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.”

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Title: The Billionaire Raj

Author: James Crabtree

Publisher: Oneworld

Year of publication: 2018

 

 

Links: https://singapore.kinokuniya.com/bw/9781786075598

At the port, the facility’s amiable chief executive, Captain Unmesh Abhyankar, talked excitedly about the mechanics of the place: a world of berth occupancy, throughput rates and turnaround times. Mundra had an unusually deep harbour, allowing it to attract some of the world’s biggest cargo ships, he explained, giving it an edge over rivals elsewhere along India’s western coast. ‘We focus on the three Cs: coal, containers and crude,’ he said of the cargoes the ships brought in. Exports were more of a mish-mash, including everything from bauxite and cars to iron ore and wood. India’s dilapidated road network made it hard to move this in and out, so industrialist Gautam Adani built a 60-kilometre private freight line to the main rail network. Most Indian ports were state owned and inefficient, taking a couple of days or more to unload a ship. At Mundra, however, cargo was mostly whisked in and out over a morning. Abhyankar expected his facility to become the country’s largest port later that year, handling 100 million tonnes of goods, the first in India ever to do so.

Even at dusk the giant container cranes were easy to spot from the window, as our plane took off that evening and flew us back to Ahmedabad, ready to meet Adani the next day. The day’s last light glinted on the grey of the Gulf of Kutch in the distance. A few years earlier a team of oceanographers had found an ancient stone anchor lying 50 metres below the waves, of a type used by merchants more than a millennium before. For centuries, those same waters had been India’s trading artery, bringing wooden dhows and then steamships across from Africa and the Middle East. Through such trade and commerce, India had been an early pioneer of globalisation, at least until Nehru launched his new age of self-enclosure in the aftermath of Independence in 1947.

 

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Veteran actor, playwright and multi-lingual scholar, director Girish Karnad(1938-2019) died on 10 th June, 2019. He was eighty-one. He passed away peacefully at his home due to old age. He is survived by his widow, Saraswathy Ganapathy, his son Raghu Amay and his daughter Shalmali Radha.

He was cremated quietly by his family.  No fanfare or rituals were allowed as per his last wishes. 

Prime Minister Modi tweeted that this great Jnanpith Award winner will be remembered for “his versatile acting across all mediums,” and his work “will continue to be popular in the years to come”. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi wrote that India “has lost a beloved son, whose memory will live on in the vast treasure trove of creative work he leaves behind”.

All in all, Saeed Naqvi’s new book titled Being the Other: The Muslim in India is a great contribution to understanding the making of Modern India and how the political economy succeeded in creating a divide among Hindus and Muslims.

By Amir Ullah Khan

Being the OtherIt is such a coincidence that I got to read Saeed Naqvi’s new book titled Being the Other: The Muslim in India (Aleph, 2016) just as we were getting ready to submit our report to the Chief Minister of Telangana. I have been a member of a committee set up by the state government to look into socio-economic inequalities and deprivation among Muslims. The question that we were asked to address was whether reservations in educational institutions and government employment be extended to the Muslim community or not. The report is ready and am sure will be debated over the next few days.

Saeed Naqvi’s book too discusses the various factors our report looked into. It was fascinating to read his book with its amazing insight into what being Muslim in India means today. For someone who has watched the last 7 decades of independent India closely, and written prolifically on the same, Naqvi is a rare breed. This book, partly autobiographical, partly lyrical, journalistic and descriptive, is a vivid account of the journey of a community within a nation.

Indian journalist and writer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay in conversation with Kitaab’s Interviews Editor, Dr. Debotri Dhar

Women are shown in the (love jihad) campaign as being incapable of taking independent decisions – they can only be seduced or abducted; they cannot, by choice, fall in love with a man of another community […] Religion today is not a route to finding peace. It is a tool to subjugate the enemy other.

Nilanjan MukhopadhyayWhen one reads Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay (columnist and author of The Demolition: India at the Crossroads and Narendra Modi, The Man, The Times, published by Harper Collins and Westland respectively), one is immediately struck by his incisive understanding of Indian politics. Engaging in knee-jerk generalizations may be particularly easy given the currently polarized political climate, but his critiques are more meticulous–and munificent when they need to be.

When we first got in touch, I absent-mindedly addressed him as Professor Mukhopadhyay (as an academic, “Dr. and “Prof.” being my default modes). He wryly confessed that he was not a fan of formal education, and was a college dropout. (“Couldn’t resist that wisecrack!” he said.) As someone who agrees that college can sometimes seriously interfere with education, I was delighted. “Then I shall always address you as Prof. M,” I responded, with equal parts of affection and admiration. In our chat below, he generously shares his views on religion, right wing politics, journalism, “love jihad”, Modi, masjid, gender, caste, and the challenges ahead for Indian democracy.

Did you always want to be a journalist? Do share some of your insights on journalism.

I couldn’t have been anything else but a journalist because of the unplanned manner in which I got into the profession. I joined Jawaharlal Nehru University almost straight out of school, to pursue a 5 yr integrated MA course in Russian Language & Literature. But I had an unarticulated angst against formal education. I wanted to be a self-made person and did not wish this route to be through formal education. But by the time I came to JNU, the option of becoming an entrepreneur was foreclosed. I did make some money on the side by picking up stray assignments as a guide for Russian tourists but did not see myself as a lifelong ‘Raju Guide’ type.

I also used to take pictures at the time and was secretary of the photo club, and a friend who was working in a monthly magazine asked if I was willing to do the photos for a story on Chambal dacoits. This was in 1981-82, prior to the big surrenders of Malkhan Singh and Phoolan Devi. I did the pictures and when they were published, I quite liked seeing my name in print – my first byline. Around the same time, a Mrinal Sen retrospective was being screened. During a break, a friend and I saw Mrinal Da in the lobby and mustered courage to seek an interview. He heard that we were students and invited us for breakfast the next day at the hotel where he was staying. I typed out the interview after transcribing it by hand from my tape recorder. That was the first time I had typed anything – and with a single finger, one on each hand!