Amitava Kumar

Amitava Kumar is a widely admired writer, chiefly for his non-fiction work like his A Matter of Rats, a book about Patna that is as insightful as it is witty. The Lovers is his second novel, set, not unsurprisingly mainly in a university on the east coast of the US but with vivid images of Ara, the town in Bihar where the protagonist, Kailash grew up. In a BBC interview not so long ago Hanif Qureishi said, a little lugubriously, ‘ Well, all novels are about love.’


Reviewed by: Bhaskar Ghose
K.R. Meera

Anybody reading the blurb of the book will be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu—another novel about the atrocities and indignities meted out to the widows of Vrindavan! Yes, the book does contain some harrowing accounts, but read it and you’ll realize what a tale with a twist it is. It is a very short novel, only about a hundred pages long, but it racks the reader with its very unusual point of view.


Reviewed by: Meera Rajagopalan
Mini Krishnan

There is a kind of anger that is necessary in the world as it is right now. It is an anger that sticks to the truth like tar to your shoe on a hot day. It is the anger that powers the best storytellers, who not only stick to the truth but sing while they do it. This is a popular stand currently, because it is powerful. We live in a time where it is possible, as chaos shifts under our feet, to break the rules we have been fed and speak out, even if only for an instant.


Reviewed by: Rimi B. Chatterjee
Aruna Chakravarti

Daughters of Jorasanko, the recent novel from Aruna Chakravarti, reasserts her position as a perceptive and sensitive writer. Though written as a sequel, it does not lean on Jorasanko, but asserts its independence in its totally different tone, mood and pace. The female characters in Daughters of Jorasanko vividly reflect a change from the previous generation of women in Jorasanko…


Reviewed by: Devika Khanna Narula
Imre Banga

It would not be an exaggeration to state that since his sesquicentennial birth anniversary celebrations began in 2011, Rabindranath Tagore has been the focus of attention of plenty of scholars all around the world. As a global figure, Tagore transcends the boundaries of language and reaches out to people distant both in time and space. So it is no wonder that seminars leading to anthologies based on his oeuvre have flooded the market over the past few years.


Reviewed by: Somdatta Mandal
Shirshendu Chakrabarti

While much has been said about Rabindranath Tagore’s ethical concerns and his dynamic approach to aesthetics as separate strands in his work, the present study attempts to take a holistic view of these elements through a focus on the last decade of Tagore’s life. Shirshendu Chakrabarti examines the ‘slackening of the ego’ found in Tagore’s late poetry, adopting an approach that foregrounds the relationship between aesthetic form and abstract idea.


Reviewed by: Radha Chakravarty
Lata Singh

Lata Singh’s Raising the Curtain: Recasting Women Performers in India reveals how women in theatre and performance in the country have moved, changed and evolved over a period of time. Her absorbing book turns the spotlight on the little known history of theatrical performance, restoring women performers to their rightful place by documenting their lives and highlighting their overall contribution to this genre.


Reviewed by: Neelam Man Singh
Geeta Kapur, Salomi Mathur, Arindam Dutta and Sibaji Bandyopadhyay. Foreword by Homi K. Bhabha

In 1998, commemorating fifty years of India’s Independence (1947–97), artist Vivan Sundaram installed a year-long site-specific project at the Durbar Hall of Victoria Memorial Museum in Calcutta, calling it a Journey Towards Freedom: Modern Bengal, which was subsequently re-christened as the History Project. Almost twenty years later, under this latter name—that according to art critic Geeta Kapur…


Reviewed by: Malvika Maheshwari
Anita E. Cherian

Tilt Pause Shift:Dance Ecologies In In-dia edited by Anita E. Cherian is a remarkable book. It is remarkable for many reasons, in a context where hagio-graphies about dancers, coffee table books on dance with glamorous production values abound—here is a book that is scholarly, incisive and very aware of the politics of bodies in performance.


Reviewed by: Krishna Menon
Sumangala Damodaran

The Radical Impulse by Sumangala Damodaran is a valuable archive of IPTA’s musical repertoire across languages and regions of India as well as a sophisticated analysis of the political and cultural climate of the early to mid-twentieth century in which this music evolved. Formed in 1943, the Indian Progressive Theatre Association made one of the first conscious attempts to use music and performative forms as modes of political activism and protest and to develop a self-conscious ‘people’s aesthetic’ that had a momentous impact on literary cultures of the time.


Reviewed by: Arti Minocha
Madhuri Desai

Banaras, generally characterized as the longest continuously living city and as a microcosm of Hindu civilization, has long enjoyed epithets of an eternal, timeless, unchanging, and archetypal Hindu holy city. It has, perhaps, for a city of its size, attracted much more attention from scholars of repute, and many of them, in recent times, have forayed beyond the domain of the sacred, to unravelling the complexity that Banaras represents.


Reviewed by: Ranjana Sheel
Peter Scriver and Amit Srivastava

India is a diverse country with several re gional cultures and histories. We implicitly acknowledge this diversity as a badge of identity. However, when it comes to modern architecture, we expect all buildings to look ‘modern’, whether they are built in Maharashtra or Bengal, Punjab or Kerala. Even critics don’t expect otherwise. But the ground realities reveal a different picture and some critics are beginning to realize that modern architecture in India is not as homogenous as it is imagined.


Reviewed by: A.G. Krishna Menon
Mihir Bose

This is a remarkable tale of a remarkable man who went by several names, trained in espionage by the brother of the celebrated writer Ian Fleming and who undertook among other things the safe keeping and travels of Bose as a fugitive. The life of Bhagat Ram Talwar, alias Silver is a story that is incredible and mysterious even as it is formed and sculpted by extraordinary macro-political events that the second great war and the new balance of power accompanying the rise of the Axis powers and of the Soviet Union came to embody.


Reviewed by: Lakshmi Subramanian
Sanjay Subrahmanyam

This book brings together the writings on India produced by a range of Europeans who travelled or did not travel to India from 1500 to 1800. These include the arrivals from Portugal like Garcia da Orta, travellers headed to Mughal India, like the Frenchman Francois Bernier, Richard Steele and the Bordeaux jeweller, Augustin Herryard; collectors of material objects and trained warriors who arrived in the age of Mughal crisis and made most of the opportunities it offered also find a place in these pages: Richard Johnson and the Franco-Swiss mercenary Antoine Polier among others.


Reviewed by: Seema Alavi

This book brings together the writings on India produced by a range of Europeans who travelled or did not travel to India from 1500 to 1800. These include the arrivals from Portugal like Garcia da Orta, travellers headed to Mughal India, like the Frenchman Francois Bernier, Richard Steele and the Bordeaux jeweller, Augustin Herryard; collectors of material objects and trained warriors who arrived in the age of Mughal crisis and made most of the opportunities it offered also find a place in these pages: Richard Johnson and the Franco-Swiss mercenary Antoine Polier among others.


Reviewed by:
Queeny Pradhan

Apologists for British colonial rule often claim that the Raj mainly brought democracy, the rule of law and trains to India. In her scholarly work about some of the best known hill stations on the subcontinent during the British colonial period, Queeny Pradhan provides us with another side to the story. She clearly shows that the Raj in India was an exercise in land appropriation, in the hegemonic domination of local colonized people, and in reordering of the natural space for the exclusive needs of the conquerors.


Reviewed by: Gerard Toffin
Jairam Ramesh

Is Indira Gandhi’s environmental legacy relevant to India of today? In Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature, Jairam Ramesh endeavours to enlist all her achievements, her motivations, her obstacles and more. It is a monumental treatise, an outcome of extensive and meticulous searching.
The author traces Indira’s interest in the natural world from her childhood—the influence of Jawaharlal, of Santiniketan and Rabindranath Tagore, whom she calls an ‘ecological man’, of Salim Ali and the rest. Her interest in nature was genuine and deep—in forests, stones, animal and birds, perhaps most in birds.


Reviewed by: M.K. Ranjitsinh
Meghnad Desai

May you live in interesting times’, a favourite Chinese curse for all unmentionable acquaintances, could well describe life today not only for most of us individuals but also most countries. Just recently Catalonia has announced an, albeit short-lived, unilateral declaration of independence. It is one of the more prosperous provinces of Spain, having only 16 per cent of its population but receiving more than 20% of their FDI accounts for over 25% of their exports. Since the book does not directly focus on this, it is best not to say more about Catalonia except that most of us did not know that there was so much internal unrest in Spain.


Reviewed by: T.C.A. Ranganathan
T.C.A. Srinivasa Raghavan

It’s hard to come by a read that forensically lays threadbare the crimpled cohabitation of Mint Road with the two big sandstone blocks in New Delhi—North and South Block; and the dynamics of what is an inherently conflictual contract—if you can term it so—between them. You have one (of a kind) in T.C.A. Srinivasa Raghavan’s Dialogue of the Deaf: The Government and the RBI. Who gets to have the right of way—the mint or its owner?


Reviewed by: Raghu Mohan
A. Banerjee

Raghuram Rajan, the erstwhile ‘Rockstar’ Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, came to India with an awesome reputation. He was a Professor of Finance at the prestigious Chicago University, had served as Chief Economist in the IMF, and had written widely acclaimed books on the western financial system. Above all, at a time the US ‘Goldilocks’ economy was chugging along merrily as if there was no morrow, with economic growth and asset prices at an all-time high,


Reviewed by: Alok Sheel
Y.V. Reddy

Y.V. Reddy or Venu Reddy as he is generally known, has had a distinguished civil service career. He held important assignments in the undivided Andhra Pradesh, in the Commerce and Finance Ministries in New Delhi, in the World Bank in Washington and, of course in Mumbai as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India where he had a momentous tenure.


Reviewed by: Jairam Ramesh
Kumari Jayawardena and Kishali Pinto-

The recent ‘me too’ campaign on social media has once again shown the extent of sexual harassment of women in all societies world over. It has also established the determination of women to fight back. The extreme form of violence against women is rape, rooted in patriarchy, gender inequality, misogyny, exclusion and discrimination, all of which are cloaked in an innate structure of male supremacy and sanction to control through force.


Reviewed by: Anuradha Chenoy
Asha Hans and Swarna Rajagopalan

In 2000, recognizing the changing nature of war, the UN Security Council passed Resolution No. 1325 (U6+NSCR 1325), which called for increased inclusion of women at all levels of policy-making and implementation related to conflict management, resolution and sustainable peace-building, and formally acknowledged the role women already played in this regard.


Reviewed by: Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy*
Srikanth Kondapalli

The One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative has been the most discussed and debated development in the last four years. Chinese President Xi Jinping had announced the OBOR initiative in 2013 and the first OBOR Forum was held in May 2017 which was attended by a large gathering of global leaders and international organizations. OBOR is an initiative which Xi Jinping is promoting as a global economic revamping. For Xi, OBOR is an international initiative that will help the global economy get more integrated and more sustainable.


Reviewed by: Gunjan Singh
Paramita Mukherjee, Arnab K. Deb

The edited volume under review is an effort to introduce China and India in the foreground of their history and culture as they impact the present context of competition and cooperation between the two countries. To quote from the Introduction, ‘The book encompasses history, culture, political relations, economic perspectives and issues concerning both the countries.


Reviewed by: Sabaree Mitra :Sabaree Mitra
Thongkholal Haokip

India’s North East is regarded as the natural pivot for India’s engagement with South East Asia and East Asia through the continental route. The books reviewed here are excellent attempts at bringing out the historical, political, social and cultural underpinnings and impacts of India’s ‘Look East Policy’ and its transition to the ‘Act East Policy’. They are important contributions to the understanding of India’s foreign policy strategy towards its immediate neighbours when this transition is actually happening.


Reviewed by: Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman
Amitav Acharya

The two volumes under review are dissimilar books—dissimilar in structure, approaches and style. And yet, in their juxtaposition also emerges many interesting insights on the common theme in the two volumes namely, of the triangular relationship between India, South East Asia and China. Amitav Acharya’s East of India, South of China has China much more upfront as a central factor but Heading East edited by Karen Stoll Farrell and Sumit Ganguly would not stand either without China being the unspoken elephant in the volume.


Reviewed by: Jabin T. Jacob
Richard Falk, Manoranjan Mohanty, Victor Faessel

‘…the gaze forward in time is always in the last analysis an exercise of the imagination.’ It shapes both the realist and speculative forays of this galaxy of acknowledged scholars looking towards 2030, but as Victor Faessel reminds us, each of the chapters of this volume represents a thematization, more or less explicit, of conflict over dominant imaginaries. Also knitting them together is a shared ethical standpoint of struggling to envisage an alternative approach of diverse groups with divergent values living well together. In encouraging these contributors’


Reviewed by: Rita Manchanda
Prasenjit K. Basu

Asia, the largest continent with its several civilizations going back to millennia was subjugated and dominated by European powers for over four hundred years since the sixteenth century. A number of countries of Asia which collectively accounted for a very substantive global economic activity and growth as late as the early 19th century were impoverished with resultant underdevelopment, ill health, poor education and social inequality.


Reviewed by: Sudhir T. Devare