Rajiv Bhatia

he publication of two important books on India-Africa relations in early 2022 is a striking event. The authors are Foreign Service Africanists with multiple assignments on the Continent. They complement each other rather well.Rajiv Bhatia addresses the wide historical canvas, and a range of political and other connections.

Reviewed by: Kishan S Rana
Monoj Kumar Nath

Muslims in Assam comprise one-third of its population. Since Independence, the politics of Assam has been shaped by the question of alleged illegal immigration from erstwhile East Pakistan. The spectre of an illegal immigrant minoritizing the ‘khilonjia’(original inhabitants) of Assam has been a constant in the popular as well as political discourse.

Reviewed by: Parvin Sultana
Arundhati Bhattacharya. Read by Shivani Vakil Savant

Arundhati Bhattacharya’s memoir has a literary flavour, mixing personal elements with the professional admirably. But it is distinctive in the way her experiences have been articulated from the perspective of a ‘working woman’. And this feat she accomplishes with elan, making her reflections a readable treat and compelling to empathize with.To begin with, it is a story of a girl growing up at Bhilai and Bokaro and then in Kolkata for higher studies before joining the wider world of professional banking.

Reviewed by: Amitabha Bhattacharya
Parul Pandya Dhar

This beautifully produced book brings together twenty diverse essays (including the excellent introduction) on the Ramayana tradition in visual, literary and performance cultures across a broad geographical swathe and across more than a millennium.In her careful examination of Ramayana-themed sculptures in the Chalukya and Hoysala period temples of Karnataka, Parul Pandya Dhar shows that the image of Rama as ideal ruler is seen from inscriptions of the sixth century onwards where kings are compared to the divine hero. Interestingly, the nobler aspects of Ravana are also occasionally represented. 

Reviewed by: Bharati Jagannathan
Nalini Ramachandran. Illustrations by Annushka Hardikar

Trumpet Calls: Epic Tales of Extraordinary Elephants by Nalini Ramachandran is divided into nine chapters beginning with ‘What is an Elephant’ and ending with ‘The Keepers of Memory’.  Each chapter has a short introduction to the theme in focus, a short ‘ele-fact’ i.e., facts about the elephants and additional information which is connected to the main story. The black and white illustrations  are attractive primarily due to sketches and drawings by Annushka Hardikar.

Reviewed by: Mahendra Vyas
Neera Chandhoke

In The Violence in Our Bones: Mapping the Deadly Fault Lines Within Indian Society, Professor Neera Chandhoke compels us to deliberate on violence in its many manifestations in India and suggests how we may extricate ourselves from this abyss by inventively imagining participatory democracy. The treatment of violence in the social sciences often diminishes the starkness of human tragedy, when reduced to mere statistics. While recognizing that violent urges might lie dormant in our psyche, Chandhoke is concerned with stalling the eruption of these violent urges onto the socio-political arena.

Reviewed by: Swaha Swetambara Das
Ayaz Memon

The book under review eloquently encapsulates not only the major achievements of the game but also sheds light on the stalwarts of Indian cricket, their achievements, approaches and vision. In order to carve out the chronology of events, the book has been divided into various sub-sections by the editor on the basis of several epochs of Indian cricket. This has certainly contributed to making it more reader-friendly. Importantly, it has underlined how cricket has become an integral part of Indian social life. Through its ability to capture the imagination of the people, it has succeeded in becoming a game for the masses. The role of the media—print and electronic, has greatly contributed towards this. Additionally, the book brings together memories and conversations of cricket enthusiasts and interviews of eminent Indian cricketers which provide deeper insights on the game. Its discussion of domestic as well as women’s cricket is equally enthralling.

Reviewed by: Avipshu Haldar
Yogesh Patel

Yogesh Patel’s The Rapids is a collection of brisk poetic thoughts on a range of ideas that reflect on contemporary times. In the age of high-speed internet, data-deluge and fractured communication, Patel is conscious of his stance as a poet. Thus, instead of critiquing the world from an ivory tower, he comes down and invents playful patterns, inspired by everyday disjuncture.

Reviewed by: Jhilam Chattaraj
Purushottam Agrawal. Introduction and illustrations by Devdutt Pattanaik

The title of this well-researched book, reflecting a life-time’s work, is serendipitous. Mirrored in it is a couplet written by this medieval poet, which also figures as the epigraph:I have made my mind as pure as Ganga water,Hari follows after, calling out, ‘Kabir, Kabir’The echoing repetition of Kabir’s name, even more than the plurality which is a quintessential aspect of the cultural memory of this poet, suggests the indefinite and nebulous in the striving for the mystical. In an inversion of hierarchy, it is Hari who runs after Kabir, calling out to his devotee.

Reviewed by: Rohini Mokashi-Punekar
Anubha Yadav

In a country like ours, where actors, read heroes and heroines, take centre stage over everything else in popular Hindustani cinema, are more important than even the directors, one wonders how important scripts are, and hence scriptwriters.  To begin with a confession, I thought more about it once this book hit the market.The Indian screenwriter Anjum Rajabali (known for scripting Drohkaal, Ghulam, Rajneeti and Arakshan to name a few) has penned the Foreword to this book where he starts by quoting Alfred Hitchcock: ‘To make a great film, you need three things—the script, the script and the script.’ 

Reviewed by: Saba Mahmood Bashir
Ravi Agarwal, Omita Goyal

Our understanding of climate change has not advanced after the recent climate negotiations, the CoP26, November 2021 in Glasgow. Climate change, being the most complex and lasting of the series of environmental challenges that humanity and the planet have faced over the past two and half centuries, has no easy solution.

Reviewed by: Rajeswari S Raina
Ghazala Jamil

The three books under review critically contribute to our understanding of Gender, Inclusion, Violence and Social Justice. They capture several evidences of gender inequality, violence and exclusion across all levels; but they also show how gender issues in India can be read through different lenses of justice; how scholars, advocates and activists addressing these issues have brought different dimensions to the table, even conflicting at times.  

Reviewed by: Juanita Kakoty
Nasreen Chowdhory and Biswajit Mohanty

This book is an important academic intervention. It unpacks the political complexities associated with the much debatable refugee status of Rohingya community in South Asia. The vast empirical data/information is systematically organized to evolve an innovating theoretical framework. As a result, one finds an interesting sequence that links different individual essays to produce a highly engaging intellectual commentary on complex ideas such as nationalism and citizenship.

Reviewed by: Nazima Parveen
Jyotirmaya Sharma

This book is the fourth and last volume in a quartet by Professor Jyotirmaya Sharma, examining the restatement of Hinduism by some of its most influential exponents and thinkers. The first book Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism discusses the thought of Dayanand Saraswati, Sri Aurobindo, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Swami Vivekananda, all of whom sought to marshal Hindu identity in the service of nationalism. The subsequent volumes focus on the thought and writings of Golwalkar and Vivekananda. The series is an attempt to look at the question of Hindu identity and the restatement of Hinduism in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Reviewed by: Madhav Nayar
Mytheli Sreenivas

Politically correct, influential people in policy making circles in the West do not talk any more of the yellow peril, or use phrases such as population explosion, or metaphors like the population bomb. At the same time, partly due to the very reach and influence of such doomsday demographic discourses emanating from the West in the past, and the modified ones today, the elites and the middle classes in much of the Third World remain convinced that the cause of social and economic problems in their own countries stem primarily, if not only, from population growth.

Reviewed by: Mohan Rao
Wendy Doniger

Doniger’s is a work of passion. This is on display not only in the unfolding of the narrative of her Winged Stallions and Wicked Mares but graphically in the 1968 photograph of Doniger on her Anglo-Arabian mount Damien, which although frozen in stationery pose clearly shows the elegant seat of a consummate lover of the animal.

Reviewed by: Wajahat Habibullah

In the 1970s, Uma, Chandra and myself had almost identical collections of detective fiction. Common to all three of us were those by Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. We each had crammed bookshelves with our treasures and were extremely possessive about our editions.What is it about this genre of writing that inspires this loyalty to read and reread these books with pleasure every time? Today so many authors have joined my bookshelf and Kindle—PD James, Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling), Caroline Graham—but classic crime fiction for me is dominated by the magic of Christie and Marsh…

Reviewed by: Chitra Narayanan
Sushant Kalra

The ‘present’ generation and its values have oft taken the blame for much that is wrong in the world. The generation keeps changing just as the wrongs keep changing. As people age, the side of this blame game that they represent also changes. Yet, seldom do people sit and think who is responsible for the changing values of the ‘present generation’ that has led to so much ‘wrong’ in the world. Parenting for most people is not a conscious choice. We grow up, build careers, and start a family, because that is what society teaches us. This is taken as a given without any conscious thought about who can be a good parent.

Reviewed by: Toolika Wadhwa
Tansen Sen and Brian Tsui

Pan-Asianism is a general term used to describe a wide range of ideas and movements that called for the solidarity of Asian peoples to counter western influences in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The concept of Pan-Asianism first emerged in Japan sometime in the late 19th century. The movement gained wider acceptance following the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905).

Reviewed by: TCA Ranganathan
Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee

Rabindranath Tagore’s androgynous imagination finds fulsome expression in the two books under review. How he extended his understanding to the mysterious secrets of women silenced by patriarchy remains a conjecture. Periodic translations open up the question in various social contexts…

Reviewed by: Malashri Lal
Veena Sharma

When I think of foods I’m likely to encounter in the Himalayan areas, I think of momos, thukpa, yak cheese. But wait. All these dishes are of Tibetan origin. With that comes the realization that I, and most of us, have little idea as to what is consumed in an Indian home located in the foothills of the grand mountains on a regulaar day. ..

Reviewed by: Anjula Ray Chaudhury
Devaki Jain

When a pioneer of the women’s movement in India opens up the window box of her memories, one can expect some startling revelations and some valuable historical perspectives. Devaki Jain delivers on both counts, making this candid and charming book an inspiration for its readers…

Reviewed by: Malashri Lal
Wandana Sonalkar

Why I am not a Hindu Woman is Wandana Sonalkar’s autobiographical reflections on Hinduism as a religion, as an upper-caste Marxist feminist, and in the context of India’s socio-political journey in the last seventy three years, particularly in the shadow of Hindutva majoritarian politics…

Reviewed by: Preeti Gulati