard to put down once you begin reading. Some of them, however, seem unevenly paced, especially while recounting an incident or describing a past experience to create a set-up for further progress.</p> <p>The book holds together many interesting tales—each with its individuality, while also maintaining a certain sense of consistency. While these stories are fictional, they manifest a sense of reality, taking on either issues that we face together as a community or as individuals. From debating the necessity of a president and all the pomp involved in visits they might make, to the ever-present debate on gender equality, the author finely treads on both sides of every argument, whilst his biases are somewhat visible.</p> <p>There are also stories on love, humour, friendship, and courage and they describe to the reader, how one does not need to scour the whole world to find inspiration, but it can be found sometimes in the daily lives of people. From playing pranks on long-time friends to a rat aristocracy of sorts that tries to solve a cat problem and from finding love to losing it or maybe just the spark of lust, these stories are all based on human nature and how we behave, which the author recreates pretty accurately. Pottenkulam also does not shy away from discussing so-called heavy topics, like the state of the world and the true way to serve God.</p> <p><i>It Rained on a Moonlit Night, </i>the story from which the book gets its title, is one of the most interesting ones in the collection<i>. </i>Easily the longest story in the book, it deals with the relationships one has, not just family but with society too. The beautifully crafted story is filled with surprises that keep you intrigued till the end. Though at one point, the twists seem a tad bit overwhelming, especially for a short story. This brings us to the pacing of the book. In order to create a plausible situation while giving depth to characters, the author tends to portion his stories unevenly, tending to rush certain parts, especially while setting a situation, but then drags through certain other areas, like while trying to share an anecdote or a back story.</p> <p>The characters are relatable and diverse. Though the author portrays people from various walks of life, the influence of the author's culture and background shines through, giving it an authentic touch as Pottenkulam connects the stories to his hometown and lived experiences. The book is an interesting read and a quick one at that, which might also lead you to question different aspects of your life while reminiscing about it.</p> <p><b>Book: </b>It Rained on a Moonlit Night</p> <p><b>Author: </b>J. George Pottenkulam</p> <p><b>Publisher: </b>Portrait India</p> <p><b>Price: </b>Rs 345/-</p> <p><b>Pages: </b>172</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Jun 27 15:51:31 IST 2023 vasquezs-retrospective-captures-the-emotional-struggles-of-guerrillas <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Juan Gabriel Vasquez's <i>Retrospective</i> is a novel about guerilla wars, revolutions, dictatorships, communism and ideological fanaticism with many heroes and villains in three continents. It starts with the Spanish civil war and goes on to cover the Trujillo dictatorship in Dominican Republic, Colombian guerilla wars, the Soviet communist outreach, the Chinese cultural revolution and the 1968 student protests in Paris.</p> <p>The Columbian guerilla war is the centre-piece and Sergio Cabrera is the protagonist. The wars, struggles and movements are woven into the story of the family of Sergio Cabrera, whose grandfather is a Spaniard who fights against the Fascism of Franco. He escapes to Dominican Republic but the Trujillo dictatorship is as bad as Franco’s. He moves on to Colombia where he settles down. The violence unleashed by the deadly conflict between the Colombian liberals and conservatives is as deadly as the Spanish civil war. Sergio’s father is attracted to communism and jumps at the opportunity to teach Spanish in China.</p> <p>After some years, he returns to Colombia and joins the EPL (Popular Liberation Army) the Maoist guerilla group. His wife from a rich and respected family helps the guerilla group secretly. Cabrera leaves his teenage son Sergio and daughter Marianella in China to continue their education in Beijing. They take fancy to Maoism and volunteer to work with peasants and factory workers and eventually undergo even military training with the Red Army. They are caught up in the cultural revolution but they are not discouraged by the atrocities committed during the cultural revolution. They return to Colombia and join as fighters in the Colombian jungles for the EPL guerilla group. Their day to day life in the jungles is marked by hardship, diseases and dangers. This is aggravated by the petty rivalries, jealousies and dictatorial decisions of the EPL commanders who mistreat and punish the cadres according to their whims.</p> <p>Ultimately, the two leave the guerilla group disappointed and disillusioned. Marianella gets married to a fellow guerrillero and settles down to a normal life. During his return to Bogota from Beijing, Sergio stops for some days in Paris and witnesses the student protests against the Vietnam war among other issues.&nbsp; After leaving his guerrillero career, he studies film making in London and becomes a celebrated director of films in Colombia. He goes to Barcelona for a retrospective show of his films when he gets the news of death of his father in Colombia. During this time, Sergio looks back on the adventures, misadventures, sufferings and idealism of his family members.<br> &nbsp;<br> In Beijing, Marianella, the teenager falls in love with Carl Crook, the son of David Crook &nbsp;a British communist. He joins the fight for the International Brigade &nbsp;against Fascism in Spain. There the Soviets recruit him as spy to report on the Trotskyites, which included George Orwell. Later they send him to Beijing on a spying mission. He settles in China as an English teacher and marries Isabel, the daughter of Canadian missionaries. Isabel is born and brought up in China. During the cultural revolution Crook is arrested and jailed for some years and eventually released. While the Chinese Communists welcome and encourage foreigners to learn and spread the Chinese model, they also cultivate a strong anti-foreigner sentiment among their people and cadres. The families of Cabrera and Crook are caught in this contradiction and the Crook family becomes &nbsp;victims despite their fluency in Chinese, adaptation to Chinese culture and unswerving loyalty to Mao.<br> &nbsp;<br> The author Vasquez has based his novel on the real life stories of the families of Sergio Cabrera and Peter Crook. He has interviewed Sergio Cabrera himself besides members of both families. He has quoted from their biographies and archives. While fictionalising the actual stories, Vasquez has given vivid details and political and social comments on the resistance against Fascist Franco in Spain, the Colombian guerilla wars and the upheaval in China during the cultural revolution. He has brought out the emotional struggles and personal feelings of the guerrilleros and fanatic party cadres who are manipulated and controlled &nbsp;by ruthless guerilla commanders and communist leaders.&nbsp;<br> &nbsp;<br> Here are some examples of Vasquez’s vivid narration..<br> <br> <i>-The Red Guards consider the red colour as their symbol and that of the Cultural Revolution. For them, red is the colour of progress. They argue,“the red of our flag symbolizes the blood of our heroes, don’t you? The blood of millions of comrades who gave their lives for the Republic. Think about what a revolutionary feels when he sees that someone else, in another country, has decided on a whim that the colour red, the colour for which we are ready to give our lives, should become an order to stop. And if we accept it, if we accept that red should be the signal for cars to stop, we would also have to accept that pedestrians should stop at red . . . at pedestrian crossing lights. And we are not just pedestrians, we are revolutionary combatants! And we cannot accept foreign interference in the Revolution!”. So they change the traffic lights to red for ‘go’ and green for ‘stop’.</i><br> <br> <i>-Marianella writes in her diary, “ Oh, great Chairman Mao! Your ideology has thrown a brilliant light on my heart. Oh, beloved Chairman Mao! You really are the reddest red sun of my heart!!!! I am determined to always obey your words! To take your great ideology to Colombia. To propagate it, because it is the greatest truth, our Colombian people will never turn away from it!!! Chairman Mao, I love you most! I can do without my father and mother, but I cannot do without your great ideology!”.<br> </i><br> <i>-Colombia was sinking in a sea of blood. The guerrillas were killing, the paramilitaries were killing and the army was killing. When the 1992 peace negotiations in Mexico failed, a guerrilla leader stood up from the table and said, &nbsp;“We’ll see you after another ten thousand deaths.”</i><br> <br> The real life Sergio Cabrera is a successful filmmaker after quitting from EPL. He was also an elected member of the Colombian Congress. He has made some remarkable films on the guerilla wars and social issues of Colombia. I enjoyed seeing one of his films<i> Golpe de Estadio </i>in which the guerilleros and the police forces agree to a few hours of ceasefire in order to watch a football game between Argentina and Colombia.&nbsp;<br> &nbsp;<br> Sergio is now the Colombian ambassador to China since 2022, appointed by President Gustavo Petro, another ex-guerrillero.&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</b></i> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jun 23 15:29:31 IST 2023 coorg-stories-and-essays-review-a-dive-into-little-known-history-of-coorg <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Queen Victoria’s reign marked the massive expansion of British rule, also big political and socio-economic changes in the United Kingdom. After East India Company was dissolved, the control was taken over by the British and she was proclaimed as the Empress of India in 1876.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eight months later, the first Delhi Durbar took place with pomp to mark the occasion. The rule exerted racist colonial power over India, however, she had a soft corner for three Indians in her court: Victoria Gowramma of Coorg, Maharaja Duleep Singh of Punjab, and Abdul Karim, who was sent by East India Company to serve the queen but went on to became her confidant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eleven-year-old Gowramma had reached England in March 1852 along with her father, Chikka Veerarajendra, the ousted last ruler of Coorg. Duleep Singh was 16 when he reached England. Both received western education and adopted Christianity. Both youngsters were regular invitees to royal events and socialised with the royal children. Queen Victoria who had stood sponsor to Gowramma and announced herself as Godmother, even gave ‘Victoria’ to the Indian royal. Queen and Prince Albert tried to bring about an alliance between two Indian royals who had converted to Christianity, which in turn could have popularised the religion in the British territories. How the history of the continent would have been shaped had that marriage taken place?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike the Maharajas of Punjab, the Coorg royals’ legacy is not well known. An alluring hill station in the Western Ghats, rich in its natural beauty and history. The pristine land bears the footprints of its mysterious inhabitants as some of the pre-historic stone structures dating back over 3,000 years have been found here. Its documented history details the advent of Lingayat rulers, who accorded the region a royal patronage before the British took over and remained there, till India became independent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fascinating tales of Rajas, Sahibs and freedom fighters of the region come alive in the eponymous book written by C.P. Belliappa. The land of brave Kodavas was out to have a separate identity in independent India, and did have it till 1956, when it was merged with Karnataka. Beliappa has extensively researched and written about the land and its people. In his latest offering, he carries on with the tales of the region, the enticing story of Gowramma, her father Veerarajendra and his 13 wives, well-known British persons including Sir Mark Cubbon - after whom the iconic park is named in Bengaluru (His statue was shifted several times, finally arriving in the eponymous park), author’s own great great great grandfather, Dewan Chepudira Ponnappa- dewan during Veerarajandra’s regime. One of Ponnappa’s great-great grandsons C.M. Poonacha (author’s father) was elected as chief minister of Coorg, also served as former railway minister and governor. Dewan Ponnappa’s great-great-granddaughter’s son K.S. Thimayya was the third Chief of Army Staff of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book has three parts: the first one chronicles the history of Coorg; second, details the life of Gowramma and about further links the author established with the descendants of Veerarajandra, since the publication of his earlier book – Victoria Gowramma: The Lost Princess of Coorg. The third part is devoted to events that took place during the freedom struggle and other political developments, including the merger of Coorg with Karnataka.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is rich in anecdotes and research shines through its pages. Belliappa had done a great service by thoroughly investigating the story of Gowramma about not much was known. The succinctly written book makes for an engrossing reading and it will fascinate history buffs. Do read this book before you head to Coorg for a vacation, it will be an enriching journey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Coorg Stories and Essays</b></p> <p>Author: C.P. Belliappa</p> <p>Publisher: Rupa</p> <p>Price: Rs 395</p> <p>Pages: 250</p> Mon Jun 12 20:20:22 IST 2023 a-detailed-chronicle-of-india-africa-relations <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There’s a reason why Africa specialist and former ambassador Gurjit Singh has named his book on India-Africa economic partnership ‘The Harambee Factor’. The word Harambee, in Swahili, means ‘to pull together’ and has its origin in Indian porters who were brought in by the British during colonial times to work on the Mombasa Kisumu Railway. While picking up heavy loads or rail tracks, the Indians used the term Hari (referring to Lord Vishnu) and Amber (Goddess Shakti) as an invocation that soon became part of local lingo.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Put in the larger context, ’Harambee’ is a longstanding African tradition, deeply ingrained in the moral compass of the region (it even appears in Kenya’s coat of arms) and signifies people getting together to help out one another. And just the perfect term to symbolise India’s engagement with this great continent, for, as the author declares right at the beginning of this book, ‘Africa’s time has come!’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Adding how the twenty-first century, labelled as the Asian century, is now also becoming an African century, he then sets out, extensively and in much document-and-statistics-backed detail, the contours of India’s relationship with this 54-nation geography, which history, economics and even chemistry, have had a role in shaping.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The author’s long chequered career as an ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, his stint at the external affairs ministry’s Africa division, his role in organising the three India Africa Forum summits (2008, 2011 &amp; 2015) all means this is one man who can bring in a first person perspective to India’s engagement with this crucial link of the emerging economy jigsaw. All the more so in the post-Non Aligned Movement era where the Modi government has been trying hard to capitalise and develop India’s stature as a beacon for the ‘global south’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, Africa remains more complex and more like an evolving young beauty who’s increasingly hard to get if you play by the old rules. And that has been India’s flaw perhaps for some time, as the relationship was guided more by the shared history of colonialism, the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and people-to-people contact over centuries — the links have been as tenuous as even the monsoon winds between the east coast of Africa and India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Singh writes, “in the twenty-first century, the winds must be guided so that the partnerships become more fruitful.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All the more so when Africa is poised on the verge of becoming the new focal point for superpower manoeuvres, with its rich resources that nations across the globe, and not just China, seem to be coveting. The diplomat in him limits Singh from calling out this new-found stature of the continent and Beijing’s great game at play, though.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While that would have made this book a racy read, instead Singh ensures his focus sticks to India’s engagement with the African countries, considering the ringside view he has had across the past few decades. He supports it with facts and figures, on the various bilateral and multilateral engagements, as well as the informal and private sector partnerships that have seen India emerge as the African continent’s third biggest trading partner after China and France, ahead of the likes of the US and UK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not a book for those who are hoping for some inside info on India’s soft gloved shadow boxing with China and other powers in this second biggest of all continents (though the book refers to Africa as the world’s largest continent at one point) or the race for new age ‘white gold’ minerals that may just set off a new race here, much like colonialism more than a century ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, this book is more a detailed chronicle of India’s connect with Africa — while including in grave detail the many governmental and diplomatic initiatives sometimes makes this book laborious, one has to realise it would well be a handy handbook in the years to come for anyone from an individual migrant to bureaucrat, scholar or entrepreneur.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>THE HARAMBEE FACTOR</p> <p>India-Africa Economic and Development Partnership</p> <p>By Gurjit Singh</p> <p>Pages 438</p> <p>Price Rs 2,950</p> <p>Macmillan Education</p> Sat Jun 10 19:35:21 IST 2023 tracing-the-journey-of-a-word-that-is-eternal <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It was here first. The first sound of creation from where life begins, 'Aum' is a deeply powerful sound or a mantra. The word is deeply embedded in Indian spirituality, philosophy, language, and even culture. In 'The Journey of Aum' artist Kalpana Palkhiwala has chosen to undertake a daunting task by attempting to depict Aum—visually and across language and culture.<br> <br> The book—in black and white—is as much personal as it is philosophical. “From childhood to this day, Aum has been a constant,’’ she writes in the book. “It was a syllable sound entering my ears. However, it was only after 33 years, post-retirement that I took up my brush and pencil and made an effort to put Aum on paper.” <br> <br> The book, in a way, is her life’s work. &quot;At the age of sixty, I finally gave life to Aum that lay deep in my subconscious for many years.&quot; <br> <br> Depicting this sound across languages, whether it is in the curvy Hindi with the crescent moon with a dot arched delicately or as trianka, triyanka or triratna which is one of the oldest forms of Aum in Buddhism, Palkhiwala takes the reader on a journey of the word that was there before there was a word. <br> <br> There is also Aum in Grantha, which has been derived from the Pali script in the third century CE and went through many transformations before it reached the modern form used in Tamil and Malayalam. In the book, Palkhiwala shows Aum with plants and motifs that are found in South Indian temples. &quot;Looking at its spread, I searched the language of a range of Asian countries and found it everywhere. It is assimilated in people's lives, their cultures and their way of living. It embodies divine energy,'' she writes.<br> <br> The book is an attempt to depict just how deeply enmeshed Aum is in language culture and life. She also includes Siddham, the Brahmic script which is derived from the Gupta script in the late sixth century CE as well as Kashmiri, Tibetan, Lepcha and Thai. Palkhiwala also tries to root the sound in culture. So, her Aum in Maithili is decorated with nature and flowers as it is in the Madhubani art that comes from this region. And in Odiya, she has chosen to use the spokes of the famous Konark temple dedicated to the sun.<br> <br> Her works make the reader expand their horizons as they see Aum written across languages, each intricately sketched.</p> <p><b>Book: The Journey of Aum</b></p> <p><b>Author: Kalpana Palkhiwala</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 700</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 150</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Zen Opus</b></p> Fri Jun 09 18:28:54 IST 2023 the-stolen-necklace-review-gripping-tale-of-man-trapped-in-broken-system <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>What do you do when the people who you are meant to trust your life with, are scarier than the ones who are after your life? It is incredible how stubborn people can be, even when they are wrong. It is even more incredible how the vanguards of our legal system will not change their ways even after being called out. When they become a legal nightmare, one must resign to the fact that our democracy has lost its plot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The Stolen Necklace</i> chronicles the real-life story of V.K. Thajudheen – a man wrongly accused of robbery, and who had to endure 54 days in prison and, till today, has not been compensated for the mental, emotional, and physical trauma he was subjected to. The book has been jointly authored by Thajudheen and Shevlin Sebastian – a seasoned journalist who had been following the case from day one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Law enforcement in India is notorious for being quick to mete out punishment. Pressure from higher authorities often makes it impossible for policemen to act impartially. But it is the ordinary bystander who suffers because of this. He becomes the pawn who must be sacrificed in order to close the case.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In this novel, the cops from Chakkarakkal, a small town in Kerala, accuse a man of chain-snatching, based on the evidence of a single CCTV screen grab. They seem to be hell-bent on not letting him go without a bribe. In a single moment, the life of the middle-aged father of three, with a newly-wedded daughter, is turned upside down. He becomes a criminal caught in the cross-hairs of bruised egos and unjust tactics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In simple language, one is taken through the trials and tribulations of the protagonist. At the Thalassery prison, uncertainty and loneliness become constant companions. In a place where everyone is treated as sub-human, it is a struggle to maintain his humanity. As the days bleed into each other, memories become a less painful companion. “Every night ends in dawn” becomes a constant refrain, as Thajudheen vows never to give up, even as hope slowly starts dwindling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book provides rich insights and highlights other cases of the police wrongfully accusing innocent people, while the actual perpetrators go scot-free. The story does not end with Thajudheen being proved innocent before the law. The irreversible damage caused by the reckless investigation and brutal misuse of the law does not simply disappear in a few days. A man once convicted will live the rest of his life in fear, constantly looking over his shoulder. Everyone deserves justice, but when the system that is tasked with providing it is faulty, it ends up being an unattainable dream for many.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Stolen Necklace</b></p> <p><b>By Shevlin Sebastian and V.K. Thajudheen</b></p> <p><b>Published by HarperCollins</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs 399; pages 249</b></p> Mon Jun 12 14:30:42 IST 2023 wanderlens-rajasthan-review-rajasthan-in-a-new-light <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>More than a book of photographs, <i>Wander.lens Rajasthan</i> is a documentation of life in the state. Sudhir Kasliwal is an extremely skilled photographer, and it is clear from the wide range of photographs that fills this book – there is documentary, street, portraits, landscape, and abstract. He started photographing scenes from Rajasthan over 50 years ago. So, there are wide-angle shots of forts, fairs and palaces. Of colourful murals and busy tea stalls. Of camels framed against a<i> khejri</i> tree, of a community <i>yajna</i> in Pushkar, of people celebrating at a festival. These are not just visually stunning, but they also have a narrative brilliance to them. They are the photographer’s love story<b> </b>to his state. &nbsp;</p> <p>But then you would expect nothing less from Kasliwal, who first took to photography during his school days at St Xavier’s in Jaipur. Since then, he has won several awards and laurels, including the World Photo Contest organised by the UNESCO and the National Photo Contest organised by the Indian ministry of information and broadcasting. His aerial photographs of Jaipur featured in a special brochure gifted to former American president, Bill Clinton. More recently, he was presented with the Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II Award, for having “internalised Rajasthan through his lens”.</p> <p>Kasliwal’s real triumph lies in his portraits. He has a knack to breathe life into them. The detail in some is so sharp that it lends them an acute realism. His people are not static, you can sense the movement even in their stillness – the leaves rustling, the <i>pallu</i> of a sari fluttering in the wind, glass bangles rubbing against each other…. For example, there is a picture of a woman pulling her ochre sari around her after a bath. As she splashes her way out of the river, each droplet is caught in mid-air, as though serenading her. Shown hugging herself, you can almost feel the shiver coursing through her.</p> <p>There is also the joy of discovery in some photographs. Sometimes, the things that strike you the most are the things that take you by surprise. So, there is a photograph of a goods carrier bulging with people. But instead of chaos and clutter, what you find is fellowship and order – as though the villagers are enjoying being crammed together, as though space is an alien concept to them.</p> <p>You feel like you know what Kasliwal meant when he said that his effort was “to capture things as they are”. Because there is something in us which recognises truth when we see it, and is hungry for more. So, you want to know why the smile of the beautiful girl in the canary yellow skirt is tinged with sadness. And why is the woman balancing the golden pot on her head looking so belligerent? And what is the story behind the young couple so caught up in each other as they wait for the camel cart to take them home?</p> <p>Kasliwal has captured a wide spectrum of human emotions – diffidence, contemplation, confusion, laughter, playfulness, sorrow….&nbsp; It is like the cosmos has disrobed for him, exposing the humanity cradled in its bosom, in all its bravery and all its vulnerability.&nbsp;</p> Wed Jun 07 10:27:31 IST 2023 reflections-review-tracing-events-and-moments-that-shaped-financial-landscape-of-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Banks and financial institutions have played a pivotal role in fuelling India's economic growth. But, the journey has been full of ups and downs, from the nationalisation of banks under prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1969 to establishing of large development financial institutions in the 1980s to the emergence of private sector banking behemoths in the 21st century.</p> <p>One person who perhaps had the best vantage point into this evolution was Narayanan Vaghul. Born in Chennai in 1936, Vaghul started his career as a probationary officer in State Bank of India in 1957, became the youngest chairman and managing director of Bank of India in 1981 when he was just 44 and would later become the chairman and MD of Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI).</p> <p>Under his leadership over two decades, ICICI transformed from a development financial institution to one of the largest commercial bank in the country.</p> <p>The Padma Bhushan recipient has had an illustrious career and the book, Reflections, penned by him gives a sneak peek into the life of the eminent banker that he was. He never wanted to write a book; the task of writing a memoir was an &quot;anathema&quot; to him, says Vaghul. But, Ajay Piramal, the chairman of Piramal Group, eventually persuaded Vaghul, who had been on the board of directors of Piramal.</p> <p>The book carries a vivid account of pivotal moments that shaped the financial landscape of India. Vaghul doesn't bore the reader with mundane write up of events like a history book. The banker becomes a story teller here and shares many anecdotes through which the readers gets a glimpse of the hot and cold relations between bankers, politicians and bureaucrats. The pressures that public sector bankers faced from their political masters and well connected clients flows through the book.</p> <p>He narrates an incident where a borrower was aggressively pursuing a proposal to set up a chemical project. ICICI executives discussed the project, and were not happy with the borrower's credentials and decided to turn it down. The chief minister of the state where the project was planned called him up several times and even sent the personal secretary to Mumbai to persuade Vaghul to reconsider the decision.</p> <p>There are several instances in the book, where we read about chairpersons of PSBs, including him, getting called directly by bureaucrats in the finance ministry and sometimes finance ministers themselves to reverse decisions taken regarding certain loans to certain people.</p> <p>Barring a few instances, though, Vaghul doesn't name the people involved, and that is perhaps disappointing.</p> <p>Vaghul said he decided to use his discretion and avoided naming them if the incident reflected &quot;poorly&quot; on them.</p> <p>&quot;I do not wish to hurt anybody's reputation, and I do not carry any ill towards them. I also do not wish to be judgemental about other people's conduct... My aim is to illustrate a point rather than to convey a holier-than-thou attitude,&quot; wrote Vaghul.</p> <p>In some cases where he does name names, we see that not all politicians are painted in bad light. One person he especially mentions is Madhu Dandavate. The former Union finance minister had defended Vaghul and ICICI in the Parliament in a high-profile case.</p> <p>The book also has a few humorous incidents. One incident talks about an annual conference of ministers of industries of state governments, where one minister ended up reading the speech of the other.</p> <p>&quot;The comic nature of the situation, where a minister had unwittingly read out the speech of another, which did not even concern his own state, and that the rest of us had not even noticed the mix-up slowly dawned on the participants.&quot;</p> <p>Vaghul also doesn't shy away from talking about mistakes that led to lost business opportunities. Once an industries minister called him and introduced his friend's son, who had a project proposal. The ICICI Bank executive told him it was not worthy of support.</p> <p>&quot;I merely saw it as an affirmation of my belief that proposals routed through political system were ab initio flawed. I did not bother to look at the proposal myself, but told the minister that it would be difficult for ICICI Bank to consider the proposal favourably,&quot; he narrates.</p> <p>The said client managed to raise funds from another bank and became very successful. Later on when Vaghul studied the appraisal note on the basis of which the proposal was rejected, he found serious flaws in the way it was processed.</p> <p>&quot;This experience taught me an important lesson - it was foolhardy to approach an issue with preconceived notions.&quot;</p> <p>There are instances in the book that do show Vaghul's ability to deal with pressures, convince even ministers and bureaucrats and get things done, by sternly, albeit politely putting across his arguments.</p> <p>As one reads the book, it will also be clear that Vaghul was a man of principles. Once when his wife and two children arrived from Chennai to Mumbai by train, a ticket examiner started arguing that the daughter who was travelling on a half ticket, appeared older than 12 years old. Vaghul could have settled the matter by paying Rs 20 to the examiner. But, he paid the penalty, which was double the fare and then made half a dozen trips to the railway headquarters to get Rs 60 refund.</p> <p>The entire book flows through such stories and episodes, and the incidents are not necessarily in order.</p> <p>Vaghul fostered a gender-neutral meritocracy at ICICI Bank. Under his mentorship many women like Kalpana Morparia (who was joint MD at ICICI Bank and later became chairperson of JP Morgan South and south east Asia), Shikha Sharma (who later became the MD and CEO of Axis Bank), Lalita Gupta (retired from ICICI Bank as joint MD) and Renuka Ramnath (now the founder of Multiples Alternate Asset Management) went on take leadership roles. A few incidents and anecdotes during those times at ICICI would have been interesting.</p> <p>Vaghul also was the one who introduced the concept of credit rating in India and established CRISIL in 1987. More details on what went behind this move and how things unfolded would have also been fascinating.</p> <p>The way Vaghul narrates the various incidents, the anecdotes, the humorous episodes, make for exciting reading. Reflections by Narayanan Vaghul is published by Piramal Enterprises.</p> <p><b>Book: Reflections</b></p> <p><b>Written by: Narayanan Vaghul</b></p> <p><b>Published by: Piramal Enterprises</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 950</b></p> Mon May 22 17:16:31 IST 2023 optic-nerve-an-art-novel-by-argentine-writer-maria-gainza <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Argentine writer Maria Gainza in her novel “Optic Nerve” offers a kind of art lesson and appreciation for the readers. The protagonist is an art connoisseur, critic and guide. She frequents the art galleries and shares her feelings from seeing the paintings and art works of Argentine, European, Japanese and American artists. She weaves narratives connecting the beauty of the art with its power over emotions.</p> <p>Gainza has filled the novel with real life stories of many artists and their adventures and eccentricities. She narrates the story of Argentine artist Candido Lopez who paints bloody scenes of the Triple Alliance War (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay against Paraguay in the 1860s resulting in the killing of two thirds of the Paraguayan males) after he loses his right hand while fighting in the war himself.</p> <p>According to Gainza, “all of art rests in the gap between that which is aesthetically pleasing and that which truly captivates you”. Besides the artistic protagonist, Gainzo has created some fascinating characters who are colourful, funny and intriguing.</p> <p>Gainza explores the impact of art on life through her own experience and the way it is felt by other characters in the novel. Here are a few examples of the emotions evoked by some paintings:</p> <p>How does it feel seeing a painting of Courbet? One is being gripped by the urge to go running off down the streets, to incite the people, to have sex, or to eat an apple. The viewer is sent into a pictorial fever. Pictures which saturate the senses. When you stand before his painting “The Stormy Sea”, art disappears and something else rushes in: life, in all its tempestuousness.</p> <p>Alfred Dreux’s works pulses with atavistic symbolism: the struggle between good and evil, light and dark.</p> <p>The works of Hubert Robert are like a premonition: a painter seeing what’s on the horizon and transferring it to the canvas in loose, open-ended brushstrokes.</p> <p>Rothko’s works give “a sense of work that seeps into you bodily, not so much through your eyes as like a fire at stomach level. At points it even seems to me that Rothko creates not so much works of art as smouldering, endless blocks of fire; akin to the burning bush from Exodus. Something inexhaustible”. Gainza goes on to say, “often the most powerful aspect of any work of art is its silence, and that – as they say – style is a medium in itself, its own means of emphasis. Perhaps there is something spiritual in the experience of looking at a Rothko, but it’s the kind of spiritual that resists description: like seeing a glacier, or crossing a desert. Rarely do the inadequacies of language become so patently obvious. you might reach for something meaningful to say, only to end up talking nonsense. Standing before a Rothko, All you really want to say is ‘fuck me’.</p> <p>Forget about standing before The Dream, one of Rousseau’s great works in MoMA which is capable of making the earth move.</p> <p>Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del Parto in Monterchi, Italy would apparently cause a German governess to emote.</p> <p>El Greco creates a struggle with oneself. As teenagers, we fall for him. As we become more informed and cynical, El Greco's unwavering dogmatism and his sensuality exasperates us. We have difficulty accepting their coexistence in a single image; the mutual exclusivity of flesh and spirit has been drummed into us by now.</p> <p>Gainza has enriched the novel with interesting quotes of a number of writers, poets and artists. She quotes T.S. Elliot, &quot; The more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind that creates&quot;</p> <p>It is interesting to know that the translation of this novel from Spanish to English (by Thomas Bunstead) has been done with the support of the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs.</p> <p>Gainza, like most Argentine novelists, goes deep in analysing the psychology of human beings intricately and intellectually. It is a typical characteristic of Argentine writers as well as the Argentine public in general. Every Argentine is a psychiatrist by nature and economist because of the periodic cycle of economic crisis. Argentines are the most well-read in Latin America. After reading, they sit in cafes for hours reflecting over what they have read and debating fiercely and loudly with others. Argentines have solutions to all the problems of the world, except to their own dear Argentina.</p> <p>When the protagonist sees painting of a girl who looks like herself, she feels like throwing her arms around the picture. She then asks herself, &quot; Isn't all artwork a mirror? Might a great painting not even reformulate the question 'what is it about to what I am about'? Isn't theory also in some sense always autobiography?</p> <p>The heroine in the book goes to teach Spanish to a Japanese woman living in the twentieth floor of a building overlooking the Hippodrome (race course) in Avenida del Libertador in Palermo area of Buenos Aires city.. Hmm.. I stayed in the 40th floor of the same building for four years and watched races through the front windows and polo matches from the windows on the right side. The wandering of the protagonist in the elegant parks and avenues of the city and her frequenting of the famous bars, cafes and restaurants made me feel nostalgic for Buenos Aires, the best city in Latin America.</p> <p><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</b></p> Sun May 14 19:36:06 IST 2023 roopali-mohanti-new-cookbook-makes-even-simple-recipes-magical- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Servings: Simple yet Exotic </i>is the kind of cookbook you will want to curl up with on a rainy day, sipping a hot cup of tea. It engulfs you with warmth and the fragrance of sumptuous food, especially if you are one who loves turning even the simplest of recipes into something magical.</p> <p>Mohanti is big on creating meals with a balance of colour, flavour, texture and consistency – what she calls the process of creating the perfect synergy between dishes. Her inspiration comes from eating at the Navy official mess, where she admired the emphasis on the right combination of dishes.</p> <p>The book covers a wide variety of recipes, from breakfast, appetisers and <i>chai</i> time delicacies, to dishes from different regions of India, with a smattering of world cuisine thrown in for good measure.</p> <p>But what Mohanti takes pride in are the suggested menu plans that bring together recipes from across the book. Her attempt is to create wholesome, flavourful meal plans that tick all the right boxes.</p> <p>Going back and forth the 500-odd pages of the book to refer to the recipes can be a tad exasperating; however, the recipes themselves are delightfully easy to follow.</p> <p>With interesting names for dishes, personal anecdotes, thoughtful curations of recipes, and eye-catching photographs and illustrations, Servings is a book you will enjoy running your fingers over and going back to when you want to try something ‘simple yet exotic’.</p> <p>It will also make a valuable gift for a novice, or a charming one for a seasoned cook, who’d enjoy going over timeless recipes on a lazy afternoon.</p> <p>Servings: Simple yet Exotic</p> <p>By Roopali Mohanti</p> <p>Publisher: Rupa &amp; Co</p> <p>Price: 2,500 (hardcover)</p> <p>Pages: 496</p> Sat May 13 15:07:07 IST 2023 how-to-tackle-climate-change-a-new-book-has-answers <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Last year, Pakistan struggled to stay afloat in what was its worst floods ever. India, earlier in the same year, was burning, owing to the most severe heat wave it had witnessed since the Indian Meteorological Department started keeping records. Both these extreme events had a common link—climate change.</p> <p>Clearly, climate change is no longer a mirage—something so far away that sceptics among us believe it was hallucinated into existence by the ‘woke’ crowd. Its impact is visible and tangible even for those living under a rock. It has made its presence felt through wildfires, flash floods, heat waves, drought, rising sea levels, water scarcity and global hunger—all of them damaging and deadly, mostly for the poorest communities. Climate change was identified as a global problem by the United Nations General Assembly more than 30 years ago, in 1988. Yet, here we are.</p> <p>Anilla Cherian, an independent global climate change and clean energy expert, looks at why we have found little success so far in her new book—<i>Air Pollution, Clean Energy and Climate Change</i>. The book argues that while the link between the three is well-established, there is no integrated approach to tackle the same; it is all happening in silos. “The core of what is being argued is that it is time to look beyond the confines of intergovernmental negotiations,” writes Cherian, “and to ask what can be done if access to clean air and energy is considered integral to responding to climate change by NNSAs (non nation state actors) including cities/local communities.”</p> <p>Cities, believes Cherian, will be on the frontline for clean air and climate action. And, the future of integrated action on clean air and clean energy lies with India and its cities. Why, you ask. India is third in greenhouse gases emissions, after China and the US. In 2018, 14 of the 15 most polluted cities of the world were in India. Seven of the top 10 cities with the worst air quality were in India. “In the most congested and polluted cities in the world, curbing air pollution has not been responded within the context of climate change and clean energy, in part because global goal and partnership silos translate into fragmented policy agendas [at] the national level,” writes Cherian.</p> <p>The book is no breezy read, neither is it dense like the smog that hangs heavy over Delhi’s wintry mornings. It is packed with information and statistics. There are repetitions, perhaps for emphasis, but some could have been avoided. The book has a matter-of-fact tone, not alarmist yet thought-provoking.</p> <p>Last December, California was drenched. It had seen a decade of drought, and the rains brought with them blooms, in hues hidden for long. Many of the seeds reportedly were lying dormant for a decade or so. A reminder that earth will reclaim what was once its. Only, it won’t always be this pretty.</p> <p><i><b>Air Pollution, Clean Energy and Climate Change</b></i></p> <p><b>Author: Anilla Cherian</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Wiley</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 271; price: $134.95</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Mon May 15 14:59:17 IST 2023 this-new-book-seeks-to-unravel-ambedkars-personality <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There are now more books being written about Dr B.R. Ambedkar than grand statues erected in his memory, a phenomenon the Constitution drafter may have himself preferred. Writers and scholars are trying to unravel more about the man and his philosophy, whose influence is only growing and being acknowledged. But can something new about his life, in fact be discovered?</p> <p>The latest book on Ambedkar by Aakash Singh Rathore provides some of the missing links in the dalit leader’s life, and more significantly, corrects the anomalies and inaccuracies which had crept in relied upon by researchers and biographers. In the first part of the two-part biography, <i>Becoming Babasaheb— the Life and Times of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar</i>, Rathore unravels the man in flesh and blood. While most books on Ambedkar chart out his intellectual journey, the author has kept his focus on Ambedkar’s life and personality.</p> <p>Majority of the previous books on Ambedkar sourced a great deal of insights from two of his earliest biographies by Dhananjay Keer and C.B. Khairmoday. Rathore regrets that he, too, relied on standard biographies in the past, which in fact were full of inaccuracies, and he was now correcting them, be it from the change in Ambedkar’s name, key dates to sequence of events in his life.</p> <p>Rathore has done a great service with his detailing and academic rigour to flesh out the man through cross referencing material. Ambedkar is no longer a staid figure as he appears on his statues; he comes alive in these pages. Through descriptive and crisp writing, Ambedkar’s struggle and personal scholarship shine through the pages. The author says he merely doesn’t want to recount what Ambedkar did, but understand who he was as he was doing all of it.</p> <p>The book is divided in 15 chapters charting his life, education, discrimination at various stages, and finally transition from being a scholar to an icon.</p> <p>The first part of the biography sketches how harsh experiences were shaping his personality and views, the second half his transition. It was through Ambedkar’s speeches in Bombay Legislative Council and writings in two newspapers he edited – <i>Mook Nayak</i> and later in <i>Bahishkrut Bharat—</i>that the world started to notice the transformation of a scholar into a leader. As the writer says, the last work widely available to the people was his 1925 book on provincial finance in British India. Two years later, he was publishing writings in <i>Bahishkrut Bharat</i>, of outright social revolt.</p> <p>His extensive touring, lecturing, and engaging with people of his caste was bringing change, certainly of attitude. His editorials charted out the shift in the attitude of the dalits, after the Mahad agitation: “Until Mahad we agreed with Mahatma Gandhi that untouchability was blot on Hindu religion. But now we have changed our views: untouchability is a blot on our own body....Non-violence wherever possible; violence whenever necessary.’’</p> <p>By 1927, Dr Ambedkar had turned to Babasaheb as his future biographer, Khairmoday, reverentially referred to him.</p> <p>The biography will enlighten the new and young readers amid renewed interest in Ambedkar, and of course those politically and ideologically inclined, and the academic researchers who have been missing out on the crucial details while referring to the older biographies.</p> <p>Perhaps, it is time for the scholars to update their notes on Ambedkar.</p> <p><b>Becoming Baba Saheb: The Life and Times of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar</b></p> <p><b>Volume 1: Birth to Mahad (1891-1929)</b></p> <p><b>By Aakash Singh Rathore</b></p> <p><b>Published by HarperCollins Publishers</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 272, Price: Rs 699</b></p> Mon Apr 24 17:04:36 IST 2023 the-guru-guru-nanaks-saakhis-review-the-compassionate-courageous-and-undeterred-guru <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Age has nothing to do with ability or wisdom. It holds true in Guru Nanak’s case, who was born over 500 years ago and inspired many around him. Since his childhood, he was “wise, rational and humane,” suggests Rajni Sekhri Sibal in her book ‘The Guru – Guru Nanak’s Saakhis.’&nbsp;</p> <p>While Nanak asked difficult questions and the logic behind everything, he was a content soul who donated his brand new clothes to a group of wandering monks on the occasion of Diwali. His mother scolded him for this act but he pacified her by saying, “Mata ji, so many times, you have urged us to share with others.” The author mentions the incident in the chapter titled ‘Care to Share.’&nbsp;</p> <p>Nanak understood&nbsp;<i>sachha sauda</i>&nbsp;as an act of helping the needy, unlike his father, who wanted to teach him how money needs to be utilised to gain materialistic things. “What is better&nbsp;<i>sacha sauda</i>&nbsp;than buying food for the hungry, water for the thirsty and medicines for the sick?” he tells his friend Bhai Mardana in one of the chapters.&nbsp;</p> <p>How did the author get interested in Nanak’s life? Well, a little after her eighth birthday, Sibal asked her grandmother for the first time to hear a saakhi (story) about Nanak. She agreed and narrated the saakhis to her granddaughter, which were truly life-altering for her.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The philosophy of Guru Nanak Dev is rational and wise and his core values are humane: truthfulness, compassion, respect for equality and a firm belief in the unity of mankind,” says Sibal, a retired IAS officer and recipient of the Indian of the Year Award 2013 who has authored several articles and books.</p> <p>Sibal’s book has 10 chapters that talk about Nanak’s birth, his days in school and his journey towards experiencing and understanding the power of ‘One Supreme Almighty.’ The chapters reveal these awakenings within his heart and mind.&nbsp;</p> <p>The author’s simple and effective narration keeps the reader hooked till the last page. She explains Nanak’s life in a way that one can see, listen to, and travel with him, while flipping through the pages. He was a curious soul, who believed in the power of ‘Ikk’ (one). He visited Haridwar, Puri and Mecca, among other religious places and found God to be omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time).&nbsp;</p> <p>As for human beings, every person was special for Nanak irrespective of the path they chose to walk. He believed in equality and in respecting the dignity of all, no matter the caste, class, colour, religion or gender.&nbsp;</p> <p>Why do we talk of Nanak today? Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel peace laureate, has the answer. “The Saakhis narrated in the book are thought-provoking and imbued with a depth of wisdom, and provide a direction to the reader to help lead a purposeful life,” he says in the foreword.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Book : The Guru – Guru Nanak’s Saakhis</b></p> <p><b>Author :Rajni Sekhri Sibal</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: StoryMirror Infotech</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 349</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Mon Apr 17 21:55:02 IST 2023 mahagatha-review-an-engrossing-collection-of-myths <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Author Satyarth Nayak has always been drawn to the allure of Puranas and Hindu scriptures. So much so that he dedicated five long years sifting through 36 Puranas (18 Mahapuranas and 18 Upapuranas) to bring out his latest work, <i>Mahagatha.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An impressive assimilation of 100 mythical tales, <i>Mahagatha</i>, published by Harper Collins, is an epic narrative that connects the dots of Hindu mythology like never before.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Each chapter unfolds the greater myths of gods, demons, sages and kings. They revisit the mythical world that shaped our religious, cultural, social and political milieu and collective unconscious.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As eternal and complex as the world in <i>Mahagatha</i> is, Satyarth, whose last work was a biography on actor Sreedevi, says this wasn't a chore but a joyous journey of a lifetime. It did feel like a daunting task initially.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The intention was always to create an epic collection of 100 greatest mythological tales. But, once I entered this universe, there was no looking back. It became a joyous process of discovering these fascinating stories and absorbing the wonderful wisdom they offered. My core love for mythology ensured that the process felt like a journey of a lifetime across the four yugas. The process did take five long years, given the immense corpus I had to sift through. Also, the original list of stories was almost 200, and I had to handpick the 100 best ones out of those through a set of filters I had created in my mind,&quot; he added.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Mahagatha</i> transcends through four yugas, set in motion when Brahma begins creation. It moves on to the emergence of Shiva and Vishnu, the creation of the mankind before touching on Vishnu's multiple avatars and culminating in the start of Kali Yuga.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is more than just a random collection of tales, though. The chronological narrative connects each story to the other. Each has a past and a future or a cause and effect.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some are widely popular, others lesser known. While the tales of Prahlada, Vamana avatar and Ravana seizing Lanka are those most of us grew up listening to, Mahagatha takes us through a few others not widely known but deserve to be. Like, how Ganga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi fought over Vishnu.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the chapter titled 'Ganga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi fight,' the author narrates the tale of this brawl. The competition between the godesses for Vishnu's affection ends in a spree of curses. This tale explains the myth of Ganga's stature as the holy river that absolves the sin of mankind and the secret of tulsi becoming a sacred plant.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then, there are tales where the line between demonic and divine blurs. Vishnu, in the chapter 'Vrinda curses Vishnu,' shows the preserver debasing the chaste of Vrinda. Another chapter talks about Sita spewing curses on a cow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The fascinating aspect about the Puranas is that they inhabit a gloriously grey zone. Where boons can often create chaos and curses can often lead to good. Where the Ocean of Milk that bestows amrita also spews halahal. Where Rama upholds but Krishna uproots,&quot; says Sathyarth.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He confesses that the nature of our scriptures gave him the liberty to re-interpret the tales. This has contributed to the book's readability. It is a carefully-crafted and brilliant page-turner.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, Satyarth says it did come with its own set of challenges. &quot;There were times when I paused to find the exact words to express what I was trying to convey. The Puranas are a complex and magnificent universe and I wanted to present it in a befitting language. Every story evoked intricate emotions that had to be captured and communicated. I was also conscious that this was a material that demanded utmost reverence,&quot; he adds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the creative liberties, the core purity of these tales remains undiluted. The book, priced at Rs 599, has already gone into reprint twice and has been delared a national bestseller by Harper Collins.</p> Thu Mar 23 13:49:22 IST 2023 in-victory-city-rushdie-takes-the-reader-on-an-eventful-journey <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Victory City</i> is the latest novel of Salman Rushdie. He jumps straight into ‘magical realism’ with the opening line itself: “On the last day of her life, when she was two hundred and forty-seven years old, the blind poet, miracle worker and prophetess Pampa Kam-pana completed her immense narrative poem about Bisnaga and buried it in a clay pot sealed with wax in the heart of the ruined Royal Enclosure, as a message to the future. Four and a half centuries later we found that pot and read for the first time the immortal masterpiece named the Jayaparajaya, meaning ‘Victory and Defeat’, written in the Sanskrit language, as long as the Ramayana, made up of twenty-four thousand verses, and we learned the secrets of the empire she had concealed from history for more than one hundred and sixty thousand days.”</p> <p>Rushdie takes the reader on an eventful journey through the 300 years (1336-1646) history of Vijayanagara empire in which he has woven magic imaginatively and entertainingly. Kampana, the protagonist, throws seeds which become the Vijayanagara (Bisnaga) empire with cities, palaces, walls and markets. She then whispers into the ears of the rulers and the people who come alive in the new empire. At the end, when she is blinded by emperor Krishnadevaraya and the empire is ending, the descendants of the original inhabitants start whispering their lives into her ears helping her to complete the writing of history. Things go into reverse, as if rivers had started flowing upstream.</p> <p>Rushdie revels in magical realism with passages like this: “In the city of Zerelda, time flies. Every day the citizens, who know that life is short, rush about with large nets trying to capture the minutes and hours that float around just above their heads like brightly coloured butterflies. The lucky ones who capture a little time and gulp it down – it’s easily edible, and quite delicious – have their lives elongated. But time is elusive, and many fail.”</p> <p>Rushdie teases the readers saying: “This is that story, retold in plainer language by the present author, who is neither a scholar nor a poet but merely a spinner of yarns, and who offers this version for the simple entertainment and possible edification of today’s readers, the old and the young, the educated and the not so educated, those in search of wisdom and those amused by folly, northerners and southerners, followers of different gods and of no gods, the broad-minded and the narrow-minded, men and women and members of the genders beyond and in between, scions of the nobility and rank commoners, good people and rogues, charlatans and foreigners, humble sages, and egotistical fools.”</p> <p>Rushdie pronounces and provokes on contemporary political and social issues of India. While describing the conflicts between the Hindu empire of Vijayanagar and the Muslim sultanates, he dives into religious intolerance, puritanism and fanaticism. He has made references to the stories of<i> Mahabharath</i> and<i> Ramayana</i>. But after having learnt his lesson from the reaction to <i>Satanic Verses</i>, Rushdie has avoided danger this time by his subtle narratives and subdued language.</p> <p>Throughout the novel, he has thrown pearls of wisdom here and there</p> <p>- History is the consequence not only of people’s actions, but also of their forgetfulness.</p> <p>-The miraculous and the everyday are two halves of a single whole, and that we ourselves are the gods we seek to worship, and capable of mighty deeds.</p> <p>-The truth of the world is that people act according to their natures, and that is what will happen.</p> <p>Here is the memorable ending of the novel:</p> <p>She was two hundred and forty-seven years old. These were her last words.</p> <p>I, Pampa Kampana, am the author of this book. I have lived to see an empire rise and fall. How are they remembered now, these kings, these queens? They exist now only in words. While they lived, they were victors, or vanquished, or both. Now they are neither. Words are the only victors. What they did, or thought, or felt, no longer exists. Only these words describing those things remain. They will be remembered in the way I have chosen to remember them. Their deeds will only be known in the way they have been set down. They will mean what I wish them to mean. I myself am nothing now. All that remains is this city of words. Words are the only victors.</p> <p>I enjoyed this book in the way as I did in the case of most of his other novels. I admire Rushdie’s extraordinary talents as a writer and story-teller. I believe he deserves the Nobel Prize.</p> <p><i><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</b></i></p> Mon Mar 20 16:14:04 IST 2023 all-those-who-wander-review-time-travel-and-horror-make-a-gripping-tale <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&quot;A story,&quot; said Jean-Luc Godard, &quot;should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.&quot; Author Kiran Manral follows that bit of advice to the hilt. Her ‘All Those Who Wander’ is awash with beginnings, middles and ends, so entwined they could be a plate of noodles. It is not ‘once upon a time’ any more. It’s ‘once upon many times’ and all of them together. The book’s protagonist is sometimes Anna, sometimes Nayana, sometimes neither and sometimes Sue aka Sukanya. It’s as if time has been dropped carelessly into an egg-whisk until you can’t tell today’s happenings from yesterday’s memories. All this could have been maddeningly perplex but it is par for the course. Manral immerses you in multiple stories so completely that you feverishly turn page after page to find out what happens at the end – the real end.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This book carries Manral’s trademark enthralment, her ability to dally deliciously, dangerously with unconventional ways of telling a story and her infectious infatuation with the paranormal. And when you, like Anna or Nayana, begin to wander, you are rooted by the mesmeric quality of her prose. It covers a wide arc. She can be taking you into mysterious realms of the unknowable one minute. The next minute, you are brought down to earth with the acuity of observations of a middle class housing complex with solicitous but unabashedly inquisitive neighbours. She even gets the maidservant’s vernacular right who fears that some ‘galat kaam’ was afoot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the sunless world that the characters inhabit, happy times must necessarily be fleeting because the past – with all its ‘galat kaam’ - is waiting to catch up. Death and dismay stalk the pages. Sometimes people die, and they are the lucky ones. Else, they will live and remember, and memories can be more terrifying than nightmares. They last longer and waking up is no longer an option.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As in many of Manral’s books, the central characters are women, etched in fine, almost obsessive detail. They are vulnerable and fragile, but they seem to know their own minds until the burden of knowledge becomes unbearable. They make for normal housewives with the standard baggage of infuriating toddlers, frumpy husbands and occasionally ardent lovers. When they are not fighting losing battles with their private demons, they are engaged in everyday domestic concerns. There is neither the time nor space for gracious romance. Lust is sheathed but seems to be waiting for opportunity. When the time does come, it is uninhibited. So the quiet and reserved Anna whips herself into frenzied sex even before she asks the man his name. Sue has a mother who sends her out on an errand to get samosas while she herself consumes a youth who is – who else but – Sue’s girlhood crush.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Writers for whom telling a story comes easy tend to get self-indulgent, spinning riveting yarns because – what the heck - they do it so well. Manral sometimes teeters on the brink but never trips over. The story is propelled forward all the time, with eerie echoes of contemporary events to give it immediacy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Is this time travel on steroids, is this horror? I am still undecided but it is certainly a gripping read. It is hard enough to walk this tightrope between past and present. But Manral has chosen to pirouette, and the spectacle is well worth a watch.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: All Those Who Wander</b></p> <p><b>Author: Kiran Manral</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Amaryllis</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 270</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 399</b></p> Fri Mar 03 15:24:55 IST 2023 fiscal-policy-for-sustainable-development-in-asia-pacific-is-an-inspiring-read-on-gender-budgeting <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Until recently, fiscal policy and government budgets were thought to be matters that had no differential impacts on the lives of women and men. Dr. Lekha Chakraborty has been at the forefront of scholarship that has challenged this notion. In the last two decades, Chakraborty has generated a formidable amount of research on gender-aware fiscal policy, specifically the design and implementation of a public finance management tool called gender budgeting. I had the pleasure of interacting with her early in her journey, when we were both instructors in the 2004 training workshop of the “International Working Group on Gender, Macroeconomics and International Trade” (IWG-GEM) at the University of Utah (U.S.)—she on public finance and I on international economics.</p> <p>Chakraborty’s book is a compilation of her contributions on the plausibility of incorporating gender concerns in public finance, drawing evidence from the Asia Pacific region, with special reference to the Indian context. Gender budgeting (GB) is an innovation that seeks to guide fiscal policy by evaluating public expenditures, public revenues, and transfer of tax revenues to states through the lens of gender. GB was initially adopted as a tool for promoting gender equality by feminist researchers and advocates in Australia, South Africa, and the Philippines, but now has been widely embraced, including by international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).</p> <p>The book starts from the premise that women and men are differently situated in the economy, and women, in particular women of lower-income or lower-status ethnic, caste groups may be disadvantaged relative to their male counterparts. These disadvantages are often invisible to fiscal and monetary policymakers, principally because standard macroeconomic models do not count the unpaid work of caring for family members in the labor force and raising the next generation. When a large domain of economic life is statistically invisible, policy may exacerbate gender inequalities is society. Chakraborty provides a comprehensive study of GB efforts to show how this tool has been (or may be) implemented in the Asia-Pacific to address gender inequalities.</p> <p>Chakraborty’s deep expertise is on India, where she was instrumental in getting the government to adopt gender budgets to earmark expenditures either exclusively or primarily to improve the well-being of women and girls. The book engages in cutting-edge debates concerning public finance in India from a gender perspective. She highlights the challenges of budgeting and cautions how even well-intentioned policy interventions to address women’s disadvantages through public budgets may miss their targets due to inefficiency or corruption.</p> <p>Chakraborty presents insightful analyses to illustrate the role of fiscal policy (paired with GB) to address persistent disadvantages faced by women and girls in India. In the particularly accessible Chapter 4, Chakraborty reports results of her analysis of India’s first national time-use survey of 2019. She documents the wide gaps in unpaid work hours of women and men in rural and urban areas, nationally, and in 6 selected states. She estimates the monetary value of women’s unpaid work to be between 23 and 41 percent of the gross state product in 6 selected states, which is many times higher than the value of men’s unpaid work (3 and 12 percent, respectively). Chakraborty argues that fiscal policy can address intrahousehold inequalities by reducing the time allocation of women to unpaid work through public infrastructure investments. Focusing on public water infrastructure, she provides new evidence that improving water infrastructure is associated with less unpaid labor, rise in school enrollment of girls (who will spend less time fetching water) and would also increase women’s employment. Chakraborty suggests that the smartest and fastest way to increase GDP of a country is to reduce gender inequality in education and increase women’s labor force participation rates by designing programs to alleviate their care burdens using GB.</p> <p>For Chakraborty, human development, not solely GDP growth, is the goal of macroeconomic policy. Her analysis in Chapter 5 indicates that GB may be effective in girls achieving parity with boys in school enrollments. She further argues for the use of GB as a potential public policy tool to address the worsening the relative life chances of girls compared to boys in many Indian states. She rightly argues for the use of the state’s child sex ratio (0-6 age group) as one additional criterion in determining the allocation of tax revenue from the central government to the states, so as to encourage states to take discrimination against girls seriously.</p> <p>The book is an inspiring read on groundbreaking research on GB. It is timely as many governments are preparing post-pandemic fiscal policy strategies and gender budgeting is an appropriate public finance management tool to address the mounting inequalities.</p> <p><b>Book: Fiscal Policy for Sustainable Development in Asia-Pacific: Gender Budgeting in India</b></p> <p><b>Author: Lekha Chakraborty</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan</b></p> <p><i>The reviewer is teaching at Utah University, and is a scholar in international macroeconomics and gender studies</i></p> Mon Jan 30 16:27:04 IST 2023 indian-christmas-review-care-to-see-santa-in-a-lungi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I thought only Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan had to keep proving their bonafides every now and again, and confirm that India is indeed very dear to them. Now, it looks as if Santa Claus, too, will have to pass that test. If he flunks, we may well see the red suit replaced by pyjama-kurta and achkan or, if he ventures south, a lungi. Okay, things have not gone quite that far yet, but we certainly have got on to the slippery slope.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That’s why I wasn’t too surprised when Jerry Pinto and Madhulika Liddle mustered a group of people of whom most (but not all) are Christians to give us Indian Christmas. If it didn’t look like a book, I could have sworn it was an application for anticipatory bail lest someone discovers that putting up a Christmas tree is a nefarious, anti-Indian activity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I will come back to the probable ideological reasons behind the book a little later. First, the book itself: it is like Christmas cake, rich in plums and assorted goodies, with a charming, home-baked air about it. Obviously, it’s been made by bakers who had a walloping time on the job, and hope their bubbling delight would become contagious. The anthology takes you from the dimly lit but enchanting nooks and crannies of the northeast to the more familiar stomping grounds of Kerala and Goa. I didn’t know there were so many Christmases, and the best part is that there is no SOP. If you are doing it with gaiety, you are doing it right.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anthologies call for skillful orchestration, and Pinto and Liddle make fine conductors. Pinto is Mumbai’s ex-officio poet laureate, a poet even when he is writing prose. His disarming, friend-next-door tone is a delightful sleight of hand. The felicity is, I suspect, the product of painstaking effort. (On a larger canvas, and possibly at a higher level, I can think of only Khushwant Singh who would wear his erudition so lightly.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Liddle has established herself as one of the country’s leading women writers. There are other too - like Mudar Pathereya – Kolkata do-gooder, advertising maven, and most relevant here, a buster of the Muslim stereotype. There is a choir maestro, unflagging and inspirational, students, housewives, poets … all of them chip in with a level of enthusiasm that moves even a card-carrying cynic like me to sentiment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much of the book consists of reminiscences – with the inevitable undertone of melancholy, as if looking back at a golden age that is lost forever. But surely that’s not what festivals are all about. This festival is supposed to be about miraculous birth, joy, magic and infinite possibilities. What then explains a sense of foreboding? It’s possibly the ‘patriotism test’ casting its dark shadow over the Christmas party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is sad, because it strikes at the heart of what makes our country special, and unravels our much-wonted unity in diversity. I see communalism, provincialism and other ‘isms’ as the first steps to an unstoppable ‘othering’. To stop the virus in its tracks, we need to celebrate our differences, not cancel them. So, while I deplore the political and social circumstance that seems to have occasioned such a work, I applaud the effort. Read this gentle and lovely book to reboot the Christmas spirit and stretch it deep into the new year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: Indian Christmas</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Speaking Tiger</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 242</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 699</b></p> Mon Jan 09 14:55:06 IST 2023 india-from-latin-america-takes-a-fresh-look-at-indias-economic-development <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Latin America and India have been emerging as significant trade, investment and political partners to each other since the beginning of the new century. The old assumption that these two are marginal to each other because of distance and other barriers is no longer valid.</p> <p>India exports more to the distant Guatemala than to the nearby Cambodia. Brazil takes more exports from India than Thailand or Japan. Latin America is the destination for one third of India’s global exports of vehicles. Mexico is the second largest market for India’s car exports while Colombia is the number two destination for motorcycle exports. India’s trade with Latin America was 45 billion dollars in 2021-22 and is poised to reach 100 billion in the next five years. India was the third largest market for Latin America’s exports in 2014 and was the seventh in 2021. A Mexican company Cinepolis is the fourth largest operator of multiplexes in India and another Mexican firm Grupo Bimbo is one of the top bread makers in India. UPL, the largest Indian agrochemical company does more business in Latin America than in India. Latin America and India have many common development challenges and aspirations. The two sides work together on many global issues of interest to each other.</p> <p>But the Indians and Latin Americans have been getting information and opinion about each other through western media such as CNN, BBC, <i>New York Times</i> and <i>Financial Times</i> as well as through books and article of western authors who give biased and condescending picture. There is need for direct study and exchange of opinions about each other. It is in this context, I welcome the book <i>India from Latin America: Peripherisation, State Building and Demand-led Growth</i> by Manuel Gonzalo, the Argentine author and Professor of Development Economics. Gonzalo gives a Latin American perspective of the history of India’s economic development.</p> <p>This is the first academic work of its kind. Gonzalo has seen India with his own eyes and read Indian books. He has direct experience of having lived in India and working with Indian scholars. He was visiting researcher at the Centre for Development Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Kerala. Gonzalo’s book has a Foreword from Dr. K.J. Joseph Director, Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation and President of Globelics, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.</p> <p>Gonzalo’s view of India is shaped largely based on the Latin American Structuralist theory of a fellow Argentine economist Raul Prebisch, who was also known for the Dependence Theory of the 1950s. Gonzalo has looked at India from three angles: Peripherisation, State Building and Demand-led growth. He has narrated the development path of India comprehensively with extensive research and detailed data. He has placed the economic development within the context of historical, political and social history as well as the foreign policy of India.</p> <p><b>Peripherisation</b></p> <p>Centre-Periphery divide is the essence of the Latin American Structuralist theory with focus on the consequences of the external sector constraints: the relevance of terms of trade, the structural inflation dynamic and “import” inflation and the challenge of achieving industrial competitiveness.</p> <p>India was the second-most important manufacturer with 25% share of global manufacturing and the main textile producer of the world. The British reduced India into a periphery during the colonisation. But since independence, India is moving steadily back to the centre with increasing emphasis on manufacturing. On the other hand, Latin America has been turned peripheral since its independence by a process of forced peripherisation. India’s per capita endowment of natural resources is extremely low unlike Latin America which has pursued an export-led model of growth</p> <p>During colonisation, the European powers had structured the global trade network determining the peripheral role of the Southern Hemisphere in line with their financial and trade needs. They inserted Latin America into their global trade network as a mineral exporter. These minerals went first to Europe but were then re-oriented in the form of bullion to Asia, to pay for the Chinese tea and porcelain and the Indian textiles. it was silver from the Americas that greatly contributed to the making of Asian trade. The Spanish conquest had made silver cheaper in Europe than in Asia. These events, together with the almost inexhaustible demand for silver from India, made it possible to continue the purchases of Asian goods until the mid-eighteenth century.</p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>State Building</b></p> <p>The second part of the book analyses the emergence of the Indian state and the Indian National System of Innovation.&nbsp; These are divided into three phases: Nehruvian phase, Indira Gandhi’s phase and the third by her son, Rajiv Gandhi.&nbsp;</p> <p>The author has highlighted the direct interest taken by Nehru in science and innovation. Nehru had created the Ministry of Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs in 1948 and took on the portfolio himself. The building of Science and Technology infrastructure with new universities, science agencies and national laboratories came under the control of this ministry. Nehru had used his annual full-day attendance at the Indian Science Congress every year to strengthen his association with the scientific community. Some of the main science agencies created and expanded were the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), with a network of 38 national laboratories in physical, biological, mechanical, and chemical sciences; the Department of Atomic Energy; the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Gonzalo says, quoting some experts, that such large number of institutions for science and technology had no rival in the third world and even among several developed countries.</p> <p><b>Demand-led growth</b></p> <p>The third part deals with the period since liberalisation of 1991. The author has done a scholarly analysis of the different dimensions of India’s higher growth based on consumption, global capital inflows and government and private investment in infrastructure factors. He has also highlighted the revolution in the IT and Telecom sectors and their contribution the economy.</p> <p><b>More India-Latin America studies</b></p> <p>Gonzalo’s book is an eye-opener for Latin American policy makers and academics to see India based on their own experience and perspectives. It would be good if it gets translated into Spanish and Portuguese to reach out to a larger audience. I hope this book would inspire more Indian books on Latin America and vice versa. India and Latin America, faced with many common developmental problems have much to exchange experience and learn from each other. For example, India could learn from Brazil’s success with the use of sugar cane ethanol as fuel and the country’s iconic firm Embraer which has become the third largest passenger aircraft manufacturer in the world. Latin America could get inspiration from India’s space research and IT success.</p> <p><b>Global South</b></p> <p>Gonzalo hopes that his book will help not only to a better understanding of India by Latin Americans but will also contribute towards the development of a common economics development research agenda oriented to the Global South. The Ukraine crisis has highlighted the need for a louder neutral voice of the Global South in these days of repolarisation of the world by US, Europe, China and Russia. The election of Lula in Brazil and India’s G-20 presidency are timely for the Global South to advance its own agenda.</p> <p><i>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</i></p> Wed Dec 14 11:19:45 IST 2022 lights-wedding-ludhiana-review-ludhiana-caper-with-whiskey-wit-and-voyeurism <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Jas Kohli’s book is a guidebook to Ludhiana – not about the touristy parts of the city, how to get there or what to do. You can Google all such trivia. Rather, this book is about people - the city’s inhabitants, or, more precisely, the richer part of the populace. Except for the protagonist, nobody would want to be seen in anything less than a Merc or a BMW. The hearty, almost compulsive good cheer, seems viral. In sum, Kohli’s Ludhiana is paradise with Punjabi subtitles, flashy, loud and intensely brand-conscious, with everyone intent on being as larger than life as possible.</p> <p>It is the story of Kushal and Reeti. He is rich – but not rich enough for his wife. She is beautiful – so beautiful, her husband says, that when she walks on the road, motorists get distracted. That should have been good enough for the couple to pull on till a beautiful forever. Nevertheless, the serpent enters paradise in the shape of an ex-flame threatening to stage a comeback, and the action starts.</p> <p>At the beating heart of the novel is a wedding reception. That’s because weddings are not where boy and girl are united in holy matrimony – that’s almost a sidelight. A wedding is a reality show, a brand-building advertisement for the stature of the parties involved. Or, to call a spade a spade, it tells you what the guests are dying to know, viz., how much money the parents have stashed away, and are prepared to spend. Apart from an index of income, weddings are also the platform for both hosts and guests to flaunt their, ahem, other assets. So, women compete fiercely for attention, and the men willingly yield to their instincts for whisky, wit and voyeurism.</p> <p>Alas, Kohli’s Ludhiana is populated by stereotypes. All the wisecracks about Punjabis that you have ever heard in your life, find their way into the book, fighting off other, less sturdy stereotypes. So, you have a character ‘gulping down five large pegs of whisky every evening and trying to balance them by walking five kilometres in the morning.’ At parties, guests are expected to ‘shake a leg, high on a peg’. Green as Punjab is, every good household is expected to look for greener pastures. ‘If a family in Ludhiana doesn’t have a family member settled across the seven seas, they are labeled lethargic’.</p> <p>As for the plot, you get most of it in the blurb at the back. So, while the suspense is taut, it is about who will be wearing the cutest <i>lehenga.</i> The most calamitous disaster to strike a wedding party is for two guests to discover that they are wearing the same outfit. As for the raging questions of the day, they are along the lines of: Will he, won’t he roll up in a new car.</p> <p>Is all this for real? Of course not, it was never meant to be. Caricature must suffice as portrait. We may like to find the truth behind the bluster or look for subtle nuances of character. But that would have to wait for another day, another novel. Ballycumber is the Shashi Tharoor way of describing a book that remains half-read. Well, that’s the one thing that <i>Lights! Wedding! Ludhiana</i>! won’t be. You will read it because it asks for little effort from you. All you need to do is, like the guests at the wedding reception, go with the flow and live life Ludhiana size.</p> <p><b>Lights! Wedding! Ludhiana!</b></p> <p><b>Author: Jas Kohli</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Rupa</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 193</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 295</b></p> Thu Oct 13 21:28:56 IST 2022 tracing-the-genesis-and-aftermath-of-arab-uprisings <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>This was a historical event during our own lifetime. The Arab Spring, as the Western media called it, was a wave of people's movements in 2011, which started in Tunisia, and swept across the Arab world—Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The uprisings against their respective governments toppled an old guard of leaders like Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi. It was seen as a wave of democracy sweeping through the Saharan and Arabian deserts.</p> <p>Though most consumers of news read about the big developments like the toppling of leaders, storming of presidential palaces, and the exodus of expatriates and citizens from these prosperous economies, most have little idea of the genesis of these uprisings. And with the interest having waned after the first news dispatches, many of us today do not even know what a regime change meant in these countries.</p> <p>K.P. Fabian, a former officer of the Indian Foreign Service, in this book, delves deep into the histories of these countries, and the events that led to the uprisings in 2011. Fabian has immense knowledge of this part of the world. He was posted in Iran in 1979 at the time of the Iranian Revolution. Then, during the Kuwait war, he was in the ministry of external affairs' team for coordinating the evacuation of over 1.76 lakh Indians. After his retirement from the service, he was on the faculty of the Gulf Studies Center of Jawaharlal Nehru University.</p> <p>Fabian's book goes into back histories of these countries, and gives a detailed account of what really happened in each of their individual revolutions. He discusses the role of the West, and raises questions on just how much they helped topple dispensations. In the case of Gaddafi, he notes that the leader was willing to surrender, but that is not what the French wanted.</p> <p>The author the explores the aftermath of the uprisings. Has this part of the world become more democratic post 2011? What is the state of human rights in the countries now. Has the West lost a golden opportunity to bring about a new change, or was that even the intention, ever?</p> <p>An interesting book for those who are interested in the region.</p> <p><b>Title: The Arab Spring That Was and Wasn't</b></p> <p><b>Author: K.P. Fabian</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Macmillan Education</b></p> <p><b>Price : Hardcover - Rs 1,650, Paperback- Rs 685</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 308</b></p> Mon Aug 29 23:05:06 IST 2022 colonial-justice-chauri-chaura-sheds-light-forgotten-incident <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a year of unprecedented shows of patriotism, Subhash Chandra Kushwaha’s book <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Colonial Justice on Chauri Chaura</i> is perhaps one of the most relevant books to be published.</p> <p>This is Kushwaha’s second book on the subject. The first, English translation being,<i> Chauri Chaura Revolt and Freedom Struggle</i> (the Hindi book was out in 2014 and its translation in 2021). While the first dwelt on how a neglected incident of our freedom struggle was planned and its aftermath, his second book delves into archival material on the incident.</p> <p>Chauri Chaura has been a neglected and deliberately overlooked chapter in our history. Despite it being the reason for the Non-Cooperation Movement being called off, it has merited no more than a sentence and a half in most history books. The only other writer who has penned a fascinating account of the incident and of how ‘approvers’ were made is Shahid Amin whose <i>Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chaura</i> was published in 1925.</p> <p>Yet, in the last year Chauri Chaura became political currency. The revolt of the little people—mostly poor peasants of the humbler castes—was sought to be reclaimed and refurbished by the government as part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations. This when, many of the names of the martyrs at the Chauri Chaura memorial are also faulty and the dates on which 19 freedom fighters were hanged are lost.</p> <p>Kushwaha’s first book shone a light on many of these lapses. For instance, the hangings took place at different dates in different jails and not on one date as previous material had noted.</p> <p>Kushwaha’s biggest strength is his persistence. Hence in the current book he presents a wealth of archival material which he has accessed even from overseas to give a glimpse into how the powers of the day perceived the event.</p> <p>One of the most fascinating reads in the book is the chapter titled, ‘Story of the Chauri Chaura Revolt: In Judge Theodore Piggot’s Words’. Piggot was the High Court judge who handed out the sentences. He was presented with a case from the Sessions Court that had condemned 170 peasants to death.</p> <p>That Piggot must have been deeply conflicted by the sentence which came up to him is borne out by his words, ‘…the widest possible amnesty must be extended to their (the leaders and organisers) deluded followers, coupled with earnest investigation of the grievances, whether real or imaginary, which had roused them to action’.</p> <p>The action being referred to is the burning of a police thana on February 4, 1922 wherein 22 policemen and village guards were killed. In another chapter of the book which reproduces the High Court’s verdict, one notes that despite the despicable reputation that the peasants of Chauri Chaura achieved, there was just cause for the sequence of events. The verdict reads, ‘…If their (the volunteers) resolution had failed them and they had scattered, after suffering a number of casualties from the muskets of the Police, the fact that they carried no weapons would no doubt have been used to support a story of the wanton massacre of peaceful demonstrations by the agents of a ruthless Government’. But of course, the volunteers did not disperse for they had cause to believe that the police would harm them, and hence the tragedy that followed.</p> <p>Other vital documents reproduced in the book include the verdict of the Sessions Court and international reaction, the appeal in the High Court and the debates in the House of Commons (UK).</p> <p>The appendix of Kushwaha’s book has two pages of thumb impressions of the martyrs of Chauri Chaura. It is a numbing sight. Just as numbing as the certificates of death of executions.</p> <p>Kushwaha’s book must be read with its predecessor. Both are important books that shed light on an almost forgotten incident which led to huge repercussions on the course of the freedom struggle. It is also important as it brings to us the many unsung, unknown heroes of our struggle for independence. They came from the weakest, poorest sections of society and hence their stories have not merited much attention- except of course when political exigencies demanded that the story of the ‘little people’ be appropriated for electoral gains.</p> <p>Kushwaha deserves praise for his persistence and expansive research. His books on Chauri Chaura are a valuable contribution to understanding the true nature of this country’s fight for independence.</p> <p><b>Colonial Justice on Chauri Chaura</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Authors Pride Publisher</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 196</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 300</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Aug 18 10:52:50 IST 2022 our-india-captain-gopinath-essays-eminently-readable <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“My grandmother told me once, if you have to hit someone with a chappal, wrap it in a shawl,” says Captain G.R. Gopinath. “I've actually wrapped a fine pashmina shawl!” he quips.</p> <p>The man who pioneered low-cost aviation in the country with Áir Deccan then adds seriously, “You should criticise, but also admire the good things.''</p> <p>By now, the good captain must have mastered the art of saying exactly what he wants without ruffling feathers. Not only is the book<i> Our India</i> his second collection of essays, his long years of serial entrepreneurship where he's brushed shoulders with the high and mighty should stand him in good stead.</p> <p>Luckily, that has not stifled his innate sense of asking the right questions, in the most lucid manner possible. “The most difficult thing to achieve is simplicity in writing,”he says, adding, “like bureaucrats, who can make even the simplest thing complex.”</p> <p>While bureaucrats are at the receiving end of Gopinath's pen, their political masters rightly take the lion's share. The essays are those Gopinath contributed to various magazines and newspapers over the past three years, and touch upon topics ranging from China relations to Tata to GST to the pandemic.</p> <p>“I wove it with my personal experiences, what I have seen of business people, villagers, people I have talked to plus my own experiences,”he says about the book. “Every article has a personal anecdote.”</p> <p>Beside his utterly unputdownable recounting of the agonising days when he sold off Air Deccan (disguised for some strange reason as a take on the Air India sell-off), Gopinath is at his incisive best when he talks about politics and Indian society – and the dramatic changes sweeping through both. From being posted at the nation's borders in the army to running businesses from aviation to agritech and even dabbling in politics for a while, his sense of passion and objectivity form a uniquely dextrous combination, and they come through by posing the right questions and calling out the wrong answers.</p> <p>The book is divided into four parts—enterprise (on business), society and governance (on courts and social flux), politics (from China to intolerance) and musings (primarily personality recounting as well as feature highlights). The best part is that the essays are short, crisp and eminently readable.</p> <p>Interestingly, though they were written in the backdrop of a particular event or issue for a periodical, they don't appear dated at all. Instead, with the value of hindsight, they form an opinionated, and incisive, 360-degree viewpoint on the whole issue.</p> <p><b>Our India: Reflections on a Nation Betwixt and Between</b></p> <p><b>By Captain G.R.Gopinath</b></p> <p><b>Published by: HarperCollins Publishers India</b></p> <p><b>239 pages; Price: Rs 599/- (Hardbound)</b></p> Wed Aug 17 16:30:51 IST 2022 gold-oil-avocados-review-a-deep-dive-into-neoextractivism-latin-america <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Gold, Oil and Avocados: A Recent history of Latin America in Sixteen Commodities</i>—this is the title of a book by Andy Robinson, published in August 2021. Robinson is a fan of the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano who wrote <i>Open veins of Latin America</i>, a legendary book (published in 1971) which was a bible for the Latin American leftists and nationalists.</p> <p>Galeano wrote about how the export of Latin America’s natural resources generated wealth for Europe and US while exacerbating poverty for Latin Americans. One of his famous quotes was, “We Latin Americans are poor because the ground on which we tread is rich.” Galeano had given illustrations to the Dependency Theory of Latin American development economists which was about the flow of resources from the periphery of poor and underdeveloped countries going to enrich the core of wealthy nations at the expense of the former.</p> <p>Robinson is an ardent fan of Galeano. He says, “I felt inspired once again, as I had been in my youth, by the young Galeano’s desire to write about political economy in the style of a novel about love or pirates”.</p> <p>In this book, Robinson has written about the contemporary “Neoextractivism” practiced even by the Pink Tide governments of the twenty-first century besides the multinational corporations and their local counterparts. After all, the success of the pink tide governments was partly due to the high international prices and demand (especially from China) for Latin American commodities. Robinson says, “ I witnessed fierce debates between those appalled by the pink-tide governments’ embrace of “neoextractivism” and those who dismissed the anti-extractivists as romantic.</p> <p>Robinson’s choice of the sixteen commodities are: gold, diamond, silver, copper, lithium, niobium, iron, coltan, beef, oil, soy, avocado, potatoes, banana, quinoa and hydropower. He has travelled extensively in the remote areas of mining, cattle ranches, plantations and indigenous areas. He has undertaken arduous and courageous journeys through the Amazon forests, Atacama desert and dangerous territories controlled by drug cartels and illegal mining mafias. He has revisited some of Galeano’s iconic destinations of colonial plunder and pillage such as Potosí, Minas Gerais, and Zacatecas. Robinson has met local activists, farmers and miners and given a graphic image of the situation on the ground. So his impressions, analysis and comments are valuable to understand the issues at both micro and macro levels.</p> <p>He has brought out the links between the extractive interests and the coups, protests, assassinations and overthrow of democratic governments by the US. He has given examples of the American regime change operation in Brazil for iron ore, Chile for copper, Guatemala for bananas and the attempts to overthrow the government in Venezuela for oil. He has pointed out the hypocrisy of Canadians who pose as one of the global champions of sustainable development while their mining companies exploit the gold and other resources of Latin America unscrupulously with the least concern for environment or for local inhabitants.</p> <p>Robinson has juxtaposed the miserable conditions of the places of extraction with the end use of those raw materials in a world of conspicuous consumption and excesses. The diamonds extracted by the Brazilian garimpeiros in an inferno of mud and violence, processed in Surat, India, and bought in swanky Swarovski stores in Dubai. The prototypes of hypersonic missiles assembled in California or Shenzhen with the niobium extracted in the primitive areas of amazon. The conversion of potato, the sustenance to the great pre-Columbian civilizations in the Andean highlands, into addictive potato chips of Frito-Lay (PepsiCo), and its contribution to an epidemic of obesity in Latin America. Mexico and Central America, with the highest obesity rates in the world, are the worst hit by the cross-border invasion of salty and crispy snacks. A global fashion of guacamole that has turned the Mexican region of Michoacan, cradle of the Purepecha Empire, a more complex society than the Aztec’s, into a monoculture of avocado run by organized crime.</p> <p>Robinson has brought out the dilemma which confronts the region and its second Pink Tide: how to generate equitable growth and reduce poverty and inequality while avoiding the curse of dependence on export of raw materials which affect the environment. He calls for a new development model in Latin America with a radical change of philosophy, beyond the simple extraction of raw materials. But it is a tough call and a long road for some of the Latin American countries to get over the easy and short term gain from extraction and export of raw materials. This is evident from the case of Bolivia which has one of the largest reserves of lithium but unable to get it off the ground since the government has stuck to its policy of not allowing export of raw lithium and insistence that factories should be set up in the country to produce batteries.</p> <p>The multinational companies, who have the bargaining strength with their capital and technology have avoided entry into Bolivian lithium sector and focused on other business-friendly countries with lithium such as Chile, Australia and Argentina. Bolivia’s large iron ore deposit in El Mutun is stuck in the ground for the same reason. The Bolivian government’s condition that the iron should be used to make steel within the country is not acceptable to the companies. So the Latin American governments need to be realistic and pragmatic in their policies of ‘resource nationalism’.</p> <p><i><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</b></i></p> Tue Aug 02 12:41:09 IST 2022 the-ace-of-shadows-review-gripping-account-of-secret-spy-operations <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Counter-intelligence wars are often more gripping than conventional wars when penned down by spies who have fought them at times and places, neither seen nor heard of, except in passing references with wry smiles and innocuous code words known only to a handful who walk the shadowy corridors of secret spy buildings in the national capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These wars are fought during the daily hustle and bustle with no newspaper headlines screaming victory the next day. Who emerges as 'the ace of shadows'? Only the enemy knows his defeat, and that is the victory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The Ace of Shadows</i> authored by Balakrishna Kamath, a former Intelligence Bureau officer, is a gripping account of secret spy operations. It takes the readers to this battlefield, where there are no weapons and operations are less about valour and more about stealth, thrill, suspense and grit as the game turns perilous for the agency's operatives who pit their wits against the relentless Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is set in the 1989-1990 period, when espionage and intelligence collection still overwhelmingly relied on human intelligence. The ISI team is desperate to execute its military doctrine - to bleed India with a thousand cuts and the high stakes game of smoke and mirrors, is centred around the ace Indian spy Yashwant Narayan Godbole, who draws up an unconventional and risky plan. The plan is to allow a suspected ISI agent escape from Agra jail, only to bust one of the biggest and most sinister plots of the ISI - Mission Blackrock - that could have had ominous internal and international ramifications for India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kamath, who spent close to four decades in counter-espionage, leaves readers spellbound for most part of the book when Godbole sets off on his mission, criss-crossing through several Indian cities on a thrilling, long and hot chase that takes him to the most unlikely places, only to realise how ISI's network has penetrated deep into the tiny bylanes where a regular tailor or a sweet shop owner could be part of a murky terror plot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The counter-intelligence operation led by some of the most powerful yet unassuming sleuths uncovers some of the deep dark secrets of the ISI officers browbeaten by the Pakistan Army Brigadiers who rap them for ''brash streaks of adventurism'' .</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>''When it comes to serious operations against India, the ISI are led by an inflated sense of hubris rather than realistic and calculated actions. They have put this nation to great embarrassment on many occasions,'' said Major General Mohammad Ghafoor, who is the handler of the spy Damji Bhai Savla, a tailor in Agra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But was Godbole's action of freeing Savla from Agra jail a calculated risk? Was Savla a dispensable Pakistani agent or a bigger asset of the ISI? To know more about Godbole's extraordinary skills as a spy and Kamath's rare insight into counter-espionage operations, go for <i>The Ace of Shadows</i>. It is a must-read for those who love fiction based on spy and intelligence operations, and cherish racy writings. Kamath's first novel <i>The Velvet Gloves</i>, a thriller published in 2018, was a big hit and is being adapted into a web series.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Says Kamath, “Deception is one of the most potent weapons in security and intelligence manoeuvers. To make it look real, you have to play along with perfection. A small sacrifice for a big cause.''</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>''When it comes to appreciating the essence of espionage and counter-espionage in our part of the world, there cannot be a better canvas [than the Indo-Pak rivalry],” he writes. Rightly so, both sides will agree.</p> <p><b>The Ace of Shadows</b></p> <p><b>By Balakrishna Kamath</b></p> <p><b>Published by Leadstart</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs 349</b></p> <p><b>Pages 310</b></p> Wed Jul 20 20:30:23 IST 2022 the-anatomy-of-loss-review-punjabs-bitter-harvest-since-1984 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the grisly aftermath of the Noakhali massacre, Gandhi was reportedly approached by a grieving father who had lost his little boy in the conflagration, burnt alive by the ‘others’. The Mahatma’s advice: ‘Beta, go out and adopt a child of the same age from the ‘other’ community. You will then overcome your sorrow and hate and find a reason to love.’ As antidotes to trauma go, it is top-drawer stuff. Question is how many of us have the moral fibre to take such strong medicine. So, lesser mortals must look for other ways to sublimate rage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has not been such a long time since bloody sectarian violence overran large parts of Punjab. So, it says a lot about the endearing large-heartedness and native ebullience of the Sikh character that the community has by and large been able to move on from anger and despair. But while the inferno may have been doused, with every change of the political climate, the old embers flare up. The quest for what social psychologist Arie Kruglanski called ‘closure’ continues, therefore, to be relevant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Novelist Arjun Raj Gaind essays an answer by tracing the story of 8-year old Himmat, a Sikh boy who witnessed violence and humiliation at close quarters. Before his eyes, his childhood hero, his grandfather, shrivels into abject ordinariness, and gushing admiration turns into contempt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gaind does not dwell on the larger causes of what drove asunder two fraternal communities bound for decades by kinship and friendship. That has already been done to death by a gaggle of writers, sociology pundits and retired army officers. Within five months of Operation Bluestar, for instance, a fusillade of five books hit the stands, and many more followed, including by Khushwant Singh and Kuldip Nayar. Almost all of them blame the usual suspects—fire-breathing demagogues, self-serving netas and, of course, the British. Few have dared to suggest that perhaps the fault lies in ourselves that we are so easily carried away. As Max Beerbohm once pointed out, all that Hitler did was to ‘amplify the secret murmurings of the German soul.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The blurb tells us that the incidents in the novel are based on facts. One presumes this refers to the events described in the first part of the book. In the latter part, one can allow for greater artistic licence as a traumatised Himmat decides to put physical and mental distance from the events he witnessed. He runs away from battle and takes refuge in England. But he cannot run away from his mind, and so the battle remains part of his baggage. In England, the young man tries the predictable remedies—alcohol, sex and wilful amnesia. Equally predictably, none of them deliver.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gaind knows how to tell a story, and the pages keep turning almost by themselves. He is an explorer of inner worlds and is at his best describing events from mid-distance, and then graphically re-playing them in the protagonist’s troubled mind. Most of the incidents in the narrative are deeply felt and the lines singed by self-loathing, doubt, despair and, most of all, fear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gaind is less sure of his ground when he has to describe his characters conversing with each other in Punjabi, and make it sound natural. It is a slippery stretch where the best of writers have floundered. In <i>Sita—Warrior of Mithila</i>, for instance, Amish Tripathi had the protagonist express surprise with a trendy “Gosh!” Gaind, in turn, has a rustic police inspector sounding like the head boy in a convent school play, as he tells Himmat’s grandmother: “Do not force me to undertake a course of action that we will both regret.” Luckily, beyond Punjab, Himmat is speaking largely to himself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Books that move from trauma to redemption travel a familiar route. It is like boarding a tourist bus at a safari park. You know where it is all headed, and can more or less anticipate the sights on the way. Yet, the journey is worth the ticket, and so is <i>The Anatomy of Loss</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Anatomy of Loss</b></p> <p><b>By Arjun Raj Gaind</b></p> <p><b>Published by Bloomsbury</b></p> <p><b>Pages 251</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs 599</b></p> Mon Jul 18 22:17:23 IST 2022 rasheed-kidwai-book-delves-deep-into-lives-50-people-influenced-politics <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Fifty personalities, many of them intrinsic to the Indian political arena and some of them having influenced the polity while not being integral to politics. But all of them have left a mark on the popular imagination. The lives of these 50 remarkable people form the substance of eminent journalist and author Rasheed Kidwai's latest book.</p> <p><i>Leaders, Politicians, Citizens: Fifty Figures Who Influenced India's Politics</i> provides more than a sneak peek into these 50 extraordinary lives that have left an indelible mark on the post-Independence years. The book is in fact a unique exercise in recollecting the life and times of these public figures in the style of obituaries.</p> <p>The anthology of 50 personalities chooses the obit style but goes beyond the usual biographical sketches to provide an insight into the exceptional lives through anecdotes and observations. It brings to the fore their role, motivations, strengths and weaknesses as public figures and also delves deeper to take an empathetic look at the personal vulnerabilities or doughtiness of these eminent people.</p> <p>Among the leaders and influencers whose lives are retold in brief in this book are the likes of Indira Gandhi, Jyoti Basu, Rajiv Gandhi, J Jayalalithaa, Sheikh Abdullah, Dilip Kumar, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Bal Thackeray. Almost all of these names provide material and reason enough to write full length books dedicated only to them. However, Kidwai has succeeded in tweaking the obit genre to focus on some fascinating nuggets from their lives rather than stick to the cradle to grave format.</p> <p>The presence of personalities such as the controversial godman Chandraswami or bandit queen Phoolan Devi or the Bachchan matriarch Teji or Dev Anand as the cinematic superstar who failed to recreate the same magic in the political arena add variety to the mix.</p> <p>The anecdote about Chandraswami's meeting with Margaret Thatcher in London before she became prime minister is priceless. Told through the recollection of former union minister Natwar Singh, who has made a first hand account of it in his book <i>Walking With Lions: Tales From A Diplomatic Past,</i> the incident is about Thatcher, in her pre-prime ministerial years, falling for Chandraswami's prophecy about her political success. Incidentally, the prediction made by Chandraswami that she would become prime minister did come true.</p> <p>There is also an endearing account about Phoolan's visit to Paris, when her host arranged a six-door Mercedes limousine to take her around the city. And she had fun, Phoolan style. She persuaded the chauffeur to connect her to her sister Munni in Delhi on the satellite phone and had a long chat with her. Then, she noticed a roadside fruit shop selling muskmelons and asked the chauffeur to bring one to her. The shocked French chauffeur watched Phoolan squatting on the leather upholstery of the limousine, cutting pieces of the melon with his swiss knife as drops of the fruit juice fell on the seat and the floor.</p> <p>Kidwai excels in bringing to the fore the human side of the larger than life figures.</p> <p><b>Leaders, Politicians, Citizens: Fifty Figures Who Influenced India's Politics</b></p> <p><b>By Rasheed Kidwai</b></p> <p><b>Published by Hachette India</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs 499</b></p> <p><b>Pages 348</b></p> Sat Jul 16 16:35:36 IST 2022 emphasis-morals-sets-govind-dholakia-autobiography-spart <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A short anecdote in diamond baron Govind Dholakia's autobiography <i>Diamonds Are Forever, So Are Morals</i> gives us an incisive insight into the psyche of this small-town guy from Gujarat and his resolve and sense of purpose and destiny in the grand scheme of things. On his first visit to Mumbai with friends during Diwali 1968, Govind 'kaka', as he is called, spotted a huge building with a great dome near the majestic Gateway of India. A passerby informs him it is the 'big and splendid' Taj Mahal Hotel, before snidely adding, “You people cannot go there. Looking at your clothes, the watchman won't allow you to enter the premises of the hotel.”</p> <p>Curious and determined, 'Kaka' and friends get industrious – they call a taxi, even though the hotel was just across the street from where they were standing at the Gateway of India. As the car dropped them at the portico -- the guard opened the door to let them in!</p> <p>However, the guard was watchful enough that he approached them and escorted them out the door. Though humiliated at the rudeness, it wasn't the end of the endeavour – listening to their dialect, a Gujarati contractor working in the hotel building on some repairing project identified them as 'apnewala' and encouraged them to enter the hotel from the back-door service lane, from where they went to the restaurant and had tea.</p> <p>“Sitting there, we felt like princes,” Dholakia recounts in the book. “Everything there – the furniture, the tablecloth, curtains, lights – was like some palace we had never even imagined.</p> <p>Never one to cower down in front of the status quo, however small it may be, this minor incident is but a harbinger of what was to happen in the coming years for this young man, a multi-decade life saga that would raise the prestige and power of India's diamond craft business from beyond being just the downstream 'factory' for the global gems and jewellery epicentre in Belgium.</p> <p>Dholakia founded Shree Ramkrishna Exports (SRK) which is one of the biggies in Surat's diamond trade, changing the face (and fortune) of the Gujarat town. While the book details his setting up of the business right from his first visit to Mumbai (with its foray into the Taj hotel) to coughing up money to pay for the diamonds for cutting, impressing merchants and moving up the value chain, it is evident in the tone and tenor of the book that, for him, there is something more important than amassing riches or expanding business. As the title says, diamonds are forever, but equally important are morals. This blinkers-on emphasis of morals and values is what sets this book apart from being another recounting of a successful life, looked back in satisfied reflection.</p> <p>Even PM Modi is impressed. In his praise to the book written by a fellow-Gujarati, he said, “The simile between morals and diamonds in the title of the book itself sets the tone. The emphasis on morals is particularly relevant to modern times, especially for our youth.” Scientist-writer Arun Tiwari, better known as the co-writer of late President APJ Abdul Kalam's bestseller bio <i>Wings of Fire </i>does a decent job of putting to paper the recollections of the diamond tycoon, along with Dholakia's longtime associate Kamlesh Yagnik.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Referring to diamonds, ''fireballs of trapped lights'', as his God in physical form, Dholakia reiterates his belief in the power of destiny throughout the book. “There is nothing I am quite sure about, except that more than I was living my life, life was living through me,” he says, before adding in his favourite life philosophy, “You are nothing, but you can do anything.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Diamond Are Forever, So Are Morals: An Autobiography of Govind Dholakia</b></p> <p><b>As told to Arun Tiwari &amp; Kamlesh Yagnik</b></p> <p><b>Published by Penguin Enterprise (An imprint of Penguin Random House)</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Price: Hardbound Rs 699, paperback Rs 520</b></p> <p><b>338 pages</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Jul 09 16:20:33 IST 2022 how-two-books-provide-deep-insights-air-defence-gunners-wars <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The India-Pakistan War of 1971 was the third round between the two South Asian neighbours, but this war was different in many ways from the earlier conflicts. It was not a long-drawn slugfest as the three services operated together in perfect sync in what was a lightning campaign that ended with a clear victory for India and the liberation of Bangladesh. It was a victory made possible by the contributions of all arms and services.<br> </p> <p>As the war started on December 3 with the pre-emptive strikes by the Pakistani Air Force, Air Defence Gunners were the first to fire.</p> <p>Throughout the fourteen-day campaign, the air defence artillery played a vital role, from ensuring the defence of strategic assets to defend the field formations from enemy air attacks. While several books have been written on the India-Pakistan wars, the new book titled A<i>ir Defence Gunners at War: India-Pakistan War 1971</i>, written by Colonel Mandeep Singh (retd), gives an anecdotal description of air defence artillery as it looks at its performance and highlights both its achievements and failings. Author Col Mandeep Singh, a veteran Air Defence Gunner, is a prolific writer and has authored five books on air defence artillery, including its history during World War II and the India-Pakistan War of 1965. His other works include the <i>Anti-Aircraft Artillery in Combat 1950-1972,</i> <i>Air Defence Artillery in Combat 1972 to Present</i> and <i>History of Indian Air Defence Artillery, 1940-1945</i>.</p> <p>The book on the 1971 war mentioned that during the Kashmir War of 1947-48, the Indian Air Force lost 17 aircraft of which seven were to lost anti-aircraft fire. Similarly, of the total 59 IAF aircraft lost during the 1965 India-Pakistan War, 11 were shot down by Pakistan anti-aircraft fire while 14 others were lost to PAF. Pakistan, on the other hand, lost a total of 43 aircraft of which 25 were shot down by Indian anti-aircraft artillery and 18 were claimed by IAF.</p> <p>The writer pieced together his work from official histories, regimental records, accounts of the air wars and a large number of secondary sources but it also draws on oral histories of the war. Moreover, a large number of veterans shared their personal experiences.</p> <p>Starting from a battery raised in Coloba, Indian anti-aircraft artillery soon expanded to over 34 regiments for India to have the second-largest concentration of anti-aircraft defences outside Great Britain.</p> <p>At one time, India had more anti-aircraft regiments than field artillery.The first anti-aircraft(as air defence was then called) artillery unit in India was the 8th AA (anti-aircraft) Battery, Royal Artillery, that arrived in India on November 9, 1926, and was located at Peshawar in northwest India. It was an independent battery and was equipped with eight 3-inch 20cwt AA guns, organised into a battery headquarters with four sections of two anti-aircraft guns each and had a war establishment of 221 of all ranks.</p> <p>The writer claims that the choice of Peshawar may seem odd today but then the AA battery was meant to defend the north-west frontier from a possible attack by the then Soviet Air Force, should the threat of a Soviet invasion of India became real.</p> <p>However, it was only after two decades that the threat from the Japanese expansion made India finally realise how ill-prepared its anti-aircraft defences were.</p> <p>The author penned another book—<i>History of Indian Air Defence Artillery- 1940-1945—</i>in which he writes about the India anti-aircraft gunners that served in varied battlefields with honour, both during defeat and victory." If they were in Singapore as the fortress fell, they kept the Japanese air force at bay when Allied forces retreated from Burma, and later formed part of the vanguard when the Allies returned to Burma in triumph," Col Singh writes.</p> <p>Indian anti-aircraft regiments served in Singapore, Malaya, Burma, Maldives, Aden and Iraq and they were truly representative as all regiments comprised of varied races and castes.</p> Wed Jun 29 16:45:26 IST 2022 review-me-and-my-mohini-attam-does-not-pretend-to-be-what-it-cant <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Anyone with pretensions to culture would have heard of Kanak Rele – diva, dancer extraordinaire, winner of high national honours, and a celeb with the good fortune of passing from fame to legend in her own lifetime. But, despite all that we know, there is much that we don’t. There are nooks and corners in her life where light has still not shone. <i>Me &amp; My Mohini Attam</i> fills some of the blanks with authenticity and aplomb. It is a biography that has been assiduously curated by Rele’s niece Radha, and tells the extraordinary story of a child with an almost prenatal sense of ‘taal’ evolving into a master of the art.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Born Kanak Divecha, she married into a Maharashtrian family and rather than stick to the straight and narrow, she ventured where few had gone before. She first took to Kathakali (vintage Kerala), and then jumped ship to mohiniyattam (even more vintage). It is a dance that has an engaging past. In the early 1930s, it was banned for being erotic – probably irresistibly so for the watchdogs of public morality who stalked the land (nonsensical censors were as active then as they are now). It was left to Kerala’s legendary poet Vallathol to rehabilitate the so-called ‘dance of the devdasis’ and induct it into the institute that he founded on the lush banks of the Bharathappuzha. Since then, many dancers, including the redoubtable Kalyanikutty Amma and others of her ilk, have put mohiniyattam on the national stage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, arguably, nobody has helped the dance skip over ethnic boundaries as lightly as Rele. Here she was – a young dancer from Mumbai turning the provincial into the national. As with region, so with religion. While classical Indian dances were recognised as being aesthetic, they were still considered somehow ‘Hindu’. Rele’s Nalanda Dance Research Centre erased these dividing lines by getting the venerable Cardinal Gracias of Mumbai to grace the arangetram of one of her Christian pupils. In its own way, all this was a quiet affirmation of the unity, so often elusive, that underpins our noisy, quarrelsome diversity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book does not pretend to be what it can’t. Don’t look for inner monologues or layered meanings. This is a guileless narrative which aims for beauty through simplicity. It gives us the details of the danseuse’s life – her many successes and her equally numerous struggles. For sure enough, Rele had encountered her share of disappointments. In life, very few of the battles that are worth winning are easily won.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rele had to contend with the usual cabal of critics who sniped at her style and poked holes in her doctoral thesis. When all else failed they resorted to the time-tested insinuation – Kanak had got to where she was because she is an attractive woman. She braved it all, and the fools who came to mock remained – if not to applaud – at least to maintain a grudging silence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from a historical account of the rise of the danseuse, parts of the book can also be read as a treatise for students. There are illustrations on the various movements that the dance involves and their aesthetic significance. The book also carries tributes from Rele’s gurus, her contemporaries and culture experts – although one could argue that with all those accomplishments under her belt, she hardly needs endorsement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The narrative sometimes follows chronological order and sometimes yields to the tempting flight path of a butterfly. That’s because Rele and Radha wanted to put in every detail they could think of – her infatuation with God’s Own Country, the college romance with husband-to-be, her spats with fellow dancers and her path-breaking professional ventures. Details make <i>Me &amp; My Mohini Attam</i> a mine of information for researchers as well as readers keen to learn more about a beguiling dance and its equally enchanting exponent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: Me &amp; My Mohini Attam</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Purple Peacock Books</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 332</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 650</b></p> Sat Jun 18 19:57:40 IST 2022 combating-cancer-with-courage-faith-and-good-cheer <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is often said cancer is not fatal. It is the fear of cancer that kills because it comes in the way of detection and treatment. Logically, this makes perfectly good sense. The sooner you diagnose an illness, the better your chances of recovery. But as in so many things in life, logic doesn’t always work. Most people opt for the ‘ignorance-is-bliss’ therapy. We would rather not know – or at least postpone knowing. We would also rather not talk about it, and if we do, only in hushed whispers. B. Ketan Rajaram hits all this pussy-footing and timorous pretence for a six in a remarkable book paradoxically titled ‘<i>Not a Cancer Survivor’</i>.</p> <p>Ketan says he is <i>not </i>a cancer survivor perhaps because ‘survivor’ suggests one who is somehow eking out a precarious existence. He would, instead, like to live life to the full and do all the things he was accustomed to while continuing his job as a communications professional. The clinical tone of the book is admirable. Even while dealing with medical conditions most people would do their best to forget, Ketan is as matter-of-fact as a general planning a military operation, confident of eventual victory.</p> <p>The book interleaves medical science with spiritualism, yoga, mind-healing and a lot more. In the anecdotal style favoured by many self-help gurus, the book is rich in references to a wide arc of disciplines. There are illuminating extracts, for instance, from the teachings of Ramana Maharishi on overcoming pain. When asked whether he felt any pain while undergoing an operation without anesthesia, the sage is supposed to have replied: ‘It hurt my body, not me.’</p> <p>From Ramana Maharishi we move to famed Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl to Maharashtra’s saint-poet Sant Tukaram to an unlikely source – viz., leadership lessons from the US Navy SEALs. Obviously, a lot of research has gone into the book. Equally obvious, there is no single line of treatment that is touted. When the stakes are so high, we do not have the luxury of a single right answer.</p> <p>There are no simple solutions, no miracle cures being peddled. Instead, Bondre suggests that the road ahead is hard but the journey is worth the effort. The message of the book extends beyond cancer to all those facing extreme situations. In a perceptive foreword, Member of Parliament Dr. Vinay Sahasrabhuddhe says that the book tells us ‘not just <i>how </i>to survive but <i>why</i> to survive’. That indeed is the core of the story.</p> <p>The language of the narrative could have been sharper and the proliferation of the definite articles ought to have been curbed. Also, a little more attention to proof-reading would have helped. I saw Lord Curzon described as ‘Voice-roy’, and came across ‘full-proof’. But these are human blemishes in a book valiantly written by an author as he is battling extreme pain.</p> <p>In its honesty, courage and its central message of hope triumphing over adversity, this is a book that holds out a beacon of light for all those who find themselves having to confront extreme situations. It reminds us once again of something we tend to forget: some of life’s biggest battles are fought and won through some of our oldest virtues – faith, optimism and steely resolve.</p> <p><b>Title: Not a Cancer Survivor</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: HiranyaReta Publishers</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 120</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 349</b></p> Sun May 22 17:22:59 IST 2022 capture-the-dream-review-dream-build-change-repeat <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The remarkable thing about Capt. Krishnan Nair of Leela Hotels was not that he dreamt opulently but that he also dreamt sequentially. When one dream began to lose its shine, he turned to another and yet another. It wasn’t a walk in the park, of course, for in between turning grandiose plans into lavish reality, Nair ran smack into setbacks – sometimes acts of God and sometimes acts of bureaucrats (as omnipotent as the almighty in certain respects). But Nair saw them all off, and lived to tell the tale. That tale is now told to us by columnist, author and literary curator Bachi Karkaria in <i>Capture the Dream.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As in every rags-to-riches story, our hero was born into humble circumstances in a village near Kannur, north Kerala. But there was something about the man from Malabar that set him apart. All through his life, he was the right man at the right place at the right time. It happened so often it couldn’t be coincidence. Obviously, Capt. Nair could make serendipity do his bidding. With Lady Luck as his unfailing consort, he re-invented himself as a freedom fighter, soldier (twice over) and garments entrepreneur before pushing himself at age 65 to the front ranks of India’s hoteliers. It could all have been a fairytale except that debt and overreach made the sunset less than roseate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Karkaria captures Capt. Nair’s many-splendoured life in her signature, genre-defying style. Conventional corporate biographies are expected to be mandatorily boring. Bachi – much like her subject in this book – tells convention to take a walk. To the usual sedate, somewhat somnolent notes of the Gregorian chant, she adds some foot-tapping folk to make what could have been a sepia-toned documentary into a trendy south Indian hit, replete with colour and spectacle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And what’s a Bachi book without puns? You expect wordplay from her the way you expect controversy when Kangana Ranaut opens her mouth. So, when the garments exported by the Nairs help Gloria Vanderbilt with their jeans, she can’t help saying: ‘no ifs or buts – only butts’. And when a yesteryear Hollywood celebrity buys Leela’s furnishings, the chapter is titled: ‘Curtains for Gregory Peck’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the book, she acknowledges that writing non-fiction is like working at an archaeological site. If you dig deep, you come up gems. Some of the factoids she has dug up are widely known, others less so: Capt. Nair played a part in giving Kannur its airport (well known); much earlier he had paved the way for the old subway near the town’s railway station (less known); he introduced appam to Mumbai (it has since been copied by many Mumbai restaurants and sadly become an anaemic shadow of its original fluffy self). Many pages open up the mouth-watering world of Malayali cuisine. (Only thing Bachi, the accompaniment to a meal is not koottan but kootaan).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biographies come in many hues. Some deal up close with the blood, sweat and tears that form the subtext of many success stories. But Bachi is determined to look on the bright side. Her book doesn’t go where the subject wouldn’t want to enter. When Walter Isaacson completed his authorised biography of Steve Jobs, the ailing computer visionary asked him if the book contained anything that he would not be happy to read. When Isaacson truthfully said it did, Jobs nodded and said: ‘Good, then it won’t look like an in-house job.’ ‘Capture the Dream’ would not pass the Isaacson filter for it has nothing that the Capt.’s sons Vivek or Dinesh would not like to read. But then Bachi sees herself as a chronicler of good cheer rather an investigator of the inconvenient.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This feel-good biography may not make it to the best business books of the year or be studied as a manual on the perils of debt. Instead, it serves a more useful purpose for most readers – it shows how positive thinking works in real life situations. So, if you want a racy read on how to overcome obstacles with ebullience and turn joi-de-vivre into a competitive advantage, this book is a must-read.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: Capture the Dream – The Many Lives of Capt. C.P. Krishnan Nair</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Juggernaut</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 253</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 799</b></p> Tue May 10 21:20:17 IST 2022 book-examines-how-oil-produced-venezuela-led-to-crisis <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>William Neuman, who had spent four years from 2012 to 2016 as <i>The New York Times</i> correspondent in Caracas during the peak of the Venezuelan crisis, has diagnosed correctly the reason for the Venezuelan political and economic collapse. He says, “It’s not so much that Venezuela produced oil; it’s that oil produced Venezuela.” Oil has played not only an economic role but has also shaped the politics and culture of Venezuelans, which has led to the current crisis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before the discovery of oil in 1914, the country was relatively obscure except for the fact that it was the land of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South America. By 1928, Venezuela was the world’s top oil exporter and the second-biggest oil producer, after the US. Since then, the Venezuelans lived off oil and have neglected other areas. The country has so much of fertile land, mineral resources, hydroelectric potential, beautiful beaches and pleasant climate. These resources are sufficient to be a prosperous nation, even without oil.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But when the easy money from oil started coming, the Venezuelans abandoned all the other resources and started living exclusively on oil income. During high oil prices, middle-class Venezuelans used to go for shopping to Miami and freak out on purchase of luxury goods. At the same time, the government also went on a spending spree and borrowed money recklessly from international capital markets. The corrupt politicians cleaned up the treasury and took money abroad in collusion with businesspeople.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the oil prices went down, the governments struggled to pay foreign debt, cut down developmental and welfare budgets and imposed austerity. At these times, people rose in protest, leading to change of governments through elections or coups. Even Hugo Chavez repeated the same cycle and got the country into a large Chinese debt trap. He and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, mismanaged the economy, causing chaos with hyperinflation, currency changes and exchange value depreciations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Neuman has visited many parts of the country and interviewed ordinary Venezuelans from different walks of life. He has filled up most pages of his new book—<i>Things Are Never So Bad That They Can't Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela</i>—with the tragic stories of the misery and suffering from poverty, shortage of essential items, electric power cuts, crime, violence and corruption. These are, of course, well known at the macro level. Neuman has given names and faces to the victims of the Chavista misrule and mismanagement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Neuman gives new details on the self-proclamation of Juan Guaido as interim president and Guaido's involvement in the attempt to invade Venezuela from the sea with a bunch of mercenaries in 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Neuman, Guaido’s proclamation as president was not based on the consensus of the opposition groups nor was it done properly. It was done by one of the opposition groups in a hasty collusion with the American officials. The proclamation should have been done in the National Assembly after proper notification. But it was done as a surprise in an outdoor event. Some of the lawmakers were taken by surprise and asked, “Why hadn’t the swearing-in been discussed and approved in advance by the full assembly? Why was it done on the fly, in the street instead of in the legislature?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Within minutes of Guaido’s swearing himself in, the White House issued a statement from president Donald Trump, recognising Guaido as interim president. President Ivan Duque of Colombia, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, and Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, were at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; they called an impromptu news conference and, together, recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s president. A South American diplomat told Neuman that Washington’s insistence on going first put its Latin American allies in a bind, exposing them to criticism that they were doing the White House’s bidding when they recognised Guaido. The diplomat said, “People are going to say that they led us by the nose”. Guaido wrote in an op-ed in <i>The New York Times</i> a week later, “It was not of my own accord that I assumed the function of president that day, but in adherence to the Constitution.” But that argument failed to acknowledge the intense debate within the opposition about what to do and that there were other options under consideration, which were ignored under pressure from the neocon elements of Washington DC.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Neuman has interviewed US officials and Venezuelan opposition leaders and brings out details of the invasion attempt to overthrow President Maduro. According to him, the coup leaders signed a contract on October 16, 2019, to invade Venezuela. According to the contract, Silvercorp, a security company of an American mercenary, would be paid $213 million “to capture/detain/remove Nicolas Maduro” and, in his place, “install the recognized Venezuelan President Juan Guaido”. The contract—which was kept secret at the time—spelled out rules of engagement and identified targets (Maduro and others) that could be “neutralized”. It required foreign fighters to wear Venezuelan uniforms and cover their faces “to protect the face of the project as Venezuelan only”. The contract was signed by Goudreau, an American mercenary, and Rendon, a Venezuelan who was identified as the high presidential commissioner for general strategy and crisis management, as well as a Venezuelan legislator close to Guaido named Sergio Vergara, who had been working with Rendon. It was also signed by Guaido.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Goudreau made an audio recording of a videoconference he had with Guaido, in which they discussed signing the contract. In the recording, Goudreau asked Guaido if he had any concerns. Guaido gave a nervous laugh and responded, in English, “A lot of concerns, but we’re doing the right thing for our country.” There was discussion of the need to sign two copies of the document, in its English and Spanish versions, and to scan and send the signed contracts. At the end of the recording, Guaido has denied signing the contract. But it was negotiated and signed by his representatives and it would have had no validity without his signature—he is the only person named in the document as a party to the contract (his name appears twice).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But shortly after it was signed, the deal fell apart. The contract required the Guaido government to pay Silvercorp a $1.5 million retainer within five days of signing. They never paid it. Goudreau insisted on being paid. Rendon said that he gave Goudreau $50,000 to string him along. Finally, in early November, there was a blowup. Rendon said that he met with Goudreau and presented him with a letter cancelling the agreement. (It’s worth asking why the contract needed to be cancelled if Guaido had never signed it.) He said that Goudreau refused to sign the letter and stormed out. Goudreau accused Guaido and Rendon of backing out of their deal and he went public, providing images of the contract, with Guaido’s signature, to a Miami-based Venezuelan journalist named Patricia Poleo, who posted them online.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Neuman has given a full account of the omissions and commissions of Chavez, he has ignored the fact that Chavez was a creation of his predecessors and opposition leaders. During the election campaign in 1998, Chavez asked, “Venezuela is a rich country thanks to oil. Why are so many millions… poor?” The poor voted for him and the middle class also supported him, desiring change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The two large, traditional oligarchic political parties, which were in power for about fifty years, were routed completely. Thereafter, the opposition boycotted the elections, fearing certain defeat and getting discredited. This enabled Chavez to get a majority in the assembly, change the constitution and get away with so many authoritarian decrees and decisions, in the absence of effective opposition. The opposition ran away from electorally challenging Chavez and instead tried all kinds of unconstitutional and undemocratic means and conspiracies to overthrow Chavez in collusion with the local oligarchy and Americans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2002, the opposition carried out a massive strike, stopping the production and exports of oil, endangering the vital oil revenue for the government and causing shortage of petrol and diesel. Chavez retaliated by sacking over 15,000 PDVSA staff and filled the position with loyal Chavistas. The opposition succeeded in removing Chavez from power through a coup in 2002. Many businessmen and oil company executives supported the coup. But the coup plotters mismanaged the post-coup settlement and cut out the military from the share of the spoils. So some of the generals did a counter-coup and brought Chavez back to power, releasing him from the island jail where he was imprisoned.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chavez went on a spree of revenge. He started systematic destruction of industries and businesses and imposed controls and restrictions to teach a lesson to the business community. He placed military officers in civilian positions and allowed them to make money. The military became an accomplice and a stakeholder in the Chavista regime of chaos, corruption and control. When Chavez died of cancer, the Cubans influenced him to appoint Maduro as president. Maduro, who had political training in Cuba during his youth, was considered as a controllable asset by the Cubans. Maduro had no charisma or grassroots support. He could not control the different Chavista and military factions who were more powerful than him. So he could not take decisions or implement any policies effectively. This led to economic disaster with hyperinflation and devaluation of currency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Juan Guaido has lost credibility now. He and his friends, along with American lawyers and lobbyists, have helped themselves to hundreds of millions of dollars of the Venezuelan government funds in the US banks seized by the US government. The American attempts for regime change have completely failed. Their ruthless illegal economic sanctions have worsened the suffering of Venezuelan people. The US government has even announced a bounty (ridiculous and outrageous even by American standards of arrogance and bullying) on the heads of President Maduro and other political leaders and military officials. But the Cubans have trained and helped the Venezuelans on how to survive the Yankee sanctions and isolation and CIA conspiracy attempts. Some of the western governments have started resuming dealings with the Maduro government and even the US sent an official delegation recently to Caracas for loosening of the oil embargo since the high oil prices have hurt US consumers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Venezuelan economy has turned the corner. The hyperinflation has come down to manageable proportions. The IMF has projected a 1.5 per cent GDP growth in 2022, after consecutive GDP contractions from 2014 to 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So I believe that the worst is over. Venezuelans can expect improvement in their situation in the coming years. Of course, Venezuela needs a better government and that should be elected by the people themselves, and not imposed by Gringos or their lackeys.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs.</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sun Apr 24 14:06:26 IST 2022 amde-in-india-book-rbings-out-essence-everyday-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Tarika Roy and Soumya Gupta are both bureaucrats, the former with the Indian Railway Accounts Service, the latter in the Indian Foreign Service. Together, they've brought out the essence of everyday India in this book. Just about every urban idiosyncrasy gets a chapter here. There is one on how “adjusting'' Indians are, and another on how to identify a married Indian lady. The thalis of India and the turbans of India. Stereotyping people and mainstreaming bribing.</p> <p>Each chapter is not more than two or three pages and rather complete in itself. Which makes this book an easy read. You can open onto any chapter and pick up reading. An ideal book to take along on a journey, specially an Indian one, given that so much of the book is dedicated to Indian travel behaviour.</p> <p>The Indian reader will find the everydayness of the book rather appealing, a coming home to kind of feeling. The foreign backpacker will get an understanding of the chaos around. Why are random men addressed to as bhaiyya for instance. It could also help them navigate through the complexities of Indian food, which make up several funny chapters.</p> <p><b>Title: Mad(e) in India</b></p> <p><b>Authors: Tarika Roy and Soumya Gupta</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Om Books International</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 261</b></p> Thu Apr 14 15:55:24 IST 2022 the-power-of-the-ballot-comprehensive-look-indain-elections <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the 1962 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the progenitor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was itself a nascent party. A flour mill owner Suraj Lal Verma approached Jan Sangh leaders in Lucknow for a ticket from the Sitapur constituency. Asked why he wanted to contest the elections, he said an astrologer had predicted his victory in the polls.</p> <p>The party leaders burst into laughter, but later agreed to give Verma the ticket if he contributed five jeeps and Rs 25,000 in cash to five assembly candidates. The party needed a candidate from Sitapur to contest against Congress' Dinesh Pratap Singh, the Raja of Kasmanda. It also needed funds and resources. But the Jan Sangh failed to check Verma's claim about his assets. After all, he only owned a modest flour mill. Angry party workers snatched Verma's jeep and gave him a mild beating. A rattled Verma went into hiding in Lucknow while the Jan Sangh campaigned for him, often referring to his surname while seeking votes. The Congress ignored Verma as an unimportant candidate, but the people wanted someone from their midst and not a 'Raja'. Verma won by 3,377 votes!</p> <p>The anecdote is rich in the elements that elections in India are made up of – the reasons for which a person can hope to get a ticket, the importance of caste and community, the voter having the power to belittle the high and mighty and the reliance on astrological predictions.</p> <p>This is one of the numerous stories narrated by authors Anil Maheshwari and Vipul Maheshwari as they write on the humungous topic of elections in India in their book <i>The Power Of The Ballot – Travail And Triumph In The Elections.</i></p> <p>Another example of using an anecdote to bring out the peculiarities of elections in India is the description of the practice in Haryana to weigh candidates against coins. By the 1980s, every candidate, including independents with little chance of winning, was getting weighed against coins. Most of the shows were stage-managed, meant to hoodwink the electorate. An innovative candidate went a step further and got himself weighed against country liquor, which was later served among the audience. Another candidate was weighed against laddoos, which were also distributed amongst the gathering. And a senior minister in the Bansi Lal government is said to have been weighed against stones by angry voters in a village.</p> <p>The book brings out the colour and the drama involved in Indian elections even as it provides a comprehensive look at the various issues concerning polls in the country – the problem of criminalisation, the role played by money, the doubts expressed about electronic voting machines and the need for electoral reforms.</p> <p><b>The Power Of The Ballot – Travail and Triumph In The Elections</b></p> <p><b>By Anil Maheshwari and Vipul Maheshwari</b></p> <p><b>Published by Bloomsbury</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs 699</b></p> <p><b>Pages 381</b></p> Tue Apr 12 16:00:20 IST 2022 the-maverick-effect-review-a-story-of-what-india-can <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>IT industry pioneer Harish Mehta fills his memoir <i>The Maverick Effect</i> with anecdotes from the early days of the seventies and eighties (to the present) when the software industry took its first steps — gingerly, yet purposefully. And how the great Indian red tape was there at every corner of the way, putting a spanner in the works. Even with this mammoth creature that is never a dearth for irony, one incident particularly stands out.</p> <p>“A customs officer (once) told me that I needed to leave samples of what I was exporting with him. I was forced to leave the floppy disk of the software with him. The diligent officer immediately planted a stapler pin through the floppy disk and attached it to the form, thereby destroying the media and rendering it unreadable.”</p> <p>Beyond being funny or ironic, the import of Mehta’s book is that it throws light on the early days and subsequent trajectory of India’s software boom, now notching at around 200 billion dollars in annual exports. It reminds us how all was not hunky dory, and the glory days have quite a back story to tell.</p> <p>It’s a story that needs to be heard, and Mehta does a decent job of throwing light on those uncertain days — when getting through the licence raj and bureaucratic obstinacy were greater breakthroughs than bagging a client or succeeding in a project, when computers were either an esoteric term you came across in sci-fi or something kept in (pre-Covid era) sanitised rooms with air-conditioning on in full blast, and the word ‘code’ referred to something dashing secret agents passed around rather than dorky dudes who dabbled in data.</p> <p>Mind you, Mehta, who chucked up a nice-paying job in (can’t-get-whiter-than) Connecticut to return to India to set up a business and eventually became one of the early evangelists of the ensuing software boom, does not claim anywhere, nor is it, that this is that one all-encompassing go-to for a peek-in on the evolution of Indian IT. But, by being at the right place at the right time, and by organising the early software companies into a unified organisation NASSCOM (National Association of Software &amp; Service Companies) that became much more than a lobbying force, Mehta got not just a ringside view, but a seat right at the podium of ceremonies.</p> <p>Perhaps that makes this book all the more endearing. Nowhere does it get pedantic or complexed out with too many details — the narrative remaining historical, yet personalised enough to be empathised with. Mehta sticks to his life story; just that it coincides with a historical trajectory.</p> <p>“A life mirrors the time it is lived in and the people it is lived with,” Mehta writes early on, and while he starts off the story with his birth during the partition riots following India’s independence, this saga acquires its groove only once he and his family decides to leave US, and then all that follows - setting up a business, his focus on Indian IT, the setting up of NASSCOM, the initial hesitant days of the swadeshi software surge, the Bangalore boom, the Dewang Mehta days, even the Satyam fiasco (which he calls NASSCOM’s ‘finest hour’) and the tech startup ecosystem we see in full bloom all round us right now.</p> <p>But at the heart of it all, this is a story of what India can. Mehta’s may not be the name at the top in a list of India’s IT icons, but by ensuring that it became an industry of peers who innovated individually, and together, to set Indian software up on there as a global force to reckon with, Harish Mehta’s is a presence that cannot be denied its due. This book tells you why.</p> <p><b>Title: The Maverick Effect</b></p> <p><b>Author: Harish Mehta</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Harper Business</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 274</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 699 (Hardback)</b></p> Sat Apr 09 18:54:56 IST 2022 book-review-mamata-beyond-2021 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Election strategist Prashant Kishor is credited with designing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's strategy for the Assembly elections in the eastern state in 2021. However, her initial thoughts about engaging Kishor to help with the Trinamool Congress' electoral plan would not have been music to the poll pundit's ears, according to a new book.<br> </p> <p>Veteran journalist Jayanta Ghosal, who has tracked Mamata's rise in politics over the years, writes in his book 'Mamata Beyond 2021' that the first time the Trinamool supremo met Kishor was in Patna and the occasion was the formation of the government of the Mahagathbandhan that comprised the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress in 2015.</p> <p>The book, originally written in Bengali, has been translated into English by Arunava Sinha.</p> <p>“On the day of Nitish Kumar's tea party, Kishor and Mamata had their first personal discussion on the sidelines, seated in white throne-like chairs wrapped in velvet. That night, however, Mamata said: 'It's all very well to talk to him, but we have never engaged an organisation commercially. Trinamool is a party of the poor.''”</p> <p>However, Mamata's nephew and Trinamool general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, who is regarded as number two in the party, later discussed with Kishor. “Having lived in Delhi a long time and studied there, Abhishek is closely aware of political strategies at the national level. He felt Trinamool would have to use the same weapons as its opponents to defeat them. The rest, as they say, is history,” writes Ghosal.</p> <p>In Ghosal's assessment, it was with Kishor's help that Mamata built a clear strategy to counteract the BJP's thrust in the Assembly elections. “Just as the perception of Mahatma Gandhi that existed in his time would not have been possible without his particular attire, Mamata Banerjee too built a brand equity of being the daughter of Bengal with her rubber sandals and her humble living quarter,” he writes.</p> <p>The book, as its title suggests, looks at Mamata's plans beyond the 2021 poll victory in West Bengal. According to Ghosal, while Mamata is keen on expanding outside her home state, her prime focus would be to wrest back the 18 out of the 42 seats that the BJP had won in the state in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.</p> <p>Also, the Trinamool is not expected to continue with party veteran Mukuk Roy's earlier ambitious programme of expanding everywhere in the country. “Instead of going into large states like Uttar Pradesh, as Mukul Roy had done, Abhishek Banerjee is taking small steps in states like Goa, Tripura and, later, Assam. Instead of a euphoric and unrealistic expansion plan for Trinamool, the focus is on gradually making Mamata Banerjee acceptable as a national alternative to Narendra Modi,” writes Ghosal.</p> <p>According to him, Mamata will go on tours in various states, but not necessarily to conduct political rallies. Instead, she will participate in civil society conclaves, meet public intellectuals, engage with students and join programmes conducted by the industrial society, he writes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: </b>Mamata Beyond 2021</p> <p><b>Author:</b> Jayanta Ghosal</p> <p><b>Publisher:</b> Harper Collins</p> <p><b>Price:</b> Rs 599</p> <p><b>Pages:</b> 233</p> Thu Apr 07 16:05:25 IST 2022 karunanidhi-a-life-chronicles-journey-prolofic-writer-leader <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I bought the book instinctively when I saw a quote of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (one of my favourite Latin American writers) in the author’s introduction, “I told Karunanidhi I was using Gerald Martin’s biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a model. I shared with him what Marquez told the biographer: ‘Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life and a secret life. What Márquez meant to Martin is what Karunanidhi means to me”.</p> <p>As a journalist, Panneerselvan had interacted with Karunanidhi and those close to him from the family and party. He had worked on the book off and on for about 20 years.</p> <p>The book gives a glimpse of the life and achievements of Karunanidhi whose talents and achievements are admirable. He is a rare combination of a creative writer with extraordinary oratorical talents, visionary leadership, political instincts, organisational skills and administrative competence. It is even more amazing in the light of the fact that he did not complete school education after having failed repeatedly in the final year school examination.</p> <p>Karunanidhi was a prolific writer. He has written scripts for 67 films starting with <i>Rajakumari </i>in 2011 and <i>Ponnar Sankar</i> in 2011. He has authored 46 short stories, 13 plays, 10 novels, 2 novellas and 7000 letters he wrote daily in Murasoli newspaper. He also wrote literary pieces and lyrics for some film songs. He had even acted in some of the plays. His autobiography nenjikku needhi (justice to the Conscience) runs into several volumes. He edited newspapers and magazines. An early riser, he used to finish most of his writing before breakfast and before the arrival of party cadres. The combination of prodigious talent, strict discipline and a work ethic was the secret of Karunanidhi’s prolific output as a writer.</p> <p>&nbsp;He was a mesmerising orator with a unique style of poetic expressions, inimitable humour, witty wordplay and inspiring ideas. I remember how I was moved to cry while listening to his eulogy in radio when Annadurai died in 1969.There is no other Tamil political leader who could match Karunanidhi’s speeches.</p> <p>Karunanidhi was chief minister of Tamil Nadu for five terms and leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for over five decades. He has a record of victory in all the 13 times he stood for elections. He was a star campaigner and strategist for DMK party. He got more ministerial posts in the coalition governments in Delhi and got more than the due share of the state from the central governments through skillful negotiations.</p> <p>The author has put Karunanidhi’s life’s events in the context of the larger political developments in the state, the country and in the world. One such larger issue was the anti-Brahmin movement in the state and Karunanidhi’s promotion of Tamil language and non-Brahmins.&nbsp; The author cites an incident in one of the Thiagaraja Aradhana music festivals in Thiruvaiyaru. The musicians who participated in the festival used to sing only in Sanskrit and Telugu and not in Tamil. The reason for this was the fact that the Trinity of Composers of Carnatic music comprising Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri had composed only in Telugu and Sanskrit. Many of the Brahmin singers and composers looked down on Tamil considering it as a language of the lower castes. For them, Sanskrit was the divine language. During an annual festival, one of the singers rendered a Tamil song at the end of his performance in honour of Tyagaraja. The next singer refused to sing till the place was ‘purified’ as it had been polluted with a Tamil song. The organizers immediately called for priests to perform a special puja to purify the place; they cleaned the concert stage with holy water and then invited the next singer to perform.</p> <p>Reacting to this Karunanidhi had said, “‘My music classes were in reality my first political class. I learnt about the subjugation of human beings based on their caste; I could witness the glee with which some people could humiliate others as well as the self-righteousness of others in practising their customs without even realizing that they are ill-treating a vast majority of the people”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the author has covered the achievements of Karunanidhi, he has not gone into the failures, mistakes, electoral defeats of the party, corruption allegations and dynastic politics.</p> <p><b><i>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</i></b></p> Fri Mar 18 17:03:08 IST 2022 the-10-trillion-dream-comprehensive-view-state-indian-economy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Subhash Chandra Garg promises that he will write a tell-all on his life in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). And in particular, one on his time in the finance ministry, a tumultuous period where he hit headlines for locking horns with the present dispensation (read: finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman).</p> <p>In his new book <i>The $10 Trillion Dream</i> which hits bookstores on Monday, Garg only teases about the time after Modi’s landslide victory in the 2019 general elections and Nirmala Sitharaman joined as the new finance minister. “My world changed drastically after the new finance minister joined,” he writes, but doesn’t offer much else. Those curious to know the backroom truth on what really went catastrophically wrong between the then finance secretary (who took early retirement soon after) and his feisty new lady boss may have to wait, for Garg says that second book “will be out later this year.”</p> <p>Not that it should divert your attention from this debut book in any way. The veteran bureaucrat, who has since his retirement in 2019 turned into a prolific economic policy think-tank, has channelled his 36-year long experience, including stints as secretary in departments of finance, economic affairs as well as power (besides being finance secretary of Rajasthan before that), into this tribute to Indian economy, and the crucial role that public policy makes.</p> <p>Or ‘breaks.’</p> <p>“This book's focus is on the centrality of policy (making) in economic growth (which leads to) the general well-being of citizens,” he said, but added, “Expenditure decisions by the government are reflective of people’s choices. But unfortunately, when you convert people’s choices into that of (political) parties, that objective is not often (met).”</p> <p>PM Modi may have settled down to a rhetoric of India hitting a $5 trillion economy by 2025, but Garg had a vision long before that — it was he, then at the helm in the finance ministry, who drafted the interim 2019 budget which first spoke of a ‘$10 trillion’ target.</p> <p>The powers-that-be may have revised their target with one eye on the next general elections, but Garg, now not obliged to service rules after his voluntary retirement and switching over to become a strident critic of the government’s economic policies, sticks to his overarching vision.</p> <p>Not just that, in this exhaustive resource point of a book, Garg presents a wide-angled and comprehensive view of the state of the Indian economy — surprisingly (for a book) updated right up to developments as late as this month.</p> <p>Garg’s knowledge and grasp stemming from his years being right at the heart of economic policy drafting comes through as he takes the reader through how India’s macro economic policy, and real status, evolved since independence. Not just that, it zeroes in on various important sectors, right from the traditional agrarian reforms to the digital sector. Through the journey, he also focuses on pivotal moments and trends, ranging from the 1991 liberalisation to the 2020 Farm Bills. Garg seals the deal with the final section where he gives his own blueprint to achieve the target of a ten trillion dollar economy by 2035, complete with the reforms needed anywhere from labour to industrial policy and taxation.</p> <p>True to his crucial years at the Centre, Garg barely brushes over the needed transformations in health and education, a state subject, despite it being something India doesn’t seem to have learned even after the Covid-19 pandemic. Bedside reading, this 700-page giant of a book may not be. But a great reference go-to any time you want to write, read and talk knowledgeably about the Indian economy, it certainly is.</p> <p><b>The $10 Trillion Dream: The State of the Indian Economy and the Policy Reforms Agenda</b></p> <p><b>By Subhash Chandra Garg</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Penguin Random House India</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 700</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 999 (Hardback)</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Mon Feb 28 16:15:14 IST 2022 as-far-as-the-safforn-fields-review-most-definitive-book-pulwama-attack <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“The explosion was loud. It raised a cloud of black smoke. Guess how far the body parts flew? As far as the saffron fields,” said an eye witness of the deadliest terror strike on security forces on February 14, 2019, that killed forty CRPF personnel in Pulwama district of Kashmir .</p> <p>In the last three years, there have been many narratives built around the Pulwama strike but on the third anniversary of the terror attack, serving Indian Police Officer Danesh Rana, belonging to the Jammu and Kashmir cadre, decided to piece together the real happenings through personal interviews with the protagonists , police charge sheets and other evidence in his book <i>As Far as the Saffron Fields: The Pulwama Conspiracy.</i></p> <p>Rana’s attempt is a rare instance of a serving officer narrating the story of a single terror attack and its links in Pakistan. It was 11.30am on February 14 when Shakir Bashir Magrey, an Over-Ground Worker (OGW) of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed was driving on the national highway to reach his sawmill. It had snowed and sporadic patches of snow were left, which made it possible for traffic to ply on it. The CRPF convoy may arrive later that day. He immediately called up Umar Farooq Alvi, the mastermind of the terror attack to convey the piece of news. The ghastly task was assigned to Adil Dar, the young local who rammed the vehicle full of explosives into the ill-fated CRPF bus that day.</p> <p>Dar lay on the carpet in Shakir’s house that morning, not knowing these would be the last few hours of his life. The book grips the readers taking them back to the time when Adil’s suicide mission was still in the works. For the IPS officer, it is a tribute to the CRPF bravehearts but for readers it is an exclusive, eye opening and heart wrenching account of the current reality of militancy in Kashmir . The National Investigation Agency has managed to crack the case. But Rana's revelations take us beyond the conspiracy—to the time when Shakir was finally shown Umar’s photograph and he admitted that Umar was a Pakistani national known to him as Idrees Bhai. The book explains how painstaking investigation and fate finally helped sleuths establish the identity of Idrees as Umar Farooq Alvi, the nephew of none other than Maulana Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed and mastermind of the 1999 Kandahar hijack case.</p> <p>“This is an account that would negate many narratives built around the deadly Pulwama attack. The book also highlights the involvement of proscribed outfits sponsored by Pakistan and their role in creating an eco-system for terrorism to flourish,” said Rana.</p> <p>The author has also broken down the modern face of militancy in Kashmir fuelled by highly radicalised young Kashmiris who are playing in the hands of terrorist organisations. “The fact that it is written by a serving IPS officer lends great credibility to the account,” said Swati Chopra, Executive Editor, HarperCollins India. The book is a must read for those keen to understand the existing challenges of militancy in Kashmir, the planning of the Pulwama attack and the nitty-gritty of the entire terror conspiracy. By far, it is the most definitive book, the one that gives the full story .</p> <p><b>Book: As Far as the Saffron Fields: The Pulwama Conspiracy</b></p> <p><b>Author: Danesh Rana</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers India</b></p> <p><b>Price : Rs 599</b></p> Mon Feb 14 19:49:18 IST 2022 contested-lands-review-razas-research-and-logical-approach-set-it-apart <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Addressing the several questions that have followed the Chinese intrusions in Ladakh in April 2020, and the unresolved standoff that continues, military and strategic affairs commentator Maroof Raza’s latest offering, aptly titled ‘Contested Lands’, has all the details of how their differing boundary claims are the basis of Sino-Indian boundary disputes. The hallmark of Maroof’s books is his depth of research and his ability to put across facts in a logical manner by connecting all the dots and looking at issues from a different perspective.</p> <p>The differing claims of India and China over Aksai Chin, explains the author, are the outcome of earlier military expeditions and surveys in the eastern reaches of Ladakh, driven by the ambitions of Maharajas and the British Empires strategic consideration of keeping Russia away. This led to three sets of lines drawn by the British in the north namely the Johnson Line in 1865, the Johnson-Ardgah Line in 1897 and the McCartney MacDonald Line in 1899 – that are the basis of disagreements even now.</p> <p>And, it was the British desire to define the boundaries of Tibet with China and India at the Simla conference(s) of 1913-14, that led to the McMahon Line, and is the basis of India’s claims over the Arunachal front in India’s northeast. How this came to be, after extensive negotiations with the Tibetan and a reluctant Chinese representative, have been wonderfully covered, in this book. And how eventually the conveners of the Simla conference, Sir Henry McMahon, fearing a collapse of the talks, with much ceremony, drew the line with a thick-nib marker on a small scale map, to define what became known as the McMahon Line, on which India’s claims from east Bhutan to north Myanmar. China hasn’t quite accepted it yet!</p> <p>And these are two key issues on which the Sino-Indian disputes are based. This led eventually to the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962, and the author goes into all the strategic errors that were made; from ignoring the Chinese buildup in Aksai Chin – that an army patrol reported in 1952 to the air photographs by a bold IAF pilot – and then the select band of sycophants that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Krishna Menon chose to guide their one-sided assessments of the Chinese intent, this book has riveting details of that Himalayan conflict, where Indian Army were ill-led and not allowed to fight, for fear of angering the Chinese further! And it was for this reason that India’s air force wasn’t used either, despite the IAF being well positioned to alter the course of the war, that Raza calls only a conflict. More troops were used in the Kargil conflict, than in the ‘1962 war’, says the author, which was the result of Delhi blunders, not only of India’s generals.</p> <p>No wonder the Henderson Brooks report remains classified, even though its findings have been greatly implemented, as the author explains by looking at incidents at Nathu La and Jelep La of 1967 and the contrasting approaches by the army’s commanders in Sikkim. Then the next time India responded was in 1986-87 at Sumdrong Chu when General Sunderji quickly mobilised forces at the McMahon Line, following Chinese intrusions. This led to China’s leaders developing new respect for India, and the invitations to PMs starting with Rajiv Gandhi, then Narasimha Rao and A.B. Vajpayee. This led the Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement in 1993 and an agreement to avoid the use of force even though the Chinese transgressions have not ceased as we witnessed in 2020. The brutal fighting in the Galwan valley that followed had shown that the India of 2020 was not the India of 1962.</p> <p>Could another Himalayan conflict follow if tensions spiral out of control and how things could then pan out between the two Asian giants? This book offers answers. It will surely be among the most valued books on the subject and its attendant complexities.</p> <p><b>Book: Contested Lands: India, China and the boundary dispute</b></p> <p><b>Author: Maroof Raza</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 208</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Westland</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 699</b></p> Thu Feb 10 22:34:43 IST 2022 the-savage-hills-review-gripping-war-fiction-true-incidents <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The book is based on two real stories that came out from Kashmir in the 1990s - one that got local attention and the other received global attention.</p> <p>The first was about the rivalry between two bad men who had once served in the BSF, and turned renegades. One was a Muslim, Manzur, who joined the Hizbul Mujahideen. The other was a Hindu, Ram Kumar, once a pal of Manzur, then an informer to the security forces and finally a renegade brigand leader. The story about their rivalry was reported briefly in Kashmir papers in 1996.</p> <p>The other story, the one that the world heard, was about the abduction of six western tourists in Kashmir in 1995 - two British, two American, a German and a Norwegian - by a till-then unknown militant group called Al Faran.</p> <p>The author has fictionalised the two real-life stories and melded them into one racy novel which gives a gripping account of the commandos' hunt for abductors, as also a vivid picture of the life of a militant in the mountains. If he has relied on his own first-hand experience for the former, he has relied on the accounts given by the captured militants themselves for the latter. Yes, the author himself is a former Special Forces commando who has served not only on the Kashmir mountains but also in the jungles of Sri Lanka in the IPKF mission, and in the northeast. At times he draws from these varied experiences to even tell the reader about the differences in the nature of terrain and the operations between Kashmir and Sri Lanka.</p> <p>As in real life, one of the hostages, an American, escapes on his own from the clutches of the militants. The Norwegian is beheaded (his body was found with his chest inscribed with the words 'Al Faran'), and the rest were never rescued. It is believed that the militants killed them once it became clear that India was not going to agree to the militants' demand to free two of their leaders. (It is another matter that one of the leaders, Masood Azhar, would later be freed by the government in return for the lives of the Indian Airlines passengers who were hijacked to Kandahar in 1999.)</p> <p>The best thing about the book is that it is not an attempt to simply glorify the army or the special forces. On the contrary, the author even gives the reader a peep into the interrogation rooms where third-degree measures are employed to extract information from the captured militants.</p> <p>The book, the third from the author, is one of the few attempts in India to write war or military fiction, a best-selling genre in the west. To that extent and more, the author deserves a big pat on his sturdy shoulder.</p> <p><b>Book: The Savage Hills</b></p> <p><b>Written by: Abhay Narayan Sapru</b></p> <p><b>Published by: Chlorophyll</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 295</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 09 15:35:12 IST 2022 isabel-allendes-violeta-talks-of-a-life-lived-between-two-pandemics <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In Isabel Allende’s latest novel, <i>Violeta</i>, the eponymous protagonist is born at the time of the Spanish Flu in 1920 and dies during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Her final thought: “It is a strange symmetry that I was born in one pandemic and will die during another.”</p> <p>Allende starts the book with the Spanish Flu which “brought first a terrible chill from beyond the grave, which nothing could quell, followed by fevered shivering, a pounding headache, a blazing fire behind the eyes and in the throat, and deliriums, with terrifying hallucinations of death lurking steps away. The person’s skin turned a purplish-blue colour that soon darkened until the feet and hands were black; a cough impeded breathing as a bloody foam flooded the lungs, the victim moaned and writhed in agony, and the end arrived by asphyxiation. The most fortunate ones were dead in just a few hours”.</p> <p>The Chilean government responded to the crisis with “a stay-at-home order to curb the spread, but since no one heeded it, the president decreed a state of emergency, a nightly curfew, and a ban on free circulation of the civil population without due cause, under penalty of fine, arrest, and, in many cases, beatings. Schools were closed, as well as shops, parks and other places where people typically congregated.”</p> <p>In her 100 years of life, Violeta witnesses extraordinary events and historical changes in the world, in her native country Chile and in her personal life. The Great Depression causes bankruptcy of her father’s business and he commits suicide. The family, evicted from their large mansion in the capital city Santiago, moves to Nahuel, the remote Patagonian part of the country in the south “a landscape of vast cold forests, snowy volcanoes, emerald lakes and raging rivers”.</p> <p>Violeta comes of age surviving and working in the primitive and tough conditions of the rural life among the native Mapuche Indians.&nbsp;She learns to fish, trap rabbits, milk cows, saddle a horse, smoke cheeses, meats, fish and hams in the circular mud hut where a pile of embers perpetually glowed. When she was fourteen, the local Mapuche Indian chief asks for her hand in marriage, either for himself or one of his sons. He offers his best horse as payment for the bride.</p> <p>The major event that upends her life and leaves a scar in the country’s history is the violent overthrow of the socialist president Allende by the military coup in 1973. Her son, a leftist militant student, escapes to Argentina and eventually gets asylum in Norway. Some of her relatives and friends are killed, tortured and jailed by the regime. Her second husband, a pilot with private aircraft, makes money by collaborating with the military regime and the CIA. Her daughter dies of drug addiction in the United States. Her grandson Camilo, a rebellious young man, decides to become a priest and devotes himself to the service of the poor.</p> <p>Allende has narrated the story of Violeta as a series of letters to her grandson Camilo, in which the 100-year-old grandmother wants to leave a testimony of her life.</p> <p>Allende had conceived her first novel <i>House of Spirits </i>(1982)&nbsp;when she received news that her 100-year-old grandfather was dying. She began to write him a letter that ultimately became the manuscript of&nbsp;the novel. It was influenced by&nbsp;Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel <i>One Hundred Years of Solitude</i>.</p> <p>The only difference between her first novel and the latest is that magical realism is now missing. The story&nbsp;of Violeta&nbsp;is narrated without fantasies and fables, miracles and mysteries.</p> <p>Allende said in an interview, “All fiction is ultimately autobiographical. I write about love and violence, about death and redemption, about strong women and absent fathers, about survival. My life is about pain, loss, love and memory. Most of my characters are outsiders, people who are not sheltered by society, who are unconventional, irreverent, defiant. Struggle, loss, confusion, memory—these are the raw materials of my writing.”</p> <p>These&nbsp;are clearly evident&nbsp;in the story of&nbsp;Violeta who is a strong independent woman who defies the matriarchal Chilean society of the first half of the 20th century&nbsp;and goes&nbsp;through three marriages.</p> <p>This is similar to the real-life story of Allende, who has also married three times, the last one at the ripe age of 77 in 2019 with a New York lawyer Roger Cukras, of the same age.</p> <p>Violeta’s experience of turbulence, exile and grief are&nbsp;not much different from Allende’s real-life&nbsp;suffering, as she had to go into exile to Venezuela during the Chilean military regime. Violeta’s grief over the death of her young daughter is similar to the untimely death of Allende’s own daughter Paula at the age of 29. Allende’s novel <i>Paula</i> is based on the life story of her own daughter.</p> <p>I have read most of Isabel Allende’s books and enjoyed her epic storytelling. Reading her books is like taking a long journey filled with poignant moments&nbsp;and recollections of memories.&nbsp;</p> <p>I&nbsp;like and admire even more Allende’s own&nbsp;life story of adventures and romance. She describes her personal life with fantastic wit and self-deprecating humour. &nbsp;She had&nbsp;suffered terrible&nbsp;personal tragedies from which she has come out with her strong-willed spirit. Even now at&nbsp;her advanced age of 80 years, she lives a free-spirited California life with a full-blooded Chilean passion.</p> <p>Allende&nbsp;has certainly enriched the world of literature with&nbsp;more than 20 memorable&nbsp;books which have been translated into 40 languages and sold over 70 million copies.&nbsp;I&nbsp;believe that she is due for a Nobel Prize.</p> <p><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs.</b></p> Wed Feb 02 10:57:15 IST 2022 the-night-will-be-long-crime-thriller-colombia-issues <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>The Night Will Be Long</i> (sera largo la noche) is a story about the rise of evangelical churches in Colombia and Latin America.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fabinho Henriquez, a poor orphan from Minas Gerais state of Brazil, becomes a mining entrepreneur in Amazon. He establishes an evangelical church celebrating his own miraculous transformation and to give moral support to other poor souls living and working in the jungles. He gets a Colombian business partner Fritz Almayer, who had escaped to Brazilian amazon after harassment, extortion and threat from FARC guerillas in Colombia. The Colombian steals the money and wife of Henriquez and runs back to his country and starts his own evangelical group. The Brazilian pastor tries to kill the Colombian. Investigation of this assassination attempt by Colombian authorities and a journalist is the main narrative in the novel.</p> <p>Santiago Gamboa has narrated the emergence of evangelical faith in the context of Colombia’s background of FARC guerillas, paramilitaries, drug trafficking, violence and crime. He has focused on the post-Peace Accord times of rehabilitation of ex-guerillas and victims of the violence. He describes in detail the way the evangelical churches operate. The Brazilian and Colombian pastors in the novel are themselves children of poverty and violence and had suffered the worst. They are naturally able to relate to the struggles of the poor masses and the victims of violence. This is in contrast to the Catholic clergy most of whom are out of touch with the reality of the poor and marginaliSed.</p> <p>The evangelical pastors exploit the believers by making them share a portion of their income as tithe. They use the churches for money laundering, making use of their privileged exemption from taxes and accountability. They network with the rich and powerful for mutual enrichment and gains. They have their own TV networks and other business ventures. Politicians provide protection to the pastors who return the favour with votes of their followers. The pro-evangelical politicians promote the agenda of the pastors in legislatures and governments.</p> <p>Latin America used to be the largest catholic region and Brazil was the largest catholic country in the world. But in the last five decades, millions of Catholics have joined the evangelical churches. In Brazil, the number of Pentecostals have increased to 46.7 million in 2020 (out of the total population of 210 million) from 6.8 million in in 1970. In the same period, Guatemala saw the Pentecostal strength reaching 2.9 million from 196,000.&nbsp; Seven countries in the region including Uruguay, the Dominican Republic and the five in Central America have non-catholics in the majority.</p> <p>This is the third novel of Gamboa I have read. The first two were: <i>Return to the Dark Valley</i> and <i>Night Prayers</i>. I like his profound analysis of the social and political issues of Colombia while narrating stories of murders and investigations filled with suspense, thrill and mystery.</p> <p><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</b><br> </p> Wed Jan 26 14:48:31 IST 2022