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
I happened to be reading A. Mangai’s book, Acting Up: Gender and Theatre in India, 1979 Onwards’ during the run-up to what promised to be high drama at the Shani Shingnapur temple in Sonai, Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra. Trupti Desai of Pune’s Bhumata Brigade had announced her plan to storm the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, forbidden to women, with an army of 1000 women. If the police debarred them from marching in, she planned to drop down on the open sanctum from a helicopter.
In 1983 the noted scholar of early Indian textiles and trade routes, Lotika Varadarajan wrote a seminal book on South Indian Traditions Of Kalamkari, published by the National Institute of Design & Perennial Press, It covered all three traditions of South Indian Kalamkari—Macchlipatnam, Srikalahasti and the lesser known Sikkinaikenpet.
To a Kolkata-Bengali to the core like me, who unfortunately has lived out of the city for almost a quarter of a century now and in this period has been to the city only once during the Pujas, that too more than a decade back, and yet who is aware of the fact that it is exactly during this period that Durga Puja in Kolkata has completely metamorphosed, and is vaguely aware of what he has missed out on, this beautifully produced book came quite literally as godsend. Beautiful the book certainly is—shaped, sized, priced, and in looks as it is like a coffee table book—with glossy pages, a wonderfully designed dust jacket, and almost five hundred full-colour photographs, and yet it is not your usual coffee table book.
Our experience, both at the personal and the public level, shows that Art lives and grows in a climate of freedom, peer rivalry, and infrastructural support. An element of spontaneity and a dropping of one’s defences are key for human expression to be creative, for your imagination to take flight. Art begins here, in that flight of fancy which all of us have experienced at one time or another. Fear, the fear of someone looking over your shoulder, is often the biggest enemy of such flights of fancy.
Religious nationalism remains an important phenomenon in the last three decades, which has manifested itself in an explicit manner after the fall of the Soviet Union. The books under review seek to study the phenomena of terror and violence unleashed across the globe, which the authors argue, have deep linkages with the advent of religious nationalism.
Drones, or remotely piloted aircrafts, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), so to speak, have added a new dimension to the way war is conducted in the 21st century. Drones, besides being used as lethal weapons of war, have added functions of being instruments used for collection of intelligence and surveillance. Proponents of the use of drones in warfare, counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency believe that drones have made it possible to target the enemy without much collateral damage (civilian casualties). The added advantage of a drone is that not only can it hover over an area of operation for a long time, but also it does not require manpower in the line of fire, thereby removing the greatest limitations states face in war: body bags.
Non-Traditional Security Challenges in Asia edited by Shebonti Ray Dadwal, Fellow and head of the Non-Traditional Security Centre at the Institute for Defence and Security Studies (IDSA) and Uttam Kumar Sinha, Fellow, IDSA is a compilation of papers presented by scholars in the field of Non-Traditional Security (NTS) threats at the 14th Asian Security Conference organized by the IDSA in February, 2012. It appears that while the International edition of this book was published in 2015, the South Asia edition has become available only in early 2016.
2016 got off to an inglorious start for India Pakistan relations with the attack on Pathankot’s Air Force base by terrorists allegedly affiliated to the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group. The outfit, headquartered in Bahawalpur district, a cotton farming area in Pakistani Punjab, is one of a number of terrorist outfits operating in the region. In addition to Bahawalpur, areas like Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Gazi Khan, Chiniot and Jhang are considered fertile breeding ground for terrorist recruitment. Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino shooters, was apparently radicalized in Multan.
A complex, enigmatic web of contravening ideas and beliefs shaped Benazir Bhutto’s personality and also determined her political journey in one of the most challenging contexts in the region—Pakistan. As a newly created state with a religiously defined national identity, Pakistan’s social strata was yet to reconcile with the assertions and authority of women as politicians. Therefore, for reasons well understood, a wide range of scholarship has commented upon the life and political trajectory of the late Bhutto scion—a life so splendid, politically charged with its share of agony, yet cut short in a brutal assassination.
Don’t talk of hawks and doves. We are running a foreign policy, not a bird sanctuary.’ Former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh’s riposte in 1988 when asked whether he was a hawk or a dove. Khurshid Kasuri served as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister (2002– 07) when General Parvez Musharraf was President. He succeeded Abdul Sattar, a former career diplomat, whom Musharraf had appointed immediately following the 1999 coup. (Sattar had briefly served in the same capacity in a caretaker government in 1993.
Burma’s strategic importance to India cannot be underestimated. A neighbour with 1600 kms border, a number of ports facing each other across the Bay of Bengal and four traditional roads connecting the two countries and administratively linked to India under British rule, India and Burma (Myanmar) share commonalities of history, culture, religion, ethnicity and spirituality. Myanmar is the perfect economic bridge between India and China and between South and Southeast Asia.
The plight of border communities, sundered by the Partition is now well recognized in all its dimensions—displacement, rehabilitation, economic and social disruption. While the brunt of the negative fallout was borne by the main inhabited areas along the Radcliffe Line (boundary between India and Pakistan and later Bangladesh), in more remote areas the impact was more economic. Yet over the years the communities living across each other along the border have found ways and means to continue their economic linkages through both formal and informal channels.
The book traces two centuries old history of plantations in Sri Lanka from its inception in the early 19th century to the present. In doing so the book highlights the complex interrelationship between power and class, gender and ethnic hierarchies. The authors are well known social scientists and have already made a mark as perceptive writers on Sri Lankan history and politics. Based on their rich experience, coupled with extensive use of archival and secondary sources and enriched by personal interviews with key players the book is an invaluable contribution to Sri Lankan history and politics.