The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Cautionary treatise, wake-up call
Roopinder Singh

The End of India
by Khushwant Singh. Penguin, New Delhi. Pages 163. Rs 200.

HIS is a serious book by Khushwant Singh, who has otherwise been known during the last few decades as someone who writes on matters of the heart—love, lust and more. But what happens when Khushwant Singh writes from the heart? A sombre lamentation of the state of affairs of the nation ensues from the one who is famous as the "man in a bulb".

Iyer-onic interpretation of mystic Islam
Rajnish Wattas

by Pico Iyer. Knopf. Pages 354. Rs 615.

IS words go out into the world with Abandon, like children doing the parent proud. The prose captures the poetic mysteries of Sufism in a rhapsodic romance and the book has elements of both a love story and a spiritual quest.

Living in memory lane
Rumina Sethi

Song Sung True: A Memoir
by Malka Pukhraj. Translated from Urdu by Saleem Kidwai. Kali for Women, New Delhi. Pages 376. Rs 400.

ALENTINE Cunningham is of the opinion that in every nation there is a craving for the written life, this avidity of readers and writers for gossip "about Frieda’s bad temper, Joyce’s coprophilia, and what Wyston said to the policeman." Or should we say that all readers are greedy for the possession of other people’s lives, prurient for second-hand titillation, a voyeurism? Autobiographies are the one way through which one can experience at second hand all kinds of varieties of human behaviour.


Prose behind and beyond the shadow lines
Akshaya Kumar

The Imam and The Indian
by Amitav Ghosh. Ravidayal and Permanent Black, Delhi.
Pages 361. Rs 495.

OR those who see nothing authentic in Indian English writings, Amitav Ghosh’s collection of prose pieces is a striking reminder of modern Indian English writer’s unflinching activist proclivities. In an earlier prose collection entitled Countdown, Ghosh had warned us about the possible perils of nuclear war. Also, it was Ghosh who withdrew his much-acclaimed novel The Glass Palace from the Commonwealth competition for Best Fiction because the competition considers novels written in English only.

Encounters in the wild
Aditya Sharma

The Rupa Book of Great Animal Stories
edited by Ruskin Bond.
Rupa. Pages 205. Rs 295

ET it be said at the very outset that this book is of a kind as comes once in a while. The stories in it, as its very name suggests, pertain to animals but, contrary to popular notions, are neither moralistic nor merely for children. Far from that, they are realistic and true accounts written by seasoned authors, illustrating the bittersweet encounters between men and beasts. The clear and vivid prose of many of these narratives stands in sharp contrast to the generally ambiguous and prosaic writings of modern fiction writers.

A telling commentary on the spirited Fanie
Harbans Singh

Fanie de Villiers: Portrait of a Test Bowler
by Trevor Chesterfield. Penguin Books India. Pages 476. Rs 450.

ANY of us remember Fanie de Villiers as a pleasant looking fast bowler who threatened to pierce through the defenses of any batsman every time that he rushed up to bowl. He was athletic, fast and impressive but one whose bowling action should have raised quite a few knowledgeable eyebrows.

Tips from the Tendulkar of maths
Aditya Rishi

Mathability: Awaken the Math Genius in Your Child
by Shakuntala Devi, Orient Paperbacks. Pages 151. Rs 60

HAKUNTLA Devi, mathematics wizard and ‘human calculator’, dons the mantle of a lawyer in this book and presents a case for not shying away from mathematics. She has a lot in common with Sachin Tendulkar. When she speaks on mathematics or when Sachin speaks on cricket, people listen. "Common sense, confidence, concentration and control" — you'd think Sachin was giving tips on batting to someone in the nets, but it is Shakuntala Devi teaching you how to improve your ‘mathability’.

Short takes
The memoirs of Hiouen-Thsang
Jaswant Singh

Hiouen-Thsang in India
by J. Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire. Translated from French by Laura Ensor. Rupa & Co.
Pages 124. Rs 150.

O Buddhism goes the credit of bringing ancient India and China close to each other. Asoka’s emissaries took Buddhism to China and set the pace for a succession of pilgrims and scholars who travelled between the two countries using the overland as well as the sea route. Among the best-known Chinese scholars who visited India nearly 1,000 years after Asoka were Fa Hein, Hiouen-Thsang and Yi-Tsing. But the most famous of these Chinese travellers was Hiouen-Thsang who came in the seventh century.

Holistic approach to population problem
Rakesh Datta

We the Billion: A social Psychological Perspective on India’s population
by Ragini Sen. Sage Publication, New Delhi. 2003.Pages 323. Rs 480.

VERY year India adds to its population the population of countries such as Cameroon (14.7 mn), Kazakhstan (15.4 mn), Madagascar (15.1mn) and Netherlands (15.8mn). According to U.N. demographers, by 2016 India will have more people than Europe and in the next three decades it will overtake China as a most populous country in the world.

A let-down in Ranikhet
Padam Ahlawat

A House in Ranikhet
by Keki. N. Daruwalla. Rupa & Co New Delhi. Pages 226. Rs 195.

collection of 16 short stories, the book gets its title from one of the stories. That and a cluster of other stories are based on characters in Ranikhet. Out of all the stories, this story stands out for its ironic humour. Cynthia Craig comes to Ranikhet after 50 years to relive her childhood. At the small hill station she goes to Tripathi, a homoeopath, for her asthma. She finds the thin, mousy-faced Tripathi sporting a phallic ash mark on his forehead.

Tracing history of the SBI
B. S. Thaur

The Evolution of the State Bank of India.
Sage Publications. Pages 674. Rs 1,100.

HIS book is the third volume of history of the State Bank of India. It covers the Imperial Bank era which lasted from 1921-1955. Two volumes, covering the period form 1876-1920, on Presidency Banks were published in the eighties. Incidentally, the Imperial Bank era was a crucial phase in Indian history.