Susan Haris

Now that we have celebrated the 73rd Independence Day, let us remember that 2019 is also the 140th birth anniversary year of Sarojini Naidu. Amidst the political turmoil and clampdown in Kashmir, there is a need to revisit our political legacies and the right to dissent. Naidu’s political poetry invites us to reconsider if the personal is synonymous with the political.

Reviewed by: NA
Mihir Bose

Reading Indian cricket history, especially when the clamour around the game is at its peak—during the four-yearly World Cup (luckily not during the Indian Premier League, at least not yet)—has its charms. For starters, the historic perspective it provides could be fascinating, riveting and perplexing as well.

Reviewed by: Leslie Xavier
Arundhathi Subramaniam

The voices so near and yet so far consume a poet’s mind and oeuvre. Sometimes you are a dreamer and sometimes you look to depict reality. The characters and images run in and out of Arundhathi Subramaniam’s poems as you soak in oneness with the plots and sub plots within the lines. For instance, in the poem ‘In short’, she says, ‘and one day you realize you’re pane too, freckled by your own rigmaroles of vapours’.

Reviewed by: Kasturika Mishra
Saba Mahmood Bashir

This is a slim book, choosing to focus on only one film: Aandhi. Made by Gulzar, it was released in 1975, a momentously significant year for India and for the Hindi film industry which sent to the theatres, one after another, movies such as Deewar, Sholay, Aandhi and Mausam, even as Emergency was declared during the month of June.

Reviewed by: Rohini Mokashi-Punekar
Jokha Alharthi

An award-winning novel raises multiple expectations, not only on its substance and style but on its linguistic strength in connecting the reader with the imagined world of possible realities. At the end, what count are the lingering thoughts the prose leaves the readers to continue to grapple with in solitude. Celestial Bodies, the first Omani novel to win the coveted Man Booker prize, ticks all the boxes on being imaginative, alluring and irresistible at the same time.

Reviewed by: Sudhirendar Sharma
Kavitha Yaga Buggana

Kavitha Yaga Buggana hears the ‘call of adventure’ and books a trekking trip to Kailash, in Walking In Clouds. There is a journey slumbering in each of us, waiting for the call to come. When it does, there is nothing to do but buckle one’s shoes and go. Life at home is comfortable if a little tame with ‘pink oleander and red hibiscus’ in the garden. Mt. Kailash beckons enticingly, and Kavi and cousin Pallu had dreamed of it since girlhood days. What she does not know yet is that sometimes it is the journey taking the person, not the person the journey.

Reviewed by: Sumitra Kannan
Sangeetha Sreenivasan

There couldn’t have been a more appropriate title for Sangeetha Sreenivasan’s tale of lesbian love, and the demons it unleashes—in the mind, and within that tenuous network of bloodlines called family. Acid is the euphoria of lovers in an embrace; it is the psychedelia of fragile relationships; Acid is the agony of separation, and the paradoxical ecstasy of unravelling, of wasting away, of turning into a shadow.

Reviewed by: Radhika Oberoi
Nighat Gandhi

The echoes of the above sentence reverberate throughout the book. For what is chaos? That which resides inside one’s head and reaches the heart slowly but is supposed to remain hidden: not shown or shared. The short stories in this book are not supposed to jolt you out of your quiet existence nor will they attempt to. But by giving a glimpse into lives it sends across a powerful message of the various forms of ‘waiting’ that one has to live with.

Reviewed by: Semeen Ali
Malashri Lal

The fascination with our Indian inherited legends and myths had led Malashri Lal and Namita Gokhale to edit a book a few years ago called In Search of Sita: Revisiting Mythology wherein they collected different accounts of Sita that coexist in myth, literature and folktale. Sita is one of the defining figures of Indian womanhood, yet there is no single version of her story.

Reviewed by: Somdatta Mandal
Uzma Jalaluddin

Uzma Jalaluddin’s Ayesha at Last is an interesting novel about the way Muslim social life is lived in Canada. The language used by Jalaluddin, though crisp and current is also loaded with an English literary sensibility. Shakespeare is quoted eleven times from the plays and twice from the sonnets. The blurb on the book describes it as a ‘modern day Muslim Pride and Prejudice’ nudging the reader softly to accord the novel a recognizable space in the ever expanding universe of English fiction being written across diverse cultures.

Reviewed by: Baran Farooqi
Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh seems to have reached a new point of eminence in his creative journey with Gun Island. In 2016, he published The Great Derangement—a book that deliberates on climate change and examines how collective denial of it is obfuscating our desire to address questions related to drastic fluctuations in the weather pattern. He emphatically concludes that art and literature of our age function in ‘modes of concealment’ and occlude everyone from ‘recognising the realities of their plight’.

Reviewed by: Sumallya Mukhopadhyay
Anuradha Roy

All the Lives We Never Lived is to be read with great pleasure at the sheer beauty of the prose and with deep attention to the delicate emotions of the characters. A highly dramatic beginning hooks the reader’s curiosity immediately. ‘In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman. The man was in fact German, but in small town India in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as British.’

Reviewed by: Malashri Lal
Kavita A. Jindal;Jessica Mookherjee;Usha Akella

Poetry cluttered with lists or images dressed in poetic descriptions pretending to create a lyrical experience to revel in are quite common. It is also, largely celebrated by magazine editors and flourishing winning awards. So, I was not surprised to read in the June/July issue of The London Magazine, Paul Griffin’s essay ‘How Not to Write Poetry’, discussing how the teaching of poetry is left quite wanting.

Reviewed by: Yogesh Patel
Paulomi Chakraborty

Partition, which was not only amongst the most violent events in the history of the Indian subcontinent claiming more than a million lives, remains the largest instance of forced and coerced migration in global history. Nearly five million Hindus crossed India’s eastern border with East Pakistan into the new State of West Bengal and into the States of Assam and Tripura between 1946 and 1964. About a million and a half Muslims left West Bengal, Bihar, Assam and Tripura for East Pakistan.

Reviewed by: Amit Dey
Monica Chanda

I wonder whether one is naturally drawn to memoirs, biographies and autobiographies as one goes older. Certainly, among the reader friends of my generation this is a noticeable trend. At a time when the world is changing more rapidly than it has in the last two generations, this genre often records a time that few remember or understand clearly. Soon, it will recede just as surely as our black and white world has been replaced with the distracting charms of the digital records.

Reviewed by: Ira Pande
Yashwant Sinha

From bureaucrat to politician, and from one century to the next, Yashwant Sinha’s is a journey from modest beginnings to the highest corridors of power. In Relentless, he has presented his life and career in a memorable and somewhat lengthy memoir of over 500 pages. But then, he has so much to say. With a Prologue and an Epilogue, the book is divided into eight parts spread over 40 chapters.

Reviewed by: MC Gupta
Bertil Lintner

China’s increasing economic and military clout now has a third dimension, its desire to engage with other countries for building infrastructure development and connectivity projects. Beijing’s ‘String of Pearls’ is one such umbrella project aimed at developing ports all across the Indian Ocean nations for trade facilitation and maintaining a presence in the region.

Reviewed by: Pooja Bhatt
Jabin T. Jacob

The rise of China, its rapid economic transformation and military modernization, coupled with an aggressive and assertive position in its neighbourhood especially in the South China Sea in recent years, have caused a major concern in the region and beyond. After the 18th National CPC Congress, China under President Xi Jinping is seen to be strategically adjusting its policies towards its neighbours which in turn are engaged in working out their own relationship with China.

Reviewed by: Sudhir T Devare
Neeraj Kaushal

Immigration has been a sensitive issue in national politics in the western hemisphere for the last 25 years. Its ascent as an issue to be discussed, debated and voted upon has been an outcome of the process of globalization. However, within the last ten years, particularly after the failed Arab Spring of 2011, it has become a hot topic in Europe as well as in the United States.

Reviewed by: Avinash Godbole
Louise Tillin

The Constituent Assembly of India, after two years, eleven months and eighteen days of intense debates, came up with the final draft of the Constitution which proclaimed India as a sovereign democratic republic. While the terms ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ were later added to the Preamble (which is non-Justiciable by law) by the 42nd Amendment, the word ‘federal’ was eschewed.

Reviewed by: Chanchal Kumar Sharma
Sunil Amrith

The path to the creation of civilization has presented humans with a variety of challenges. None has been more enduring than nature itself. A battle with the elements has featured through the history of the evolution of human beings. The idea of the conquest of nature, though not entirely novel, has been pushed forward rapaciously in more recent times.

Reviewed by: Sucharita Sengupta
Rakhshanda Jalil/George Morton-Jack/Uma Prasad Thapliyal

The publishing season of War continues! The two world wars of the 20th century have produced a prodigious amount of academic and non-academic literature in the 21st century because this literature commands a good market. After all, curiosity regarding these cataclysms remains seventy-five years after the Second World War ended in 1945. During 2014-2018, the hundredth anniversary of the First World War was ‘commemorated’ across the world.

Reviewed by: Anirudh Deshpande
Martin Fuchs

It is a pleasure to read a book of scholarly essays such as the one under review, where a diverse set of authors have contributed essays that are both informative and insightful. These essays are the outcome of a conference held in 2010 on negotiating religious identities in colonial India. The thread that holds these essays together is the creation of a new identity for each of the religious groups that are discussed here.

Reviewed by: M Rajivlochan
Dolly Kikon

In Living with Oil and Coal, Dolly Kikon presents the ethnography of the entangled lives of multiple actors—of villagers, state officials, geologists, insurgents, traders and landowners—in the militarized carbon landscape of the foothills of Assam and Nagaland in North East India. Although the extractive economy of carbon—oil, coal (and tea)—in these places and beyond is often presented as techno-developmental interventions by geologists…

Reviewed by: Kham Khan Suan Hausing
Devaki Jain

The two volumes under review cover a remarkable journey spanning upwards of four decades. They contain a selection of papers from among Devaki Jain’s prolific writings the central theme of which collection being, among other things, not just the interrogation of ‘development’ from a feminist perspective but dissecting ‘development’ itself.

Reviewed by: Padmini Swaminathan