To a generation born around 1947, Independence Day was a beacon of hope, sparkling with excitement at the idea of building a modern nation-state, freed from the shackles of colonialism. The stalwarts of the National Movement had spent long years in prisons and had had the opportunity to reflect and hone clear-cut ideas about how the newly-independent India that is Bharat was to be shaped. Traumatized by the blows dealt by Partition, they were determined to build a secular, democratic Republic, governed by a Constitution which would ensure freedom, equality, justice and dignity for all; to hit at the roots of casteism, communalism, fissiparous tendencies and other divisive forces within the body politic. And so it began: on the midnight of August 14, 1947, ‘India awoke to life and freedom


Seventy-five is an old age for a man but relatively young for a republic or state, even more so for our ancient nation. How has India’s foreign policy done since Independence in 1947?To answer that question, we must first establish metrics to measure success or failure. In India’s case that metric is obvious and simple: the extent to which we are able to transform the lives of Indian citizens so that they live in a prosperous, secure and modern state where every Indian has the opportunity to realize his potential. In other words, the transformation of India into what we want, not what we have.


In this 75th year of the existence of India as an independent state, the month of May brought on a cruel heatwave. Indians are accustomed to the difficult life, and heat has been, for large swathes of the country, a permanent fixture on the list of cruelties. Yet, no matter what methods we have devised to stave it off, the experience simply worsens by the year because of human induced climate change, and all methods fail to give respite.

Mausumi Kar, Jayita Mukhopadhyay, and Manisha Deb Sarkar

This book analyses the impact of climate change in South Asia and its environmental and socio-economic fallouts. It looks at climate change in the region from an interdisciplinary perspective and recommends some policy measures for addressing climate change. The title of the book is interesting and suggests how South Asia is the most vulnerable region of the world to climate change.

Reviewed by: Akriti Sharma

Indian history has a thousand lessons to offer.  Two of them stand out—not counting the one that says that those who don’t know history are condemned to re-live it.  The first lesson is well-known: India is a tempting target for marauders of every kind.  The second is less known: India is never quite prepared to defend itself.  It is particularly slow at manufacturing weapons.  Even today it imports them, a whole lot of them, acquiring in the process the dubious distinction of being one of the biggest importers of weapons in the world—and creating, as a result, a host of problems for itself.

Rajesh Kumar

Rajesh Kumar seeks to cover the broad canvas of India’s most important bilateral relationship i.e., with the US, in this book which examines the politico-strategic relations between the two countries from the early years of India’s Independence to the present.The author starts off by studying the period between 1947-1984 and examines how relations between New Delhi and Washington evolved during this period. However, by way of introduction, the author gives definitions of foreign policy, national interest, etc., which might be of little interest to erudite readers though it would be useful to students

Reviewed by: Uma Purushothaman

India-China relations, since Independence 1947/Liberation 1949, have swung between romance and rancour. Romanticism was based on our shared civilizational interactions; rancour on the contradictions that emerged from the hard-headed practicality of two Westphalia states pursuing their perceived national interests as they have evolved over the last seven decades plus.

Shyam Saran

Two and a half years after Chinese troops amassed and transgressed points on the Line of Actual Control with India, there isn’t a definitive answer on just why Beijing carried out its aggression. Is this about history and reclaiming areas that once belonged to Tibet? Or is it in line with China’s present day ‘hegemonism’ that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar alluded to, of the sort seen with Taiwan and in the South China Sea? Are the PLA’s moves to occupy land claimed by India, laying down bunkers and rolling in vehicles and equipment tactical—aimed at stopping the Indian Army’s considerable advances on border infrastructure, roads, bridges and landing strips?

Reviewed by: Suhasini Haidar
Nirupama Rao

It would sound like a cliché to say that India and China share a long and disputed border, are neighbours by geography and are entangled with each other through a long historical and civilizational connection. History and geography are the two prominent catalysts which dictate the direction of this bilateral relationship, a relationship which is very pertinent today for peace and stability in Asia as well as the world. India and China are today strong economic and military powers, and the existing conflicts make the situation highly tense. These are the facts which are known and often repeated.

Reviewed by: Gunjan Singh
A. S. Bhasin

Bhasin’s much celebrated book Nehru, Tibet and China is an exceptionally enlightening volume because it draws its methodology from basic rules of historiography. Among the numerous books available on the subject over the years and the attention it has garnered recently after the latest clash in Galwan, it is no less than a tremendous feat, that yet another piece has been attempted that not only places the historicity of the context, genesis of the dispute and furnishes a rather honest, at times, stark portrayal of the failure of Nehru’s China policy without the commonplace bitterness from Nehru’s detractors.

Reviewed by: Swasti Rao
Vijay Gokhale

It goes without saying that China is India’s most important neighbour and the India-China bilateral relations is the most consequential diplomatic engagement for India in the 21st century. Despite greater attention being paid to China in India recently, there is still not enough research and writing that would stand the test of the time. However, the gap is getting filled with a lot of quality work that has been published recently. Vijay Gokhale, who retired as India’s Foreign Secretary and has had a long engagement with China in various capacities over his diplomatic career, has written the work under review, The Long Game: How the Chinese Negotiate with India.

Reviewed by: Avinash Godbole
by Natasha Lehrer

The rise of a state in international politics is measured by its hard power, soft power, and the effectiveness of its intelligence services. It is surprising that the discussions on the rise of China in the 21st century have often been centered on its hard and soft powers, but barely on the Chinese intelligence mechanisms. The CIA of the United States, KGB of Russia, MI6 of Britain, Mossad of Israel, DGSE of France, Naicho of Japan, and even MJIB of Taiwan, as well as R&AW of India, are well-known names in the world of spying and espionage.

Reviewed by: Parimal Maya Sudhakar
Maroof Raza

Maroof Raza’s book Contested Lands: India, China and the Boundary Dispute was published in 2021, while the LAC between India and China in Eastern Ladakh was being actively contested. The author has done a diligent job of deep research and logical concatenation of the history of the contest. The subject has already been extremely well covered by many luminaries like Alistair Lamb, Neville Maxwell, Claude Arpi, RS Kalha and Shiv Kunal Verma, to name a few.

Reviewed by: Major General M Vinaya Chandran
Talmiz Ahmad

The history of West Asia is littered with violent conflicts—interstate wars, civil wars, insurgencies, revolutions, coups, invasions by foreign powers, and ethnic and sectarian strife. After the 1967 war between Israel and a group of Arab nations led by Egypt, peace in the ‘Middle East’ has been elusive. The events in the region constantly seek global attention for a variety of reasons. Divided into eight chapters the book under review seeks to piece together diverse matters into a coherent narrative that helps to make sense of the dynamics of the region—political, religious, military, socio-economic and cultural—that have shaped contemporary alignments and divisions, thus making the region unstable and volatile.

Reviewed by: Abidullah Baba
Harsh V Pant

South Asia is witnessing a phase of churning in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Political volatility combined with economic instability has badly hit the region. As the pandemic seemingly recedes, there is great deal of uncertainty in the entire region straddling India’s periphery. Harsh V Pant’s edited volume Politics and Geopolitics: Decoding India’s Neighbourhood Challenge comes at a cusp moment as nations in South Asia grapple to recover from the shock of the pandemic that claimed millions of lives and ground nations across the region including India to a halt for two years.

Reviewed by: Priyanka Singh

Mahatma Gandhi once referred to Sri Lanka as India’s ‘daughter state’. True to this metaphoric observation, India is not only Sri Lanka’s closest, but also an important and powerful neighbour in every aspect: territorial extent, population size, economic strength, military might and diplomatic standing. Relations between the two neighbours stretch to more than two millennia in wide-ranging areas—political, economic, socio-cultural and military. Common colonial experiences under Britain led both countries to have similar world views, yet certain strategic imperatives and national interests dictated differing policies, at times in conflict with each other.

Muhammad Azfar Nisar

The book under review by Muhammad Azfar Nisar provides important insights into the identity, marginalization and governance of the Khawaja Sira of Pakistan. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Lahore, it studies various forms of governance of the Khawaja Sira community across legal, social and administrative institutions.Muhammad Azfar Nisar is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy & Administration at the Suleman Dawood School of Business, Lahore University of Management Sciences. His research focuses on issues related to policy implementation, public administration, health policy, gender identity, and governance.

Reviewed by: Abigail Miriam Fernandez
Shiv Kunal Verma

The India-Pakistan War of 1965 was the second major war fought between the two countries after Partition in 1947. The War also called the ‘Second Kashmir War’ was a culmination of skirmishes that took place in the preceding months. The seventeen-day War (6 September-22 September 1965) caused thousands of casualties on both sides.  The hostilities between the two countries ended after a ceasefire was declared through the United Nations Security Council Resolution, following diplomatic intervention by the Soviet Union and the United States, and the subsequent issuance of the Tashkent Declaration.

Reviewed by: Anil Khosla
Narain D. Batra

India in a New Key—Nehru to Modi: 75 Years of Freedom and Democracy, targeted at a global audience, takes the reader on a journey through the history of India from Independence to the present times. The author, Narain D Batra is puzzled as to why the new-found freedom did not break this huge and diverse country called India and nudge it towards authoritarianism, as was the case with so many other newly independent countries of Asia and Africa. To unpack the mystery of India’s resilience and evolution as a constitutional democracy, he looks in depth into important developments and issues during the tenures of all Prime Ministers from Nehru to Modi.

Reviewed by: Mirza Asmer Beg
Rukmini S.

Given the general fear of numbers, a book on numbers is unlikely to excite many. However, in Whole Numbers and Half Truths: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About Modern India, Rukmini S makes sure the numbers do not hit you in the face but instead speak to you and encourage you to ask questions. With the so-called data explosion and the fact that everybody claims to be relying on data, Whole Numbers is essential reading for both data presenters as well as its consumers.

Reviewed by: KK Kailash
Mukulika Banerjee

The book under review presents a fascinating ethnographic study of the relationship between formal political institutions and the everyday experiences of the citizens of rural India. It presents a study of two villages in West Bengal, Madanpur and Chishti, and covers the period of fifteen years (from 1998 to 2013) to understand the changing dynamics of political life and the cultivation of active citizenship in both villages. Banerjee explores the reason behind the faith of common villagers, like the residents of Madanpur and Chishti, in the democratic processes, which they have been expressing through high voter turnout in consecutive elections.

Reviewed by: Kamal Nayan Choubey
Mamang Dai

Mamang Dai, the Sahitya Akademi Award winning author is one of the most prolific voices from Arunachal Pradesh as well as the region of the North East. Her works have delved deeply into the transitions that the State of Arunachal Pradesh has gone through from time to time, including the administrative changes which first treated the region as a ‘frontier’ in the wilderness and then a resourceful unexplored area waiting to be ‘harnessed’.

Reviewed by: Parvin Sultana
Meeta Deka

Emerging scholarship on urban studies in South Asia poses a critique of the application of Eurocentric models to capture urban processes in the global South. South Asian scholars, while arguing that urbanization is not uniform, argue for a contextual understanding of urban shifts. In addition to examining urban patterns concerning colonial history, and the roles of the state and the market, studies on urban processes also bring under their purview other categories such as gender, caste, kinship, ethnicity and culture.

Reviewed by: Aleena Sebastian
Ashok Kumar Pandey

Well-known Gandhian scholar Sudhir Chandra has poignantly noted in one of his essays, ‘Gandhi’s Sorrows’, that while in the thirty-two years that he spent resisting colonial rule Gandhiji was never once harmed, Independent India was able to keep this apostle of peace alive only for a mere five and a half months. This has remained a shameful blot on the otherwise glorious history of India’s struggle for Independence. Ashok Kumar Pandey’s Why They Killed Gandhi: Unmasking the Ideology and the Conspiracy and Appu Esthose Suresh and Priyanka Kotamraju authored The Murderer, The Monarch and The Fakir: A New Investigation of Mahatma Gandhi’s Assassination provide fresh perspectives to one of the most hotly contested political developments in Independent India

Reviewed by: Amol Saghar
Venugopal Maddipati

Venugopal Maddipati’s book opens with a charming anecdote of Charles Correa toppling over a model of a high-rise block strategically placed by his side during a lecture to architecture students at School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi. Correa’s performance was meant to demonstrate that low-rise, medium density housing could easily create more humane and economical solutions for living (than in a high-rise), and therefore possibly more suitable to India’s climate and cultural context.

Reviewed by: Aftab Jalia
Ranu Uniyal, Nazneen Khan and Raj Gaurav Verma

Reading Gandhi: Perspectives in the 21st Century as the acknowledgement page states is an outcome of a one-day conference held in the Department of English at Lucknow University in 2019. Structurally divided into an introduction and fourteen chapters, the anthology captures several interesting and less considered aspects of Gandhi’s life written by scholars drawn from diverse regions. The book is designed to present Gandhi’s thoughts navigating from his politics to principles and code of life. It helps us understand the Mahatma’s legacy and his philosophy which has always been a topic of discussion, especially in the contemporary world.

Reviewed by: Anita Singh
Suranjan Das

The eight-week Champaran Satyagraha, the scene of the first triumph of Gandhian technique in India was a striking example of protest action and mustering support for that from the urban nationalist leadership through the initiatives of local peasants. Since his South African days, it had been Gandhi’s wish to invoke passive resistance or Satyagraha, as he preferred to call it, in his own country. He considered Satyagraha a panacea for all ills of the country.

Reviewed by: Jawaid Alam
Preet S. Aulakh and Philip F. Kelly

Aulakh and Kelly provide readers with a brilliant conceptual framework to situate the themes of interdependent capital and labour mobilities. The choice of Asia is dictated by the latter’s phenomenal economic growth in the last couple of decades, it being both the source and destination of significant new migration corridors, as well as its distinctive institutional arrangements created to regulate these mobilities. Besides mapping the standard forms of capital mobility, the authors emphasize the significant role that remittances play in economic development at both local and national levels in the countries of origin of Asian migrants.

Reviewed by: Padmini Swaminathan
Utsa Patnaik, Prabhat Patnaik

The authors are emeritus professors of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Both secured their doctorates in economics from Oxford University, UK. Utsa’s main areas of research interest are the problems of transition from agriculture and peasant predominant societies in a historical context, at present in relation to India, and questions relating to food security and poverty. She has authored several books including Peasant Class Differentiation: A Study in Method (1987), The Long Transition (1999), and The Republic of Hunger and Other Essays (2007).

Reviewed by: TCA Ranganathan
Adhir Biswas. Translated from the original Bengali by V. Ramaswamy

Following the Partition of the subcontinent, the migration of refugees from East Pakistan into West Bengal did not occur in a single wave, as it did along Pakistan’s western frontier, where over fifteen million people crossed the border in the year of Partition. The former’s border crossing had various crests and troughs throughout the decades, which is why the problem has been viewed differently and often goes unacknowledged.

Reviewed by: Aman Nawaz
Aanchal Malhotra

The further we get from the events of Partition, the more the art of writing about it changes. Memories fade and change, its custodians no longer those who were direct participants as they have aged. In the Language of Remembering looks at the implications of these flows through a carefully collated selection of interviews both with those who lived through the traumatic events of the mid-20th century in South Asia and their descendants.

Reviewed by: TCA Achintya
Anindita Ghoshal

It is now generally accepted that the Partition of India happened in two quite different ways. In the West, it was short, swift, extremely violent, and quite definitive, while in the East the process was prolonged, fluid, and relatively less bloody. Thus, the historians have termed the Partition in East India as the ‘Long Partition’. Another difference between these two processes of Partition seems to be associated with the dual process of forgetting and remembrance.

Reviewed by: Shashi Bhushan Upadhyay

Declaring India to be an independent nation in 1947 encapsulated fundamental historical changes. India was no longer a collection of kingdoms as it had been before it was colonized, nor were the people of India any longer subjects of the British crown as under colonial rule. We were now a sovereign democratic state whose population consisted of free and autonomous citizens of a nation. 

Whitney Cox

Commentarial traditions and language-centred interpretive conventions were arguably the most important modes of knowledge production in India for much of the second millennium CE. This practice commenced in all earnest in the eighth century CE, although we know of several instances of earlier commentaries too, including Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya that is older than the first century BCE. Modern scholarship has relied upon these works for a long time, and works such as Sāyaṇa’s commentary on the Rigvēda and the ones on the bṛhattraya texts (Bhāravi’s Kirātārjunīya, Māgha’s Śiśupālavadha and Śrīharṣa’s Naiṣadhīyacarita) have been indispensable in producing critical editions of the respective texts.

Reviewed by: Manu V Devadevan
Niranjan Goswami

Conference volumes are not easy to review as the essays do not always cohere to form a clear and lucid narrative. The volume under review, however, does partially better on this count as it reflects on a plethora of writings—travel accounts, professional histories, women’s memoirs—to index the shifts in the way India was represented by Europeans from the late 16th to the mid-19th century. Consequently, while the subject of representing India, in itself, is hardly new, given the number of books that have been written to make sense of the way India was constructed and staged by Europeans, the volume manages to bring fresh perspectives.

Reviewed by: Lakshmi Subramanian
Iqtidar Alam Khan

The book is a collection of essays on varied themes comprising the concept of India in Alberuni, Hindu chiefs in Sultanate polity, economic theories during the period, economic implications of political disintegration and Shaikh Abdul Quddus Gangohi’s relations with political authorities. Even as these essays focus on the study of thought, polity and economy, they investigate the history of India during the period 1000-1500 CE with particular reference to the Delhi Sultanate. It relates valuable paradigms of the period that gave the Delhi Sultanate a different character notwithstanding its Islamic identity.

Reviewed by: Meena Bhargava
Ângela Barreto Xavier

It would be fitting to state at the outset that this is an important book. For many reasons, but mostly because it speaks with ease to many audiences. Ângela Barreto Xavier’s convincing narrative comes from an evident expertise in her Portuguese sources as much as from a deep engagement with current debates across themes in Indian and Iberian history.The title encapsulates the two main themes of Portuguese imperialism and Christian conversion in the territory of Goa.

Reviewed by: Radhika Chadha
Rattan Lal Hangloo

R L Hangloo provides a panoramic view of the medieval period with a focus on periodization, medieval state and legitimacy, Sufism and urbanization.  By drawing upon case studies from Delhi, Deccan and Kashmir, the author discusses the distinctiveness of medieval politics, diplomacy, religion and culture.At the outset, he discusses the methodology adopted by colonial and nationalist historians regarding periodization and points out the problems in usage of the term Muslim in place of medieval. He argues that the usage of the ideological lens to understand the medieval period precludes the possibility of objective understanding of the past and the complexities in the making of medieval society .

Reviewed by: Sushmita Banerjee
Ali Athar

Socio-Cultural and Technological Development in Medieval India edited by Ali Athar brings together thirteen articles focusing on the sub-themes: literary sources; state and administration; society and culture; science and technology.Some articles in the book offer insightful discussions, particularly those on 18th century north India. The article by Rohma Javed Rashid, for example, engages with the shahr ashob poetry that used humour, satire and dramatized language to lament the dwindling fortunes of the elite and rise of lower social groups in 18th century Shahjahanabad, meant to convey the decline of the city.

Reviewed by: Akhila Mathew
Iqtidar Alam Khan

A collection of eight essays which variously analyse the oft under-explored subject of medieval archaeology, the book under review brings to light not only many hitherto unknown structural remains belonging to medieval India such as dyeing vats, dykes and makeshift capitals but also aims to dispel the notion that archaeology as a discipline is only associated with the remote past or with ‘remains dug out from under the earth’ (p. 2).  Khan’s book points to a plethora of structural remains pertaining to medieval India that are lacking in conservation primarily because they do not make the cut for being ‘important’ monuments.

Reviewed by: Ruchika Sharma
Ranjan Chakrabarti

A major trend in history writing that began in the late 1960s to early 1970s in Europe and America was the study of cultural history where various aspects of social behaviour and cultural patterns of societies were being studied in their historical context. Multidisciplinary studies became the norm in the study of social sciences and history was not untouched by these developments. The subject matter of history did not merely include aspects of political narratives but also included the study of social, economic, behavioural and environmental aspects.

Reviewed by: Sudipto Basu
Mohammad Nasir and Samreen Ahmed

Syed Mahmood could have become a public figure as eminent as his father Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the educationist and social reformer who founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College (later the Aligarh Muslim University). Certainly, he had the potential for it. He knew at least seven languages ranging from English to Persian, Latin, and Sanskrit; wrote extensively in English and Urdu; and made notable contributions to the development of law and education in India

Reviewed by: Abhik Majumdar
Mridula Ramanna

Historical literature on public health in colonial Bombay has been vast in depth and scale. We have seen how the city fought the plague, saw questions of sovereignty arise from the medical and moral disaster it inflicted on the city over the years.  While the racialized segregated structures of the Presidency have been studied, there is need for a detailed description of the health policies and their intended subjects. Mridula Ramanna undertakes this project in yet another rigorous and meticulous volume on public health governance in Bombay of the late colonial period.

Reviewed by: Aprajita Sarcar
Pamela Malhotra

As we live on the brink of climate collapse, one may chafe at the lack of personal agency as we watch governing bodies and corporate entities make disastrous decisions. This book is a personal rendition of one woman’s awakening to the myriad of issues the world faces and her quest to do something about it along with her partner, culminating in their endeavour to set up a private sanctuary in India. The author hopes to enlighten her readers by interspersing this tale with snapshots and brief explanations of key environmental events and issues from around the world, spanning centuries.

Reviewed by: Ayesha Anna Ninan
Alok Kumar Kanungo

As a child holidaying in Hyderabad with my grandparents, I was mesmerized by the exquisite Mughal glass collections in the Salarjung Museum—cut glass, crystal and blown glass goblets, hookah bases, bowls, bottles, platters and jugs, even spittoons—beautifully curved, with delicate swanlike necks. Beautiful translucent reds, blues and greens in jewel shades, etched, inlaid and enamelled with gold, fluted and melon shaped, with spirals, chevrons, and trifoliated designs and sprays of flowers running up their sides.  Their beauty and delicacy enchanted me.

Reviewed by: Laila Tyabji
Ruben Banerjee

The average viewer of television news or reader of newspapers is clueless about what really goes on within media organizations, how decisions are made on stories, what are the filters placed on the flow of information, or how news is shaped by shadowy players, whether they happen to be proprietors, advertisers, or governments. The value of this rather slight book lies in providing a chink that allows a little daylight to penetrate the dark innards of the Indian newsroom.

Reviewed by: Pamela Philipose
Rakhshanda Jalil and Debjani Sengupta

This volume puts together literary writings in Urdu and Bangla on the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. The crop is by no means as plentiful as the writings on Partition, but nevertheless quite appreciable, particularly in Bangla. The great advantage of the volume is that it tries to gather the harvest from both the Eastern and the Western wing of Pakistan, in an effort to provide a holistic perspective. Sadly, the writings in Urdu on 1971, except for a few honourable exceptions, are abstract, inane and escapist.

Reviewed by: M Asaduddin
by V. Ramaswamy & Shahroza Nahrin

The written word is a silent medium—we can only see the words on the pages of a book, cannot hear their sounds. We create those sounds in our minds while reading the book. As we slowly move from one word to another, one sentence to another, one paragraph to another, we gradually grow accustomed to listening to the words in our mind. Loud, shrill, gruffy, with different accents—we assign voices to characters, and sounds that we have created while reading assume texture.

Reviewed by: Aratrika Das
Sanjiv Saraf

In the Urdu world and in the world of Indian culture in general Sanjiv Saraf needs no introduction. He is the man behind Rekhta, the organization that has become synonymous with all things Urdu. Apart from its annual festival, the Rekhta website has become the go to site for all lovers of Urdu and now it is also attracting students and scholars. Through their digitization programme they are preserving books in private and rare collections all over the world. They spent weeks in my father’s library filming all the important books and manuscripts he possessed.

Reviewed by: Baran Farooqi

The self that remains rooted at the place of origin is a different one from the identity that the world creates. Home becomes a place one constantly returns to and the division of the self that occurs when one remains away from home magnifies on encountering one’s old self. Concepts regarding the definition of the self and one’s identity change with time but more importantly are dependent on the location and the surroundings. Kamila Shamsie through her writings has tried to discover Pakistan.

Somadeva. Translated from the original Sanskrit and with an Introduction by Arshia Sattar Foreword by Wendy Doniger

The opening lines of many books have acquired iconic status. From Dickens to Daphne du Maurier, the first lines have entranced the reader, and brought him back to the book time and again. Of all these, few can match the effectiveness of the first line in its simplest form ‘Can I tell you a story?’ or ‘Once upon a time….’ In an instant, the imagination is captured; we want to know ‘What comes next?’

Reviewed by: Ravi Menon
Translated from the Sanskrit original by Lee Siegel

Every now and then there is a spurt of interest in Amarushatakam, a compilation of a hundred love poems, dated around the 11th century AD. If viewed as part of the Indian literary tradition, such poems singing the praise of love, personal and yet universal, to which even an ordinary person can relate, have a hoary tradition.  Amarushatakam and its precursor Sringara Shatakam by Bhartrahari, follow motifs and approaches similar to Hala’s Gathasaptasati in Prakrit (dating to the 1st century AD). 

Reviewed by: Sudhamahi Regunathan
Translated by Blake Wentworth

Though Kamban’s iRamavataram is considered the greatest poetic work of the Tamil language and has served as a source for numerous retellings into English, including C Rajagopalachari’s, Wentworth’s translation of the first canto, the Balakanda is probably the first proper ‘translation’ of even a part of it. The introduction sets the stage, as it were, for the translation itself to unfold. Unlike the Valmiki Ramayana, which is composed in a single metre, the shloka, said to be named thus as it was born out of shoka, grief, when Valmiki witnessed a hunter kill one of a pair of mating cranes, Kampan’s Tamil masterpiece has no less than eighty-seven varieties of metres which are employed to create varied effects.

Reviewed by: Bharati Jagannathan
Ruskin Bond

Ruskin Bond is perhaps undoubtedly India’s favourite short story writer and novelist. From children to young adults and grown-ups, there is no category that is left untouched and unmoved by his stories—through the easy-flowing style and the languid descriptions that transport the reader into the mountains of Landour or the hills of Dalhousie or into the surrounding forests, with their accompanying ‘songs’. David Davidar, in the foreword to this collection calls Bond ‘ambidextrous’—a perfect word to describe the man whose oeuvre has mesmerized and influenced at least three generations of readers.

Reviewed by: Madhumita Chakraborty
Harini Nagendra

Harini Nagendra is Director of Research at the Azim Premji University and leads the University’s Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability. She has authored several scientific publications and books on the planet and its ecosystems. The Bangalore Detectives Club is her first foray into fiction.A murder mystery featuring a 19-year-old protagonist, the book is based in Bangalore in the 1920s. Young, beautiful, upper-class wife of a doctor, Kaveri the protagonist, could well be the heroine of a young adult book of fiction, which is almost what TBDC is.

Reviewed by: Malati Mukherjee
GJV Prasad

Professor GJV Prasad’s abundant creativity offers us a smorgasbord of options from which to choose—poetry, fiction, criticism, academic writing and translation. Currently, it is his translation into English of Ambai’s Tamil stories, taking ‘a seed from one soil’ and planting it into another, that is bringing in the praise he so richly deserves. His long-standing passion for writing poetry in English, I’m sure, has aided in honing his skills as a translator.

Reviewed by: Smita Agarwal
Syeda Javeria Fatima

Syeda Javeria Fatima’s collection of poems is not as whimsical as the title suggests; in fact, it is quite the opposite to it. Written in simple rhyme schemes, the poems voice the observations of a child’s world which has been marred by experiences too mature for her. Divided into sections that range from spiritual belief to romantic love, and her mother’s sacrificial omnipresence for her family members to friends that include her schoolmates and her grandparents, Fatima’s poems are a gamut of emotions both personal and relatable at the same time.

Reviewed by: Suman Bhagchandani