An Unholy Nexus

Ben Antao has tackled the birth of Goan Independence with humour and an unrepentant pen. That politics is money is unquestioned in this novel. That politics is business is also boldly stated. And with the events in this tale taking place in the early 1960s when, for those of us who were raised in a more idealistic time and were led to believe in statesmanship and leadership (Kennedy, Gandhi, Churchill et al), and in altruistic nation-building in a post-WWII era, this book comes as a bit of a shake-up and a wake-up call.

Justice Vs Compromise

It’s about the farcical trial of a Left-wing folk singer accused of instigating a sewage worker to commit suicide in a manhole. India’s official entry for Oscars 2016, a Marathi movie called Court, has earned acclaim for its insightful portrayal of the Indian legal culture. It’s a rivetting story even as it focused on banality rather than the usual fare of dramatic situations and stirring dialogues. In a matter-of-fact tone, the movie brings out the quirks of the judge, prosecutor, defence counsel and the accused person, not only in the court premises but in their personal lives too.

Of Change And Continuities

The election held in 2014 was significant in many respects. First, for the first time in the electoral history of India, a non-Congress party was able to come to power at the centre on its own, considering the fact that the Janata Party was a conglomeration of parties ‘coming together’ to contest election in 1977. Second, the colossal presence and impact of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate and chief campaigner of the BJP over the eventual electoral outcome was a reminder of the personcentered campaigns undertaken by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s. Third, it was arguably the first election when the social, electronic and print media seemed to play such an important role in setting the electoral agenda and influencing electoral choices.

Why The Southern States Are Ahead

It has for long been an accepted economic wisdom that the trajectory of economic development taken by ‘constituent units of a country’ (hereafter as ‘States’) tends to converge over time. In a timely intervention, Samuel Paul and Kala Seetharam Sridhar have, in their co-authored book entitled, The Paradox of India’s North-South Divide: Lessons from the States and Regions (hereafter as The Paradox) ‘counter’ this by drawing from variegated economic experiences of North and South Indian States. They examine the why and how of North-South divide by invoking a set of ‘proximate’ and ‘foundational’ factors to (i) test the ‘credibility’ of the claim that southern States performed better than their northern counterparts, (ii) examine ‘when and in what respect’ the South performed better than the North, and (iii) examine the ‘reasons behind the paradox’ of the North-South economic divide (pp. 5–6). While acknowledging the import of ‘proximate’ factors like literacy, health, education, infrastructure, and urbanization, among others, Paul and Sridhar contend that ‘foundational’ factors like governance, law and order are critical in determining divergent economic outcomes of North and South Indian States (pp. 33–34).

Across Spatial And Temporal Frameworks

Gunnel Ceder’s Founding an Empire is an important contribution to the historical scholarship on colonial state making in South Asia in general and frontier and borderland studies in particular. Taken together, her earlier works on the interfaces of agrarian, environmental and legal histories in colonial and early colonial South India and eastern Bengal and the book under review on India’s North Eastern frontiers, speaks of the author’s rare ability to traverse a vast landscape across spatial and temporal frameworks. Rejecting the ascription of frontier as an ‘isolated enclave’ at the very outset, Founding An Empire shows how India’s North East was ‘an open-ended affair’ (p. 6) at least until the early decades of Company rule. Arguably, the book lends a certain centrality to the landscape between Bengal and Burma and posits how significant this region could be in reshaping our understanding of early colonial state making.

Indian Women…A Study In Sepia

This collection of essays edited by two eminent Indian women brings together contributions from some of the best known and most respected scholars and activists in the country. It is the second edition—coming three decades after the first—of a collection of essays that is described as a precursor to the ‘Towards Equality’ report. Surely a book that will endure as a benchmark in the field of women’s studies, to be quoted and cited for many years to come.

On The Path Of Reform And Growth

Tarun Das transports the reader on a 30-year twin journey: he narrates the opening up of India, from its hesitant and wayward path before P.V. Narasimha Rao became Prime Minister in 1991, gaining traction after the latter launched economic reforms; that story is juxtaposed with a detailed account of the transformation of an obscure engineering industry association into what became for a time India’s most powerful non-state economic actor. Tarun Das accomplishes this in a short book, which unfortunately leaves out a large part of his fund of rich stories, episodes that those that travelled with him on stretches of that journey might wish were included.


This is not just a tribute, as suggested in the title, it is a ‘labour of love’ undertaken at speed by a former admiring junior colleague and Venkat’s one sonin-law, and motivated, as the editors elaborate in an introductory note, by the conviction that the hero of the volume was such a unique person that he should be remembered forever. The contents generally justify that introduction, for it ends up between analect and anthology, with a marked emphasis on the former. It has, of course, been well publicized and received praise; released originally in Bangalore, it was then presented to the Sharjah Book Fair, then released again by the Dalai Lama.