M.V. Kamath

This collection of lectures organized by the Nehru Centre, Mumbai, two years ago to reassess the relevance of Jawaharlal Nehru of the modern world makes pleasant reading. The writers are all well-known experts on politics, foreign policy, national security and modern Indian history.

Reviewed by: A.K. Damodaran
Krishnan Srinivasan

Krishnan Srinivasan has worked at high levels in the Foreign Service and the Commonwealth Secretariat. He has spent several years in Africa where he seems to have acquired an insider’s perspective into the shuffle and elbowing that go by the name of diplomacy in most countries. This is Srinivasan’s second book, which he describes as his prequel to The Eccentric Effect, published in 2001.

Reviewed by: Usha Hemmadi
Azhagia Periavan

Azhagia Periavan (Aravindhan) is one of the young Dalit writers in Tamil who claim attention for their authentic and honest portrayal of the life of the oppressed classes. The portrayal is, on occasions, too real and raw to be art, and a conscious process of transformation of the raw material into finished product might have made the stories richer and given the writer also a kind of training in critical intelligence.

Reviewed by: N. Sivaraman
Hasit Mehta

Govardhanram Madhavram Tripathi (1855- 1907) wrote and published four parts of his novel Sarasvatichandra between 1887 and 1901. For over a century it has remained a canonical text of Gujarati literature, unmatched in popularity and influence. Govardhanram chose the novel form not for its aesthetic possibilities but because it allowed shaping the minds of his people.

Reviewed by: Tridip Suhrud
Martin Macwan

Martin Macwan’s Mari Katha is the tale of not just one individual, the author, as the title, “My Story”, would lead one to believe, but that of an entire community—the dalits of rural Gujarat. The book is based on Macwan’s personal experiences with the dalit community. A number of dalit people contributed to this work by reading its drafts and offering suggestions, which were incorporated by Macwan, who gratefully acknowledges their efforts.

Reviewed by: Fr. Francis Parmar
Saroop Dhruv

Gujarat has become a byword used casually for the way the historical state has slowly been turning into History. The Kandala tornado, the droughts, the earthquake, the Godhra carnage and the subsequent riots, have made ‘Gujarat’ into a political headline that drowns other voices.

Reviewed by: Nishant Shah
Asha Hans

The issue of disability as a field of academic study as well as a ground for activism is gaining prominence not only the world over but in India too. The recognition of disability as a rights issue in India emerged as significant when the Persons With Disabilities Act was passed in 1995. Another instance was when the disabled demanded that they be included in the Census 2001.

Reviewed by: Upali Chakravarti
Anupama Rao

Gender & Caste is a significant contribution to the ongoing efforts at understanding the imbrications of caste related issues with other political concerns. It represents the first attempt at bringing together essays that are exploring the critical interconnections between caste and gender. And precisely for that reason it is striking that this anthology on caste is the first in the series “Issues in Contemporary Indian Feminism” edited by Rajeswari Sunder Rajan and published by Kali for Women in association with the Book Review Literary Trust, New Delhi.

Reviewed by: Rekha Pappu
Andre Beteille

Dedicated to Dharma Kumar, this book by Beteille is a collection of 12 papers published elsewhere between 1978 and 1999. These are reflective pieces on Indian society’s uneven experiences in the course of transition from a traditional to a modernizing one. Antinomies are not the same as binary opposites, though they are a sort of contradiction in norms and values (rather than the socioeconomic features of the roles and relationships) deployed by the society as it regulates itself.

Reviewed by: Tulsi Patel
Sebastian C.H. Kim

The vital importance of this timely and extremely well-written book cannot be stressed enough. In the surcharged atmosphere characterizing the contemporary discourse on conversion in India, where emotions run high, and where perceptions and prejudices clash with the deafening sound of incomprehensibility, where well-disposed and sensitive-minded people are often overwhelmed by the unfortunate directions which the debate on conversion often takes, Sebastian Kim offers us a sober, carefully researched and painstakingly documented book on the emergence of the conversion issue during the last one hundred and fifty years in pre- and post-independent India.

Reviewed by: J. Jayakiran Sebastian
Vasudev Rao

The Madhva Matha of Udupi, founded by Madhvacharya, the proponent of the dvaita, is a fascinating institution. It is an octagonal arrangement where eight Mathas (or Matthas, as pronounced in Kannada) taking their names from villages near the temple town of Udupi have the right of conducting worship in the Krishna Temple by rotation.

Reviewed by: Sachidananda Murthy
Antony Copley

The present work, as per the editor’s own admission, is a companion volume to the one brought out in 2000 under the name Gurus and Their Followers. Apart from including some common authors, the two volumes also reveal strong thematic continuities. Thus in both cases, Gwilym Beckerlegge writes on the ideal of seva [selfless social service],

Reviewed by: Amiya P. Sen
Caroline O.N. Moser

Despite the volumes written on wars and conflicts there has been a vacuum in research that examines the gender aspects of political violence. Most traditional analysis of conflicts had a subliminal masculinity inherent in the texts. This is now being rectified with a surge of new work that inquires into the gender aspects of political violence and armed conflict.

Reviewed by: Anuradha Chenoy
Lt. Gen. V.K. Sood

It was once said that “war was too serious a business to be left to Generals”. But after reading this book by Lt. Gen. V.K. Sood and Pravin Sawhney, I am convinced; it is even more dangerous, when matters of war and peace are left to India’s incompetent politicians! When India mobilized its armed forces for a possible war against Pakistan following the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001

Reviewed by: Maroof Raza
M.V. Ramana

India’s May 1998 nuclear decision forms the backdrop to the contributions in this edited volume. In general, Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream is a critique of the nuclear tests, the motives underlying the decision, as well as the immorality, dangers and costs inherent in developing a nuclear arsenal.

Reviewed by: S. Kalyanaraman
Dhruv Raina

What is the history of science a history of? The answer to this question is not as self evident as might appear. The answer that it is a history of “science” simply invites the further question: what is science? How are its boundaries to be demarcated? By whose authority are certain practices to be designated as “scientific?”

Reviewed by: Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Inder Malhotra

Although the Nehru-Gandhi family alone has dominated accounts on political dynasties so far, it is not the only powerful family/dynasty within India, leave alone South Asia. Indeed, the number of influential families striding the political stage in the region is rather large. In addition, dynasties abound in the world of industry, film, music and many other fields.

Reviewed by: Zoya Hasan
Madhav Godbole

Madhav Godbole’s book, Public Account ability and Transparency: The Imperatives of Good Governance is one of the outstanding additions to the literature on governance and the contemporary political, administrative social scenario in the country, including the largely untouched areas of judiciary, media and corporate governance.

Reviewed by: Yogendra Narain
Vinay Lal

This is a book that raises interesting ques- tions. As for example, why do so many Indians try to enter the eccentric world of the Guinness Book of Records? It is after all an intriguing and bewildering fact that so many Indians try to establish world records in the zaniest of categories every year.

Reviewed by: G.J.V. Prasad
Krishna Dutta

The title of this book reminded me of a conversation I had over kathis in Nizam, New Market, one evening with a non-Bengali friend who loves Calcutta, knows about it as much as anyone else and would not exchange living in it for another. The city had just been renamed and my friend felt betrayed.

Reviewed by: P.K. Datta
Irfan Habib

Sir John Marshall, then Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, used the term ‘Indus civilization’ for the culture discovered at Harappa and Mohenjodaro, a term doubly apt because of the geographical context implied in the name ‘Indus’ and the presence of cities implied in the word ‘civilization’.

Reviewed by: Jaya Menon
D. Mandal

Admittedly, archaeology cannot answer questions relating to faith, or questions such as whether Rama was an historical figure, or problems about locating his birthplace. However, archaeology can answer with a considerable degree of certainty, many questions about various past activities of people, for which material evidence is available.

Reviewed by: Supriya Varma
Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya

This is a collection of previously published research papers, unpublished conference papers, and endowment lectures written between the 1970s and the 2000s. In the first section after the introduction are four essays that relate to the interface between archaeology and text: seeking the literal truth of the epics; investigating the emergence of complex society and the state in the Deccan and in Punjab; and the nature of the early cities of Bengal.

Reviewed by: Shereen Ratnagar
Iravatham Mahadevan

Iravatham Mahadevan, an administrator- turned scholar noted for his profound scholarship in multiple aspects of the science of ancient scripts in general and Harappan writing in particular, belongs to the galaxy of the leading epigraphists of the world and ranks foremost among the scholars in Brahmi script. The study under review, Early Tamil Epigraphy is his magnum opus.

Reviewed by: Rajan Gurukkal
R. Champakalakshmi

Most narratives of the historiography of ancient India inspire a strong sense of déjà vu. There is the mandatory bashing of the imperialist historians, followed by a litany of complaints against the nationalist historians. This is followed by an account of post-Independence developments, in which the writing of ancient Indian history is presented as coming of age, with the imbalances and biases of the earlier eras replaced by a more sophisticated and sounder understanding of the past.

Reviewed by: Upinder Singh
Ranajit Guha

History at the Limit of World History and The History of History are remarkable because of the somewhat eccentric views that the two authors, of very different persuasions, hold on what ought to be hisory. Aristotle, Hegel, Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derida, Jacques Lacan, Michael Bakhtin, Rabindranath Tagore et al are passed in review by Ranajit Guha, and Ranajit Guha, in his turn is passed in review by Vinay Lal along with an equally odd assortment of Hindu communalist historians

Reviewed by: Rajat Kanta Ray