Maajid Nawaz was in thrall to extremist group Hizb al-Tahrir, a path that led to torture in an Egyptian jail. In this extract from his forthcoming book, Radical, he describes how he was recruited to the Islamist cause.

HIDEOUS HINDUS Massacre Muslims’ was the rather offensive title of the leaflet. I still remember that title. That one leaflet has changed the course of my life in ways probably unthinkable for its anonymous author. It laid bare the behaviour of the Hindu extremists in what was a shocking and deeply inflammatory episode.

At this point in his life, Osman, spurred on by the likes of Public Enemy’s Professor Griff, had taken an interest in politics. He followed the ‘Intifada’ that had been going on against the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and the role of Yasser Arafat’s PLO. This struggle for Palestinian liberation, and the crushing Israeli response, complete with tacit American support, had long been a running sore in international relations. In the context of my story and so many others, it was undoubtedly a factor that justified the Islamist narrative of victimhood.

A writer who starts with a theme and then hangs a story around its neck will land in trouble unless she is telling it from inside-out. By humanising the characters. Kishwar Desai has strong views about surrogacy. She has exposed certain truths about a well-oiled medical industry that has bypassed ethical issues to provide couples with a baby that is ‘biologically’ their own. But the shocking indifference of medical bodies like the Indian Medical Association and the Medical Council towards such corrupt, unethical practices is not mentioned.

The novel fails to navigate the difficult zones of disappointment, despair, social expectations and family values that envelop the issue of infertility. This lends a disappointing flatness to the story. The feisty protagonist goes all the way to London, posing as a woman in need of a sperm donor, god help her, but we do not feel any empathy towards her or any of the others.

In Churning the Earth: the Making of Global India, economist Aseem Shrivastava and ecologist Ashish Kothari interrogate what is unarguably the question of greatest consequence for our times: does contemporary globalisation, as a “definitive prescription not just for a certain arrangement of economic affairs, but for a way of life”, offer solutions to the impoverishment of billions of people, and for unborn generations and non-human species?

This immensely significant and compelling book—one of the most important in recent years—maps painstakingly the political economy of both the socio-economic consequences and environmental impacts of the current growth path. The picture emerging from this densely argued treatise is bleak and harrowing—a picture of greed, inequality, suffering, and the reckless, irresponsible destruction of the planet’s resources.

Bhog and Other Stories
By Ankur Betageri
Pilli Books, Bangaluru, 2010
Hardback, 108 pp., Rs. 260
by Zafar Anjum

In Ankur Betageri’s debut collection of short stories, Bhog and Other Stories, the last story, Malavika, is about a Bangalore-based materialistic girl. The eponymous character, Malavika, is befriended by the narrator—a writer and a friend of the young college-going student. The writer shows that Malavika is confused about life.

We like ambition in people. In India, children at a very young age are often asked by doting relatives what they want to become when they grow up: a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, a scientist, a pilot, or a business executive. Indian parents take great pride in showing off the precociousness of their offsprings when they are able to set an ambition for themselves and rattle it out with an impressive perspicacity in front of their relatives at weddings or dinner parties.

When I was asked to review Rajat Das’ debut novel (Paper Boat, Flame of the Forest) I approached the offer with skepticism. Why? I had little experience of reading a novel as long as 800 pages. Believe me, I have considered Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy many times in libraries and bookstores but that novel’s heft has always come in the way of my reading pleasure (and I prefer doorstoppers from Ikea). Man, don’t get me wrong. I love Seth, I love that Golden Gate man. What a charming writer! But I am happy having read his From Heaven Lake.