Enid Blyton

‘Storytelling is a simple make-believe but she has a knack for making her tales absolutely irresistible to young readers—her specific descriptions of food were the same. The specifics she mentioned are not elaborate—but opposite in fact—but the sheer pleasure she takes and everything from sardine sandwiches to cherry cake sings out of the pages,’ says Allegra.

Reviewed by: Dharma Chari-Letts
Raminder Kaur

Raminder Kaur and Saif Eqbal take on the mammoth task of analysing and categorizing the immense corpus of the north Indian vernacular superhero and adventure comics published by popular comic houses such as Indrajal, Raj Comics, and Manoj Comics.

Reviewed by: Suniti Madaan
Thamizhachi Thangapandian

Professor CT Indra has, over a period of time, evolved as a committed translator, covering a wide range of genres that include plays, novels and short stories. Internal Colloquies, a translation of selected poems from Thangapandian’s Vanapechi is, by her own admission, Indra’s ‘maiden attempt’ at translating poetry. 

Reviewed by: Lakshmi Kannan
Annada Shankar Ray

Basanti, the protagonist of the novel is a misfit in conservative, pre-Independence rural Odisha not only because she reads and writes on her own choice, but also because she marries out of love a man not belonging to her own caste and in spite of confronting regular conflicts with her conservative mother-in law, manages to run a girls’ school in the village. Suppressing her liberated values, she sacrifices her life for the well-being of her new home ‘through sheer will power’

Reviewed by: Somdatta Mandal

Two books translated by Haksar have been released in quick succession. They share something in common in that they both have been translated from Sanskrit into English. Otherwise they are different in perspective and context. One was Ritusamharam, reviewed recently* and the other is Three Hundred Verses, a translation of the famous Trishatakam by Bhartrihari.

Reviewed by: Sudhamahi Regunathan
Mridula Garg

That’s the denouement of one of the characters of Mridula Garg’s new novel––she dances and dies. Ratnabai begins as a minor character, a household help in an upmarket middle class neighbourhood in New Delhi, in Vasu ka Kutum, and ends up with one of the most powerful scenes in the novel––performing the dance of death, more vigorous than Nataraj himself, as the author puts it.

Reviewed by: Amit Ranjan
Dev Nath Pathak

At its most basic level–and it has many levels of engagement–the book under review is about Maithili folk songs as well as living and dying.  Dev Nath Pathak tells us that the folksongs in Mithila he focuses on are mostly sung by women. And they tend to be associated with cyclical events, rites of passage, and quotidian situations of ordinary life.

Reviewed by: Sasanka Perera
Sarina Kamini

Spirits in a Spice Jar by Sarina Kamini is a book about finding oneself, about reinterpreting faith and recording the poignant, emotive and deeply personal role which food can play in the life of an individual and a family. The autobiographical narrative is interspersed with traditional Kashmiri recipes but these are recipes tempered by the experiences and individuality of the protagonist.

Reviewed by: Ranjana Kaul
Peter Kuruvita

To anyone who says vegetarian food is boring, offence taken! I’m not a vegetarian. I love meat, but raised by a vegetarian mother, I grew up with a healthy appreciation for vegetables and the various ways in which you can tease out their flavours. In most cases, leaving vegetables alone and using a light hand with spices and herbs does the trick.

Reviewed by: Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri
Aparna Bhargava Dharwadker

There’s something dangerous about theatre. People pretend to be who they are not, in settings that are fake, and speak words that do not come from their own minds. It excites passions, both in the people performing, as well as in the people watching.

Reviewed by: Sudhanva Deshpande

Picture postcards, i.e., cards that have pictures on them and can be sent by post, came late to India, probably only in 1896, years after their launch in Europe.  However, millions of postcards showing views of India were sold in the years that followed, especially during their Golden Era, which lasted till around 1915.

Reviewed by: Kiran Doshi
Meraj Ahmed Mubarki/Mithuraaj Dhusiya

The Central Board of Film Certification, popularly known as the Censor Board, requires the members of examining/revising committee to satisfy themselves that ‘pointless or avoidable scenes of violence, cruelty and horror are not shown’ in a film. Arguably, this official undesirability of horror in Indian cinema was complemented by the notoriety of the horror films and their status as ‘not quite cinema’.

Reviewed by: Ghazala Jamil
Ashwini Devare

In the age of Social Media and constantly Tweeting political leaders, the art of diplomacy seems like a quaint, bygone craft. The days when ambassadors were truly the only liaison with a foreign country, before technological advancement and the 24/7 news cycle resulted in a hyper connected world of instant communication, seem dinosaur years away.

Reviewed by: Gayatri Rangachari Shah
Amborish Roychoudhury

Here is an example of a filmy situation where a simple logic resolves a complex situation: ‘Mantri: Ye kanch bulletproof hai tum mujhe chu bhi nahin sakte (This glass is bullet-proof. You can’t even touch me). Prabhuji thinks for a moment and then smiles: Ye kanch bulletproof hai magar patthhar proof nahin. (This glass is bullet-proof, but not stone-proof).

Reviewed by: Amitabha Bhattacharya
Gautam Bhatia

Gautam Bhatia can very easily be misunderstood. The Delhi-based artist and architect’s discomfort with mediocrity in Indian architecture has been poured out through scathing critiques over the past decades. One could dismiss Bhatia as being cynical if not for his prolific inspired artistic and architectural output that counterbalance the despondency found in his literature.

Reviewed by: Aftab Jalia
Yashica Dutt

Yashica Dutt’s compellingly gritty tale offers points of identification for probably scores of third or fourth generation Dalits today, who are ‘new’ arrivals in public/professional spaces, as well as those from other marginalized, minority communities. Her memoir is a conscious exercise in reminiscing and examining lives and events, personal and communitarian, including that of her own as a student, as a journalist, and, most germane to this narrative, as a Dalit.

Reviewed by: Asma Rasheed
Anand Pandian

Ethnographic research by its very nature is a dialogue among investigator(s) and subjects. Such translations of a way of life must respect confidentiality, yet properly recognize those so central to making intelligible the lives they live. In this co-authored memoir, scholar, researcher, and grandson, Anand Pandian, critically honours the life and works of his grandfather.

Reviewed by: R Thomas Rosin
Kaushik Sunder Rajan

It is not easy to review a book that should be a classic in the field, or one that follows another book that is already, in my view, a classic. Kaushik Sunder Rajan’s earlier book Bio-Capital is indeed what I would describe as a classic: it is an exhaustive work, a final word if you want, that shows you what the structure of the global industry of drugs and pharmaceuticals is and how this global industry has moved away from chemical formulations…

Reviewed by: Mahan Rao
Heewon Kim

Three valid reasons could be offered to write a book. First, nobody else has written on that theme. Second, one has something original or different to convey from what has already been in the public realm. Third, one may be able to provide a different perspective, approach or terms of analyses on the given theme. While Heewon Kim’s The Struggle for Equality: India’s Muslims and Rethinking the UPA Experience…

Reviewed by: Afroz Alam
Nasima Aziz

As the title suggests, the book takes the reader on a journey through the most popular period of the history of Awadh—the 1700s and 1800s. The historical scenario is diligently explained; and a peep into the dynamics of the court, the personal lives of the nawabs, and their changing relationship with the Mughal rulers and the colonial masters, makes the book extremely interesting.

Reviewed by: Kirti Narain
Sutapa Dutta

While William Carey’s name is etched in the history of missionary activity in India, arguably little is  known about Hannah Marshman, who worked alongside her missionary husband, Joshua Marshman, as well as Carey. Similarly, Mary Ann Cooke, the first ‘unmarried’ woman sent to do missionary work in India, has had few biographers.

Reviewed by: Namrata R Ganneri
Yasmin Saikia

The Cambridge Companion to Sayyid Ahmad Khan, published on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98), fittingly includes contributions by historians, political scientists, literature scholars, and a specialist in religious studies.

Reviewed by: Barbara D Metcalf
Rajmohan Gandhi

There are histories of India, and then occasionally we have histories of south India. Histories of India tend to be, to a great extent, about regions of the subcontinent lying north of the Deccan plateau and the Vindhyas. Depending on the period of Indian history being considered, a conscientious scholar might take into account some significant developments in the south, but the overall narrative is likely to focus on the Ganga plains and the north-west.

Reviewed by: Amar Farooqui