The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Now, a tapori retells the Ramayana!
Ashwini Bhatnagar

Prince of Ayodhya: Book One of the Ramayana
by Ashok Banker. Orbit. Pages 532. £ 3.75.
THE blurb describes Ashok Banker’s effort at retelling Valmiki’s Ramayana as one of "breathtaking imagination and brilliant storytelling" but forgets to mention that it is also a gravely fallacious attempt. If going bonkers with a widely read story is breathtaking imagination then Banker certainly deserves the highest literary prize for his sheer lunacy.

The struggle to be "incaste"
Rajdeep Bains

Outcaste: A Memoir
by Narendra Jadhav
Penguin Viking. Pages 263. Rs 395
PUT together a story that spans three generations, with numerous characters intricately portrayed, then add to it just the right touch of social issues and you have a powerful combination. Outcaste is a dramatic piece of writing that forces us to acknowledge the inhumanity and injustice of a social order that treats humans worse than animals.

Patriarchy knows no boundary
Rumina Sethi
Terror Counter-Terror: Women Speak Out
edited by Ammu Joseph and Kalpana Sharma. Kali, New Delhi. Pages 284. Rs 200.
IN Women and Politics in the Third World, a book reviewed in these columns some months ago, I wrote that some of the contributors of the volume argued how feminist organisational structures must reflect the feminine values of gentleness and care.

Bombay, sweet and sour
Gitanjali Sharma
Bombay, meri jaan: Writings on Mumbai
Edited by Jerry Pinto and Naresh Fernandes. Penguin Books. Page 348. Rs 395.
AS you go through the introduction by Jerry Pinto and Naresh Fernandes to this anthology on Mumbai, these words arrest you: "Why would you live in a matchbox, breathe bad air, drink foul water? Because Bombay is an addiction, it isn't good for you but you need the high neon and insomnia, concrete and opportunity."


Woman of substance resurrected
Prerana Trehan
Emma’s Secret
by Barbara Taylor Bradford. HarperCollins Publishers. Pages 506. £ 5.99
EMMA’S Secret reminds me of a nursery rhyme I heard as a child. It went something like this: There was once a little girl who had a little curl right down the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very, very good, when she was bad she was horrid. The world of Emma’s Secret is very much like the little girl’s behaviour.

Developed economy, backward society
Belu Jain Maheshwari
Punjab Society: Perspective and Challenges
edited by M.S. Gill. Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi. Pages 362. Rs 750.

HE quantification of development has undergone a perceptional change. The thrust of quantifying economic development in terms of the gross domestic product alone is no longer tenable.

The dark road from Moscow to Lhasa
Parshotam Mehra
Soviet Russia and Tibet: The Debacle of Secret Diplomacy, 1918-1930s
by Alexandre Andreyev. Brill Leiden. Pages XXI + 433. Price not stated.

N the long and chequered annals of Tibet, India to the south and China to the west have played—and indeed continue to play—significant roles. Expectedly, both have contributed a great deal to the texture of Tibetan life—the Chinese, more demonstrative, in food and dress and to a degree in the organisation of government; the Indians, deeper and more inward-looking, in matters of religion, moral ideas, literary models.

What Zen says
Randeep Wadehra
One Hand Clapping: a collection of Zen stories
Rupa. Pages 102. Rs 95.

AROUND 520 AD Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk from India, introduced China to Mahayana, which blended with Taoism to transmute dhyana — the Indian form of meditation — into Cha`n. Subsequently it travelled to Japan, where it came to be called Zen, the Japanese for dhyana. Zen has greatly influenced the Far Eastern culture by orienting its outlook in favour of action rather than theory.

Punjabi Literature
Dalit’s passage to consciousness
Jaspal Singh
NDIA, from time immemorial, has remained a fragmented society owing to the caste system. Almost one-fourth of the country’s population constitutes what B.R. Ambedkar called the "depressed classes". Though there have been many saints and social reformers who castigated the caste system in India since medieval times, there overall impact has been peripheral.