If we are what we eat, then there is a steady stream of archival material emanating from our kitchens that must necessarily be taken seriously, sociologically speaking. Food, at the first instance, is all about nutrition and sensory perceptions. However, for the attentive listener, food is also the story of who we are as a people.
Over centuries, maharajas and magicians, palaces and palanquins, elephants and erotica, dynasties and deserts, temples and tigers, poetry and poverty, snake charmers and spices—all have been instantly associated with India and have been the enduring reference points for this country.
Aviewing of Kailash and Manasarovar: A Quest Beyond the Himalaya quite easily leads one to agree with Deb Mukharji that of all the elements of nature, perhaps the strongest influence on the human psyche has been exercised by mountains’ (p. 34). I use the word ‘viewing’ quite deliberately because it is Mukharji’s amazing photographs that enliven his interesting text. Together, both are ample testimony of the author’s empathy for the high reaches and lonely spaces of the Himalaya. A former civil servant by profession but a mountaineer and photographer by instinct and passion, the author describes in meticulous detail the fascination of the Kailash and Manas region over millennia. Kailash, he writes, ‘is where convictions remain suspended, myths endure and sparks of understanding illuminate reason’ (p. 245).
This book is a monograph on the architecture of Centre for Development Studies designed by architect Laurie Baker. The Centre for Development Studies is regarded as a masterpiece of Laurie Baker and this book offers a documentation of the project. The project is compiled in the book in the
form of many photographs and drawings of various buildings of CDS.
The glory of the British empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was often associated with the phrase ‘The sun never sets on the British empire’. It was a statement of pride and celebration and the book under review by leaving the second half of the phrase has raised questions about historical continuities and contemporary relations of global power.
Peter Robb’s third book drawn from the diaries of one Richard Blechynden (1759–1822)—architect, surveyor, and civil engineer, who moved permanently to Calcutta in 1791—focuses on the ‘special meaning and function’ of friendship among Europeans, and between Europeans and Indians in early colonial Calcutta.
This monumental work, I gather, is an adaptation from the American edition of 2011 and not having consulted the original, I was naturally left wondering just how much the author ‘adapted’ with a South Asian readership in mind. It was, however, quite obvious to me that the present work represents the cumulative insight and expertise that Hiltebeitel has acquired over the years, particularly in relation to the study of the epics and dharma literature.
We are living in a present which is tense for many reasons. Identities are sought to be forged on the basis of particularly manufactured images of the past, in which aviation technology and plastic surgery and nuclear weapons go about almost in an existential abandon.