Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: A Tangled Web- Jammu and Kashmir

In India everyone and their neighbor claim to be an expert on Jammu & Kashmir. No Indian state is as debated as this state. And yes for obvious reasons. It is a state that has been in conflict since Independence. A state that while trying to create its own identity by moving on from the past is also finding it difficult to shake off its past. And it is definitely a conundrum hard to get out of. What gets worse is the judgment people have already passed on it. There is no middle ground. Due to which J&K continues being a tinderbox waiting to explode at any slight provocation. Sad but true.

A Tangled Web is an excellent resource for people who would want to read myriad perspectives about the state. It is not just that but the articles and pieces gives the reader an excellent insight into the conflicting views on the history of the state, its problems and examines the various political, social, cultural and economic issues at play there.

The book tries to bring in as many voices as it possibly can.  All these collected essays from eminent writers as well as voices of people who have suffered the brunt of violence in the state. So one can read well written articles by Parvaiz Bukhari, Suhasini Haidar, Jagmohan, Meghnad Desai, Nitasha Kaul, Sonia Jabbar and more…

It is indeed sad that the place which is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world and the most strategically located too is in a perpetual state of conflict. But yet this year has been good for the state and let’s hopes ensuing years follow the same pattern too. Karan Singh writes the foreword for the book and starts off the book with the right note and tenor. Ira Pande has edited the book.

This book is an important contribution to the various literature available on Jammu and Kashmir, do read it if history and current events interest you

Review: Noon

I recently read Aatish Taseer’s latest book called Noon. Let me be upfront and honest here and say that I haven’t read his previous works (yes I know you just went hawww!). 

After having heard a lot of good things about his books I was sure this would be a great read too. Well it just barely made it to my list of good books to read. That’s the review in a nutshell.

So Noon started off rather well but just mid way through the book I was left wondering what was it that the book set out to say in the first place? But then in the end it got better, but just slight. The book though written in the fiction genre is inspired heavily from some incidents from author’s own life.

The book is stark at some places and at places it is saddening too.  The protagonist of the book Rehan Tabassum  is brought up by single handedly by his lawyer mum and his grandmother. As he grows up with questions in his mind about his father he discovers that his dad is a big man across the border. He goes to spend some time with his father and his extended family.

Rehan comes across as an extremely astute and sensitive human being. But then Rehan’s story is very disjointed, jumping from one place to another and you can see Rehan is a very confused person who is oddly looking at everything from an outsider’s perspective, totally disconnected.

That is exactly my problem with the book. If Rehan was trying to make a point about his life, or the changes around him in India or Pakistan, I as a reader definitely missed the point.

So all in all if someone gifts this book to you do read it, if not you can skip.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review : The Lovers

Reviewed by: Ananth

John Connolly is an exemplary writer and I am a fan boy. Period. There is no one who writes with a blend of the supernatural intertwined into regular sleuthing crime fiction and what ends up as the sum of all the parts is a tour de force - an utterly intriguing and outlandish tale that is at once believable and strangely charming. Charming, some might say, is far from the right adjective to use for the eeriness that inhabits John's world but rest assured there is something irresistible about the Bird that always leaves you wanting more - for me, that in itself is more than enough credentials to establish something as charming.

Lovers is the seventh in the Charlie Parker series where Charlie 'Bird' Parker, for a change, is servicing himself rather than one of his clients. Following Unquiet which left Charlie being stripped of his PI license, the Lovers see Charlie delve deep to unravel the mysterious circumstances under which his father killed two teenagers before taking his own life. Sparked by the Collector's (one of my favourite staple feature of this series) comments, Charlie digs deep to make sense of these events that have haunted him his entire life. Amidst this personal turmoil a series of murders are waiting to be linked to his investigations and it is not before long that all events blend into one promising a chilling finale.

The underlying bleakness that seems to pervade Charlie's life is more than present here with Charlie confronting the horrific truths of his parentage. As the pieces fall together and facts fall into place it is almost as if Charlie is the only kind of person who can deal with the kind of curve balls that life has to throw. He seems to have this phenomenal appetite for catastrophes and destructiveness which he seems to handle in an All-In-A-Days-Work style. With an array of characters each in their own way furthering Charlie's quest, the Lovers is a book that is a sad yet poignant and fulfilling read. (Not to mention the fact that it might make you go double check that the doors have indeed been locked!)

What has always pleased me and still does is the way John's characters play on your mind - they are so well etched and fit so snugly into the plot, it is almost unbelievable. You are left journeying with Charlie and it is a horrific journey indeed yet there seems to be the driving hand of destiny that seems to propel him further. John's research is top notch and this complements the super natural theme very well making for a very credible account (the Costa Rican parasitoid wasp whose host is the spider Plesiometa argyra forms an actual basis for introducing the bizarre). Charlie seems to inhabit a parallel world where anything is possible and he is forced to confront the strangest of adversaries - in this world the dead still manage to make their presence felt and shadows that lurk have their own agendas.

While people starting out with John would do well to get to read the series in order, Lovers is still a stand alone piece of work though the prime movers that impel Charlie are buried in his past. Though open to interpretation, the para normal aspects of John's work take stronger root here - I would think that as excellent timing given that we have had six novels where this world was being dabbled with. Though disquieting and full of despair, John always manages to triumphantly weave hope and beauty into the otherwise starkly dark world of Charlie - that  is what keeps me coming back for more since I just cannot resist knowing what is new with Charlie and his world.

(Ananth is a software engineer from Chennai who loves reading but loves even more the dissecting that follows the read.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: 7 Secrets of Vishnu

Reviewed by: Baisali Chatterjee Dutt

When you are asked to review a book by one of your favourite authors, and that too, on a subject that you have been passionate about ever since you have been a little kid, then the task at hand can only be a pleasant one. Well, that is exactly what reviewing Devdutt Pattanaik’s “7 Secrets of Vishnu” was for me. I have been an avid mythology buff ever since I can remember and the passion has only intensified with time.

I have been reading Devdutt Pattanaik’s work for quite a while now. Not just me, in fact, but my eight-year-old son as well, who is a fan of Pattanaik’s “Adventures in Devlok” series.

The Hindu trinity, as we all know, comprises of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. The symbols and rituals connected to Each One are markedly different. And why not? It stands to reason as They represent different levels of consciousness. They do not look like Each Other, nor do They behave similarly and They perform different duties. Pattanaik’s “7 Secrets of Vishnu” attempts to help the reader decipher the symbology and unlock the secrets behind the stories and rituals associated with Lord Vishnu.

Through the stories of Vishnu, complex Hindu ideologies and philosophies have been communicated in an easy to read manner. Issues that we have always wondered about have been addressed beautifully by the author. Like, for example, why are the Devas and Asuras, both the offspring of Brahma, always at war? The saga of the never-ending battles between the Devas and the Asuras bring to light the emotional turmoil faced by both; the Devas also represent insecurity while the Asuras embody ambition and thus the constant state of unrest.

The book takes us through the various avatars assumed by Him on Earth. Divided into seven chapters, each one helps us in understanding key concepts and in delving into the mysteries of the Divine. I learnt so many new things from each of these chapters, which is always very exciting. For example, I learnt about Alakshmi, the Sister of Lakshmi who accompanies her Sister wherever She goes and She represents strife. The entire passage about how Lakshmi arose from amrit and Alakshmi from halahala – brilliant! Also the gem about how Shukracharya, guru to the Asuras, lost an eye when Vishnu descended to Earth as Vamana, the Brahmin dwarf, was a new story for me to imbibe and marvel over. The absolute crowning jewel for me was how Pattanaik beautifully explained that Luv-Kush’s victory over their father showed that dharma rests with Sita and not Ayodhya! Brilliant! As one who has always been furious over the treatment meted out to Sita in the epic, this one statement was a fist-pumping hurrah! moment. Yes, it has been explained time and again that Ram put his kingly duties above his personal needs, but that only serves to make him the Perfect King, not the Perfect Man.

The photographs of ancient artwork and temple sculptures help bring the book alive, especially with their little bubbles of explanation. Colour photography would have been greatly appreciated, of course, but that’s nitpicking. An index would also have been of great use, and I strongly suggest the publishers think of adding one in the next edition.

All in all, a great read and one I would urge all mythology buffs to immediately indulge in!

(This book is reviewed by Baisali Chatterjee Dutt. Baisali blogs at )

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: The Best of Quest

Quest was born in 1954, a magazine that was published out of Bombay (now Mumbai) with Nissim Ezekiel at its helm. After successfully publishing it for two decades the magazine collapsed during the Emergency period.

An intellectual magazine for the discerning reader with articles contributed by the best names that light up newspapers, magazines, academic journals and even television screens today. The common link between them? They all made their mark with a piece in Quest.

The Best of Quest brings to the reader the best of stories, essays and poems published in the magazine. Hence making the book a treasure trove of well written, well argued articles. It gives the reader insights into the political and social history of independent India.

Some of the articles in the book, in all honesty, were difficult for me to fathom or read through. But some were exceptionally brilliant. The book is edited by Lafeq Futehally, who worked as the Literary Editor with the Quest for over twenty years. Achal Prabhala who is a writer and researcher in Bangalore. Arshia Sattar who works with classical Indian Literature and teaches at various institutions across the country.

So you have eminent writers such as Nirad Chaudhuri, P.Lal. Jyotirmoy Datta, Khushwant Singh, Dilip Chitre, Ashis Nandy and others who have contributed towards the magazine. Poetry contributed by Dom Moraes, Kamala Das, Nissim Ezekiel. Mukul Sharma makes this section extremely interesting.

The pieces are well selected and show the kind of enrichment in terms of knowledge and thoughts the magazine brought to its readers. You know when you read through the book the editors have worked with a passion to make this book worth a collectible for every reader.

Do pick this book up to get a better understanding of the country we live in by the writers who are the very best in the industry today. The book is a fitting tribute to a man who headed the magazine.

Magazine Review: BBC Knowledge India

This particular review of BBC Knowledge’s long overdue. I should have reviewed it much sooner, in fact as soon as I read it. I am not much of a magazine person except for the weekly news magazines but whatever issues I read I found the magazine an enjoyable read.

So here goes. I had got two magazines for review one was the May/June issue which covered– Does god exist?And the other was Jan/Feb issue with “So you want to be a spy “as the cover story. The cover stories were good and interesting to read. The picture and print quality of the magazine was at par with other international magazines.

This bi-monthly magazine encompasses 3 main topics - science, history and nature. Besides these topics the magazine is also divided into sections like updates, round-ups, comment & analysis, insights, world news in context, Q&A, reviews, etc.

I personally found the content in-depth, well researched and written in simple and easy to read language.

It is worth a read or rather a long term subscription! Go ahead-enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thinkfest: The hits and the misses

We were following up on all the news creators at the recently concluded Thinkfest in Goa. As expected Siddhartha Mukherjee, VS Naipaul, Mohammed Hanif, Thomas Friedman, Hari Kunzru sessions have come in for much praise. Here are a few links that will give you a better insight into who said what:

Also making news at Thinkfest were Arvind Kejriwal, Shashi Tharoor ,Omar Abdullah and Shehrbano Taseer. From Bollywood we had Abhay Deol and Aamir Khan who were the news makers at the event.

Here's the FB page that will give you all the information you were looking for!

Until next year then....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thinkfest: Explaining India: The Most Persistent Mistakes we Make

The one session we at The Book Lovers are looking forward to at the Think Festival event? It has got to be Explaining India: The Most Persistent Mistakes we Make with Pavan Varma, William Dalrymple and Ashish Nandy.

William Dalrymple after spending many years in India and travelling through length and breadth of this country would definitely enrich the session with his insights and knowledge. Ashis Nandy needs no introduction he is an Indian political psychologist and a contemporary cultural and political critic. He is, without a doubt, India's most formidable and controversial intellectual, its most arresting thinker, and a cultural and political critic without perhaps any equal in South Asia. And joining the two would be Pavan Varma , he is a senior bureaucrat of the Indian Government and a seasoned diplomat. The author of a dozen books on equally diverse areas such as biography, poetry, social sciences, civic affairs, and history. His book The Great Indian Middle Class (1998) tends to be the first one that people read when they try to decipher the rise of the middle class in India. Being Indian (2004) is a masterpiece that even Indians should read to understand who they are and why they are. The subtitle says “The truth about why the twenty first century will be India’s.”

So with three stalwarts as a part of the panel the session without a doubt will be truly engaging and interesting. How do I think the session will progress and the topic that would definitely be deliberated and discussed upon as per me would be the unity in diversity of this country- is it over rated? Are the various states at war amongst themselves and the nation as a whole? Are we hurtling into the development zone without an actual plan in place? Is there an order in the madness that we see today? Am sure William Dalrymple would be able to give us keen insights into this.

The most persistent mistake would be the politics that our politicians have been playing since time immemorial that of religion and caste. Can India afford to move ahead if it continues with the games our politicians play. Is coalition politics a boon or a bane for this nation? I would really like to hear Ashis Nandy on this.

Can India move to the next level without good relations with our immediate neighbours? What about the great Indian middle class which has been the driver in this growth story of India. Where are we headed as a nation. What are the past mistakes that we absolutely have to learn from and the persistent problem that people face in this great Indian nation?

This session is something we excitedly look forward to on day 2 of the festival. Let’s see if it shapes up as we imagine it to be!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Think Fest: Siddhartha Mukherjee

As we mentioned there are too many speakers we are excited to hear from at this year’s Think fest but one speaker we are eagerly looking forward to hear would be Siddhartha Mukherjee. 
Siddhartha is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. The book gives the reader a detailed account of the history of this deadly disease and how the war is being fought against it by doctors across the world. The India-born doctor teaches medicine and is a cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Centre.
His book was published in the U.S. by Scribner and in India by HarperCollins Publishers India, the book was inspired by a personal event. One day a patient with stomach cancer asked Dr. Mukherjee a simple question about her prognosis: “Where are we going?” That led the author to think the larger scope of the question in terms of cancer research. The book before going on to win the Pulitzer has already received critical appreciation from many quarters.
Detailing the long history of the disease and the battles being fought to conquer it through case studies, the book also provides a glimpse into the future of cancer treatments.
"From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast, to the 19th-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee's own leukaemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease," according to information about the book on the Pulitzer website. The book, the site says, is a "magnificent, profoundly humane biography of cancer".
So after a brief profile about his book and him what we would really like to hear from him at the conclave would obviously be how and where India lacks in terms of research, treatment in tackling this growing disease. What are the steps and measures could be implemented. More than research there is also a lack of understanding of this disease in India, cancer is still stigmatized. Lack of counseling, lack of understanding of the disease and most importantly lack of support groups can make the person suffering from the problem a lot more miserable than the disease itself.
As his topic of discussion is ‘How tragedy can Inspire’ would really like to know his thoughts on how families, friends of such affected people can continue to encourage and enthuse the person battling the disease. At a personal level I had seen a family member suffer depressive behaviour due to physical changes in appearance, the after-effects of chemotherapy, losing appetite etc.. What can one do to keep the motivation levels high? How can we create a network or solace group for patients.
Besides this would love to know the latest research happening on cancer front, honestly look forward to a day when cancer treatment would not be as grueling as it is now. It would be interesting to hear his thoughts at the summit and considering he has lived in India what are his thoughts on India battling and finding solutions for the big C?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Think Fest Think Blogger!

The Book Lovers blog is proud to be associated with one of the most looked forward to event this year, The Thinkfest, it is going to be held in Goa from 4th November to 6th November. With a stellar list of speakers our excitement to be a part of this event knows no bounds.

So who are the speakers we at The Book Lovers are absolutely looking forward to hear? Here is our list: William Dalrymple, Mohammed Hanif, Pulitzer prize winner for his book The Emperor of all Maladies Siddhartha Mukherjee, Naipaul *yippee* and Sudhir Kakar. Ashish Nandy and Pavan Verma also form a part of this interesting list of speakers!

So while we eagerly look forward to the event we would be sharing what we would want to hear these speakers speak about and the topics they could touch on before the event. Of course they will not necessarily but hey why not think about the possible discussions? That's the whole fun part!

Until then you'll could get more details on their site Go on have a look and if possible join us at the fest!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Desperate in Dubai

Desperate in Dubai was one book which I had to read after reading a lot of heavy non-fiction books! And the book didn’t disappoint. The book is set in Dubai and it revolves around  the lives of 4 women. The book has its glamour, luxury cars, hotels all that you would think of when you think Dubai! If you pick up the book thinking it is a regular flippant chick-lit, let me tell you that this book ain't. 

Leila who has been in search of a wealthy husband for over a decade, while running her own successful business, we then have Nadia who has moved to Dubai for her husband’s career only to realize that this move could result in her unhappiness. Sugar has moved to Dubai after living in London all her life to escape her past and last is Lady Luxe, the rebellious and gorgeous Emirati heiress who wants to live her life by her rules at the same time trying to maintain a balance with her family’s expectations.

All four seemingly from different backgrounds but their stories all come together and you realize that all are running for the elusive thing called happiness. So while Lady Luxe is maintaining her double life to keep herself and her family happy, she is also hiding a big secret from her friend Leila. While Leila in her desperation to get hooked to a rich Emirati ends up getting influenced by Nadia, leading to unhappy circumstances all around. Nadia also does not have it easy when she realizes her husband is in a relationship with another woman, and Sugar is grappling with her past, trying to move on in a new city.

Extremely well written, will keep you hooked and engrossed in the lives of these 4 women. The book is well paced and language is lucid which makes this book a page turner. It is hard to believe that this happens to be the author’s first book. Honestly I have nothing to say that could be reworked in this book to make it a better read. It is a lovely read just the way it is.

My recommendation: girls absolutely go for this book, you sure will enjoy it!

Review: Does he know a mother's heart?

One book that made me cry while reading it? It would definitely be Arun Shourie’s ‘Does he know a mother’s heart? How suffering refutes religion’. The book actually made me question my belief in god. Yes the book is so well written with convincing arguments and proofs as to why he says what he does.

Aditya, Arun Shouries’s 35 year old son was declared as suffering from an injury to brain, Cerebral Palsy at birth, that prompted his wife and him to move back to India from US so that Adit could be brought up surrounded by the love of his grandparents, cousins and family. It deals with all the trials and tribulations they as a family have gone through in bringing up Adit. Their struggle to find a good school for Adit, their love for him taking them to various gurujis and ashrams to help him. It narrates many incidents that will tug any person’s heart. Every episode narrated is a lesson on love and patience that one can have as a parent. I have many a times as a mother been frustrated at the situation I find myself in and go into the feel sorry for myself mode, but this book turned out to be an eye opener and made me believe no struggle is big enough to handle and handle with love and tolerance.

What is clear is the father’s immense love for his child. The book written straight from the heart makes him question god’s ways. Why does god choose to give suffering to some? Why does he subject children to sufferings? What makes god make someone perfect while some grapple with imperfections? Aren’t we all equal in his eyes as is universally known? Isn’t his love for all the same? Then why are some discriminated…

Some serious questions the book throws up and with equally valid proven explanations. The book takes the reader through the holy texts of various religions to prove his point.

It is a book which I would highly recommend all to read. If philosophy and religion is something you like reading then this is a book worth picking up.

Hats off to Arun Shourie for coming up with a book which is straight from the heart. A book that has no qualms in refuting some well known religious texts. Well researched and well argued. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: 24 Akbar Road

Another interesting book that I recently read was on India’s oldest political party, the Indian National Congress. Written by Rasheed Kidwai this book takes you through the fall and rise of the grand old party. A short history of the people behind it. Very well written,full of anecdotes, some stories heard, some unheard.

The author manages to keep the book engaging enough for people to keep reading and to understand what makes the party tick, despite numerous challenges; the party has always managed to come back stronger than ever. Its ability to keep re-inventing itself, mould itself as per the wishes of the people is has managed to keep its tenuous hold at the Centre. The book provides an observer’s glance at affairs within the Congress.

The party has been considered elitist by many. There is a certain aloofness about it which many a times is misread by the people. More in these times than ever.

The book takes you through Indira Gandhi’s times and how she managed to wipe out the parent Congress and made Congress(I) the true national party, looks at her relationship with her two sons and their wives. The part I liked best was how events and circumstances drove the Gandhi and Bachchan family apart.

What followed after Rajiv Gandhi’s death makes for an interesting read, how the party went through tumultuous times, the era of Narasimha Rao, Sitaram Kesri, the exit of Sharad Pawar, the re-entry of Gandhis, Rahul Gandhi’s vision for Youth Congress. It touches on all aspects of the party. The good, the bad and the ugly it has it all.

I would consider this book a must read, you can of course ignore some sugar coating that the writer has done at some places. But over all a good, insightful read.

Review: A Free Man

So the blog is back with reviews of books read! Have read some six to eight books, just didn’t get the time to jot my thoughts down and post a review. Lots of interesting books have been read I will start with the review of Aman Sethi’s A Free Man.

When I read the synopsis of the book I got a feeling that maybe the book will run us down as Indians who have failed to address the needs of migrant labourers and how these daily wage laborers are short changed by everyone. But it also made me want to read the book as it was a topic I had not read on earlier and honestly was curious to know how they live, about their family lives, their work conditions etc.

The book turned out to be a great readand gives the reader insights into their living conditions. It at no point was critical of the system, their lives, the unfairness of it all; just a matter of fact look at the life of Ashraf who though studied till college ends up in Sadar Bazaar in Delhi. His journey takes him to Mumbai, Calcutta, Surat, Hyderabad and Patna. Ashraf takes time to open up to the author and tell him his story, his journey. His story comes out in bit and pieces but the exchange does manage to give us an insight to his life, his work friends Lallo, Rehaan., his family- who he left behind and has totally lost touch with, Kaka –the tea stall vendor and their banker, Kalyani the super smart business woman of Sadar Bazaar, who makes a living selling alcohol to the labourers, more importantly a roof to drink.

The book ends just the way it begins, leaves you saddened with the way life turns out for Ashraf and his friends. If you read Ashraf’s timeline which the author brings together in the end, leaves you terribly disheartened.

An honest confession while I never bothered to think about these migrant labourers when I saw them at work, now after reading Aman’s book makes me wonder about their story, takes me back to Ashraf. This is just how much the book moved me. These are the invisible men who silently work to make their living and struggle through their own lives.

The book makes for an excellent read. It is the story of a man you will not forget in a hurry. After reading the book it is hard to believe that it is the author’s debut book. Look forward to reading many more books from Aman Sethi.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

DSC South Asian Literature Festival

2nd ANNUAL DSC South Asian Literature Festival

7 – 24 October 2011

Sir Christopher Ondaatje, Amit Chaudhuri and Romesh Gunesekera line up alongside some of the most exciting voices of South Asian literature – Mohammed Hanif, SoumikDatta, MirzaWaheed, GautamMalkani, HM Naqvi and Sonia Faleiro– as the second annual DSC South Asian Literature Festival is announced

DSC Limited to continue support as title sponsor for the festival. Festival to open with packed weekend of events in Shoreditch New production to celebrate the Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore

With events at leading cultural venues in London, including the Free Word Centre, British Library, the Nehru Centre, and an opening weekend at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, the DSC South Asian Literature Festival [SALF] returns to deliver a full programme of events in October,bringing together the written word with rich imagery, film, music, performance and art.

Renowned authors, actors, poets and musicians - home-grown, international and from the subcontinent - and leading voices from the worlds of politics, academia and broadcasting, assemble in London and across the UK in this unique cross-disciplinary festival.

In its second year SALF is set to host top names such as Sri-Lankan-Canadian adventurer SirChristopher Ondaatje, discussing his works and travels in a new collection of writings with Booker-Prize shortlisted author RomeshGunesekera; celebrated Kashmiri writer Mirza Waheed pays tribute to renowned Kashmiri poet Aga Shahid Ali; Mohammed Hanif launches his hugely anticipated follow-up to the Commonwealth prize-winning A Case of Exploding Mangoes, appearing at the festival in his only major London event; a bevvy of Britain’s critically acclaimed new writers including NikeshShukla, NivenGovinden, KavitaBhanot, SuhaylSaadi and GautamMalkani gather to launch the defiant anthology ‘Too Asian, Not Asian Enough’; a gala-dinner to announce the shortlist of the second DSC Prize for South Asian Literature with last year’s winner H M Naqvi appearing at an exclusive event in the UK for the first time since taking home the $50,000 prize; award-winning Indian reporter and author Sonia Faleiro launches Beautiful Thing, her eye-opening account of Bombay’s dance bar underworld; a revealing look for the first time at the story behind the making of Granta magazine’s latest issue commemorating 9/11, Ten Years Later; Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlisted-translator Arunava Sinha arrives from India to take part in events and a workshop emphasising the importance of translating literature; and a performance by Seema Anand on the stories from the 'Hamzanama' - a collection of Persian tales dated from more than a millennia ago.

Organisers are in discussion with more than 80 authors and artists, with the final programmeto be announced early September.

The eclectic mix of events, programmed in association with a range of notable partners including the British Centre for Literary Translation, Writer’s Centre Norwich, Vayu Naidu Company, Baithak Records, The Literary Consultancy and the Reading Agency, will also welcome Chelsea Theatre and The Women’s Library as new venue partners, as well as bookshops and libraries across the capital. The festival will travel to key cities including Edinburgh, Portsmouth, Leicester and Norwich during the series of events in London.

The festival is also thrilled to announce a pilot programme for a South Asian Reading Campaign, due to take place during the first week of the festival [10-14 October]. The campaign is a book industry-wide initiative with events and promotions in schools, libraries and bookshops, and puts reading and education right at the heart of SALF’s vision for South

Asian literature in the UK. Full details will be announced early September.The DSC South Asian Literature Festival was founded by publishing colleagues Jon Slack and Bhavit Mehta, who have set up the not-for-profit organisation Amphora Arts to produce the Festival. It is sponsored by DSC Limited, one of India’s leading infrastructure companies, with a global reputation and presence across four continents. As principal sponsors of the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival and creators of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, SALF is a natural alliance for the company’s interests in literature and the arts.

Festival directors Bhavit Mehta and Jon Slack:

“We’re very pleased to bring back the festival for its second year, particularly within such a challenging climate for the arts. Many of our partners are back with us and it’s terrific to have the renewed commitment from DSC Ltd, and for the festival to be continuing its association with the DSC Prize. Programming the festival is what we relish the most and we’re incredibly excited at what is being lined up. There’s more emphasis on translation, a strand of the festival we intend to develop into a major component. And we’re thrilled to be commissioning an original production for the festival with the talented SoumikDatta, easily one of the most exciting performers in Britain today.”

ManhadNarula, Director, DSC Limited:

“We came on board as the title sponsor of the festival last year and are happy with the impact the DSC South Asian Literature Festival made in its inaugural year. It was well received in literary circles because of its specific focus on South Asian literature and we are confident it will be able to reach out to wider audiences this year and engage with new issues and themes. As a company we are committed to supporting South Asian literature which is why we created the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2010 and whose first winner we announced in January this year. The DSC South Asian Literature Festival is a very valuable and important part of this vision, and we look forward to being the title sponsor for many years to come.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Slither

This is going to be a really short post but wanted to review this book simply because it is a 'hatke' book on a topic which we Indians talk about only in a hush hush, conspiratorial way. This is a book of short stories that are erotic in nature with the undercurrent of carnality.

The author in her acknowledgement says that this book was the result of a challenge from her editor friend and goes on to candidly admits that the book was uncomfortable to write but at the same time also empowering and liberating.

Fair enough. So I started to read but some stories down I could figure why writing stories like this is a tough ask. Stories were great but after a point I struggled to finish the book, not because of the writing let me be clear, but the subject. There is only so much one can read about slithering bodies, sex et get the drift?

Maybe I am in minority where my reasons are concerned, but kudos to the author for taking up this challenge and doing full justice to it.

So if this genre interests you do pick up the book!

Review: Priya In Incredible Indyaa

Priya In Incredible Indyaa is a book I had read sometime back and absolutely loved. In this book author Namita Gokhale brings back some unforgettable characters from her 1984 cult bestseller Paro. So here’s a brief background of her book Paro - The book is in Priya’s voice, her narrative. Priya starts with an adolescent crush for her boss, the great B.R. He is also attracted to her leading to a brief fling, but within a month, B.R. marries Paro who is a from Delhi and for Priya someone who is larger than life. Priya herself gets married to a small time lawyer from Delhi, Suresh.The two of them try to network with ‘important’ people and make themselves known in ‘VIP circles’ for that Suresh is willing to bend himself backwards for any VIP. Soon enough Paro hits Delhi and Suresh get close since one of his friend Avinendra, or Lenin as he is known to friends, is besotted by her. At the same time Priya on a holiday to Bombay ends up having a fling with BR again leading to lots of fights between the couples. This must have been an explosive book in the 80s for sure!

So Priya returns in the second book, 25 years hence Paro is dead and Priya has grown into a middle-aged woman, her husband, Suresh, has bagged a minister of state portfolio. We see Priya struggling with Delhi's high society, her approaching menopause and finding a suitable wife each for her twins. She is still very much in touch with BR and whenever she is in Bombay makes it a point to meet him for a rendezvous. At the same time she is also struggling with all the pretenses that come along with being a wife of a public figure. She keeps remembering her humble beginnings in Bombay in a 1BHK and where she is now. At times she finds herself an outsider trying to fit in to the chic social set. Out of all the roles she plays she is the happiest being a mother to her two sons Luv and Kush.

Suresh’s friend, Lenin is around and still a Marxist while his wife Geeta is also a powerhouse in the Indian government. They have a daughter Paromita who falls in love with Priya’s son Luv. Also in the picture is the extremely loud spoken, ambitious, pushy Poonam who absolutely has no compunctions in hooking up with anyone in power to climb up the social ladder.

All in all gives the reader a glimpse into the high society life in Delhi-the hypocrisy of it all, the fake laughter, the shallow friendships, selfish alliances, double speak. The book is extremely well paced, funny, sarcastic, and witty at the same time. A satirical look at how the country has progressed not just economically but socially too.

A must read book.

Review: Fault Lines: Shortlisted for English Non-Fiction

We had reviewed the book and put it in our must read list. Happy to note that it makes it in the Vodafone Crossword shortlist for English Non-Fiction. Here's our review:

'Fault Lines-How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy is a must read book for any citizen of the world today to understand the Macro Economics governing the world financial markets and the politics behind it.

Raghuram Rajan was one of the few economists who warned of the global financial crisis before it hit. Now, as the world struggles to recover, it's tempting to blame what happened on just a few greedy bankers who took irrational risks and left the rest of us to foot the bill. In Fault Lines, Rajan argues that serious flaws in the economy are also to blame, and warns that a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren't fixed.

The book, by Raghuram G. Rajan, is very well researched and the author comes across as an authority on the subject. In the book he presents his case and arguments clearly and succinctly. Even an average lay person will be able to easily grasp the complex world of finance and Economics. Raghuram’s book explores what were the various fault lines in the economy which developed into a full blown economic crisis of 2007-09.

The book goes back into history to draw parallels with various economic crisis of the past and how it culminated into the current economic situation.

Raghuram was the Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund from September 2003 until January 2007.He is an economic advisor to the Prime Minister of India. In Fault Lines, he presents his possible solutions to avoid the economic pitfalls facing the world today. Some of the solutions do seem a bit too farfetched and overly simplistic. The other downside is that the book is too US centric, that is, it presents the American viewpoint of the economic conditions.

Fault Lines is the book to read for anyone who would want to know what economic forces are shaping the world around us.

Recommended read and deserves to be!'

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: The Crimson Throne: Shortlisted for English Fiction

This is our review of Sudhir Kakar's 'The Crimson Throne' The book has been shortlisted in the English Fiction category for Vodafone Crossword Awards 2010.

'The Crimson Throne is a book which you look at, and think that ,it is yet another attempt, to understand the dynamics of Mughal era but then you read the story synopsis which begins with  these lines  ‘Emperor Shah Jahan’s pleasures of the flesh to divert himself from the travails of old age…’ and you are instantly interested in knowing more! This book definitely does not disappoint. An excellent account of the life and times of the period.

Shah Jahan’s reign was called the golden age of the Mughals and he was also considered one of the greatest Mughal emperors but at the same time stories abound about his various sexual exploits. This book is a brilliant mix of the two- the succession battle for the throne and harem tales of the empire. Seldom has any era of Indian history evoked such strong interest as much as the Mughal age especially Aurangzeb’s reign. Aurangzeb’s battle for succession and his long and orthodox rule after Shah Jahan was the turning point in Indian History.

The book is set in the period when Shah Jahan’s reign is almost ending and the battle to succeed him has already begun between his sons Dara Shukoh, Sultan Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh. They all believe that they deserve to be the next emperor to rule the country. During the Mughal period inheritance of power and wealth in the empire was not determined through primogeniture, but by princely sons competing to achieve military successes and consolidating their power at court. This often led to rebellions and wars of succession. As a result, a complex political climate surrounded the Mughal court at all times. The bloody battle for power makes this book a truly fascinating read.

The Crimson Throne is an account of two European travellers -Niccolao Manucci and Francois Bernier who arrive in 17th century India and find their way into the inner circles of the Mughal court.

Niccolao Manucci leaves Venice to travel to India in the hope that the golden land will lead him to riches. He is a rookie who on landing in Goa learns about medicines from Luigi while Vaidraj helps him by teaching him all about Hindu medicines and cures. While working as an orderly in a hospital he befriends Dona Christina Braganza who helps him to get a contact in Delhi, her sister Maria .Maria is an important person in Dara Shukoh's harem. On reaching Delhi he is taken by Dara Shukoh in his service. He soon starts gaining a name in the harem and his business starts flourishing. He establishes his reputation as a miracle healer and gains further confidence and access to the harems. So Niccolao recounts his various harem visits, the harem gossip, the insecurities of the women who are a part of the harem, their loneliness. Through Niccolao’s tales, the author manages to give the reader a brilliant insight into the lives of the women who were part of the seraglio.

Francois Bernier after graduating ad licentiate in Medicine sets sail for Surat from France. After spending a few days in Surat he is summoned to Delhi by Danishmand Khan who advises the emperor on foreign affairs. He soon gains Danishmand’s trust and Francois recounts his cerebral and philosophical exchanges with the minister. Through Francois’ recollection we get an account of the politics, the intrigue, the plotting and planning behind the succession. The ever changing equations between the brothers, the father and the sons, and even Shah Jahan’s daughters Jahan Ara & Roshan Ara play an important role in the entire event.

So both the Europeans end up on different sides of the camp, end up giving us an interesting and insightful account of that period. It is a well-researched effort by the author. Elegant and well-written, manages to keep the reader hooked till the very end.

Highly recommended reading for any reader interested in Mughal history.'