Apart from the pandemic, globally we seem to be battling on so many other fronts as well. From floods to forest fires, the natural calamities around us are scary. Every day as we wake up, our hearts pray for some good news amidst all the chaos that surrounds us. And it is this positivity which has helped us stay afloat. Positive stories of humanity, compassion and love show us how together, we will come out of this stronger and better.

“In times of this corona pandemic, people often ask when the world will return to its normal days! Don’t wait for normal days! Assume that abnormal days are normal days! Today’s abnormal normal is now our new normal! The world may not return to its old days; the smart person is the person who adapts to the changing world! All days are normal as long as you adjust yourself to the changes no matter how dramatic these changes are!”

Mehmet Murat ildan

FinTech Future: The Digital DNA of Finance by Sanjay Phadke

Publisher: SAGE Publications India / SAGE Response

Year of publication: 2020 / March

Pages: 232

Price: INR 450

Buy your copy

Book Blurb:

Fintech is challenging banks and squeezing all our financial transactions onto a mobile screen! Should we be worried? 

We make payments via PayPal or Paytm, shop on Amazon or Flipkart, book accommodation on Airbnb or Oyo and call a cab using Uber or Ola apps. The big tech companies are taking care of all our finances virtually while new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), blockchain, big data, 5G and quantum computing promise to raise a new storm in the future of finance. Fintech Future is the story of technology disrupting finance—from coin to bitcoin, banknote to cloud and stodgy old banks to AI—viewed from the perspective of whether it helps make the world a better place.

A lot has been happening around the world. With the global pandemic locking us down in our houses, we are fighting new battles everyday. We struggle with day to day activities and wonder if all this is a nightmare which will end once we wake up only to find ourselves staring at the ceilings at night, sleepless and hopeless.

“This virus will leave us entirely newborn people. We will all be different, none of us will ever be the same again. We will have deeper roots, be made of denser soil, and our eyes will have seen things.”

C. JoyBell C

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Title: 2062: The World that AI Made

Author: Toby Walsh

Publisher: Speaking Tiger

Year of Publication: 2020

Pages: 312

Price: INR 499

Links: Speaking Tiger

In 2062, world-leading researcher Toby Walsh considers the impact AI will have on work, war, economics, politics, everyday life and, indeed, even human death. Will automation take away most jobs? Will robots become conscious and take over? Will we become immortal machines ourselves, uploading our brains to the cloud? How will politics adjust to the post-truth, post-privacy digitised world? When we have succeeded in building intelligent machines, how will life on this planet unfold? What lies in store for homo digitalis—the people of the not-so distant future who will be living amongst fully functioning artificial intelligence?

Based on a deep understanding of technology, 2062: The World That AI Made describes the choices we need to make today to ensure that the future remains bright.

Timeless Tales of Marwar (front)

Title: Timeless Tales from Marwar

Author: Vijaydan Detha, Translator: Vishes Kothari

Publisher: Penguin Random House (Puffin Classics)

Year of Publication: 2020

Pages: 208

Price: INR 250

Links: Amazon 

For centuries, Rajasthan has been a gold mine of oral traditions and histories, with Padma Shri Vijaydan Detha being one of the foremost storytellers of all time.

Giving a new lease of life to his writings, Timeless Tales from Marwar is a handpicked collection of folk tales from the everlasting works of Detha’s celebrated Batan ri Phulwari meaning ‘Garden of Tales’. Collected and written over the span of nearly fifty years, this fourteen-volume assortment of Rajasthani folk stories earned him the moniker-the Shakespeare of Rajasthan.

This selection-retold in Detha’s magical narrative style complete with vivid imagery-offers some of the oldest and most popular fables from the Thar Desert region. Discover tales of handsome rajkanwars (princes), evil witches, exploitative thakars , miserly seths, clever insects, benevolent snakes and more. Vishes Kothari’s vivid English translation introduces one of the most venerated figures in Rajasthani folk culture to a wider audience. This tribute to Detha’s rich legacy is a collector’s edition for all ages.

Suralakshmi Villa

Title: Suralakshmi Villa

Author: Aruna Chakravarti

Publisher: Macmillan

Year of publication: 2020

Pages : 313pages

Price : Rs 650

Links : Amazon

About: Suralakshmi Choudhury, a gynaecologist based in Delhi, falls in love at the age of thirty-one, marries and has a son. Suddenly, five years after his birth, she abandons everything including the house gifted to her by her father and her flourishing medical career, to travel to an obscure village in Bengal and open a free clinic for women and children. She leaves her son behind but takes along a poor Muslim girl, she has adopted. What makes her take this strange decision? Suralakshmi’s actions confound her relatives and it is from their accounts of the incidents, letters, memoirs, and flashbacks – from a more distant past – that the story comes together and the layers and nuances in the enigmatic character of Suralakshmi are brought to light.

In Suralakshmi Villa, Aruna Chakravarti blends the narrative of the novel with history, legend, music, religion, folklore, rituals and culinary practices of both Hindus and Muslims, and creates a fascinating tapestry which reveals the syncretic nature of Bengal and her people.

 

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Title: Calling Elvis: Conversations with Some of Music’s Greatest: A Personal History

Author: Shantanu Datta

Publisher: Speaking Tiger

Year of publication: 2020

Pages: 230

Price: INR 399

Links: Speaking Tiger 

About: Shantanu Datta’s career as a journalist placed him at the forefront of music reportage in India for much of the past three decades, and therefore gave him unprecedented access to the greatest performers from around the world who played in the South Asian subcontinent. This book compiles, for the first time, the detailed interviews he conducted with seminal artistes like Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Ian Anderson and Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) and many others including Dr L. Subramaniam, John McLaughlin, Sting, Jean-Luc Ponty, Carlos Santana and Amyt Datta. His candid, informed conversations with these enduring legends provide a rare glimpse into the minds of those trailblazers who influenced entire generations with their music. Datta’s own life too emerges in vignettes throughout the book, as he deftly weaves together his professional life with the personal through shared threads of melody and song.

Written with an exceptional depth of knowledge, Calling Elvis is an absolute treat for musicians and music-lovers everywhere.

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Title: Gariahat Junction

Author: Rituparna Roy

Publisher: Kitaab International, Singapore

Year of publication: January 2020

Pages: 150

Price: Rs.400/

Links: You Tube

About: Gariahat Junction is a collection of nine short stories, of contemporary Indian women who have reached a critical juncture in their lives. Set primarily in post liberalised, post-millennial Kolkata, it mostly explores the lives of middle-class Bengali women in or from the city.

 

 

79 Avatar - Antologia Indiana

 

Title: Avatar: Indian Science Fiction/ Fantascienza indiana

Author: Edited by Tarun K. Saint and Francesco Verso

Publisher: Future Fictions

Year of publication: 2020

Pages: 311

Price:$17.09

Links if any: Amazon

About: Avatar is the first ever bilingual anthology published in English and Italian language of new Indian Science Fiction. It has been edited by Francesco Verso, multiple award Science Fiction writer and editor of Future Fiction, together with Tarun Saint as guest editor. The aim is to bring together cutting edge and contemporary Indian Science Fiction that takes on board some of the most pressing challenges of this 21st century, post-modern and late post-colonial moment.

By Gargi Vachaknavi

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

― George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four

 

Doublespeak in Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-four (1949), was a way in which an oppressive regime brainwashed its common population. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), people were fed ‘soma’ and taught rhymes in praise of the intoxicant so that they would live in a state of morbid obedience. In both the books, rebellion or democratic principles were non-existent. The contexts in these novels were based on world orders around the two world wars and while much is being quoted from Hitler’s and Himmler’s regime to create parallels, the fact that we are witnessing the triumph of democracy gets lost in the goriness of the events.

‘Hum Dekhenge’ has been at the fringes of a controversy with a panel condemning the non-Hindu status of the poem. Faiz Ahmed Faiz had written this poem against the Zia regime in 1970s to inspire people to look forward to better days – a secular attempt to energise people weighed down by the burdens of tyranny. Intolerance for another world view seems to stare us in the face and generate endless violence and bloodshed. This situation brings to mind a story written by Satyajit Ray which won him national and international acclaim in 1980 — a dystopic story but with a positive end — a story that earned kudos as a film called Hirak Rajar Deshe (In the Land of the Diamond King). It is a sequel to the 1969 production of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne — another one of Ray’s highly regarded and awarded masterpieces.

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A DVD cover of Hirak Rajar Deshe

Hirak Rajar Deshe depicts a totalitarian regime by the Hirak Raja or the Diamond King who brainwashes people with the help of a machine called ‘jantarmantar’ and a weird scientist who feeds rhymes into it, rhymes like these, which could be perhaps seen as eternal because they seem to be playing out the current reality with all the attacks on universities and their inmates —

Lekha pora kore jei, onahare more shei

(Those who study, die of starvation)

 

Janaar kono shesh nai, janaar cheshta britha tai

(There’s no end to learning, so to try to learn is pointless)

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Title: The Best Asian Short Stories, 2019

Editors: Hisham Bustani (Series Editor: Zafar Anjum)

Publisher: Kitaab

Year of publication: 2019

Pages: 377

Price: $25

Links: Kitaab Bookstore

About: War, loss, love, compassion, nightmares, dreams, hopes and catastrophes; this is literary Asia at its best. From a wide range of geographies spanning from Palestine to Japan, from Kazakhstan to the Malaysia, mobilizing a wide array of innovative narrative styles and writing techniques, the short stories of this anthology, carefully curated by one of Asia’s prominent and daring writers, will take you on a power trip of deep exploration of local (yet global) pains and hopes, a celebration (and contemplation) of humanity and its impact, as explored by 24 writers and 6 translators, many of whom identify with many homes, giving Asia what it truly represents across (and beyond) its vast territory, expansive history, and many traditions and languages. This book is an open celebration of multi-faceted creativity and plurality.

Contributors:JOEL DONATO JACOB (Philippines); LANA ABDEL RAHMAN (Lebanon): RAZIA SULTANA KHAN (Bangladesh); DEENA DAJANI (Palestine); ALAN IRID FENDI (Syria); SAMIDHA KALIA (India); SCOTT PLATT-SALCEDO (Philippines); ANITHA DEVI PILLAI (Singapore); ANGELO WONG (Hong Kong); ODAI AL ZOUBI (Syria); SIMON ROWE (New Zealand / Japan); SEEMA PUNWANI (Singapore); VRINDA BALIGA (India); NAMRATA PODDAR (India / USA); T.A. MORTON (Ireland / Hong Kong); HAMID ISMAILOV (Uzbekistan); SUCHI GOVINDARAJAN (India); YD CHANG (China / Malaysia); JOLIN KWOK (Malaysia); IMRAN KHAN (Bangladesh); YAN TI (Taiwan); ZIRA NAURZBAYEVA (Kazakhstan); KAISA AQUINO (Philippines); JOSE VARGHESE (India)

 

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Title: Scream to the Shadows

Author: Tunku Halim

Publisher: Penguin SEA

Year of publication: 2019

Pages: 360

Price: SGD 14.50

Links if any: Penguin Random House

About: Unconfined to a single theme, this new collection of twenty short stories by Tunku Halim offers five distinct worlds—the paranormal mysteries from ‘The occult world’, with its dark settings reveal supernatural existences in the characteristic Halim style.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime,” wrote Mark Twain in Innocents Abroad.

And part of this broadening comes from the books that you read while traveling. A list of books with a new take on Pride and Prejudice set in 21 st century Pakistan, which is  told “with wry wit and colourful prose, Unmarriageable is a charming update on Jane Austen’s beloved novel and an exhilarating exploration of love, marriage, class, and sisterhood”, could be an interesting read. What is interesting is that the novel hops centuries to find a parallel setting. Earlier, there have been Bollywood movies, Bride and Prejudice. And of course, ghoulish spoofy takes — Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) based on the book (2009) by Seth Graham Smith. Darcy’s Story (1995) by Janet Aylmer was one of the first take offs on this classic by Jane Austen. Then there was The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride & Prejudice Novel by Pamela Mingle in 2013, which gave the story from Mary Bennet’s perspective.

Front cover

Title: Kiswah

Author: Isa Kamari

Publisher: Kitaab

Year of publication: 2019

Price: S$18

Pages: 201

Links: Singapore Writer’s Festival

About:

It is a story of a honeymooning couple in Delhi, Agra, Kashmir, Kathmandu and finally Mecca. The story unveils the true nature of Ilham, the husband whom Nazreen thought was a pious and morally upright person. As it turned out he was overwhelmed by his sexual desire and abuses her. Nazreen maintained her calm and integrity and tries to seek solace in their final destination, Mecca.

As they were performed the Umrah, Nazreen was kidnapped by a taxi driver. Ilham was shocked and at a loss. Disappointed he left Mecca, blaming God for his misfortune. He vowed not to return to the Holy Land.

In Singapore, Ilham continued with his hedonistic ways and kept a Chinese mistress whom he met at a massage parlour. Susan had an ailing mother who dreamt that her sickness would only be cured if she visited Mecca. Incidentally, Ilham was coaxed by Nazreen’s friend to return to Islam and amend his ways. He decided to marry Susan who presented him with a condition: they must visit Mecca with her mother.

Ilham was in a dilemma. Would he return to Mecca? Finally, he did, but not without deep introspection. A mysterious event ensued. He met his destiny in front of the Kaabah.

Kiswah attempts to probe the relationship between sexuality and spirituality, by letting both confront one another to find peace.

 

Dara Shukoh

Title: Dara Shukoh: The Man Who Would Be King

Author: Avik Chanda

Publisher: Harper Collins India

Publication Date:  2019

Pages: 368

Price: Rs 699 

Links: Amazon

About:

Dara Shukoh – the emperor Shah Jahan’s favourite son, and heir-apparent to the Mughal throne prior to being defeated by Aurangzeb – has sometimes been portrayed as an effete prince, incompetent in military and administrative matters. But his tolerance towards other faiths, and the myths and anecdotes surrounding him, continue to fuel the popular imagination. Even today, over 350 years after his death, the debate rages on: if this ‘good’ Mughal had ascended the throne instead of his pugnacious younger brother, how would that have changed the course of Indian history?

Dara Shukoh: The Man Who Would Be King brings to life the story of this enigmatic Mughal prince. Rich in historical detail and psychological insight, it recreates a bygone age, and presents an empathetic and engaging portrait of the crown prince who was, in many ways, clearly ahead of his times. Eminent journalist Arun Shourie says, “The Book we need — about the man we need.”

 

jakarta

Title: Jakarta Jive Bali Blues

Author: Jeremy Allan

Publisher: Yellow Dot 

Year of publication: 2019

Pages: 350

Price: Rp.192,500

Links: https://afterhoursbooks.myshopify.com/products/jakarta-jive-bali-blues

About:

A true-to-life look by an insightful writer, Jakarta Jive / Bali Blues is a collected edition of two books chronicling a pair of seminal events in modern Indonesian history: the end of the Suharto government in 1998 and the terrorist attack in Bali in 2002, from the point of view of the people most profoundly affected: the Indonesians themselves.