Books http://www.theweek.in/review/books.rss en Wed Nov 02 11:46:14 IST 2022 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html lights-wedding-ludhiana-review-ludhiana-caper-with-whiskey-wit-and-voyeurism <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/10/13/lights-wedding-ludhiana-review-ludhiana-caper-with-whiskey-wit-and-voyeurism.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/10/13/Lights-wedding-Ludhiana.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/10/13/lights-wedding-ludhiana-review-ludhiana-caper-with-whiskey-wit-and-voyeurism.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/10/13/lights-wedding-ludhiana-review-ludhiana-caper-with-whiskey-wit-and-voyeurism.html Thu Oct 13 21:28:56 IST 2022 tracing-the-genesis-and-aftermath-of-arab-uprisings <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/29/tracing-the-genesis-and-aftermath-of-arab-uprisings.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/8/29/arab-spring-book.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/29/tracing-the-genesis-and-aftermath-of-arab-uprisings.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/29/tracing-the-genesis-and-aftermath-of-arab-uprisings.html Mon Aug 29 23:05:06 IST 2022 colonial-justice-chauri-chaura-sheds-light-forgotten-incident <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/18/colonial-justice-chauri-chaura-sheds-light-forgotten-incident.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/8/18/chauri-book.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/18/colonial-justice-chauri-chaura-sheds-light-forgotten-incident.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/18/colonial-justice-chauri-chaura-sheds-light-forgotten-incident.html Thu Aug 18 10:52:50 IST 2022 our-india-captain-gopinath-essays-eminently-readable <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/17/our-india-captain-gopinath-essays-eminently-readable.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/8/17/gopinath-book.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/17/our-india-captain-gopinath-essays-eminently-readable.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/17/our-india-captain-gopinath-essays-eminently-readable.html Wed Aug 17 16:30:51 IST 2022 gold-oil-avocados-review-a-deep-dive-into-neoextractivism-latin-america <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/02/gold-oil-avocados-review-a-deep-dive-into-neoextractivism-latin-america.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/8/2/gold-oil-book.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/02/gold-oil-avocados-review-a-deep-dive-into-neoextractivism-latin-america.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/08/02/gold-oil-avocados-review-a-deep-dive-into-neoextractivism-latin-america.html Tue Aug 02 12:41:09 IST 2022 the-ace-of-shadows-review-gripping-account-of-secret-spy-operations <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/20/the-ace-of-shadows-review-gripping-account-of-secret-spy-operations.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/7/18/the-ace-of-shadows.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/20/the-ace-of-shadows-review-gripping-account-of-secret-spy-operations.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/20/the-ace-of-shadows-review-gripping-account-of-secret-spy-operations.html Wed Jul 20 20:30:23 IST 2022 the-anatomy-of-loss-review-punjabs-bitter-harvest-since-1984 <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/18/the-anatomy-of-loss-review-punjabs-bitter-harvest-since-1984.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/7/18/Cover-Anatomy-of-Loss.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/18/the-anatomy-of-loss-review-punjabs-bitter-harvest-since-1984.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/18/the-anatomy-of-loss-review-punjabs-bitter-harvest-since-1984.html Mon Jul 18 22:17:23 IST 2022 rasheed-kidwai-book-delves-deep-into-lives-50-people-influenced-politics <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/16/rasheed-kidwai-book-delves-deep-into-lives-50-people-influenced-politics.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/7/16/book-cover.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/16/rasheed-kidwai-book-delves-deep-into-lives-50-people-influenced-politics.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/16/rasheed-kidwai-book-delves-deep-into-lives-50-people-influenced-politics.html Sat Jul 16 16:35:36 IST 2022 emphasis-morals-sets-govind-dholakia-autobiography-spart <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/09/emphasis-morals-sets-govind-dholakia-autobiography-spart.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/7/9/book-cover.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/09/emphasis-morals-sets-govind-dholakia-autobiography-spart.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/07/09/emphasis-morals-sets-govind-dholakia-autobiography-spart.html Sat Jul 09 16:20:33 IST 2022 how-two-books-provide-deep-insights-air-defence-gunners-wars <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/06/29/how-two-books-provide-deep-insights-air-defence-gunners-wars.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/6/29/book-pak.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/06/29/how-two-books-provide-deep-insights-air-defence-gunners-wars.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/06/29/how-two-books-provide-deep-insights-air-defence-gunners-wars.html Wed Jun 29 16:45:26 IST 2022 review-me-and-my-mohini-attam-does-not-pretend-to-be-what-it-cant <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/06/18/review-me-and-my-mohini-attam-does-not-pretend-to-be-what-it-cant.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/6/18/Me-My-Mohini-Attam.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/06/18/review-me-and-my-mohini-attam-does-not-pretend-to-be-what-it-cant.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/06/18/review-me-and-my-mohini-attam-does-not-pretend-to-be-what-it-cant.html Sat Jun 18 19:57:40 IST 2022 combating-cancer-with-courage-faith-and-good-cheer <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/05/22/combating-cancer-with-courage-faith-and-good-cheer.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/5/22/not-cancer-survivor.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/05/22/combating-cancer-with-courage-faith-and-good-cheer.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/05/22/combating-cancer-with-courage-faith-and-good-cheer.html Sun May 22 17:22:59 IST 2022 capture-the-dream-review-dream-build-change-repeat <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/05/10/capture-the-dream-review-dream-build-change-repeat.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/5/10/leela-Krishnan-Nair.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/05/10/capture-the-dream-review-dream-build-change-repeat.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/05/10/capture-the-dream-review-dream-build-change-repeat.html Tue May 10 21:20:17 IST 2022 book-examines-how-oil-produced-venezuela-led-to-crisis <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/24/book-examines-how-oil-produced-venezuela-led-to-crisis.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/4/24/maduro-neuman.jpeg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/24/book-examines-how-oil-produced-venezuela-led-to-crisis.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/24/book-examines-how-oil-produced-venezuela-led-to-crisis.html Sun Apr 24 14:06:26 IST 2022 amde-in-india-book-rbings-out-essence-everyday-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/14/amde-in-india-book-rbings-out-essence-everyday-india.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/4/14/made-book-cover.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/14/amde-in-india-book-rbings-out-essence-everyday-india.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/14/amde-in-india-book-rbings-out-essence-everyday-india.html Thu Apr 14 15:55:24 IST 2022 the-power-of-the-ballot-comprehensive-look-indain-elections <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/12/the-power-of-the-ballot-comprehensive-look-indain-elections.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/4/12/book-cover.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/12/the-power-of-the-ballot-comprehensive-look-indain-elections.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/12/the-power-of-the-ballot-comprehensive-look-indain-elections.html Tue Apr 12 16:00:20 IST 2022 the-maverick-effect-review-a-story-of-what-india-can <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/09/the-maverick-effect-review-a-story-of-what-india-can.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/4/9/the-maverick-effect.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/09/the-maverick-effect-review-a-story-of-what-india-can.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/09/the-maverick-effect-review-a-story-of-what-india-can.html Sat Apr 09 18:54:56 IST 2022 book-review-mamata-beyond-2021 <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/07/book-review-mamata-beyond-2021.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/4/7/jayanta-ghosal-mamata.jpeg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/07/book-review-mamata-beyond-2021.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/04/07/book-review-mamata-beyond-2021.html Thu Apr 07 16:05:25 IST 2022 karunanidhi-a-life-chronicles-journey-prolofic-writer-leader <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/03/18/karunanidhi-a-life-chronicles-journey-prolofic-writer-leader.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/3/18/book-karunanidhi.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/03/18/karunanidhi-a-life-chronicles-journey-prolofic-writer-leader.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/03/18/karunanidhi-a-life-chronicles-journey-prolofic-writer-leader.html Fri Mar 18 17:03:08 IST 2022 the-10-trillion-dream-comprehensive-view-state-indian-economy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/28/the-10-trillion-dream-comprehensive-view-state-indian-economy.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/2/28/book-cover.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/28/the-10-trillion-dream-comprehensive-view-state-indian-economy.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/28/the-10-trillion-dream-comprehensive-view-state-indian-economy.html Mon Feb 28 16:15:14 IST 2022 as-far-as-the-safforn-fields-review-most-definitive-book-pulwama-attack <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/14/as-far-as-the-safforn-fields-review-most-definitive-book-pulwama-attack.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/2/14/pulwama-book-cover.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/14/as-far-as-the-safforn-fields-review-most-definitive-book-pulwama-attack.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/14/as-far-as-the-safforn-fields-review-most-definitive-book-pulwama-attack.html Mon Feb 14 19:49:18 IST 2022 contested-lands-review-razas-research-and-logical-approach-set-it-apart <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/10/contested-lands-review-razas-research-and-logical-approach-set-it-apart.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/2/10/contested-lands.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/10/contested-lands-review-razas-research-and-logical-approach-set-it-apart.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/10/contested-lands-review-razas-research-and-logical-approach-set-it-apart.html Thu Feb 10 22:34:43 IST 2022 the-savage-hills-review-gripping-war-fiction-true-incidents <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/09/the-savage-hills-review-gripping-war-fiction-true-incidents.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/2/9/the-savage-hills.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/09/the-savage-hills-review-gripping-war-fiction-true-incidents.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/09/the-savage-hills-review-gripping-war-fiction-true-incidents.html Wed Feb 09 15:35:12 IST 2022 isabel-allendes-violeta-talks-of-a-life-lived-between-two-pandemics <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/02/isabel-allendes-violeta-talks-of-a-life-lived-between-two-pandemics.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/2/2/violeta-allende-books.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/02/isabel-allendes-violeta-talks-of-a-life-lived-between-two-pandemics.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/02/02/isabel-allendes-violeta-talks-of-a-life-lived-between-two-pandemics.html Wed Feb 02 10:57:15 IST 2022 the-night-will-be-long-crime-thriller-colombia-issues <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/01/26/the-night-will-be-long-crime-thriller-colombia-issues.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/1/26/book-cover.jpg" /> <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> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/01/26/the-night-will-be-long-crime-thriller-colombia-issues.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/01/26/the-night-will-be-long-crime-thriller-colombia-issues.html Wed Jan 26 14:48:31 IST 2022 homebound-review-elegy-to-plight-india-migrant-workers-pandemic <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/01/17/homebound-review-elegy-to-plight-india-migrant-workers-pandemic.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/1/17/homebound-cover.jpg" /> <p>New-borns, children, young and aged, some slipper-clad, while some barefooted, bags of belongings, days of fighting and surviving the rain, wind, sun and the coronavirus—this is a small gist of the homeward exodus of around 11.4 million migrant workers in India in 2020. This is the journey in <i>Homebound.</i></p> <p>Home sweet home—a privilege that is repeatedly made aware as one reads the fictional debut <i>Homebound</i> by award-winning journalist Puja Changoiwala. A pandemic literature, this book is the reminiscence of the reality of many and the not-so-reality of the others. The writing is an account of the plight of India’s migrant workers during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The journey was not a choice; it was the last resort when one can see nothing but a bleak present and future of unemployment, starvation, homelessness and death in the ominous lockdown.</p> <p>The images of the dreadful journey of the migrants were splashed across the media at the time, yet the raw reality was obscured in the mainstream. The book is a homage to the millions who trudged miles to the safety of their homes.</p> <p>The multiverse of Dharavi is a pot of gold for 15-year-old Meher. Hailing from a small village Balhaar in Rajasthan, she finds “home” in the alien ghetto. Dharavi is the “factory of human spirit” and “embodies the essences of evolution”. An epistolary novel, the accounts are addressed to Ms Farah, a journalist. Beginning on April 16, 2020, the entries of the behemoth transition are recounted across 11 letters. The journey is documented sequentially, often interspersed with flashbacks and thoughts and opinions of the protagonist.</p> <p>A dystopian journey that one never wishes to be a part of, Meher and her family face many heart-wrenching hurdles in their travel. The agonising description of the migrants being drenched in bleach, their blood splattered on the railway lines, the hungry feasting of the dead dog’s flesh, the exhaustion that made them breathe their last, the inhumane stigma that forced others to quarantine them in public toilets, and the loss of silver lining that turned them to murder--all point to the deeply ingrained lack of education and the ignorance of the authorities.</p> <p>Myriad issues are tackled in the book and are at times overwhelming. From the bygone beliefs and rituals, the contrast of the haves and have-nots, religious fanaticism, communal hate, abrogation of articles 370 and 35A, child marriage, human sacrifice, to the decay of the nation’s system are all confronted by Meher.</p> <p>The instances of humour are the out-of-the-box names of the characters: proton uncle, electron aunty and neutron Sameer, and the comparisons like a conductor and insulator policemen. Changoiwala uses ample allegories. For instance, she draws a parallel between their journey and the salt march of Gandhi, though, unlike the latter, they plan to move veiled in the camouflage of the darkness. The intellectual debates of the young girl are indeed compelling questions. Sample this: “It’s not only about Saleha and her family,’ I said, voicing a discontent that has just started sprouting in me, and yet, had overpowered my being. ‘It’s about this whole exodus. When did we become so vulnerable? I never felt it my whole life. But now, it’s like they’re grabbing me by my neck, telling me that my life is insignificant, that I could die any moment, and that my death too would be as insignificant. Hundreds like us have died on their way home. Hundreds. Women turned widows, children turned orphans, fathers turned pallbearers, and mothers turned to stone.”</p> <p>The book, though written in the Indian context, can be a universal symbol for the saga of the resilience of migrants. The book reminded me of the journey of Offred from her dystopian reality in Margret Atwood’s <i>The Handmaid’s Tale</i> besides owing to the recent dilemma of migrants in Greece, France, Mexico to name a few.</p> <p>Many of the migrants reached their homes while many others departed on the way. The book points to the need for effective mobility infrastructure and to view fellow humans with dignity and empathy. Blessed with the comfort of home, the story was efficacious in making me guilty and aware of the privilege of the security that one takes for granted. The migrants are also humans. And as the author pens “to forget them again would be treason”. True.</p> <p><b>Book: Homebound</b></p> <p><b>Written by: Puja Changoiwala</b></p> <p><b>Published by: HarperCollins</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/01/17/homebound-review-elegy-to-plight-india-migrant-workers-pandemic.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/01/17/homebound-review-elegy-to-plight-india-migrant-workers-pandemic.html Mon Jan 17 15:35:26 IST 2022 the-goraphpur-hospital-tragedy-kafeel-khan-memoir-is-punch-to-the-gut <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/01/13/the-goraphpur-hospital-tragedy-kafeel-khan-memoir-is-punch-to-the-gut.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2022/1/13/kafeel-khan-book.jpg" /> <p>“Dekhta hoon tujhe…” those three ominous words were uttered by Uttar Pradesh’s then newly appointed chief minister Yogi Adityanath to Kafeel Khan, the junior most lecturer at the Department of Pediatrics at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur on August 13, 2017.</p> <p>(In the book the three words are translated to ‘I will see it’, but the more apt version would be ‘I will see you’)</p> <p>In what was then and has been since a widely reported news story, the supply of piped liquid oxygen to the medical college, ran out late evening on August 10. When supply was finally restored on 2.15 am on August 13, 63 infants and 18 adults had perished. The government has since maintained that no deaths happened due to lack of oxygen. It was a statement that would be made again in 2021, during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p><i>The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy: A Doctor’s Memoir of a Deadly Medical Crisis</i> written by Khan comes close on the heels of his termination from services in November 2021, after being suspended twice by the government. He was the only one so punished for the catastrophe.</p> <p>The book offers a detailed look at what happened on the two nights and in their aftermath. The first is a tragedy common to medical crisis in our country, the second an unfortunate coming together of political targeting, media trial and administrative apathy. In both, there is no answer to the question: who must bear responsibility.</p> <p>On August 10, Khan was on leave but chose to rush to the hospital when the message ‘There is no oxygen supply in NICU” (neonatal intensive care unit) beeped on a college WhatsApp group. The college’s principal was away on duly granted leave. The head of the paediatrics department and the acting principal, whom Khan contacted on the way to the hospital responded with “I will see” when he asked for their presence in the hospital to defuse the crisis. Over the night, other senior doctors would not receive phone calls or answer similarly.</p> <p>Khan meanwhile made efforts to procure jumbo oxygen cylinders from private hospitals. He even persuaded the local unit of the Sashastra Seema Bal to loan a truck and jawans so that the maximum number of cylinders could be picked up from wherever these were available. He even paid from his pocket for these, and at one point handed over his ATM card for money to be withdrawn to pay for cylinders and to drivers of trucks. All these personal endeavours were to prove his undoing. So would a single statement he made on the stalled oxygen supply to the the media while running inside the NICU. It was perceived as drawing too much attention to himself.</p> <p>Oxygen supply to the medical college, which serves eastern UP, and also receives patients from Bihar and Nepal had run out because payments to the vendor had not been made. The said vendor had sent reminders to the college to pay up, and in turn the college had requested the state government to release funds for the same but that had not happened. The funds that had been released had lapsed due to what would later be attributed to a ‘clerical error’. The manner of the oxygen supply itself was circuitous- with the medical college not procuring it directly from a producer but going through a third agency.</p> <p>The government and the local administration were focused more on managing the perception of the crisis, as local media had got wind of it in the morning of August 11. This cover-up of the crisis included an unfortunate address to the media by the then state’s health minister which started with, “August mein har saal bachche marte hain” (children die in August every year)- referring to the mortality rate of children in a month when the number of encephalitis cases in the region went up.</p> <p>In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Khan went from being hero to villain, with certain sections of the media pointing out that he had been part of the corruption that had held back the payment for the oxygen supply. The greater question raised on his heroics was the number of lives he could have saved by arranging just four or five cylinders. The truth was that he had arranged around 500 cylinders in 55 hours. Without these the tragedy could have been worse.</p> <p>Khan’s description of the crisis is like a gut punch, despite many of its details being known. He uses dialogue to simple but deep effect, clarifying in his notes that they are “reconstructed” to the best of his abilities. He also puts a face to the parents who lived through those harrowing nights. A couple who had children after 13 years of marriage, another who had a daughter after four sons.</p> <p>The questions that the harried parents asked then-“Can you bring back my child? Are you doctors or demons?...Who is responsible for my child’s death”- have remained unanswered.</p> <p>On September 2, Khan was arrested by the state’s Special Task Force. He spent eight months in prison before being granted bail by the High Court. Twenty days later he was re-arrested-—this time for forcibly entering a hospital to treat patients and criticising the state government whose employ he was. On January 29, 2020 he was arrested yet again for a speech given at the Aligarh Muslim University on the charge that it would disrupt communal harmony. In the interim, he was suspended twice for medical negligence, corruption and dereliction of duty. Six inquiries absolved him of the charges. One committee held him guilty of private practice—which he had carried out only before joining the BRD Medical College.</p> <p>The other chunk of Khan’s book chronicles his life inside prison, a grim picture which is given some levity by the description of fellow inmates, one a ‘mantri ji’ imprisoned for his role in the murder of a young poet.</p> <p>At one point in the book Khan laments how he, a doctor who had told parents to be observant of milestone events in the lives of their children, himself missed out on these events in his daughter’s life. It is a poignant observation.</p> <p>Throughout he writes about his family’s support for him, but also lets in a glimpse of how frustrating it was for them. He records moments of conflict on how to proceed—must one tell one’s version of events to the public or remain silent? At one point, his family was pushed to selling off household items to meet everyday and legal expenses. His younger brother was shot at in Gorakhpur- an event that was then described by some media persons as ‘staged’.</p> <p>This is an important book, not only for the light it sheds at one event but for its focus on the country’s health system. It must be translated into various languages, with a sharper eye on editorial consistencies such as the listing of sources.</p> <p>After his release from jail, Khan offered his services voluntarily in multiple states- from Assam to Kerala, noticing many common strands from the absence of routine medicines to the acceptance of preventable diseases among children. To many of us it might seem strange, as it indeed would have been to Khan who describes himself as “a relatively privileged, nonchalant person” who could not go without an air conditioner on most occasions.</p> <p>It also calls into question the role of the ‘majoritarian’ media hungry for government approval which made much of Khan being a Muslim and thus a potential terrorist and wrongdoer. As it does the role of seculars who expressed their outrage at his victimisation because of his religion. Khan himself maintains that he would have been treated in the same way, no matter what his surname.</p> <p>“I would have incurred the wrath of the authorities for actions which were thought to draw too much attention to the tragic events at the BRD Medical College…The outrage over my religion being the reason for my persecution managed to distract from the negligence and the corruption that were coming to light”, he writes.</p> <p>That those lines could have been written for any medical tragedy anywhere in the country, is as distressing as it is illuminating.</p> <p><b>Book: The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy: A Doctor's Memoir of a Deadly Medical Crisis</b></p> <p><b>Author: Kafeel Khan</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 300</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Pan Macmillan India</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/01/13/the-goraphpur-hospital-tragedy-kafeel-khan-memoir-is-punch-to-the-gut.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2022/01/13/the-goraphpur-hospital-tragedy-kafeel-khan-memoir-is-punch-to-the-gut.html Thu Jan 13 16:17:27 IST 2022 pallavi-aiyars-orienting-an-indian-in-japan-looks-beyond-cliches <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/23/pallavi-aiyars-orienting-an-indian-in-japan-looks-beyond-cliches.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/12/23/Orienting-An-Indian-in-Japan.jpg" /> <p>Globe-trotting journalist Pallavi Aiyar’s latest, <i>Orienting: An Indian in Japan</i>, is a travelogue and social commentary rolled into one, and gives a peek into life in Japan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From socialising norms in the country to tourism, and food etiquette to commentary on the bromance between former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi, from breezy accounts of her struggle to master the language to the tale of her lost wallet returning intact, Aiyar's accounts will make you laugh, chuckle and grimace. Sample this: Aiyar recalls in shock how she saw a child scream silently when he fell off the swing. She recounts how when she lamented to a friend on perfecting the grammar, her friend simply replied that the bigger problem would be learning to talk softly! And when she showed interest at a bank to apply for a credit card - an opportunity most banks would jump at - the bank politely told her that taking a credit card with them would be inconvenient for her and instead recommended a western bank!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She also touches upon kintsugi or the method of repairing broken ceramics with golden lacquer and wabi-sabi or acceptance of imperfection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It prepares the Indian traveller for the Japanese hesitancy towards human interaction; how they are sticklers for cleanliness and are, essentially, a hierarchical society. Their penchant for minimalism and disinclination to foreigners notwithstanding, the Japanese were thankful when 'Parabi-san' (Pallavi) liked authentic Japanese food and wasn’t like other foreigners.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book offers a look into Japan beyond cliches, and tries to be as intrinsic as possible in its take on Japanese culture. If you plan to head to the 'land of the rising sun', or are merely curious about it, this one's for you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: Orientation: An Indian in Japan</b></p> <p><b>Author: Pallavi Aiyar</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: HarperCollins</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 290</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 399</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/23/pallavi-aiyars-orienting-an-indian-in-japan-looks-beyond-cliches.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/23/pallavi-aiyars-orienting-an-indian-in-japan-looks-beyond-cliches.html Thu Dec 23 19:46:03 IST 2021 the-meltdown-review-a-rags-to-riches-story-in-reverse <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/20/the-meltdown-review-a-rags-to-riches-story-in-reverse.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/12/20/the-meltdown.jpg" /> <p>The latest World Inequality Report tells us what we had long suspected – that the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer. The report informs us that the top 10 per cent in India accounts for 57 per cent of the national income. What it doesn’t say is that the rich don’t rest content atop their mountains of moolah. They want more, they want to add another zero to their zillions. Some succeed in their ambitions without eyebrows or red flags being raised. It’s the ones who fail who form the riveting subject of <i>The Meltdown</i> by the husband-wife duo of Dev and Sudha Chatterjee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At this stage, a personal disclaimer is in order. Not being a rich man, and with no immediate prospect of becoming one, I must confess to getting a kick out of reading how the rich are thwarted in their plans to batten themselves. Yes, it sounds like retribution porn but I can’t help saying ‘serves ‘em right’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The Meltdown</i> unlocks a large gallery, and the rogues (for want of a better word) in it cover a wide arc. It has the garishly flamboyant Vijay Mallya whose luscious beach parties in Goa must have melted the scruples of the most conscientious bank official. At the other end of the scale, there is IL&amp;FS reclusive Ravi Parthasarthy who kept a low profile and quietly orchestrated the biggest bankruptcy in India Inc’s history. If there are first generation fraudsters, there are also young scions who must have learnt the tricks of the trade when still in the nappies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every chapter covers an implosion fuelled by avarice, the jettisoning of ethics and sometimes bad luck. Nirav Modi is on centre-stage. Also featured are Videocon’s luckless Venugopal Dhoot – at one time hailed as the head of India’s largest homegrown multinational. Then there is the combative Chanda Kochhar who, as a professional banker heading ICICI, disproved the widely held theory that it is only in family-run businesses that corporate governance is reduced to an option.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nobody is innocent in the world that <i>The Meltdown</i> depicts. For a price, bank officials will opt for negligence over diligence, and auditors as well as rating agencies will happily fall in line. If anything, it’s the Modi government that comes off with full honours. In the epilogue, the Chatterjees say that it was with the Insolvency &amp; Bankruptcy Code enacted in 2016 that the cleaning of the Augean stables began.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Senior journalist Dev Chatterjee brings the immediacy of reportage to the book. Barring the odd confidential document, the information is largely based on documents in the public domain. That could be an opportunity lost and those seeking explosive revelations could be disappointed. But the narrative speeds along with the Chatterjees at the wheel. There are certainly more scamsters around than the dozen odd talked about in this book, and they could form material for Meltdown 2.0. Till then, for all those who want to relive the scams of the last few years, this book provides the traditional rags-to-riches story in reverse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>PS: The Middle Class’s schadenfreude must perforce be curtailed. Few of the guilty go where they deserve to be – behind bars. At the end, Anil Ambani is still gamely looking for escape routes, and the chapter on R.Comm concludes with the cryptic ‘He is down but is he out?’ That could well be true for many of the others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: The Meltdown</b></p> <p><b>Author: Dev Chatterjee with Sudha Pai Chatterjee</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Rupa</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 186</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 495</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/20/the-meltdown-review-a-rags-to-riches-story-in-reverse.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/20/the-meltdown-review-a-rags-to-riches-story-in-reverse.html Mon Dec 20 21:20:30 IST 2021 shivani-sibals-equations-has-feel-of-a-thriller-sweep-of-a-family-saga <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/07/shivani-sibals-equations-has-feel-of-a-thriller-sweep-of-a-family-saga.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/12/7/shivani-sibal-equations.jpg" /> <p>There have been very few debuts that have been endorsed unanimously by all three heavyweights writers in one go—Shobha De, Shashi Tharoor and Chita Divakaruni. Even fewer live up to the high praise, but Shivani Sibal does—and—more so admirably.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Very much a one-gulp book,&nbsp;<i>Equations&nbsp;</i>quickly pulls readers into the Sikand family as Parul and Aahan Sikand as they leave the grand house built in 1946 by Rai Bahadur Manohar Krishnan Sikand. The house has been acquired by a builder and Aahan has to move out to a flat before he moves back into a diminished version of his ancestral home. The story of his changed social status is contrasted with that of Rajesh, the son of Laxman Kumar, the family driver. Rajesh is born on a rainy night in a missionary hospital late in the evening to which his mother had gone in a rickshaw so that she didn’t “soil’’ the family car.&nbsp;</p> <p>Rajesh's mother Babita, becomes the nanny, quickly bringing both the boys up—but makes sure to impart the lessons that Rajesh must always learn—subservience. It was a lesson that Rajesh learnt soon enough. It is a story told many times before—often in Bollywood—but what makes Sibal’s version remarkable is her ability to capture the difference—the snobbery, the inbuilt asymmetry—with freshness, a lightness of touch and compassion.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a powerful scene set when Rajesh was a child, he accompanied Aahan to a birthday party and got caught up in musical chairs. The competition was intense. There were only three left. Aahan, Rajesh and another boy. When the music stopped, Rajesh lunged forward to remain in the game beating Aahan. Babita wiped Aahan’s tears. The game was over soon and Rajesh lost and walked to his mother dejected only to be greeted with a stinging slap.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Rajesh absorbed his subservience to Aahan at a cellular level, his mother had communicated the benefits of this behaviour like a lesser animal might teach his young how to hunt or forage. He had known from an early age that his mother would put him down and pick up Aahan if he wanted; that he would always get to pick up which toy to play with second.’’&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Growing up close to privilege, but always an outsider, Rajesh soon finds his feet in Delhi University getting absorbed in the world of politics. It is a shifting world where Rajesh finds himself climbing up the ladder--becoming powerful, while the earlier order of privilege and elitism is on the decline.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Equations is goes back and forth in time—the book captures the lives of the Sikands, a sort of new-age Delhi Downton Abbey—with the upstairs and downstairs kind of story. Sharply observed, it is almost as if Sibal spent years notebook in hand taking notes carefully chronicling the change. Her characters—of the rich and powerful recognisable in Delhi drawing room—Nooriya, the interior designer who lives in a tiny-barsati who left her first husband and then, the object of affection of Aahan’s father, his mother, who turns a blind eye to her husband’s affair drowning her sorrows in whiskey and Maha-Maharajji, the guru of the powerful.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A Delhi novel, Sibal captures the change in the city—and the country—across the 90s and into 2016. It is also very a metaphor for a changing India. Sibal captures the class dynamics perfectly. The changing dynamics of power—of money—of politics, of class and ambition. A novel with the feel of a thriller and sweep of a family saga, Sibal’s book is fast-paced, almost breezy, yet, it chooses to tackle a difficult subject.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the best books of the year, grab it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Equations by Shivani Sibal&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Publishers: Harper Collins,&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>195 pages</b></p> <p><b>Rs 299&nbsp;</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/07/shivani-sibals-equations-has-feel-of-a-thriller-sweep-of-a-family-saga.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/07/shivani-sibals-equations-has-feel-of-a-thriller-sweep-of-a-family-saga.html Tue Dec 07 22:12:54 IST 2021 bangladesh-war-report-ground-zero-riveting-account <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/01/bangladesh-war-report-ground-zero-riveting-account.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/12/1/bangladesh-book-cover.jpg" /> <p>India is celebrating the golden jubilee of its military's success in liberating Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. Both India and Bangladesh are organising several events to mark the occasion.</p> <p>The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, also known as the Muktijuddho, was a result of the total alienation of the Bengalis of East Pakistan from the non-Bengalis of the West, setting off a violent political upheaval in the eastern unit of the country. It ultimately led to the formation of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.</p> <p>The first-hand account of the Liberation War has been written by Manash Ghosh, former journalist of <i>The Statesman</i>. The author, then a mere cub reporter, had predicted the coming of the war as early as in January 1971 by writing an article in the Sunday Statesman titled ‘When Brother meets Brother’. Ghosh was the first foreign journalist to enter erstwhile East Pakistan to report the mayhem that the Pakistan military had unleashed on unarmed Bengalis while executing 'Operation Searchlight.'</p> <p>When the conflict started, he was one of the very few Indian journalists who covered the epochal event from the very beginning until the final surrender by the Pakistan military in Khulna on December 17. Pakistan brigade commander Brigadier Hyat Khan, who justified the fierce battle in Khulna where he and his men had put up had told Major General Dalbir Singh (Indian army) that he was given the 'wrong impression' by Dacca's Eastern Command that American 7th fleet would come to his brigade's rescue and evacuate its men. When he found that the American fleet had begun steaming away from the bay, it was pointless to continue the fight.</p> <p>To witness the Pakistani surrender on December 16, the author was embedded with the 9th mountain division led by Major General Dalbir Singh. The author also described the Indian army's masterstroke to outflank the heavily defended Pakistani positions by surrounding them and forcing them to surrender. The IAF's rocket attack on the Governor's House in Dacca on December 14, forced Governor Abdul Malek to seek refuge in a Red Cross camp. Overnight, the scene changed dramatically.</p> <p>The fast-paced Indian advance, coupled with Mukti Bahini's daring assault on Pakistani positions around Decca, robbed the Pakistanis of their will to fight.</p> <p>The highlight of the book is the narrative of how Bangabandhu, impelled by the ruling military junta's exploitative and discriminatory policies towards the Bengali people, evolved the Bengali mindset for waging a Muktijuddho for their independence. It gradually inspired them to wage a liberation war with Indian help and win freedom. Having gone deep inside East Pakistan to cover the liberation war and being on good terms with sector commanders of the Mukti Bahini and senior Awami League leaders, the author provides many hitherto unknown facts which add a different dimension to this book.</p> <p>The book talks about how Indian generals like Shahbeg Singh and Sujan Singh Oban, who raised and trained the Mukti Bahini, transformed in a matter of weeks thousands of unlettered Bengali youth, mostly from the peasant stock, into highly motivated and much-dreaded guerrilla fighters who struck terror in the hearts of the Pakistan military.</p> <p><b>Title: Bangladesh War: Report from Ground Zero</b></p> <p><b>Author: Manash Ghosh</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Niyogi Books</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 209</b></p> <p><b>Price: 695</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/01/bangladesh-war-report-ground-zero-riveting-account.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/12/01/bangladesh-war-report-ground-zero-riveting-account.html Wed Dec 01 16:52:56 IST 2021 mridula-ramesh-watershed-delves-deeply-india-relationship-water <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/24/mridula-ramesh-watershed-delves-deeply-india-relationship-water.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/11/24/watershed-mridula.jpg" /> <p>It is often said that if climate change is a shark, water is its teeth. Mridula Ramesh's book, <i>Watershed</i>, delves deeply into India's relationship with water, be it with its many rivers or its unique monsoon system. She discusses how the people who valued water, and had so many to means to store and conserve it, are today in a situation of water stress.<br> <br> The book may sound like reference material for research, but it is actually many books rolled into one. It is a travelogue, as it takes the reader from the deserts of Rajasthan to the wettest spot on earth, Meghalaya. It is a historical read as it jumps from one millennium to another. At one point, Ramesh has taken us back in time to the Indus Valley Civilisation; at another, we join her in unravelling the various layers of Delhi's history, till we finally discover Anangtal Baoli, supposed to be Delhi's oldest step well. The Baoli in Meherauli Archaeological Park is obscured by a “battlefield of garbage”, a telling image of how India's relationship with water has changed from reverence and respect to shabby disregard and insult. &nbsp;<br> <br> Ramesh, founder of Sundaram Climate Institute which focuses on water and water solutions and education, points towards the British colonising of India as the point in time when the country's relationship with water began changing. Deforestation, changing crop patterns, and a slew of “improved'' technologies introduced then continued, and worsened, post-independence leading to the present-day crisis when borewells have sucked out the last drop of moisture from the bottom of the water table and when piped water in the national capital reeks of ammonia. She writes how an Indian's personal relationship with water is telling about the individual's economic status. She writes: For the rich, water is peripheral. In the middle sections of society, water becomes important during summer or during a drought. For the poor, life revolves around water. Will it come? When? How much?<br> <br> The book is written in an interesting manner. Water, naturally, is not a dry subject. Ramesh, however, makes it dance in a myriad way to her narrative. Her chapters are replete with anecdotes, sometimes personal, often some nuggets from history that are largely unknown. She writes about Partition, when Cyril Radcliffe came to cut up the country. As he looked at the Punjab, he suggested that perhaps the canals and fields they irrigated should be treated separately. Jinnah reportedly told him to get on with his job, he would rather have Pakistan deserts than fertile fields watered by courtesy of Hindus. Nehru showed equal disdain, telling Radcliffe that what India did with India's rivers was India's business.<br> <br> The result was two countries--one which has the headwaters of the main rivers that drained the land across the border. One country looked helplessly at the control the other had over its waters, the latter looked enviously at the green fields these waters were nurturing. The Indus Water Treaty was signed only in 1960. “Would India have agreed so readily to this sharing of waters if it had not needed to be in the World Bank's good books? Or Indians had not grown used to eating wheat rather than millets. If ever there was a lesson for living within one's water endowment and financial budget, this was it, she says. “But the deed was done..... neutering any hydrological discipling tool that India possessed.''&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: Watershed<br> Author: Mridula Ramesh<br> Publisher: Hachette<br> Pages: 415<br> Price: Rs 699</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/24/mridula-ramesh-watershed-delves-deeply-india-relationship-water.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/24/mridula-ramesh-watershed-delves-deeply-india-relationship-water.html Thu Nov 25 16:19:37 IST 2021 cbi-tales-from-the-big-eye-an-insiders-account-of-agencys-successes-and-failures <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/20/cbi-tales-from-the-big-eye-an-insiders-account-of-agencys-successes-and-failures.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/india/cbi-logo-afp-760.jpg" /> <p>Can the CBI fly like a fearless eagle or has it resigned to its fate of being a caged parrot? Shantonu Sen, former joint director in CBI, is an optimistic detective. He has spent 33 long years in the bureau where he witnessed the decline in its stature courtesy the power of political influence. At the same time, he saw fairly decent investigations by sleuths coming to a naught because the bureau was wedged between the courts and the administration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Predictably enough, his selection of a dozen tales in his latest book <i>CBI Tales from The Big Eye</i>, is not all about accomplishments of a professional sleuth but provides insights into what makes the system tick or stop ticking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sen's latest book is an explosive mix of corruption, cheating and forgery impacting big investigations, taking the agency through a cycle of successes and failures, before the eagle’s flight got limited between North Block and the courts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sen had eagle eyes in investigations. As an insider in the anti-corruption agency, his narration is gripping and insightful for the layman to understand how the arms of the law work and why it fails to work at times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A small tale of an act of circumvention by the CBI is one such story with all the elements of high drama.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This was when terrorism in Punjab was at its fag end in 1987. Three years after assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi, a bloodbath had been unleashed, the repercussions of which were felt for many unfortunate years. Sen says a British citizen of Indian origin, a former member of the House of Commons and a confidante of then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, was in jail in Srinagar.</p> <p>Sen and his team had found his activities were encouraging terrorist crimes in the border state. According to Sen, there was enough evidence to prosecute him under the anti-terrorist laws.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One day, then CBI director Mohan G. Katre directed him to meet the minister of internal security. When Sen met him, the issue at hand being discussed with the home secretary present in his room was how to drop the charges against the don. Between the two prime ministers, the decision to free the British subject had been taken.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sen goes on to explain how the CBI director manoeuvred his way not to use his office to drop the charges. The catch was that the CBI could not close the case on the ground that there was no material to prosecute him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Clearly, the minister was not seeking any answer. He wanted a failsafe operation,” writes Sen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sen was put on the job. After pacing up and down in the North Block, Sen hit upon an idea. The CBI could act on the advice of the home secretary. The JK chief secretary had to be kept in loop and between the two babus the decision had to be conveyed to the CBI. The book explains how the British national was finally put on a direct flight from Delhi to Heathrow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sen’s book is a storehouse of many such tales explaining why the CBI has not been able to break its shackles. His earlier books—<i>A CBI Insider Speaks</i> and <i>CBI and Corruption</i>—have cited many other notable cases where investigation acumen, teamwork and fearlessness were displayed by officers of CBI. Sen is definitely one of them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>CBI Tales from The Big Eye</b></p> <p><b>Author: Shantonu Sen</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Notion Press Media Pvt Ltd</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 145</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/20/cbi-tales-from-the-big-eye-an-insiders-account-of-agencys-successes-and-failures.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/20/cbi-tales-from-the-big-eye-an-insiders-account-of-agencys-successes-and-failures.html Sat Nov 20 23:06:25 IST 2021 being-me-review-a-personal-account-that-will-resonate-with-many-readers <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/17/being-me-review-a-personal-account-that-will-resonate-with-many-readers.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/11/17/being-me-book.jpg" /> <p>Don't judge a book by its cover, they say. We take it a step forward and say, don't judge the content by the style.</p> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Being Me</i> is written in a rather flippant style, which makes it initially appear as the breezy journey of an urban woman through two important stages of life—marriage and motherhood.</p> <p>Tucked into the conversational, and often irreverent vocabulary, however, is pain, too. The pain of pending infertility that a uterine tuberculosis portended. The decision of quitting a career in favour of motherhood, the trials and tribulations of raising children, and also finding her own space and identity, in a new career. Identifiable, isn't it?<br> </p> <p>Kshipra Bhandari Narain's is a personal account, and there are no surprises in store for the reader on the next page. It is a regular journey through a phase of life, with expected stumbles and shocks.</p> <p>She writes almost as if she is thinking aloud, holding a conversation with herself. It is a style faintly reminiscent of Helen Fielding's <i>Bridget Jones's Diary</i>. That, however, was fiction, this is real life.</p> <p>Narain also tries her hand at some poetry, interspersing her distracted prose. The style perhaps reflects the author's own conflicting emotions, as, in between the packed day of a mother of two, she questions her life choices, and then, later on, takes baby steps towards a new career.</p> <p>This book, in a sense, is a cathartic experience for her. Somewhere during the eight-year journey, she's found a new faith—in Buddha—new confidence in her abilities, and, certainly, contentment.</p> <p>Sample this: <i>And I am topsy turvy in love with where I am right now. I wouldn't trade anything in the world for this situation. My perplexities. My dizziness. My family. My work. My complexities, My ecstacies. Eventually, it all falls in place.</i></p> <p>Narain's work may not rank very high on literary merit, in fact, there are many improvements she could make in her style and vocabulary. Yet, the work will find resonance with many readers—women in their 30s who are faced with choices that are not really choices. For, every choice comes with a price.</p> <p>Narain also presents a fleeting, but an empathetic glimpse into the man's mind. If marriage and parenting are life-changing experiences for her, then her Mr Macho, too, has had his life changed.</p> <p><br> <b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Being Me... A Woman In Progress 24x7</b><br> </p> <p>By Kshipra Bhandari Narain</p> <p>Published by Vishwakarma Publishers</p> <p>Price Rs 280, pages 211</p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/17/being-me-review-a-personal-account-that-will-resonate-with-many-readers.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/17/being-me-review-a-personal-account-that-will-resonate-with-many-readers.html Wed Nov 17 15:54:58 IST 2021 the-perfect-outside-fable-like-with-some-light-philosophy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/17/the-perfect-outside-fable-like-with-some-light-philosophy.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/11/17/book-cover.jpg" /> <p>This is a charming, utterly guileless book by a writer who seems to revel in wearing his heart on his sleeve and setting his gaze on the stars. In <i>The Perfect Outside, </i>Rohit Trilokekar takes us on a philosophic trip to places where both angels and fools would fear to tread. But in he goes blithely and bravely for so charged is he with his mission that he backs himself against all comers, quibblers and critics.</p> <p>Like all good fables, this one has animals and birds as the principal cast – a parrot rendered flightless, an indolent cat and towards the end, a cow. They have human feelings. Alas, they also have human failings–they talk too much, and even <i>alasser</i>, they think too much. Much of this thinking revolves around re-examining concepts we thought had been done and dusted long ago. To those not prone to philosophy, questions like ‘where do we belong’ and ‘what is home’ are not easy to stomach. They unsettle us and rock the boat on which we are, at the best of times, precariously poised. But Trilokekar ensures that the unwelcome does not descend into the unpalatable.</p> <p>Fable-like, the plot of <i>The Perfect Outside</i> is elemental. The unlikely duo of parrot and cat are fed up with their lives respectively inside and outside a cage and decide to explore the real ‘outside’. The creatures move slowly and they don’t get far. Unfortunately neither does the story. Sometimes when the crosstalk goes on and on, page after page, the ‘outside’, ‘inside’ refrain begins to get to you, and even the most mild-mannered amongst us is pushed to snapping back: pray what about ‘front side’, ‘backside’.</p> <p>But you can count on Trilokekar to rev up flagging interest with some 24-carat insights. Sample these: ‘There is always something wanting even in people who have everything.’ Or that an individual seems happy ‘to come back to the very place (he) had been itching to leave’. The ironies and intellectual debates are leavened with humour – often of such an unexpected nature that one wonders if the joke was unintentional. For instance, the owner of the cat is solicitous enough to open not just his heart to his pet but also his washroom. He tells her in all solemnity: ‘This toilet is always open to you.’ Obviously, Eric Segal needs updating – Love means never having to use a separate potty.</p> <p><a name="Bookmark" id="Bookmark"></a>Years ago, a man called T.S. Eliot had said: “And the end of all our exploring, Will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time”.Trilokekar’s pets return to where they started and discover truths they had hidden from themselves the first time around. Are the answers satisfactory? Well, I doubt if any existential question can have an answer that carries a full money-back guarantee. But it is an interesting exploration, and for readers who prefer their philosophy skimmed and light, ‘<i>The Perfect Outside</i>’ offers a lot to like.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Book: The Perfect Outside</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: 1889 Books, U.K.</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 226</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 499</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/17/the-perfect-outside-fable-like-with-some-light-philosophy.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/17/the-perfect-outside-fable-like-with-some-light-philosophy.html Wed Nov 17 14:45:57 IST 2021 a-guide-to-the-mind <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/15/a-guide-to-the-mind.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/11/15/mental-dis-and-you.jpg" /> <p><a name="_GoBack" id="_GoBack"></a> In 1974, after post-graduate studies, Dr Arun Rukadikar and his wife, Dr Mary Ponnaiya Rukadikar, re-established the Department of Psychiatry at Wanless Hospital and Miraj Medical College, Miraj, which had remained closed for ten years.</p> <p>What struck them was the time it took the patients’ relatives to come to them after the mental illness had started—often two to three or even more years. The relatives had not realised that the patients were suffering from mental disorders, which could be treated scientifically. That is how the doctors decided to hold a weekly group meeting for the family members of their patients. They wanted to dispel doubts, misconceptions and superstitions about the disorders.</p> <p>Many of the relatives started finding the meetings interesting, as for the first time, they were about to understand why the patients behaved the way they did. They requested the Rukadikars to compile the information they were imparted into a mental health handbook, which would be useful for them. That is how the first edition of this book’s Marathi version was published in 1987. Twenty years later, the English version, <i>Mental Disorders and YOU</i>, was published and earlier this year, a revised second edition of the book came out.</p> <p><i>Mental Disorders and YOU</i> is an important book because if you are a mental health patient or the relative of one, chances are you did not have any resources to refer to understand what you were going through and to take informed decisions regarding the treatment. This is the vacuum that this book aims to fill. Another important factor is that in India, there is a big gap between the availability of professional psychiatric help and the number of psychiatric patients. According to one survey (cited in the book), there are an estimated 15 crore psychiatric patients in India currently, and only 7,000 to 9,000 mental health professionals. In such a scenario, families of patients are often the first and, many times, only level of care for the mentally ill. This book will be of immense help to the families to take active and well-informed decisions.</p> <p>Also, the pandemic has brought mental health issues once again to the fore. Fear of contracting the infection, social distancing and consequent isolation, uncertainty of survival and deaths of family members have wreaked havoc in the minds of many Indians. “Considering the magnitude of the problem, information about what factors determine who will develop acute stress reaction (or disorder) or PTSD following exposure to trauma could play an important role in reducing the negative, long-term consequences of extreme stress, including various mental disorders and enduring personality change in sufferers,” write the Rukadikars.</p> <p>The book is condensed wisdom from the Rukadikars’ decades of experience treating mental illness. They are both highly qualified doctors; Dr Arun was senior house-officer at the Department of Psychiatry at CMC, Vellore in 1969 and did his MD in Psychiatry from King George’s Medical College, Lucknow, from 1972 to 1974. Dr Mary did her MBBS from CMC Vellore and her diploma in psychological medicine from NIMHANS from 1973 to 1975.</p> <p><i>Mental Disorders and YOU</i> is divided into 26 chapters and covers a gamut of mental illnesses from mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety and fear related disorders, stress disorders, eating disorders, conditions related to sexual health, personality disorders, autism, addiction, epilepsy and other neurocognitive disorders and disorders associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Each disorder is dealt with in detail, with case studies, description of types, symptoms, incidence and prevalence in the general population, modes of treatment and frequently asked questions. These are explained not just through text, but also through the use of graphs and illustrations, which enliven the information.</p> <p>The Rukadikars’ approach to medicine is holistic and contemporary. The book need not be restricted to helping mentally ill people or their families; it can be a good guide for anyone desiring to lead a healthy lifestyle, with its stress on factors like generosity, exercise and meditation. The language is simple and easy for a layman to understand. The only grouse is that the excellent information the book provides could have been packaged in a more attractive and lively layout and design. But don’t let its thickness deter you; if you have any experience with mental illness, you will realise that it is worth its weight.</p> <p><b><i>Book: Mental Disorders and YOU</i></b></p> <p><b><i>Authors: Arun Rukadikar and Dr Mary Ponnaiya Rukadikar</i></b></p> <p><b><i>Price: Rs. 900</i></b></p> <p><b><i>Pages: 836</i></b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/15/a-guide-to-the-mind.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/11/15/a-guide-to-the-mind.html Mon Nov 15 18:27:31 IST 2021 valli-nilgiri-adventure-comic-book-kids-spreads-awareness <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/10/19/valli-nilgiri-adventure-comic-book-kids-spreads-awareness.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/10/19/nilgiri-book-review.jpg" /> <p>Children's books that come in the educational category, or those which carry a message, tend to be preachy. <i>Valli's Nilgiri Adventures</i>, however, steers clear of taking any moral high ground, even as it opens the readers' knowledge vista to the teeming wildlife of the Nilgiris, situated in the Western Ghats.</p> <p>Set in a graphic novel format, the book is aimed for young schoolgoers—the section that would read Enid Blyton's <i>Magic Faraway Tree</i>. It simply tells the story of a group of schoolchildren who go on an excursion to the Mukurthi National Park. It builds up the pre-depature excitement, the anticipation of the students about the things they will see. Then it skilfully veers the narrative to these animals, and their uniqueness. The readers also get to meet the native inhabitants of the Nilgiris, the Todas, as the schoolchildren chance upon a Toda village and are fascinated by their interesting looking huts and colourful shawls. Locals and visitors together explore a little more, and find another native species—&nbsp;the Nilgiri Marten—hidden away in the branches.</p> <p>The book is easy to read even though it is loaded with information. The illustrations are pretty and colourful. The message of environmental awareness, and therefore, the need to conserve this unique spot on earth is driven in very subtly. The book is part of WWF India's environmental education division and is available in Tamil also. It makes for good individual reading, and it could also be used as a teaching aid.</p> <p><b>Title: Valli's Nilgiri Adventures</b></p> <p><b>Authors: Arthy Muthanna Singh and Mamta Nainy</b></p> <p><b>Illustrator: Aniruddha Mukherjee</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: World Wide Fund for Nature</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 52</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/10/19/valli-nilgiri-adventure-comic-book-kids-spreads-awareness.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/10/19/valli-nilgiri-adventure-comic-book-kids-spreads-awareness.html Tue Oct 19 16:31:09 IST 2021 the-house-scindias-higly-engrossing-tale-family <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/10/09/the-house-scindias-higly-engrossing-tale-family.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/10/9/scindia-book.jpg" /> <p>Power, wealth, palace intrigue, family relationships marred by mistrust and political differences, a matriarch and her only son, the heir, falling apart, sibling rivalry and protracted legal battles over property, a retelling of the recent history of the Scindias has all this and much more.</p> <p>Senior journalist Rasheed Kidwai, a noted chronicler of contemporary politics, has in his book <i>The House of Scindias – A Saga of Power, Politics and Intrigue</i> provided a highly engrossing tale of the family, its internal dynamics and the impact that it has left on Indian polity.</p> <p>The anecdote-rich narration irreverently throws light on the erstwhile royal family's attempts to showcase its former regal influence through pomp and show and contrasts it with the time during Emergency when it did not have money to even pay the salary of the palace staff in Gwalior.</p> <p>The book carries a telling description of how a part of the Gwalior royal household was transported to the UK in 1954 at the time of the birth of Yashodhara Raje Scindia, prompting the British media to call it 'George's Circus'.</p> <p>Yashodhara was born in London while Jiwajirao Scindia was visiting the UK. Gynaecologists, nurses, ADCs, guards, cooks, personal attendants and even dogs were brought to London so that Vijaya Raje and the royal couple's older children could feel at home. “Although they had officially ceased to be monarchs, they still lived the opulent lives of the royalty, and the term George's Circus was repeatedly used, not for their wealth but for the pomp and show that went into flaunting that wealth,” writes Kidwai.</p> <p>In contrast, as Vasundhara Raje is quoted as stating, during the Emergency, when the family did not have money to even pay the salary of the palace staff in Gwalior, it had to sell off old tents and pieces of silver that had still not been seized.</p> <p>The book does delve on what is probably the most talked about aspect about the family – the rift between the late Vijaya Raje and Madhavrao Scindia. It looks at different sources pointing out different reasons and timelines for the matriarch and the royal heir parting ways. According to some, the rift between Vijaya Raje and Madhavrao could be traced back to 1972, the year he wanted to opt out of his mother's party, the Jana Sangh, and join the Congress instead.</p> <p>On the other hand, some of the surviving members of the Scindia family accept that the rift between Vijaya Raje and Madhavrao dates back to before the June 1975 declaration of the Emergency. It is believed that Madhavrao deeply resented the influence that Sardar Sambhajirao Angre, the first cousin of his father Jivajirao, and a confidant of Vijaya Raje, had on her. He strongly felt that the Scindia's wealth was being spent recklessly on politics.</p> <p>Vijaya Raje, the book claims, blamed Madhavrao's wife Madhviraje for the family rift. “He was a sterling boy. He used to pick up my shoes in front of everybody. But his wife could not bear his proximity to me. So she caused the rift. She is extremely greedy and ambitious. People hate her,” she is recalled as having stated.</p> <p>Kidwai recounts the 1984 Lok Sabha election, when Rajiv Gandhi fielded Madhavrao from Gwalior against Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Vijaya Raje campaigned against her son. Madhavrao had reportedly told Rajiv that if Vajpayee got wind of the strategy, he would possibly shift to another constituency. This was a time when Madhavrao wanted to prove a point to the Queen Mother by putting to test which way the voters in Gwalior would sway. The plan was kept a secret, and a dummy candidate was put up from Gwalior. Madhavrao dramatically turned up in the office of the returning officer in Gwalior an hour and a half before the deadline. Vajpayee was stunned. Vijaya Raje's campaigning proved to be inconsequential. Vajpayee lost Gwalior by 1,75,000 votes.</p> <p>If it was hurt and mistrust that defined Vijaya Raje's relationship with Madhavrao, in the case of Vasundhara Raje, she blamed herself for her doomed marriage to Hemant Singh, the prince of Dholpur in Rajasthan.</p> <p>Just a few months after the birth of their son Dushyant, Hemant had abruptly deserted Vasundhara in Dholpur. He took away with him as much of his moveable possessions as he could cram into a fleet of lorries – carpets, silver, clocks, expensive crockery and wall decorations of Chinese porcelain – leaving behind his wife, his newborn heir and his hauntingly beautiful palace. Vijaya Raje, blaming herself for the failed marriage of her daughter, kept trying throughout the latter part of the 1970s to take responsibility for her life by introducing her to politics, the book recollects.</p> <p><b>The House of Scindias – A Saga of Power, Politics and Intrigue</b></p> <p><b>By Rasheed Kidwai</b></p> <p><b>240 pages</b></p> <p><b>Price – Rs 395</b></p> <p><b>Publisher – Lotus Roli</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/10/09/the-house-scindias-higly-engrossing-tale-family.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/10/09/the-house-scindias-higly-engrossing-tale-family.html Sat Oct 09 16:50:32 IST 2021 blinkers-off-how-will-world-copunter-china-review-refreshing <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/10/06/blinkers-off-how-will-world-copunter-china-review-refreshing.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/10/6/book-cover.jpg" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the last few years, there have been several books written about China—its rise, the dangers to the world its poses, ways to counter it. Gaurie Dwivedi's offering is the latest in this range. Yet, it is a refreshing take on the subject, and written in an easy manner, with no chapter being more than a few pages long.</p> <p>Dwivedi argues that the global scenario is no longer a repeat of the Cold War times. For one, China is much more powerful than the erstwhile USSR, with its economic might, military capabilities and influence across continents, mainly Asia and Africa. For another, the US is not at the peak of its power, as it was during the end of the Cold War, thus the US need allies.</p> <p>She writes about how China reached its present state, building up its capacities quietly, following the Deng Xioping's doctrine of hide your capacities and bide your time. Its decade of assertiveness was 2010-2020, by when it began avenging its century of humiliation, and taking over territory in the South China sea in complete contravention to existing laws. China today has territorial issues with many of its neighbours. It chose, however, to cultivate Pakistan as part of its Contain India policy, tapping the economic vulnerability of Pakistan to do so. Dwivedi notes that last year when the world was in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, China smartly made its moves, taking on India territoriality and Japan on the seas.</p> <p>Noting the dangers of the rise of China, which has cornered most of the global market, Dwidevi suggests that the world needs to change its approach in several ways. While the United Nations itself needs to reflect modern day realities, countries also need to realign themselves, shedding aside age old rivalries like the ones existing between Japan and Korea.</p> <p>There is a clarity of thorough and good arguments which makes this book readable.</p> <p><b>Title: Blinkers Off: How Will the World Counter China</b></p> <p><b>Author: Gaurie Dwivedi</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Pentagon Press</b></p> <p><b>Pages 239</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 795</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/10/06/blinkers-off-how-will-world-copunter-china-review-refreshing.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/10/06/blinkers-off-how-will-world-copunter-china-review-refreshing.html Wed Oct 06 16:36:17 IST 2021 resonating-ripples-vibrant-poetry-collection-testifies-to-resilience-of-human-spirit <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/09/27/resonating-ripples-vibrant-poetry-collection-testifies-to-resilience-of-human-spirit.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/9/27/resonating-ripples-major-pran-koul.jpg" /> <p>To enrich one's poetic craft, one has to extend themselves beyond the sole act of writing poetry. Major General Pran Koul's long and illustrious career serving the country has given him a large terrain of themes to dip into for his poems.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>And his love for ghazals, shayari and the Urdu language has only nurtured the cadences of a righteous poet who can &quot;set things right.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Early in his debut poetry collection,&nbsp;<i>Resonating Ripples</i>, General Koul quotes a New Thought minister called Micheal Bernard Beckwith: &quot;Creation is always happening. Every time an individual has a thought, or a prolonged chronic way of thinking, they are in the creation process. Something is going to manifest out of these thoughts.&quot; So too with Koul's prolonged exposure to heart-rending stories from the land of his birth, Kashmir. Manifesting the stream of deeply churning events as poetic disclosures was inevitable.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The reality of exile always finds expression in literature and poetry, especially in the 20th century when the Indian subcontinent witnessed at least four major waves of forced migration. The mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the late 1980s is one of them. In a deeply moving poem written ten years ago, titled &quot;Murmur From The Heart of An Exile&quot;, Koul writes:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Where has he hidden himself<br> after denuding the garden off his Bahar?<br> Where trees now emit sparks; gone is the charm of the soothing Chinar?&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are poems on borders recalling and transcending the horrors of Partition. &quot;In Who Laid the Barbed Wire&quot;, the birds mightily dismiss human follies with their soaring march across mad-made divisions.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;It gives me a dirty look<br> flies across and yells<br> devoid of any fear<br> 'I don't care for your barbed wire,<br> I don't care for your barbed wire,&quot;.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Koul is credited with surveying the first Indian map in Antartica in 1991 and, fittingly, there's an ode to the &quot;distant icy land&quot; near the South Pole called Antarctica Warriors. The journey to get there from Goa aboard the mighty MS Thuleland is described in vivid detail.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;At length, the sun was seen once again<br> the sea wore the look of a bride.<br> Floating icebergs, like pearls, well spread all over, embellished its sparkling bare chest<br> Thus it put all fears to rest!&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Major General Pran Koul has previously authored &quot;The Silence Speaks,&quot; a memoir which touches upon his journey from the quaint streets of Sopore in Kashmir to the corridors of GHQ, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. His historic official assignments have taken him to Antarctica, USA, Russia, China, Pakistan and Bhutan. His fruitful, rewarding professional life is mirrored in his poems in the way they adopt a tenor which is sensitive and wise. And always forward-looking. In spite of the mayhem and the bloodshed, there is no sense of fatalism or defeatist resignation. </p> <p>In &quot;She Didn't Sigh Nor Did She Cry&quot; Koul recounts in poignant verse, the steely response of a young widow after her soldier-husband's body is flown home in a coffin.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;She stood frozen till she heard her daughter's creak<br> a knee-jerk reaction and she pulled herself up,<br> for, the child was scheduled for an exam in the school.<br> The brave heart sent the little one to face her greatest test, she made the coffin to rest,<br> until the daffodil returned from school.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her beautiful poem, perhaps a love lyric, the poet negotiates a long, dark night to meet his beloved despite the many &quot;bars&quot; that need to be broken and the &quot;scars&quot; that need healing.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;All seems well, all in place,<br> all that matters for the night,<br> I have pledged,<br> I have pledged to reach her this night.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Resonating Ripples, readers are also gifted with a bittersweet short story, &quot;An Earthen Cup of Homemade Curd,&quot; which envelopes themes of friendship, community, love and loss in a heartbreaking display of how circumstances intervene to rip apart the purest of communions and turn the tables on the victor and the vanquished. But also how time heals and redeems, that some alliances forged in childhood will always be rocksteady. It's another expression of poetic justice. </p> <p>Ultimately, this vibrant poetry collection is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit which always lets darkness guide oneself to the light. As Koul himself prefaces in a poem called &quot;The Power of Night&quot;: When I get lost, it is the darkness that guides me by its unseen light.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Resonating Ripples</b></p> <p><b>BlueRose Publishers</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 215</b></p> <p><b>Price: 245</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/09/27/resonating-ripples-vibrant-poetry-collection-testifies-to-resilience-of-human-spirit.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/09/27/resonating-ripples-vibrant-poetry-collection-testifies-to-resilience-of-human-spirit.html Mon Sep 27 22:18:08 IST 2021 search-for-mughal-murals-and-other-such-adventures-in-roda-ahluwalias-new-book <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/09/10/search-for-mughal-murals-and-other-such-adventures-in-roda-ahluwalias-new-book.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/9/10/mughal-art.jpg" /> <p>The Mughals left behind a grand legacy of cultural activity that has inspired succeeding generations. In January 2017, it inspired a two-day seminar held at the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute in Mumbai. This seminar resulted in a volume of 13 engaging and well-researched articles titled ‘Reflections on Mughal Art and Culture’, edited by Roda Ahluwalia.&nbsp;</p> <p>In her introduction, she writes “The premise of the seminar was to express ideas already germinating in scholarly minds, therefore a broad canvas of subject matter was offered across the Mughal spectrum, to enable participants to write on almost any subject they wished to research.” The book holds true to these words. It touches upon an impressive range of Mughal arts, including miniatures, murals, gardens, lapidary arts and much more. Each article is brilliantly edited, keeping the tone academic but light. It is also a treasure trove of beautiful illustrations that are sure to enthral the reader.</p> <p>An interesting article in the book is about Subhash Parihar’s search for what at first seem to be elusive Mughal murals. He states that there are but a few surviving examples of figurative murals in Mughal architecture. This is not because of the lack of patronage (which Parihar argues was abundant despite the very nature of Islamic art) but because of the vagaries of time that have left their mark on the old buildings.</p> <p>According to Parihar, some figurative murals were extant about four decades ago. For example, journalist K. Thomas identified inside the gateway of Arab Sarai at Nizamuddin, a portrait of the Holy Family—Mary, Joseph and Jesus. These paintings have vanished today, leaving no trace of the multi-denominational art that decorated those walls.&nbsp;</p> <p>Parihar substantiates his work by referring to the accounts of travellers like Jerome Xavier who mentions in his work that Jahangir ordered his artists to prepare large-sized sketches for wall-paintings and to consult the Catholic priests on the sartorial choices of Christian figures. The most interesting takeaway from the article is Parihar’s study of Mughal miniatures focusing on figurative murals painted during the Mughal period. He spots these murals in manuscripts from the Baburnama and Anwar-i Suhayli, as well as folios from the Akbarnama and Windsor Padshanama. This creates a richly illustrated section, which offers us a glimpse of the beautiful murals that may have existed in Mughal India, but are now lost to time.</p> <p>Another interesting work is Gülru Necipoğlu’s work on Transregional Connections. She challenges the assumptions that architecture of the Ottomans, Safavids and the Mughals has evolved in an unmediated fashion. The three empires had a common Turko-Mongol and Persianate Islamic heritage and later transformed this heritage to accommodate local architectural traditions. She determines iconic building types for each empire for dynastic self-representation, and emphasises the relationship between empire building and architecture. For example, in the Mughal empire the primary architectural type was that of funerary complexes set in elaborate gardens. According to Necipoğlu, this was because the Mughals preferred an “inclusive building type that was not limited to Muslims, but rather accommodated multi-faith and multi-gender dynastic ceremonies”.&nbsp;</p> <p>Like Parihar and Necipoğlu’s works, each article in the book is extremely insightful and well-presented with helpful endnotes and an extensive bibliography. Whether it is Kavita Singh’s work on the discrepancies between text and art in Mughal chronicles, or Laura E. Parodi challenging the ‘charbagh/paradisiacal narrative’, the massive amount of research and investigation that went into this book is evident in every page. Most importantly this book is suitable even for novices in the field of Art History as it lays out an effective lesson on how to look, describe and interpret art.</p> <p><b>Title: Reflections on Mughal Art and Culture</b></p> <p><b>Author: Roda Ahluwalia</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Niyogi Books</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 340</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs. 3000</b></p> <p>(<i>The reviewer is gallery associate at CSMVS Museum, Mumbai</i>)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/09/10/search-for-mughal-murals-and-other-such-adventures-in-roda-ahluwalias-new-book.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/09/10/search-for-mughal-murals-and-other-such-adventures-in-roda-ahluwalias-new-book.html Fri Sep 10 19:27:14 IST 2021 two-new-books-stories-1971-war <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/09/04/two-new-books-stories-1971-war.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/9/4/book-collage.jpg" /> <p>India-Pakistan war in 1971 concluded with the liberation of East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, but 3,843 Indian soldiers were killed and 9,851 wounded in the 13-day-long war. It also resulted in the dismemberment of Pakistan, with the loss of its eastern wing and capture of 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war- the highest number since World War II. Pakistan army was not only outwitted but also outmaneuvered- and it collapsed. India's victory was a result of meticulous planned and troops were told to wrap up the war before the Americans and the Chinese could intervene.</p> <p>While the nation is celebrating golden jubilee of 1971 India-Pakistan war, several books are coming out on the occasion.</p> <p><i>1971: Stories of Grit and Glory from the Indo-Pak War </i>by Ian Cardozo and <i>Remembered Glory- True Stories from 1971 Wa</i>r, are in the series of books to commemorate the event and keep the public memory alive.</p> <p>Major General Cardozo, India’s first war-disabled military officer to head a brigade and a battalion, has come out the new book titled <i>1971 Stories of Grit and Glory from the Indo-Pak War.</i> He has dedicated it to the men and women of the Indian armed forces, the Mukti Bahini and the people of India and Bangladesh, who stood together in this moment of trial and ultimately tasted victory in war.</p> <p>The book is based on true stories on personal experiences of participation, on oral and written narratives, and on historical facts and recorded interviews of officers and soldiers of both sides, conducted after the was was ended.</p> <p>The inspiring stories like the hunt for India's aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, Long shot at Longewala, Mission Karachi, A Bullet for breakfast and the gates of Rattoke, the book has all the elements for the reader.</p> <p>The officers from the Indian Army led from the front in the war, and therefore, the casualty rate of officers is very high in terms of percentage. Even Maj Gen Cardozo's 4th Battalion of the 5th Gorkha Rifles, entered the 1971 war with 18 officers, but at the end of the war, four were killed and seven badly injured. Only seven were left unscathed or with minor injuries.</p> <p>From the tragedy of the INS Khukri and its courageous Captain, who went down with his ship, and to the moral courage of a Commanding Officer of Gorkha battalion who stood up to his seniors and rejected their plan to capture an enemy, the book is the collection of stories pieced together through interviews with survivors and their families.</p> <p>Touching stories like how Maj Gen Cardozo was transported by helicopter to a battlefront in Sylhet, deep inside East Pakistan territory find their way into the book. After stepping on a Pakistani minefield, Maj Gen Cardozo injured his leg, and had to use his own khukri (a curved blade) to amputate his own leg.</p> <p>While talking about the book, former army chief General V.P. Malik said that he has never learnt about a war through such vivid, personalised and humane stories. And admiral Arun Prakash, former Navy chief, who himself had participated in the 1971 war calls it a must read for every Indian especially Gen X and millennials.</p> <p><i>Remembered Glory- True stories from 1971 War</i> is an anecdotal narration of stories by who were there and witnessed events unfolding in front of their eyes. And the contributors are now free from the limitations that get imposed both by the service regulations and impact of events that may have happened in the recent past. It is written by Milind Manohar Wagle and Colonel Ajay K Raina. Milind is a sports commentator, who has covered not only 25 Olympic sports but also multiple military events including President's Fleet Review. Col Raina is a veteran gunner. The gallantry awardee of Rashtriya Rifles, has authored 10 books as well. They have interviewed as many as 200 war heroes of the 1971 war and have compiled almost 50 true stories about war from the men who have seen events unfolding in front of their eyes and have participated in these heroic acts of bravery.</p> <p>The book has the story on India's first surgical strike. Described by the then 2Lt Baljit Singh Gill, who was commanding 31 JAT, tasked to carry out the deep strike mission into Chittagong Hill tracts in East Pakistan, days before the outbreak of war between India and Pakistan. Besides, India's first surgical strike, the book has 44 narrative stories.</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Title: 1971-Stories of Grit and Glory from the Indo-Pak War by Ian Cardozo</b><br> </p> <p><b>Author: Ian Cardozo</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Ebury Press by Penguin Random House India</b></p> <p><b>Pages:347</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs. 399</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Title: Remembered Glory- True stories from 1971 War</b></p> <p><b>Author: Milind Manohar Wagle and Colonel Ajay K Raina</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Military History Research Foundation</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 213</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs. 399</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/09/04/two-new-books-stories-1971-war.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/09/04/two-new-books-stories-1971-war.html Sat Sep 04 17:11:03 IST 2021 vir-sanghvis-416-page-buffet-has-something-for-everyone <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/29/vir-sanghvis-416-page-buffet-has-something-for-everyone.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/8/29/virsanjayf.jpg" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many writers have their favourite words. Oscar Wilde, it was said, loved the word ‘importance’ – hence perhaps, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest. With journalist, writer and TV personality, Vir Sanghvi, I can bet the most preferred word would be ‘rude’. His food column was called ‘Rude Food’, followed by ‘Rude Music’, and true to form, we now have his memoirs titled ‘A Rude Life’. Why ‘rude’? Sanghvi himself dismisses it as a ‘silly name’ but does not explain why he then keeps choosing it. A rude dude, shall we say? Well, let such eccentricities not distract us, for here is an enthralling book that gives us front row seats to the reality show of Indian politics.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sanghvi’s credentials are intimidating enough to make your average newsman consider alternative careers. He was the youngest editor in the country, and when still wet behind the ears, was appointed Editorial Director by Business Press. He is perhaps the only journalist who has been associated with three major newspaper houses at close to the apex levels, and he has breathed josh and meaning into publications that were assumed to be awaiting their turn on death row. He runs parallel careers in print and television. And the icing on the cake (no pun intended) is that he is also a food writer. This means that he can, with equal aplomb, talk to Mrs Sonia Gandhi about her prospects in a by-election as tell us about Hyderabadi Biryani losing its authenticity when it gets to Andhra.</p> <p>If you are in any way connected with the media, A Rude Life will give you the backstories of many familiar figures. Not many would know that the Nobel Prize-winning VS Naipaul could turn viciously racist when he was drunk. Or that Dom Moraes – arguably India’s finest poet – considered research a menial chore, and had written a book called Bombay for the prestigious Time-Life publications, which was more about himself than the city. No publication is spared.</p> <p>Decades ago, Sanghvi told K.K. Birla that his mass-selling publication is the only ‘English language newspaper in the world to be written entirely in Punjabi!’ If you don’t care for the media, you can still enjoy the book for its fluid narration and Sanghvi’s trademark ability, to sum up, a character in a few telling lines. Sample these: ‘I had the sense that it did not matter which party (Sharad) Pawar was in, he would always be in it for himself and would know how to get people to follow him.’ Film personalities feature in the book too. Raj Kapoor tells him that Satyajit Ray was overrated. Sanghvi’s take: ‘I have met lots of movie figures… but Raj Kapoor was different. He was the 'Last Mogul’. Having interviewed the supremo of the Shiv Sena on many occasions, he summarises: ‘The thing about Thackeray is that he never lied. No matter how outrageous his answer was, he gave it.’ Prime Minister Narasimha Rao has been described as a ‘small-time manipulator masquerading as a statesman’. Then there is L.K. Advani who, some said, looked ike the ‘Common Man’ in R.K. Laxman’s cartoons. As for Morarji Desai, he could clam up suddenly during an interview and let his facial features be ‘set in amgrim position that suggested a sanyasi suffering for the nation.’</p> <p>Ever since the Greeks started the trend, heroes have had their fatal flaws. I won’t go into what Sanghvi’s flaw is but the interlude with PR agent Niira Radia was a moment of monumental misjudgment. Late in 2010, he was accused of leveraging journalism to try and fix cabinet appointments. He was also repeating Radia’s handout word for word without quoting the source. In the book, Sanghvi defends himself manfully and tells us that he has been cleared by the courts. Alas, the public has neither the time nor the patience to get into the legal fine print. It went by the tried and trusted ‘no smoke without fire’ principle, and pronounced its verdict. It has taken much time and gallons of ink to clear his name and that of Barkha Dutt.</p> <p>You can open any page of 'A Rude Life' and find something to engage you. That tells you about the kind of people who populate the book and the author’s uncanny ability to draw information from them. For all this, I don’t think Sanghvi has attained the right age for memoir writing. There should be more to follow, and perhaps by the time the next edition of his memoirs comes out, he will have got&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">over his obsession with ‘rude’.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Book: </b>A Rude Life – The Memoir</p> <p><b>Publisher:</b> Penguin Random House</p> <p><b>Pages:</b> 416</p> <p><b>Price:</b> Rs 699</p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/29/vir-sanghvis-416-page-buffet-has-something-for-everyone.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/29/vir-sanghvis-416-page-buffet-has-something-for-everyone.html Sun Aug 29 16:08:42 IST 2021 accelerating-india-7-years-of-modi-govt-review-an-insight-into-modinomics <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/28/accelerating-india-7-years-of-modi-govt-review-an-insight-into-modinomics.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/8/28/kj-alphons-accelerating-india-book.jpg" /> <p>Seven years may not be a long time in a country's life, but it is enough time to gauge the direction it intends to take—even if the results may take a while to be discernible on the ground. As the Modi government completed seven years in office, it was faced with the biggest challenge of a century—the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the virus threatened to derail India economic progress, the government has not shied away from taking bold steps as it pushes forward its reform agenda.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies are dissected with intensity on both sides of the political divide. Is the government pro-poor, as it would like the country to believe with its welfare programs, or pro-corporate as it pushes for the private sector to take charge. The question is played out daily from street to television studios, from corporate boardrooms to protest sites in the country.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Bureaucrat-turned-politician, K.J. Alphons, former Tourism minister, and currently BJP's Rajya Sabha MP offers an explanation. “Is he a hardcore Keynesian or an ardent follower of Friedman? The truth is that he is a combination of many things: a big dose of Keynes, a bit of Friedman, a tiny bit of libertarian Hayek and a lot of innovative Modiconomics, built around the strong belief that everybody, the poor and the rich, have the right to live [with] dignity."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"He has built basic foundations for the poor to live a dignified life; now he has to work to take off from there, and where they would have decent jobs so that it becomes possible to live a sustainable dignified life. In the long run, they cannot live on handouts from the government alone.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Alphons sums up Modi's governance outlook. He has backed with empirical analysis from the practitioners who have domain knowledge in different fields. Alphons has picked up 25 topics to present Modi's interventions as they are aimed at changing the country.&nbsp;<i>Accelerating India: 7 Years of Modi Government</i>&nbsp;is the new book edited by Alphons. He has got former civil servants to present the changed governance paradigm in the last seven years. The 338-page-book published by Oakbridge is priced at Rs 795.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book encapsulates the Modi government's policies in sectors like internal security, defence, digital governance, education, agriculture, environment, economy, highways, social justice, Covid response, health, and Triple Talaq. The book is a good resource of material, and arguments to understand Modi's governance model. It adds to the debate around the issue presenting the government's side, authoritatively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has a written a scholarly essay on the issue of triple talaq quoting various Islamic theologians. He narrated his personal experience on the subject after he decided to bring the issue to the notice of Prime Minister Modi. He wrote a six-page letter to Modi on October 6, 2017, apprising PM about violation of apex court verdict on talaq, and a need for legislation. The next day he received a call from PMO asking him to discuss the issue with Modi and was granted audience the day after. “I have understood whole thing, now you need not approach anyone, instead they would approach you,” Khan wrote quoting Modi. On October 9, officers from the Law ministry sought a meeting where Khan gave them documents showing developments in foreign countries in outlawing triple talaq. A few weeks later, the government introduced the bill in parliament.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“How positively this move will impact the lives of Muslim women cannot be assessed in realistic terms today, but I am sure that future historians will view this law profoundly lasting impact on the promotion of gender justice in India,” Khan says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Alphons, who has written two chapters in the book, highlighted the immense progress made in the highways and digital sectors. When Modi took over in 2014, there were only two mobile phone manufacturing units in India. As the Modi government changed the duty structure, India emerged as the second-largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world with over 200 mobile phone, components and accessories manufacturing units.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Writing on India's Covid response, Sanjeev Sanyal, principal economic advisor, says, “India opted for a “barbell” strategy that combined hedging against worst-case outcomes on one hand, and step-by-step responses driven by a Bayesian updating of information on the other. This is why India did the full national lockdown despite obvious economic costs; it was just hedging for the worst-case scenario. It bought time to gather information and create capacity in order to have sensible response...”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Defending the redevelopment of the central vista, former civil servant OP Agarwal says the country's central administrative area needs increased capacity and significant modernisation given the technologies. “During the pandemic, there is an urgent need to create jobs. The central must spend all its resources to ensure purchasing power reaches people. There is no better way to do it than through jobs. This is exactly what the central vista project does: create lots of jobs.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is a valuable addition to literature on the Modi government's intent and the work it has done so far. It, though, stops short of talking about the challenges ahead, and the work which still needs to be done. It will serve well the students, researchers, policymakers, historians, public policy practitioners.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Book:&nbsp;<i>Accelerating India: 7 Years of Modi Government</i>&nbsp;<br> </b></p> <p><b>Publisher:&nbsp;Oakbridge&nbsp;<br> </b></p> <p><b>Pages: 338</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 795</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/28/accelerating-india-7-years-of-modi-govt-review-an-insight-into-modinomics.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/28/accelerating-india-7-years-of-modi-govt-review-an-insight-into-modinomics.html Sat Aug 28 18:53:30 IST 2021 the-teachings-of-bhagavad-gita-a-primer-for-the-soul <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/22/the-teachings-of-bhagavad-gita-a-primer-for-the-soul.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/8/22/gita.jpeg" /> <p>Religious revivalism takes many forms. Inside the no-holds-barred <i>akhada</i> of politics, it has seen the rise and rise of muscular ideologies, which have gone on to reshape public discourse. In the less-gritty, somewhat gentler world of popular literature, it has played midwife to the success of keen-eyed writers who read the market right.</p> <p>Culling pages from revered epics, they did research of a fashion, and dramatised ancient stories to emerge with modern-day best-sellers. The country’s English language book readers, starved of such stuff for as long as they could remember, kept asking for more.</p> <p>Society’s renewed interest in knowing more about a faith, which most of us had thought needed only to be practised, not propagated from the rooftops, has also led to an increasing number of authors training their sights on the book that lies at the heart of it all: the <i>Gita</i>. This is the most sublime battlefield dispatch ever. The life lessons it offers come not from the quiet recesses of a cave or an eerie mountain top but from ground zero, with conch shells proclaiming that battle will soon be joined.</p> <p>As it turns out, the D Day message is richly layered and couched in Sanskrit—not the most widely spoken of languages of our time (according to Wendy Doniger, it always was an exclusive and elitist tongue). The result has been that across history, the floodgates have opened to a number of interpretations of the hallowed text. Into this noisy, contentious world steps Richa Tilokani with <i>The Teachings of Bhagavad Gita</i>.</p> <p>Tilokani is self-confessedly not an authority on the subject—which is the equivalent of declaring herself a non-combatant in the heated battle between scholars who often turn rowdy when questioned by their peers. Hers is a quieter voice than the others we have heard. It is probably because her ambitions are limited to introducing the text to those who have been intimidated by the philosophical heft of the book. She confines herself to talking to us about each chapter and drawing the appropriate lessons from it. Passages are followed by a bulleted summary of what the reader could learn and an instructive paragraph on the benefits that would accrue.</p> <p>It is almost like a tutorial for the soul, and you can’t ask for anything simpler. Tilokani’s main purpose is undoubtedly served, but in her hands, the ‘Song Celestial’, as Sir Edwin Arnold described it, seems in imminent danger of descending into a primer. As everyone knows, such entry-level tutorials leave no room for aesthetics or the compelling imagery for which the 18 chapters and 1,400 lines of verse have been widely hailed.</p> <p>So if you prefer the message without the magic, the teachings minus the grandeur of thought, <i>The Teachings of Bhagavad Gita</i> would be a handy book to have.</p> <p><b>Book: <i>The Teachings of Bhagavad Gita</i></b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Hay House</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 226</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 399</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/22/the-teachings-of-bhagavad-gita-a-primer-for-the-soul.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/22/the-teachings-of-bhagavad-gita-a-primer-for-the-soul.html Sun Aug 22 09:37:59 IST 2021 why-did-relations-between-gandhis-and-bachchans-sour-a-new-book-dissects <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/07/why-did-relations-between-gandhis-and-bachchans-sour-a-new-book-dissects.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/current/images/2021/7/29/18-sonia-rahul.jpg" /> <p>There is a never-ending curiosity about the reasons behind the souring of relations between the Gandhis and the Bachchans, who were more like family than friends before the bond between the two families broke. A book by veteran journalist and former M.P. Santosh Bhartiya seeks to dispel the mystery and claims that an incident related to the payment of college fees of Rahul Gandhi, who was then studying abroad, could have taken matters to a point of no return.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Bhartiya's book <i>V P Singh, Chandrashekhar, Sonia Gandhi Aur Main</i>, which was released recently, and which is a chronicling of important political events concerning the three leaders, Sonia Gandhi was extremely hurt when she found Amitabh Bachchan to be less than forthcoming in helping her out in the matter of payment of the college fees of Rahul after her husband Rajiv Gandhi's death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhartiya writes in a chapter dedicated to the Bollywood superstar that Sonia had one day discussed with Amitabh the issue of payment of Rahul's college fees and urged him to arrange for it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amitabh, the book claims, replied: “The money has all being messed up by Lalit Suri and Satish Sharma. There is nothing left. But I will do something.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two days later, according to Bhartiya, Amitabh sent a cheque of $1,000 to Sonia. However, she returned the cheque to him, he writes: “Sonia Gandhi could never forget this incident and taking it to be an insult, she removed Amitabh from her life forever,” Bhartiya recollects in the book written in Hindi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhartiya also writes about certain incidents that preceded the above event, and which had in an incremental manner built up the bitterness and mistrust between the Gandhis and the Bachchans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to him, Amitabh had asked Sanjay Gandhi to lend him Rs 20 lakh, but the request was declined. Bachchan had after the incident started distancing himself from Sanjay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Problems had also crept up when V.P. Singh, finance minister in Rajiv Gandhi's cabinet, was perceived as a targeting Amitabh and his businessman brother Ajitabh. Rajiv, a childhood friend of Amitabh, was also uneasy about Singh's proactiveness in scrutinising the business interests of the Bachchans since an attack on Amitabh would be construed as an attack on him. Amitabh had crashed Rajiv's vacation in the Andamans in December 1986, after which Singh was moved out of the Finance Ministry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the wake of the allegations of financial irregularities against him, Amitabh, according to the book, wanted to resign from the Lok Sabha. But Rajiv felt it would be imprudent since Singh would then have contested the bye-election from Allahabad and won easily. As Rajiv tried to convince Amitabh not to resign, as per Bhartiya, one day, he came to meet him with his mother Teji Bachchan, who said that her son would not quit provided that he was made the foreign minister. Rajiv, writes Bhartiya, was stunned and just kept looking at the faces of Amitabh and Teji.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After Singh became prime minister and Rajiv moved to Ten, Janpath, Amitabh came to meet him. The meeting, writes Bhartiya, lasted barely ten minutes, and after Amitabh left, Rajiv said: “He is a snake.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>V P Singh, Chandrashekhar, Sonia Gandhi Aur Main</p> <p>Santosh Bhartiya</p> <p>Warriors Victory Publishing House</p> <p>Price Rs 999; Pages 475</p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/07/why-did-relations-between-gandhis-and-bachchans-sour-a-new-book-dissects.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/08/07/why-did-relations-between-gandhis-and-bachchans-sour-a-new-book-dissects.html Sat Aug 07 16:47:27 IST 2021 translations-from-across-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/07/30/translations-from-across-india.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/7/30/potpourri.jpg" /> <p>...The elders of the two households pronounced:</p> <p>“Now, the boy and the girl may speak alone.” “Alone?”</p> <p>“Yes… that means, in private…they must have something to say to each other… after all, things are not like they were in our day.”</p> <p>“That is indeed true. Now let us leave them to it. What role do we have in here, in a private conversation?”</p> <p>As both parties continued the celebrations in the background, the boy and the girl found themselves alone in the room. Raising her head which had until now been kept lowered with deliberate practice, the girl looked up at the boy. In his low- waist jeans and tight-fitting shirt, the boy looked rather stylish. Very slowly and with a great deal of trepidation, the girl asked:</p> <p>“I…I have only one thing to ask you…may I?”</p> <p>“Sure, why not. Ask right away," said the boy.</p> <p>He had of course come prepared and was expecting a number of such questions. After a brief pause and a moment’s hesitance, the girl asked:</p> <p>“How is your personal hygiene? I mean… bathing? Brushing? Change of clothes? What is your routine when it comes to these things?”</p> <p>The boy was taken aback from this sudden question which came completely out of the syllabus.</p> <p>“Please do not take this the wrong way…but this is all I want to know…I am adamant that the person marrying me must be someone with good personal hygiene…”</p> <p>On hearing this bold response, the boy’s jaw dropped. And the girl, unable to bear the stench that came out of his open mouth, fell to the floor, unconscious.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is an excerpt from a short story written by Dr. Silvikutty, a writer from Kottayam in Kerala who served as a faculty of Malayalam in various government colleges in Kerala for over three decades. The story is ably translated by Jomy Thomas, a student of English literature for a book which is an interesting and intellectually stimulating compilation of revered works of renowned authors from across a spectrum of Indian languages translated largely by students from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).&nbsp;</p> <p>German novelist and Nobel prize winner Gunter Grass once famously said, "Translation is that which transforms everything so that nothing changes." His words ring true and find inspiration among students of MA Literature from IGNOU who came together under the leadership of their professor Anand Krishnamurthy to bring out, 'Potpourri' - An anthology of poems and tales from India, published on July 23 and now available for purchase on Amazon.&nbsp;</p> <p>The book consists of 15 poems and 10 short stories translated from various languages in India of works by famous authors and eminent writers including Padramarajan, Paul Zacharia, O.N.V. Kurup, S. Joseph, Madhavikutty, Vylopilli, O.V. Vijayan, Sarweshwar Dayal Saxena, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Amrita Pritam, Makhan Lal Chaturvedi and Fakir Sena Pati, as well as writings from a young dalit poet Chandramohan S. and short story writer Lakshmi Das.</p> <p>Since time immemorial, translation has played a major role in helping literature cross the barriers of language, place and time. Without translations it would have been nearly impossible to celebrate writers like Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Gabriel Garcia Marques among others, writes professor Anand Krishnamurthy in the preface to the book. "Translation has also helped in archiving works across the ages. For instance, Aristotle’s renowned work on poetry and drama titled 'Poetics' was primarily written in Greek language, but over time most parts of 'Poetics' were lost while some parts were retrieved later. Students of English literature will be familiar with the work, as it is generally prescribed for their study of Literary Criticism and Theory. But most of them are not aware of the fact that the English translation of 'Poetics', whether by Janko or St. Halliwell or Gallimard or Butcher, were not based on the original work in Greek but of its available translation from Arabic (eighth century A.D.) It must be observed that this live nature has kept the domain of translation a raw field even today. It presents the modern-day translators with immense (unexplored) opportunities to delve deep into," tells Krishnamurthy to THE WEEK.</p> <p>The book is a treat to read especially for the remarkable variety it offers in terms of the selection of the authors and their works. Each story or poem is short and crisp and that makes it easier to complete the entire book in one reading within a couple of hours at a stretch. Take for instance 'The Deserted Room,' a poem by Rashtrakavi (national poet) Padma Bhushan and Jnanpith awardee Ramdhari Singh Dinkar from Bihar which is beautifully translated by IGNOU student Vandana Jha. It is nostalgic to read Dinkar's work, and that too in English. Another student, Unnimaya A.S.&nbsp; translates 'Cattle' (originally, Kannukaalikal) by renowned cartoonist, short story writer and novelist O.V. Vijayan who gave us&nbsp; his masterpiece, Khasakkinte Itihasam (translated as The Legends of Khasak).&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>At a time when students across the country and the world have taken to studying online, IGNOU classes too adapted to the new method of teaching with the help of online platforms. "It meant that I had a group of 30-40 students for MEG 14 (Modern Indian Literature in Translation) from varied parts of India. Our initial sessions were focussed on theoretical concepts of translation, blended with works prescribed for study. Towards the end of the first leg of sessions around May 23 this year, the idea of attempting translations of short vernacular literatures came forth. To my surprise, I had received more than twenty entries by the time the second leg started around June. In order to escape any copy right issues, it was decided to work on such vernacular works," says Krishnamurthy.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>A few IGNOU students such as Sreedevi Menon have taken to translate the works of newer and upcoming writers. In 'Through Me,' Menon translates a poem by Dhanya Unnikrishnan a post graduate degree holder whose first publication is a collection of poems written in Malayalam, titled, Mouna Mandranangal which appeared in 2019. The key highlights of her poems are the description of equations shared by man and his environment. "This is an opportunity of a lifetime given to us by our faculty at IGNOU. It helps us immensely as students of literature to understand the nuances of translation and apply them in our own work," says Sreedevi Menon.</p> <p><b>Book: 'Potpourri' - An anthology of poems and tales from India</b></p> <p><b>Edited by: Anand Krishnamurthy</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 82</b></p> <p><b>Price : Rs 150</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/07/30/translations-from-across-india.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/07/30/translations-from-across-india.html Fri Jul 30 18:43:10 IST 2021 weddings-galore-but-no-destination <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/07/10/weddings-galore-but-no-destination.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/7/10/book-cover.jpg" /> <p>‘It is a truth universally acknowledged’, as Jane Austen told us ages ago, ‘that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’. There are many single men in Diksha Basu’s <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Destination Wedding,</i> all of who are in need of a wife (possibly more than one). Correspondingly, there are many single women of equal means who are in need of a husband – again, often more than one. The result is that the book could pass off as a monument of smileys to the institution of marriage.</p> <p>Actually, there is only one wedding that has, so to speak, its ‘i’s dotted and its ‘t’s crossed – that of Shefali (a cousin of Tina, the central character) and Pawan. But strewn across the pages are any number of near misses and near Mrs, re-marriages, and imagined marriages. The glut has also spawned ancillary industries – matchmaking for widowers and divorcees, and aggressive event managers whose field of specialisation is – no surprises – weddings.</p> <p>Tina’s parents are happily divorced. Their happiness gets doubled when each of them seek and find a boyfriend and girlfriend respectively. As for Tina herself, she hovers tantalisingly between a handsome Australian and a handsomer Sid who lives in Dharavi. Tina’s close American friend Marianne is making up her mind whether to continue with her old faithful or get besotted with the groom’s dashing brother who is rumoured to have slept with all the women in the world’s capitals.</p> <p>When the whole motley crowd gets together for a wedding in Delhi, you would think it would set off World War III. But Basu knows better, and the group gets along so well that Destination Wedding ought to be handed a Peace Prize – although it was shortlisted, but did not win, the Bollinger Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction.</p> <p>Whatever their marital status of the characters as of this morning, one thing is common – they are all (with minor exceptions) mouthwateringly opulent. Basu’s world is populated not just with the ‘haves’ but the ‘have plentys’. Their interplay which includes cavorting casually with one lover while being nostalgic about another may sound unreal, but she is able to pull it off. Even if the fake does not look real, it certainly becomes funny.</p> <p>Basu’s fluid style flits, like Tennyson’s brook, from one set piece to another, from sparkling conversations in New York to ditto conversations in New Delhi’s clubs, from covert courtships to one-night stands. The trouble with Basu’s brook, however, is that it seems in no hurry to get to the river. It is not as if the plot does not budge, it does move, but in many directions simultaneously. It’s only in the last lap that everyone realizes that the party is coming to an end and a closure would be in order. Proposing then almost becomes a pandemic.</p> <p>One could hope wistfully, like so many of the suitors in the book do, for greater depth of character, for more meaningful social insight and for the author to have achieved a smoother resolution of her story. However, all is forgiven because, for the most part, there is a laugh in every page. It is also worth a read because when all is said and done, all the world’s a baraat.</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Book: Destination Wedding</b><br> </p> <p><b>Publisher: Bloomsbury</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 286</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 334</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/07/10/weddings-galore-but-no-destination.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/07/10/weddings-galore-but-no-destination.html Sat Jul 10 16:54:58 IST 2021 making-excellence-a-habit-review-dr-v-mohan-blends-science-and-spirituality <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/07/04/making-excellence-a-habit-review-dr-v-mohan-blends-science-and-spirituality.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/7/4/Making-Excellence-A-Habit-book.jpg" /> <p>A diabetologist and researcher par excellence, Dr V. Mohan has every right to blow his own trumpet. But in <i>Making Excellence A Habit</i>, his recently released autobiography, Mohan chooses to dwell on the power of grit, passion, empathy, and collaboration, the cornerstones of life, instead of celebrating or bragging about his accomplishments.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>''I felt that this would be a legacy I could leave behind for the younger generation, helping them to get the right work-life balance and learn how to achieve success without adopting shortcuts or devious methods,'' says Mohan, a Padma Shri awardee and chairman of Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai. ''<i>Making Excellence A Habit</i> is not just an autobiography. It also deals with values in life and shares several pearls of wisdom which I've picked up throughout my life,'' he adds.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is studded with anecdotes. He recalls an incident where the pharma industry came down on him after he wrote a letter to the Drug Controller General of India about the potential adverse effects of Pioglitazone, a widely used anti-diabetic drug, causing the drug to be banned in India. Mohan took that extreme step after three of his patients who were on Pioglitazone developed bladder cancer and reports of similar cases started emerging from other countries. Some of his colleagues also had cases of Pioglitazone induced bladder cancer. '' At that time, the Pioglitazone market was worth Rs 800 crore in India, and several companies were marketing it,'' he writes. Mohan was bombarded with hate mails. '' It was a dark period of my life,'' he says. After a month, the ban on the drug was lifted with certain clauses. As a precautionary measure, lower doses of the drug were recommended, the usage of the drug dropped from 40 per cent in 2004 to 4 per cent in 2008 and lawsuits cost the drug manufacturer billions of dollars.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An ardent devotee of Sathya Sai Baba, Mohan believes that anything is possible through prayer. He writes about how Srinivasa Ramanujan, the late Indian mathematical wizard, would receive inspiration for his formulae by praying to Namagiri, the goddess of creativity. ''Together, faith and self-confidence can brew magic,'' he writes. The book has an entire chapter dedicated to the power of prayer, wherein he shares an anecdote of how he had a vision of a missing textbook placed on a sack of charcoal.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>''To this day, I have not been able to explain how the book got there,'' he writes. ''It instantly reinforced my faith that there is indeed a power which is beyond all of us, a power to which we can turn to for solace whenever we are in need.''&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It took Mohan about two years to write the book. ''The most challenging part was finding the time to write it amidst my busy professional, academic, research and administrative schedules. But once I started it there was no looking back and I was determined to finish it,'' recalls Mohan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Making Excellence A Habit</i>&nbsp;is a delightful blend of science and spirituality. Mohan, a seeker with a spiritual bent of mind has much to offer for those who tread the uneven and meandering path of life.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/07/04/making-excellence-a-habit-review-dr-v-mohan-blends-science-and-spirituality.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/07/04/making-excellence-a-habit-review-dr-v-mohan-blends-science-and-spirituality.html Sun Jul 04 16:07:38 IST 2021 more-things-mixing-memory-with-desire <a href="http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/05/29/more-things-mixing-memory-with-desire.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/review/books/images/2021/5/29/book-cover.jpg" /> <p>The mind does not readily accept the passing of a loved one. It recoils, rebels, and</p> <p>in desperation, reimagines all that has happened – a hundred different keys to</p> <p>open a slammed door that will not budge. When nothing works, it seeks refuge in a</p> <p>fragile but deeply felt universe where deaths can be undone. Kamla Malik,</p> <p>protagonist of Kiran Manral’s <i>More Things in Heaven and Earth</i> often exits the</p> <p>world where she lost her husband in mysterious circumstances to inhabit one</p> <p>where he is there to smile at her, pat her, pet her and call her ‘moonface’. It is not</p> <p>an easy migration for the young woman, however, because as Eliot had put it,</p> <p>memory mixes with desire. In Kamla’s case, the emotional vortex curdles into an</p> <p>intoxicating, almost inflammable brew.</p> <p>As a heroine battling to prevent herself from tipping over into the death spiral of</p> <p>insanity, Kamla holds your attention. She claims to look for closure but could well</p> <p>be seeking continuity. There is a past she cannot erase and a future she will not</p> <p>enter. She has friends aplenty and at least some parts of a caring family but all they</p> <p>do is accentuate her loneliness. That leaves her in her own space and her own time</p> <p>zone. It is neither here nor there, neither now nor then.</p> <p>Apart from a heroine, alternatively assertive and vulnerable, there’s a lot going for</p> <p><i>More Things.</i> Fear stalks the pages. When you get acquainted with the cast of</p> <p>characters, you do not try to figure out their age but rather speculate how long it</p> <p>will be before they die. Horror of different shapes and shades is everywhere – from</p> <p>the attic in their hillside home, congested with family skeletons to an entire upper</p> <p>wing in a Goan villa where ghosts have taken up permanent residence. Even when</p> <p>the sun shines cheerily on contented palm trees or when lovers arch into each</p> <p>other’s arms, you know it’s only a matter of time before the sinister gains the upper</p> <p>hand again. The plot, straddling a guilty past and an ominous present is craftily</p> <p>spun, and borne along on Manral’s lush prose.</p> <p>Here is a filigree artist whose medium is words. While there is a story to tell,</p> <p>Manral also has pictures to paint – of the place, the people and of the labyrinth</p> <p>inside her mind. She is fastidious about detail, even if it means venturing into</p> <p>beguiling byways that take the plot off the road. Riveting as these digressions are,</p> <p>they come at a price. When you have an obsessive miniaturist in charge of the</p> <p>narrative, the story cannot be rushed. Impatient readers may want out.</p> <p>Well, it’s Kiran Manral, and this is her trademark style – whether she is tickling</p> <p>your funny bone, or sending chills up spines. For those who prefer journeys to</p> <p>arrivals and do not mind digressions before getting to destination, ‘More Things…’</p> <p>is well worth the ticket.</p> <p><b>More Things in Heaven and Earth</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Amaryllis</b></p> <p><b>Pages: 290</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs 399</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/05/29/more-things-mixing-memory-with-desire.html http://www.theweek.in/review/books/2021/05/29/more-things-mixing-memory-with-desire.html Sat May 29 14:42:45 IST 2021