A major trend in history writing that began in the late 1960s to early 1970s in Europe and America was the study of cultural history where various aspects of social behaviour and cultural patterns of societies were being studied in their historical context. Multidisciplinary studies became the norm in the study of social sciences and history was not untouched by these developments. The subject matter of history did not merely include aspects of political narratives but also included the study of social, economic, behavioural and environmental aspects.
Syed Mahmood could have become a public figure as eminent as his father Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the educationist and social reformer who founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College (later the Aligarh Muslim University). Certainly, he had the potential for it. He knew at least seven languages ranging from English to Persian, Latin, and Sanskrit; wrote extensively in English and Urdu; and made notable contributions to the development of law and education in India
Historical literature on public health in colonial Bombay has been vast in depth and scale. We have seen how the city fought the plague, saw questions of sovereignty arise from the medical and moral disaster it inflicted on the city over the years. While the racialized segregated structures of the Presidency have been studied, there is need for a detailed description of the health policies and their intended subjects. Mridula Ramanna undertakes this project in yet another rigorous and meticulous volume on public health governance in Bombay of the late colonial period.
As we live on the brink of climate collapse, one may chafe at the lack of personal agency as we watch governing bodies and corporate entities make disastrous decisions. This book is a personal rendition of one woman’s awakening to the myriad of issues the world faces and her quest to do something about it along with her partner, culminating in their endeavour to set up a private sanctuary in India. The author hopes to enlighten her readers by interspersing this tale with snapshots and brief explanations of key environmental events and issues from around the world, spanning centuries.
As a child holidaying in Hyderabad with my grandparents, I was mesmerized by the exquisite Mughal glass collections in the Salarjung Museum—cut glass, crystal and blown glass goblets, hookah bases, bowls, bottles, platters and jugs, even spittoons—beautifully curved, with delicate swanlike necks. Beautiful translucent reds, blues and greens in jewel shades, etched, inlaid and enamelled with gold, fluted and melon shaped, with spirals, chevrons, and trifoliated designs and sprays of flowers running up their sides. Their beauty and delicacy enchanted me.
The average viewer of television news or reader of newspapers is clueless about what really goes on within media organizations, how decisions are made on stories, what are the filters placed on the flow of information, or how news is shaped by shadowy players, whether they happen to be proprietors, advertisers, or governments. The value of this rather slight book lies in providing a chink that allows a little daylight to penetrate the dark innards of the Indian newsroom.
This volume puts together literary writings in Urdu and Bangla on the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. The crop is by no means as plentiful as the writings on Partition, but nevertheless quite appreciable, particularly in Bangla. The great advantage of the volume is that it tries to gather the harvest from both the Eastern and the Western wing of Pakistan, in an effort to provide a holistic perspective. Sadly, the writings in Urdu on 1971, except for a few honourable exceptions, are abstract, inane and escapist.
The written word is a silent medium—we can only see the words on the pages of a book, cannot hear their sounds. We create those sounds in our minds while reading the book. As we slowly move from one word to another, one sentence to another, one paragraph to another, we gradually grow accustomed to listening to the words in our mind. Loud, shrill, gruffy, with different accents—we assign voices to characters, and sounds that we have created while reading assume texture.
In the Urdu world and in the world of Indian culture in general Sanjiv Saraf needs no introduction. He is the man behind Rekhta, the organization that has become synonymous with all things Urdu. Apart from its annual festival, the Rekhta website has become the go to site for all lovers of Urdu and now it is also attracting students and scholars. Through their digitization programme they are preserving books in private and rare collections all over the world. They spent weeks in my father’s library filming all the important books and manuscripts he possessed.
The self that remains rooted at the place of origin is a different one from the identity that the world creates. Home becomes a place one constantly returns to and the division of the self that occurs when one remains away from home magnifies on encountering one’s old self. Concepts regarding the definition of the self and one’s identity change with time but more importantly are dependent on the location and the surroundings. Kamila Shamsie through her writings has tried to discover Pakistan.
Somadeva. Translated from the original Sanskrit and with an Introduction by Arshia Sattar Foreword by Wendy Doniger
The opening lines of many books have acquired iconic status. From Dickens to Daphne du Maurier, the first lines have entranced the reader, and brought him back to the book time and again. Of all these, few can match the effectiveness of the first line in its simplest form ‘Can I tell you a story?’ or ‘Once upon a time….’ In an instant, the imagination is captured; we want to know ‘What comes next?’
Every now and then there is a spurt of interest in Amarushatakam, a compilation of a hundred love poems, dated around the 11th century AD. If viewed as part of the Indian literary tradition, such poems singing the praise of love, personal and yet universal, to which even an ordinary person can relate, have a hoary tradition. Amarushatakam and its precursor Sringara Shatakam by Bhartrahari, follow motifs and approaches similar to Hala’s Gathasaptasati in Prakrit (dating to the 1st century AD).
Though Kamban’s iRamavataram is considered the greatest poetic work of the Tamil language and has served as a source for numerous retellings into English, including C Rajagopalachari’s, Wentworth’s translation of the first canto, the Balakanda is probably the first proper ‘translation’ of even a part of it. The introduction sets the stage, as it were, for the translation itself to unfold. Unlike the Valmiki Ramayana, which is composed in a single metre, the shloka, said to be named thus as it was born out of shoka, grief, when Valmiki witnessed a hunter kill one of a pair of mating cranes, Kampan’s Tamil masterpiece has no less than eighty-seven varieties of metres which are employed to create varied effects.
Ruskin Bond is perhaps undoubtedly India’s favourite short story writer and novelist. From children to young adults and grown-ups, there is no category that is left untouched and unmoved by his stories—through the easy-flowing style and the languid descriptions that transport the reader into the mountains of Landour or the hills of Dalhousie or into the surrounding forests, with their accompanying ‘songs’. David Davidar, in the foreword to this collection calls Bond ‘ambidextrous’—a perfect word to describe the man whose oeuvre has mesmerized and influenced at least three generations of readers.
Harini Nagendra is Director of Research at the Azim Premji University and leads the University’s Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability. She has authored several scientific publications and books on the planet and its ecosystems. The Bangalore Detectives Club is her first foray into fiction.A murder mystery featuring a 19-year-old protagonist, the book is based in Bangalore in the 1920s. Young, beautiful, upper-class wife of a doctor, Kaveri the protagonist, could well be the heroine of a young adult book of fiction, which is almost what TBDC is.
Professor GJV Prasad’s abundant creativity offers us a smorgasbord of options from which to choose—poetry, fiction, criticism, academic writing and translation. Currently, it is his translation into English of Ambai’s Tamil stories, taking ‘a seed from one soil’ and planting it into another, that is bringing in the praise he so richly deserves. His long-standing passion for writing poetry in English, I’m sure, has aided in honing his skills as a translator.
Syeda Javeria Fatima’s collection of poems is not as whimsical as the title suggests; in fact, it is quite the opposite to it. Written in simple rhyme schemes, the poems voice the observations of a child’s world which has been marred by experiences too mature for her. Divided into sections that range from spiritual belief to romantic love, and her mother’s sacrificial omnipresence for her family members to friends that include her schoolmates and her grandparents, Fatima’s poems are a gamut of emotions both personal and relatable at the same time.
As is being discussed worldwide, the age of digital technology has given a new lease of life to analogue photography. The ability to scan and make digital files out of old fragile negatives and paper prints has given impetus and ease to the facility of making visual archives. Here are two presentations that are a valuable gift to the connoisseur of the not so recent cultural history of the Indian subcontinent that have been made possible by the effort of The Alkazi Collection of Photography.
Robert Elgood presents high-quality photographs of some two hundred items from the armoury of the Jaipur Court accompanied by technical descriptions and comments on the provenance of each. Sample, ‘hilt with the baluster grip with off-centre knop and projecting pommel’; or ‘nephrite “jade vert bronze” hilt … decorated with volutes, with two buds serving as vestigial quillons’. The author’s comments provide not only deeply-researched historical information but absorbing trivia for the curious browser.
This was a story that was waiting to be told, a personalized documentation of three decades of theatre in Bombay from the sixties to the nineties. This mapping is done through the three spaces which became a catalyst for a certain kind of theatre to bloom. Significant theatre actors and directors emerged from that period, learning as they experimented and engaged with text and space that did not fit the conventional template. This inadvertently created an alternative vision of how performance could be viewed