By Mathew John

This brings us to John’s fourth issue in the book, that of caste; in discussing the Indian caste system in the fourth chapter, John contrasts the sociological and sacral conceptions of caste. He refers to Marc Galanter’s framework, which had put forward three models of caste—the sacral, sectarian, and associational models. Whereas the sacral conception of caste sees the different castes in India ‘as constituent parts of a unified Hindu religious order’

Reviewed by: Shefali Jha
By Neerja Chowdhury

Beginning with a well-analysed nineteen-page Introduction, raising and underlining several issues and processes relating to the office of the Prime Minister, she quotes Atal Bihari Vajpayee saying, ‘The higher you go, the more lonely you are.’ This sets the tone of the analysis that shows a Prime Minister as a human, who attempts to survive amidst competing pressures, aiming to triumph politically. In the process, a VP Singh ends up changing the politics of the country for all time to come despite a short tenure.

Reviewed by: Ajay K Mehra
By Thomas Zeitzoff

The author has attempted to provide a general theory of nasty politics across contexts. He contends that despite the differences in the three aforementioned contexts, the rationale behind employing nasty politics is essentially the same. In all of these contexts, name-calling and insults are usually more acceptable than provocation and intimidation.

Reviewed by: Waqas Farooq Kuttay
By Rama Sundari Mantena

The ‘unity talks’ between these political groups envisioned the Hyderabad State as a single political unit within the Commonwealth of India. However, as Mantena explores the frictions between regional autonomy and national freedom further, the Hyderabad State administration saw these assertions by the political groups as attacks on its ‘historical identity as an inheritor of Mughal legacy in South Asia’. Along with overtly political groups asserting their political ambitions

Reviewed by: Surajkumar Thube
By P. Sainath

The writing moves you. It leaves you seething at the indignity and injustice inflicted on the last heroes and countless others by a system seeped in colonial bureaucratic rigmaroles/bureaucracy. Sainath highlights the irony of how independent India chose to recognize its freedom fighters and framed the eligibility criterion for pensions such as the Swatantra Sainik Samman.

Reviewed by: Hem Borker
By Ruchika Sharma

The author cautions against using the words ‘natives’ or ‘whites’ or ‘Anglo-Indians’ among others, as these are politically contested terms in themselves. While they are loaded terms, the colonial archives’ understanding them became a way to address non-European locals, thus staying away from their identity or parentage.

Reviewed by: Tanmay Kulshrestha
By T.C.A Raghavan

Raghavan’s reflections, as a seasoned diplomat, on the problems that Asaf Ali had to face as India’s Ambassador to the United States (appointed by the Interim Government a few months before Independence), allow us to appreciate the adverse conditions under which the first set of envoys had to function. They were ridiculed if they were ostentatious

Reviewed by: Amar Farooqui
By Nico Slate

The present volume, going ahead, narrates Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay’s friendship and interactions with a host of political leaders across ideologies. Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan were some of such leaders.

Reviewed by: Amol Saghar
By H.A. Qureshi and Shreya Pathak

This research monograph based on fresh, unknown and by that token unutilized sources of the political history of Varanasi offers insights and presents incisive analysis of many known and unknown events. The historians’ gaze has largely remained oblivious to the sources, scattered as they are, not only in many regional repositories, various State Archives

Reviewed by: Dhrub Kumar Singh
By Ambika Aiyadurai

Very few Indian scholars have looked into these processes or, in general, the politics of conservation, which makes Tigers are our Brothers a rich resource and a persuasive invite to further inquiry and writing. Anyone in the field of conservation knows that the killing of wild animals is a highly sensitive topic. Ambika Aiyadurai engages with it courageously and does what is needed to break the silence.

Reviewed by: Ovee Thorat
By Kusum Jain

In Rajasthan and in Gujarat the Bajara Khichdi dispenses with both the rice and the lentils. In Bengal Bhuni Khichdi is a celebratory dish and during the Pujo season, various pandals compete in serving rich, spicy, fried khichdi to visitors. In Maharashtra

Reviewed by: Pushpesh Pant
Selected & edited by Sunita Kohli

A no-fuss collection of diverse cuisines and palettes—the book contains vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes that can be tried for casual meals as well as also for well curated formal occasions. The diversity is praise worthy—the getting into friends’ kitchens is palpable—the sheer number and variety including starters, mains, rice, breads, one-pot meals

Reviewed by: Surabhika Maheshwari
By Swati Narayan

The author provides a detailed account of her field-work methodology and the challenges faced by her while traversing across borders. Her analysis is divided into ‘two geographic comparisons of contiguous regions in specific time periods’

Reviewed by: Padmini Swaminathan
Edited by K. Suneetha Rani

Given the power asymmetry between English and Indian languages, a fair and equitable dialogue between them is difficult to imagine. On the rare occasions when Indian language books are discussed in an English context, they are treated as free-floating objects devoid of cultural and critical milieus of their own and are used merely as fodder for the western critical canon.

Reviewed by: Vijay Kumar Tadakamalla
By Bitan Chakraborty. Translated from the original Bengali by Malati Mukherjee

Like Moni in ‘The Blight’, there is Mahadeb, a coolie in the story, ‘A Day’s Work’. An ailing son, an unemployed wife, how can he provide the basic nutrition required to heal the youngster? Is a piece of fish and a handful of rice beyond his dream of possibilities?

Reviewed by: Malashri Lal
Translated from the original Malayalam by J. Devika

Yama’s story, ‘The Funerary Palm’ refers to the coconut palm saplings planted on the last remains of Amma who dearly held on to her only valuable possession: a gold necklace, ‘its beads shaped like grains of rice’ (p. 9), which is sold to pay for her funeral ceremony.

Reviewed by: Purnachandra Naik
By Somnath Batabyal

It is in Guwahati that Samar meets two of his closest friends—Rizu Kalita and Rana Singh Choudhury. Through this adolescent friendship the story moves forward. Samar’s friends carry their own baggage. Rizu was admitted to St. Joseph because his father, the much-loved Madhob Kalita did not want to lose both his sons to a revolution whose cause he was not sure of.

Reviewed by: Parvin Sultana
Translated from the original Malay by Harry Aveling

There are significant departures from the Mahabharata. Rajuna has two wives: Draupadi and Serikandi (Shikhandi) who fights for the Pandavas. Rajuna becomes an inveterate philanderer. On Duryudana’s command Sangkuni (Shakuni) transforms into dice and Arya Manggala becomes the gambling table.

Reviewed by: Pradip Bhattacharya
By Nishanth Injam

In ‘Summers of Waiting’, Sita visits her ailing Tatha, her grandfather, who has raised her. Even before she arrives, she understands she must leave: ‘Twelve days was all she had.

Reviewed by: Kavi Yaga
By Vauhini Vara

But there is a third level which, as the book shows, comes via writing stories about people, mostly women—men too—who have experienced loss and grief. Thus, we have the canvas of the ten searing stories in this book filled with sisters grieving for sisters/brothers, mothers grieving for daughters/sons, and wives grieving for their partners.

Reviewed by: Himansu S Mohapatra
By Annapurna Sharma

Described as stories of love in the blurb of the book, When Jaya Met Jaggu and Other Stories explores various facets of love from romantic, platonic, familial, to even eternal love. The strength and weakness of a short story are both in the aspect of brevity—the currency of words

Reviewed by: Shraddha A Singh
By Sanjukta Dasgupta

The retelling of myth serves as an effective device for simultaneously critiquing the present and locating its continuities with the past, to indicate how orthodoxies and systems of exclusion replicate themselves through the ages, across changing contexts.

Reviewed by: Radha Chakravarty
By Kiriti Sengupta

The poetry book opens with six provocative haikus. They are tight, precise and fecund with suggestions. Although the essence of a haiku lies in the neat execution of its syllabic structure and restrained release of its deep meaning, each haiku in the book is paradoxically supplemented by a corresponding colorful sketch. At times, the precision of a haiku is invaded by the visual excess of the sketch and the pleasure of delaying interpretation of the form is suddenly interrupted by the diverted attention.

Reviewed by: Ranjeet Sarpal
By Vaishali Shroff. Illustrations by Adrija Ghosh

Vaishali Shroff’s Taatung Tatung and Other Amazing Stories of India’s Diverse Languages is an impassioned plea for linguistic diversity, emphasizing the social, historical and cultural value of preserving languages even as she chronicles the impact of languages defeated and lost due to the hegemonic march of dominant tongues across the Indian subcontinent.

Reviewed by: Mahalakshmi Jayaram
By Nandini Nayar

Aditi Anand uses simple illustrations to beautifully uplift this sombre subject. Her illustrations are bound to invoke curiosity in a child’s mind. I spent a considerable amount of time fixating on the minute details in her drawings. The figures in the book are etched in a carefree manner, almost from the gaze of a child. The grandfather’s expressions are tinged with a little sadness

Reviewed by: Rutba Iqbal