Kaushik Barua

Barua’s very first novel is an intricate pattern of cultures and politics, refugees and resisters and locates South Asian politics in a wider context. A political analyst and commentator, he turns to Tibet but spreads out in other directions both space wise and at ideological levels—India, China, Nepal and the US.

Reviewed by: Jasbir Jain
Fatima Bhutto

The wiki entry on Fatima Bhutto says, ‘she grew up effectively stateless’. In her debut novel The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, Fatima takes us to a town called Mir Ali, in North Waziristan, on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The novel is about people but it is also about the place. The location so much a protagonist here.

Reviewed by: Amandeep Sandhu
Shyam Selvadurai

It seems that it is difficult to write a south Asian novel, especially one written by an expatriate without asking the extraneous questions about exile and memory, politics and individual life histories, some implications of sexual and ideological preferences and the meaning of it all.

Reviewed by: Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr
Qais Akbar Omar

A Fort of Nine Towers is the vivid recollection of a young Afghan author, Qais Akbar Omar, from the last years of the Russians in Afghanistan to the tumultuous years of factional fighting and the eventual dark and suffocating rule of the Taliban. It ends with 9/11 and the return of dance and music to the streets of Kabul.

Reviewed by: Deb Mukharji
Sharika Thiranagama

In My Mother’s House is certainly not yet another book on the civil war in Sri Lanka. The book stands out on three key grounds. One, despite being one of the victims of war and becoming a refugee at a young age, the author, Sharika Thiranagama, does not build a narrative of herself, but of others in the society that she had left more than two decades ago.

Reviewed by: N. Manoharan
Shamsur Rahman Faruqi

When Orhan Pamuk and Mohammed Hanif, among many others, figure on the blurb of a book singing paeans to it, expectations run high and the reader feels apprehensive that she is bound to be disappointed by the actual reading of it. But this grand epic narrative lives up to every praise showered upon it and then some.

Reviewed by: N. Kamala
Naresh Fernandes

My first experience of Bombay was that of cognitive dissonance. This was partly due to the fact that my imagination of Bombay as a city was shaped, in substantial measure, by the newly emerging body of English literature based on the city and partly because the first place I was acquainted with, back in 2006,

Reviewed by: Faiz Ullah
Aswin Punathambekar and Shanti Kumar

In 2008, Nalin Mehta1 wrote about satellite television being not only a marker of the progress of the idea of India, but also being a fundamental contributor to it. Earlier in 2001, Robin Jeffrey2 had written about regional language newspapers being vital hinges on which the nation as a whole was supported.

Reviewed by: Roshni Sengupta
Suhasini Sinha and Professor C. Panda

Kalighat paintings…and brush drawings are monumental in their presentation on an otherwise mostly blank page. Preceding the work of Matisse, some of the brush drawings prefigure it. Out of Indian tradition and impressions of Western painting, the ‘bazaar’ painters, descendants of low-caste and hereditary craftsmen created forms as valid as, and akin to, some of the later work by leading artists in the West.

Reviewed by: Debashis Chakraborty
Willem Marx and Marc Wattrelot

Tantalizingly titled, this endearing coffee table volume showcases through stunning imagery—albeit in black and white—the sharply contrasting and majestic landscape of Balochistan; the book serves as a bird’s eye view on the region’s complex problems and convulsions of civil military conflict through the eyes of British reporter Willem Marx, along with his French photojournalist friend Marc Wattrelot.

Reviewed by: R. Banerji
Asok Kumar Das

Asok Kumar Das’s passion for Mughal art never fails to awe us and his ventures in this arena never ceases to enrich our understanding of Mughal art and inevitably our perception of our own history and culture.

Reviewed by: Nuzhat Kazmi
Daud Ali and Emma J. Flatt

The volume under review is a delightfully knowledgeable anthology of nine well researched articles, the fallout of a conference held at Hyderabad, marvellously printed with enchanting pictures. It takes us beyond essentialist notions of Islamic and Timurid gardens that have dominated the discussion of gardens in South Asia, and to overcome the seeming evidentiary impasse…

Reviewed by: Rajan Gurukkal
Sumi Krishna

The central role of women in the provision, management and safeguarding of water was recognized in 1992 itself with the adoption of the Dublin principles at the International Conference on Water and the Environment held in Dublin but the attempts at mainstreaming gender into water management initiatives have received very limited success.

Reviewed by: Panchali Saikia
Anjal Prakash, Sreoshi Singh, Chanda Gurung Goodrich and S. Janakarajan

Integrated water resource management is one of the most pressing policy issues confronting South Asian countries—not only at the regional but also at the national level. Situated in a contiguous geographical landmass but dissected by various states, the region is home to around one-fourth of the world’s population.

Reviewed by: Medha Bisht
Ben Campbell

The study of the relationship between nature and culture has been given new impetus over recent decades and has opened up attractive theoretical avenues. A number of social anthropologists have published inspiring books on this theme. The excessive duality between these two domains that some researchers refer to when contemplating non-western societies has been rightly questioned.

Reviewed by: Gerard Toffin
Ravi Sundaram

The title of this volume on media studies, edited by Ravi Sundaram, a senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, is a suitable one. There really are no limits to the mediatized society that each one of us is embedded, if not buried, in. At the same time, there are very severe limits to our understanding of it.

Reviewed by: Pamela Philipose
Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

This book is a story of a young girl who is shot by a Taliban bullet, survives miraculously and lives to tell her tale. Malala Yousafzai is celebrated and recognized as a fearless symbol of education across the globe. Malala is an educational campaigner from the Swat valley, Pakistan. She came to public attention by writing for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban.

Reviewed by: Surabhika Maheshwari
Subhadra Mitra Channa

In her book under review anthropologist Subhadra Mitra Channa provides a generalized model of the ‘Devi and the Dasi’ to understand what it means to be a woman in South Asia. For a book that has South Asia in its title, the focus is very narrowly on India. She justifies this by saying, in a footnote…

Reviewed by: Papori Bora
Nighat M. Gandhi

Safar was about the inner journey of the heart and mind that revealed the truth of one to oneself, and took one closer to that state known variously as enlightenment, self-realization, self-knowledge, satori, fana- …My safar to places of my past led me to intimacy with myself. Revealed who I am to me.

Reviewed by: Semeen Ali
Masooda Bano

The topic of NGOs, especially those which are rights-based, in Pakistan is an intriguing and polarizing case in media discussions, always instigating hype by the critics over alleged negative roles and pushing the western agenda or by the proponents who appreciate NGOs’ capacity to challenge the authoritarian status quo.

Reviewed by: Iqbal Haider Butt
Govind Kelkar

The volume under review is remarkable for many reasons. The painstaking empirical research and the rigorous analysis of the same from a feminist perspective will make this book a very important source of reference to understand the lives, work and struggles of women in Asia.

Reviewed by: Krishna Menon
Rajmohan Gandhi

A chronological political history of Punjab—the title is self-explanatory—Rajmohan Gandhi began the journey of writing this book at the point of its denouement, Partition. It was the need to understand the painful birthing of two nations, of why the father of the Indian nation…

Reviewed by: Anshu Malhotra
Wendy Doniger

In 1976, within a year of its publication, Wendy Doniger’s Hindu Myths met with a bad press. ‘The title (of the book) is offensive’, a reviewer of Indian origin wrote, ‘to the Hindu, the stories of his sacred literature are not myths: they are as much reality and are as sacred as are the stories of the miracles of Christ or of Adam and Eve or Noah to the Christians…

Reviewed by: Amiya P. Sen
Muzaffar Alam

The Calendar of Persian Correspondence in 10 volumes was originally published by the Imperial Record Department, subsequently incorporated into the National Archives of India. These volumes span the period 1759 to 1793 providing details of the circumstances and processes by which the English East India Company consolidated…

Reviewed by: Meena Bhargava
Ramchandra Gandhi

In the prologue to his account of Gandhi’s early career in England and South Africa, Ramachandra Guha declares, ‘There are some striking resemblances between the central character of this story and his counterpart in the great Indian epic, the Ramayana.

Reviewed by: Faisal Devji
Haroon Khalid

Minorities in Pakistan, published by Pakistan Publications, Karachi, was the first book I read on religious minorities in Pakistan before Bangladesh was created. The book begins with the words of Mahomed Ali Jinnah’s (spelt in a rather strange way) most significant part of the speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947…

Reviewed by: Kishalay Bhattacharjee
Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark

The title of the book suggests that it is only a narrative on the attack on Taj Hotel, one of the several targets during the three-day long Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008. And yet, The Siege tells a full story of the terrorist ‘Operation Bombay’, almost.

Reviewed by: Bibhu Prasad Routray
T.S. Girishkumar

Post-9/11, two words, namely Jihad and Terrorism, have acquired much of our attention. These terms unintentionally as well as intentionally are used interchangeably, often, to indicate that Islam and terrorism share an organic relationship. The book under review, on the face of it, seems to defy this generic…

Reviewed by: Mahtab Alam
Babar Ayaz

Babar Ayaz’s book does not present an ordinary diagnostic enquiry into the health of a state called Pakistan. His is no run-of-the-mill attempt—quite a fad today—to put Pakistan in the dock. There are plenty of writers these days looking at Pakistan in an uncharitable manner.

Reviewed by: Ashok Behuria
Francesco Marino and Beniamino Natale

Pakistan’s imminent failure as a nation state has spawned many books. Pakistan’s principal attraction for writers and experts is the country’s central role in sustaining and promoting regional and international terrorism. Numerous terrorist incidents in recent times, anywhere in the world, seem to have a Pakistani connection or signature.

Reviewed by: Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty
Faisal Devji

One of the first writers, if not the first, to compare the condition of Muslims in India and Jews in Europe was a British Professor at Aligarh, Theodore Morison, who happened to be the son-in-law of the first Jewish graduate of Oxford University. Writing in 1899, shortly after the founding of the World Zionist Organization, Morison portrayed the newly launched campaign…

Reviewed by: David Lelyveld
Gary J. Bass

The first is that the sanguineous-sounding Blood Telegram refers to a cable sent by Archer Blood, Consul General in Dacca (now Dhaka) on 6 April, 1971 to the US State Department drawing attention to the inhuman atrocities being perpetrated by Pakistani troops in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) on the local Bengali population.

Reviewed by: P.R. Chari
Srinath Raghavan

How does anything happen? The question seems simple enough, but its answer, once you have side-stepped the philosophical minefield of whether causes exist at all, can take you into diverse intellectual domains:

Reviewed by: I.P. Khosla
Ananya Jahanara Kabir

The Partition of British India in 1947 into the new nations of India and Pakistan, and the transformation of East Pakistan into the Republic of Bangladesh, in 1971, were events characterized by violence, displacement, and multiple alienations.

Reviewed by: Amit Dey
Sumantra Bose

The books under review are two additions to the long and distinguished line of books that have puzzled over the improbable success of democracy in India. Sumantra Bose starts off by recalling Seymour Martin Lipset’s view that ‘the more well-to-do a nation, the greater the chances that it will sustain democracy’.

Reviewed by: Satyabrat Pal
Ashley Tellis, Abraham M. Denmark, and Travis Tanner

The main argument of this comprehensive volume of nuclear weapon activity in Asia is that it is only here that there is the fear of renewed and widespread nuclear proliferation. The era of bipolar competition is looked back upon with nostalgia as an era when the two superpowers fully realized the dangers of nuclear weapons and strove to keep them safe…

Reviewed by: Raja Menon