Amit Dasgupta

Amit Dasgupta is a career diplomat who ruefully intimates that career compulsions have made him into something of a specialist on that bureaucratic labyrinth, the World Trade Organisation. Poring over the arcana of the Uruguay Round, and import quotas, and non-tariff barriers and intellectual property rights, and purchasing power parity…


Reviewed by:
Bapsi Sidhwa

Bapsi Sidhwa’s Water is an unusual work which translates Deepa Mehta’s film “Water” into a novel. It renders an audio-visual experience into words, significantly reversing the commoner trend of turning novels into films and problematizing the usually assumed authority and “originality” of the literary text over the “adapted” cinematic version.


Reviewed by:
Devyani Saltzman

Shooting Water is Devyani Saltzman’s memoirs about her experiences during the shooting of her mother Deepa Mehta’s film Water. The title is a bit misleading because the book is not so much about the shooting of the film (even though it is also about that) but about her struggle to grow up in two worlds after the divorce of her parents. Her relationship with her mother becomes perennially haunted by her decision to live with her father.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

In Satyajit Ray’s film Shatranj ke Khilari there is a memorable scene when Colonel Sleeman is confronted by Urdu poetry. His assistant is reciting a poem composed by Wajid Ali Shah. “Is that all?” asks Sleeman in disbelief when the poem ends after a few couplets. “Yes, Sir.” “And what does it mean?” he inquires in a broad Scots accent, tapping the end of his cigar.


Reviewed by:
Prabhakar Acharya

Prabhakar Acharya’s The Suragi Tree is a delightful novel. The 400 plus narrative is surprisingly a quick, absorbing read: racy, but relaxed, spanning over six decades but time-warped, tale of a solitary man but peopled with an enormous number of characters; each one vivacious and memorable, the intertwining of a rural landscape with a distinct community orientation…


Reviewed by:
Hameeda Akhtar Husain Raipuri

My Fellow Traveller is an offbeat memoir, a debut offer- ing which has morphed Hameeda, a housewife-turned- writer, into an instant celebrity. No honed language, no philosophical snippets, no overarching story, and yet it is a most compelling read. What accounts for much of its breakout popularity is its confiding, subdued narrative, which rarely breaks its leash.


Reviewed by:
Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa

This is a new edition of the English translation of this Urdu classic (1900) which was first published in 1970 under the series. ‘Unesco Collection of Representative Works’, and later reprinted by Disha Books. Umrao Jan has almost become a figure of folklore after Ruswa immortalized her in his novel, Umrao Jan Ada which by now has several celluloid versions of it produced both in India and Pakistan.


Reviewed by:
Ashok Da. Ranade

Hindi film songs are immensely popular throughout the length and breadth of the country and appeal to people of all age groups. Such was the popularity of Hindi film songs as far back as 1952 that when All India Radio (under B. V. Keskar) banned the airing of film music, ‘Binaca Geetmala’, which was broadcast from Radio Ceylon, became a major success across the country.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

This may be a cliché but Begum Akhtar was like the proverbial shama to which countless parwanas have lost their souls. Stories about her life are legendary and add to the mystique of her musical personality. There is for instance the famous one about a poet in Lucknow driven mad by her music who roamed the streets scrawling her name on walls.


Reviewed by:
D.K. Ghosh

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is obviously one of the major forces currently shaping the contours of our society. It is changing the way we interact with others, the way we do business and the way we entertain ourselves. Obviously any technology which causes such profound change in the way we live would also have similar implications for rural India.


Reviewed by:
Amiya Kumar Bagchi

The best economic history mines data from the past to establish dis- tinct patterns, impute causal effects and unravel the mechanisms that drive economic sub-systems. But given the demands set by scholarship based on archival records and atypical sources, the advance of knowledge often tends to be marginal and yet controversial.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

Terrorism has not just gripped the globe – discussion on this seemingly all-encompassing phenomenon tends to dominate not just the print media and television – but the world of books. If you pick up a western or Indian newspaper these days, it’s quite possible that three out of five reports are related to terrorism. There’s a huge amount of information pouring into households on the menace, but how much of it is authentic and based on fact?


Reviewed by:
Badruddin Umar

Badruddin Umar is one of Bangladesh’s best known intellectuals. As a commentator and author on the internal social and economic dynamics of Bangladesh, his views have been ideologically consistent over several decades and commanded attention even from those who may disagree with him. His work on the language movement in East Pakistan has received critical acclaim.


Reviewed by:
Rafiq Dossani

The title of the book under review is utterly misleading. It certainly misled me when I agreed to do the review. First of all, this is not a book about South Asia if we go by the widely accepted definition of the subcontinent. South Asia is supposed to have at least seven states: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives.


Reviewed by:
General V.P. Malik

The end of the Kargil conflict (May-July 1999) witnessed a burst of creative activity with scores of books being published on this clash of arms. It was also subjected to an official inquiry headed by K. Subrahmanyam, resulting in the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) Report, later published by Sage.


Reviewed by:
Knut Vikore

The Sharia is a dynamic living sacrosanct and comprehensive code. It contains the body of rules and legal principles based on the expres- sion of God and concurrence to the same by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). It is capable of accommodating the competing interests of all the people irrespective of their creed, class, caste, or nationality and it also offer solutions for the needs and demands of contemporary society from time to time.


Reviewed by:
Asim Roy

In relation to South Asia, the basic story goes like this: Once upon a time, there existed a composite or syncretic culture among the Hindus and Muslims. Then, sometime during the eighteenth or nineteenth century, in some cases even the twentieth century – depending upon the place and the context, the ‘frail’ composite culture was fractured.


Reviewed by:
Gyanendra Pandey

A new book by any member of the early Subaltern Studies collective remains an eagerly awaited event – even when it consists, in the main, of already published essays as this one. Gyanendra Pandey has, of course, been a leading historian of modern India and given continuing and ample proof of his reputation by producing books and articles that have been provocative, original and densely described.


Reviewed by:
Amartya Sen

Professor Amartya Sen interrogates a large number of ideas in currency in the contemporary world including the tendency to categorize individuals and communities based on one overarching identity, clash of civilizations, multiculturalism, the presumed superiority of the West, terrorism emanating from religious fundamentalism and the like. As a review is constrained by limitations of space I shall rest content by discussing some of them.


Reviewed by:
Lloyd I. Rudolph

The anarchist Prodhoun once famously denounced the state in the following terms: “To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished.


Reviewed by:
James D. Hunt

James Hunt’s explorations on Gandhi in this inspiring series of essays are set in a postmodern context and an attempt has been made to recover the real Gandhi from the various influences and events that surrounded him through his journey of life. The author moves between an open admiration, to an objective analysis of the man, and the Mahatma.


Reviewed by:
Kamran Shahid

It is always useful and insightful to review past events in tranquillity after the dust of fevered controversy has settled. Hindsight helps fill in missing details and information that might have influenced contemporary judgement and could lend perspective to what was until then a confused and unfolding narrative. However, far from shedding any new light, Kamran Shahid’s “new perspective” further clouds the great issues of the day that he seeks to discuss with a perverse thesis.


Reviewed by:
Lloyd I. Rudolph

Gandhi continues to fascinate and frustrate those who read him. He refuses to retire peacefully into the archives and asks to be made contemporary. His admirers address the question of his relevance by mining his voluminous writings for meanings they are partial to, as if asking for his grace to be bestowed on their eloquence.


Reviewed by:
Femida Handy

There are signposts and imprints in the text and even the subtext that evoked instant recognition having traversed them myself—as a feminist, as a woman and as one involved in the inception of a grassroot organization: the intersecting themes of the book lured me on. The agonized comments of the feminist founders in their endeavour to confirm to a collectivist form to ensure egalitarianism…


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

The deleterious impact that the repetitious ‘drip feed of media material’ has on the human mind and behaviour has been fairly substantially assessed over the years. In the book under review, Sharda J. Schaffter, a communication analyst, has attempted to study how advertising in India has privileged the privileged and, consequently, disprivileged women, the traditionally disprivileged.


Reviewed by:
Ashok K. Jain

The Saga of Female Foeticide In India by Ashok Jain attempts to highlight some of the issues of and considers preventive strategies regarding female foeticide in India. It consists of six chapters over which it traces the historical context of female foeticide in India, examines some of the data on sex ratio in the country, and scrutinizes some policies and debates on abortion, as well as the new reproductive technologies available to those desiring sex selection.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

Women in the subcontinent have been under a paradoxical purview; on the one hand, major issues pertaining to them are peripheral in the body politic; on the other, they have been the repositories of religious mores and the cultural custodians of their habitat. Even so, their public façade mirrors the whims of the political and socio-religious strictures outlined by the major opinion building agency…


Reviewed by:
Avril A. Powell

This collection of ten essays explores the themes of domesticity, the body and modernity in colonial India, examining in the process the relationship between the ideal and the real with respect to gender ideologies in the colonial period.


Reviewed by:
Madhavi Malalgoda Ariyabandu

This book is a useful ‘how to’ guide to mainstreaming gender in the management of natural disasters. For anybody in the field, this is likely to be a handy tool. The writers demystify links between gender and disaster management, within a sustainable development framework. It is a reader-friendly book, with exceptionally evocative sketches, although the cover is inexplicably ugly.


Reviewed by:
Navnita Chadha Behera

Pakistani scholar, Tayyab Mahmud, speaking of the “spectre of the migrant” that haunts the modern world, says that immigration in public debate and political rhetoric is presented as a “problem to be solved, a flaw to be corrected, a war to be fought, and a flow to be stopped.” The immigrant, he says, hovers at the edges of her adopted society:


Reviewed by:
Anuja Agrawal

Migrant Women and Work includes a collection of papers that were presented at an international conference on Women and Migration in Delhi in 2003. This work challenges the popular misconception that migration is a male activity. This volume adds to a growing body of literature that demonstrates the contribution that a gendered analysis can make to understanding the complex phenomenon of migration and the feminization of labour migration in particular.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

This volume comprises eleven contributions by scholars from Bangladesh, Canada, India, Nepal, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, U.K. and USA on diverse aspects of gender studies, the focus being on women who have adopted migration as a survival strategy. The message of this book is clear : poor women migrants are assets not only to their families but to their home country.


Reviewed by:
Devaki Jain

In his Foreword Professor Amartya Sen has rightly celebrated Devaki Jain’s refusal to take up the theme of her book in a minimalist framework of a tedious chronological regurgitation of what Charles Dickens would call ‘facts, facts and facts’. Instead, we have been offered a rich narrative of development, a history of women’s movement worldwide, its dreams, challenges and fissures, bringing alive a distant policy-making body like the United Nations, jiving with development refracted through the world’s women.


Reviewed by:
Bina Agarwal

The book examines critically Sen’s contribution to some fundamental issues of human welfare from a gender perspective. Sen, has displayed feminist sensibilities, rare among economists. His ideas on notions such as justice, freedom, social choice, agency, ‘functionings’, and capability as a set of philosophical categories have not only enriched our understanding but has given us a whole new vocabulary and evaluative tools for judging human development, values that should underpin our goals.


Reviewed by:
Aziz Kurtha

The recent publication of Aziz Kurtha’s Francis Newton Souza: Bridging Western and Indian Modern Art is perhaps unsurprising in a context where prices of modern Indian art generally are constantly reaching ever more spectacular levels both nationally and elsewhere. Certainly, one of the key objectives of the book is to offer an art market perspective to the art collector, the many asides with reference to ownership, signature and prices are a clue to these concerns.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

Alternate Lyricism is a confused mélange of essays written for Jehangir Jani’s different shows and some composed specifically for this publication. Contributors include Shivaji Panikkar, Ranjit Hoskote, Nancy Adjania, Mortimer Chatterjee, Girish Shahane, Anupa Mehta and Deeptha Achar. The essays have been gathered by Ratnottama Sengupta, whose own contribution is an interview with Jani.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

A lavishly produced book on Indian art, Dictionary of Indian Art & Artists fills up a lacuna within the study of Indian art. Although the entries for contemporary Indian art are informative and exhaustive this book aims to reach back to the past as much as possible within the constraint of a dictionary format and also offers elucidation of technical terms concerning art practice.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

Amrita Sher-Gil is probably the most significant 20th century painter who heralded the changing direction of modern Indian art1 . Of Indo-Hungarian origin, Sher-Gil’s short life (she died at the age of 28) was intense, exotic and amazingly productive. Her best known works were painted within a short span of just over a decade – a period in which her style evolved as a result of changing influences and experimentation.


Reviewed by:
Mira Seth

The first thing that struck me about the book was that it was of large format and well-printed, covering a subject of India’s Art History on which no comprehensive book had been published so far. Historically speaking, one of the earliest rediscoveries of Indian art, the Ajanta caves and the mural paintings inside these caves had aroused much interest during the last quarter of nineteenth century.


Reviewed by: Ratan Parimoo
Lizzie Collingham

As a young child, in late 1970’s Britain, I would often walk into the kitchen to find my mother making a curry. To this day I can still picture it; some kind of meat (probably beef), an onion, a few teaspoons of curry powder and for that touch of exotica, it would be topped off with some raisins. She never served it to me, as she knew I hated it and I cannot remember seeing her eat it either. My parents divorced in the 1980s and following my father’s departure from the household the ‘curry’ was never seen again.


Reviewed by:
Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck

Nearly two decades ago, I made my first journey to Bhutan. I was told that I should take the road up from Phuntsoling rather than go by air, because that way I would be entering Bhutan “the right way.” That was sane advice. From the moment that one crosses the Bhutan gate at Phuntsoling, one is in a way entering another world and it is best to do it gradually.


Reviewed by:
Bindu Manchanda

Forts and palaces in India are increasingly becoming a cultural reference for the concerned regions and communities of the country. They are also a new source of income for their private owners (be they the descendants of the erstwhile princely families or more recent owners) or for the different states considering the increase of tourism in India for the last number of years, and its expected growth in the coming ten years.


Reviewed by:
Iris Macfarlane

The history of British women during the Raj seems to be in the process of arrival. OUP cites three other such books on the back cover of this one and we remember Ketaki Kushari Dyson’s A Various Universe that came out some years ago.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

In an appendix to the book there is a list of Indian members of the army of the Raj who won the Victoria Cross in WW II. Among them: Havildar Major Chhelu Ram, 6th Rajputana Rifles at Jebel Garci in Tunisia: ‘ran through enemy fire armed only with a tommy gun and tin helmet, killing all occupants of the machine gun post. Also attended to an officer in an exposed position though himself seriously wounded. Died on the field.’


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

The book under review is an outcome of a conference on “ Population, Birth Control and Reproductive Health in Late Colonial India”, held at the Centre for the History and Culture of Medicine, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. It is also one in the series of New Perspectives in South Asian History.


Reviewed by:
A. Banerjee

Reproductive and Child Health Programme was seen as a radical departure from the ‘target oriented’ family planning programme after the ICPD conference in Cairo. This programme was seen to be a more comprehensive approach that included sexual and reproductive health concerns.


Reviewed by:
Kavita Sivaramakrishnan

The late nineteenth century in Punjab, as in Bengal, witnessed huge debates about the role of “indigenous” science and “western” science – harbingers of today’s concerns with “Hindu” science, mathematics and so on. Many factors went into the making of these discourses. One of course was the reaction to colonial efforts to deligitimize them as unscientific and empirical medical methods, to be distinguished from the universal, scientific and rational methods of biomedicine.


Reviewed by:
Annette Susannah Beveridge

Babur Nama is an autobiography of Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, which he established in 1526 after defeating Sultan Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipat. More appropriately, Babur Nama is a memoir and a diary kept by Babur since he was ten years old until a year before his death in December 1530.


Reviewed by:
Himanshu Prabha Ray

Many years ago, one of my students gave me a Marg volume titled Of Kings and Coins. Its sumptuous, luminous photographs were my introduction to the beauty of ancient and medieval Indian coinage. I held on to that volume and used it for many years as a teaching aid to show students the variety and aesthetic richness of numismatic sources. Over a decade later, here is another Marg volume on coins, this time with a special focus on coins as expressions of power and as media of communciation.


Reviewed by:
Martin Brandtner

These essays have been put together in honour of Professor Hermann Kulke, one of the finest historians of his generation of pre-modern India. Although Kulke’s list of publications covers many aspects of the history of India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, he is particularly known for his contribution to the study of regional state formation and construction of regional identities in early medieval India.


Reviewed by: