“Why, I wondered, while watching the leaves change colour in the fall, were there very few serious yet engaging books on love, its many moods and multiple meanings?”

From book’s Preface by Debotri Dhar

Featuring essays from prominent writers like Makarand Paranjpe, Alka Pande, Malashri Lal, Rakshanda Jalil, Mehr Farooqi and Zafar Anjum, this collection of essays on love is a much-needed read at this time when the definition of love, is being challenged.

Published by Speaking Tiger, this book gives historical and cultural perspectives on Indian love (swayamvara, arranged marriages, and desi romance); the immortal love of Radha and Krishna that transcends theology; the story of a powerful, sexually desiring and desired courtesan/nagarvadhu. The essays explore various themes like inter-religious love, love-jihad, same-sex love, a Dalit’s journey to finding love in times of dating apps etc.

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Published by Penguin Ebury Press, 2020

Pegged on journalist Sameer Arshad Khatlani‘s visit to Pakistan, The Other Side of the Divide provides insights into the country beyond what we already know about it. These include details on the impact of India’s soft power, thanks to Bollywood, and the remnants of Pakistan’s multireligious past, and how it frittered away advantages of impressive growth in the first three decades of its existence by embracing religious conservatism.

By Nishi Pulugurtha

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Being a caregiver for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s Disease for many years now is a very difficult task but then it has taught me a couple of things – it has taught me patience (loads of it) and it has taught me to take things as they come. There is no one way to deal with someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, there is no sure shot way of being prepared for things, each day brings with it new difficulties, each day throws up challenges that one has to learn to deal with, to take in their stride. One needs to read a lot on the condition to understand it, find out as much as possible about ways to deal with it, ways to care for a loved one, but one is never ever really prepared for what the next morning, or afternoon, or evening might throw up. This is a dear one, who is now changing so much, so the pain and trauma of seeing her go through all of it is always there, that is something one never comes to terms with.

As I am trying now to deal with being house bound, I cannot but live in the moment, an idea I think everyone should ponder over. This is time to take things into account, to deal with things in the best way one can. As news of the shutdown spreads, I see people trying to find ways and means to deal with it. An academic and translator puts up a Facebook post where he says that he is planning to have online readings done using an online platform. He shares the link and asks whoever might be interested to join in, from any part of the world. Time differences no longer matter, as all or most are housebound. The group meets online every alternate day, I have not been part of it as yet due to my poor internet bandwidth. Maybe, I will, one of these days.

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“According to a 2018 Author’s Guild Study the median income of all published authors for all writing related activity was $6,080 in 2017, down from $10,500 in 2009; while the median income for all published authors based solely on book-related activities went from $3,900 to $3,100, down 21%. Roughly 25% of authors earned $0 in income in 2017.”

And yet we choose to write!

Perhaps, a secondary source of income would help writers fend for themselves. Rabindranath Tagore had parental wealth. Despite that, his wife, Mrinalini, gave him her jewellery to sell for achieving his dreams. Of course, this was long before he got the Nobel Prize for literature. Kazi Nazrul Islam was neither a rich man. These are both writers who made dreams happen.

Book review by Tan Kaiyi

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Title: The War on Terror

Author: Rene Acosta

Publisher: Penguin, 2019

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvellous, intoxicating.”

 –Simone Weil

As Southeast Asia achieves prominence as a rising tiger of the East (once again), it can be easy to forget the violence that plagued the region. Thailand is known as the ‘Land of Smiles’, but concealed is the reality of military juntas, corruption and royal drama. Indonesia, known for its pristine mythical landscapes, is also home to soil infested with the blood of suspected Communists. Even Singapore, the icon of the region’s progress, is not exempt from a history of violence. The Japanese Occupation and racial riots are just some of the stains on the history of the island nation.

The War on Terror deep dives into the vibrant yet troubled land of the Philippines. Written by veteran journalist Rene Acosta, this slim book is a concentrate of bloodshed and death. The non-fictional account is told through behind-the-scenes perspectives, detailed accounts of the operations and moments of extreme terror that not even today’s ultra-violent entertainment can match. The book centers on the Filipino military’s actions against the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). An Islamic separatist organization that operates in the Southern Philippines, it has been terrorising the group of islands—and the surrounding regions—since its first recorded activity in 1991.

The beginning sets the tone for the relentless bloodshed that pervades the book’s pages. Acosta starts his narrative in February 1993, when a group from the Philippines Marine Corp was massacred by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). They were lured out into a surprise attack by 300 members of the MNLF. Acosta spares no details when it comes to describing the atrocity of the massacre, reporting that the Marines were “…were stripped to their underwear and whose bodies showed burn and hack wounds that left most of them nearly unrecognizable…”

 

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Title: FLAWED: The Rise and Fall of India’s Diamond Mogul Nirav Modi

Author: Pavan C. Lall

Publisher: Hachette India, 2019

Links : Amazon 

 

 

 

A BILLIONAIRE FROM NOWHERE: The Creation of a Diamond Mogul

 Nirav Modi did not leave Belgium as a successful entrepreneur, nor did he have any kind of work experience with top Western jewellery houses. While it’s not clear what he intended to do when he returned to India, what is certain is that by around 1999 Nirav Modi had arrived in Mumbai and begun his tutelage under Mehul Choksi. Why did he not, instead, join hands with his other uncle, Chetan Choksi, who was already in Europe? The answer is that there wasn’t much love lost between him and Chetan. Aside from his rapport with Mehul, another factor may have motivated his return. India was at a crossroads after the liberalization of its economy. The future was wide open and for a young entrepreneurial expatriate who had returned to start with the support of an entrenched player, India was a land of endless opportunities.

Once the die was cast, Modi learned how gems and jewellery worked in India. What he learned he would, in turn, pass on to his brother Nishal, including how to work within tight budgets and how to buddy up to midlevel employees in factories by sipping on cutting chai with them during breaks.

 

Modi has claimed that he had always planned for a luxury brand, but during the years that he was with his uncle, and shortly after, he was building up businesses of the diamond supply chain that were of lower-value and that included polishing and trading. But it was fluting, essentially the manual bagging of diamonds for other manufacturers, that gave his company the launch pad it needed, or so Modi would declare publicly. Modi first called his company Firestone, but then changed it to Firestar in 1999 because the former sounded too much like the automotive tyre company. In Modi’s own words, the company gave him consistent profits for the better part of five or six years and, by 2004, Firestar’s revenues crossed `400 crore.

Book review by Debraj Mookerjee

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Title: The Hindu Way – An Introduction to Hinduism
Author: Shashi Tharoor
Publisher: Aleph; 2019

​At sixty-four (though he does not look his age), the last thing you wish to remind readers about Shashi Tharoor, diplomat, litterateur and now politician, is that he was once a prodigy. But indeed, he was. An outstanding achiever in college, he graduated with history in 1975 from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, where he was elected president of the student union, and also helped found the Quiz Club. By 1976, he had an MA in International Relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University in the US. In 1977, he earned a master’s in law and Diplomacy, and in 1978, at age 22, he was awarded a Ph.D. at Tufts. After a three-decade old career with the United Nations, Tharoor decided it was time he tried his hand in politics. At the UN he has played referee; it was time to actually start playing the game by taking to the field. Sought by all political parties, he decided to join the Indian National Congress. He has since won two consecutive terms to the Indian Parliament from his parent state of Kerala.

The Hindu Way, his twenty-first publication, embodies a bit of everything that represents him. It reveals the extent of his scholarship and knowledge, especially on a subject that is difficult and complex and diverse (Hindu philosophy presents deep challenges even to lifelong scholars). It marks out the territory he wishes to reach by way of an international readership that might be interested in discovering the tenets of Hindu thought. And most significantly, it foregrounds Tharoor the politician. More on the third and final assertion later, for that is almost the real story within this story. And nothing​, ​ please​, ​ on the numerous controversies that have underlined his journey through public affairs; this is a book review, not a vanity piece.

Among his numerous nonfictional works, perhaps the most interesting and widely regarded ​is​ the 2016 book that emerged from the 5 million YouTube views his Oxford debate participation of 2015 earned, wherein he tore into the colonial exploitation of India with panache, marshalling facts and subtle arguments to disrobe all pretence that British rule in India might have donned.  An Era of Darkness (2016) published in the UK as Inglorious Empire (2017) solidified an opinion held by many – Tharoor’s years spent with the UN were not wasted; he brings great nuance and arguments into the public sphere with linguistic elegance that is matched by few. In 2018, he published Why I am a Hindu. The Wikipedia entry on the work is spot on, “Tharoor intended the book to be a repudiation of Hindu nationalism, and its rise in Indian society, which relied upon an interpretation of the religion which was markedly different from the one with which he had grown up, and was familiar with. In seeking to address this concern, he wanted to position the debate as one within the Hindu faith, and therefore wrote about his own personal identification with the religion.”

Jayesh Parekh in conversation with Prerna Pant
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What Shall We Do With All This Money? by debut author Jayesh Parekh was launched in Singapore’s National Library on 29 January 2020. The book offers perspectives on wealth gleaned from interviews with more than 50 achievers from different walks of life, ranging from Ratan Tata to Shekhar Kapoor. In this video, author Jayesh Parekh is in conversation with entrepreneur Prerna Pant. At the end of the interaction, he takes questions from the audience.

Dara Shukoh

 

 

Title: Dara Shukoh: The Man Who Would Be King

Author: Avik Chanda

Publisher: Harper Collins India, India

Links: Amazon

 

 

In the majlises at his residence, Dara revelled at the prospect of pitching the proponents of different faiths against each other, in a theosophical joust. For a while, Jesuits, with their fervour of preaching and advocating the superiority of their faith, were the fashion of the season in Dara’s mansion. Father Estanilas Malpica, Pedro Juarte, Henri Buzeo and Heinrich Roth shocked and regaled those present, and later, after the debate was over, sat at table with the Prince and shared the wine together. As regards the Prince’s own views in the matter, as Bernier, who came to know him personally, commented: ‘Dara was in private a Gentile with Gentiles, and a Christian with Christians.’ This stemmed not from any innate sense of diplomacy – indeed, Dara had none – but a firm belief in the commonality between religions, an advocacy of the tenets that sustained like an unbroken thread across them, rather than the rituals and doctrines that separated them, causing strife and suffering.

And yet, there were times Dara was not so aloof from the world that none of its news reached him. There was strife and dissent in the empire – and it was directed against him. It was not only the greybeards at court, the statesmen and generals, who felt slighted by him. There was another, equally powerful enemy: the orthodox Islamic clergy. Since ages, there had been an unwritten agreement between the religious and administrative leadership. There was the rule of the Church – and that of noble kings, Brahmin priests and Kshatriya rajahs, and elsewhere across the Muslim empires, ulema and sultans divided the land and their people between themselves. But now, here was Dara, the Crown Prince of Hindustan, who challenged their authority; scorned them for their rigidity, and supposed lack of divine insight and spiritual experiences; and vilified them in his speeches and published writings. Dara had far overstepped his mark as a Prince of the realm, and amongst the disgruntled orthodoxy, there were rumblings of heresy.