Songs of freedom
Reviewed by M. Rajivlochan
1857: The Oral Tradition
By Pankaj Rag.
Rupa. Pages 212. Rs 395.
THIS book adds an important facet to the studies on the revolt of 1857. Pankaj Rag collects various folk renditions of the memories of 1857 and gives us a unique picture of how the people of Awadh and central India felt about the events of 1857. Towards this end, he painstakingly collects folk songs to weave a poetic tapestry much akin to that of another famous one found in Bayeux. His effort has been to bring together a large body of hitherto ignored literature that has documented the local traditions of central India, match it with the archival reconstruction of the times and place before us the soul, as it were, of the people.

Varied and incisive reportage
Reviewed by Aradhika Sharma
Beware Falling Coconuts
By Adam Clapham.
Rupa. Pages 272. Rs 295.
A documentary-maker can never be off-duty in India because there are too many stories waiting to be told." Adam Clapham made documentaries for the BBC at a time when the BBC was the voice of truth and veracity. When Indian people would listen to the BBC, rather than the local stations, to get the true and unbiased picture of things that were happening in India. As Sir Mark Tully says in his foreword to the book, it was a time when, "a foreign broadcaster became more important than a domestic broadcaster with far more powerful signals and more extensive coverage". Clapham is the producer of classics like, Human Bomb (1998), Good King Wenceslas (1994) and Doomsday Gun (1994). He was also the first foreign journalist to have interviewed Rajiv Gandhi after he became Prime Minister.

What it means to be Indian
Reviewed by Pankaj K. Singh
Sons of Babur: A Play in Search of India
By Salman Khurshid.
Rupa. Pages xx + 121. Rs 295.
A debut play by a Union Minister and dedicated to Congress president Sonia Gandhi may make one approach it with a bit of scepticism. But as one reads on, one finds it a serious engagement with several pressing contemporary issues, with some very gripping scenes. Emerging from some unfortunate happenings in the last nearly two decades, including Ayodhaya and Gujarat, and from his own experiences of dealing with complex questions of identity, communalism and a composite culture, Salman Khurshid’s play takes a fresh look at the idea of India or Indian identity. Translating the pejorative "Babur ki Aulad", used by those stressing an exclusive notion of Indian culture or identity into the positive "Sons of Babur", the play deals with the role of the Mughal Empire in the development of the modern idea of India.

Mentoring youth
Reviewed by Jayanti Roy
Life Competencies for Adolescents: Training Manual for Facilitators, Teachers and Parents
By Devendra Agochiya.
Sage. Pages 351. Rs 495.
THE aspect of bringing up children is one of the most neglected parts in our society. It is assumed that persons who become parents or teachers will also automatically know everything about how to bring up children in the best possible way so as to make them useful members of society, competent in life skills and ready to take up challenges. However, this assumption is costing us dear as the number of "not at peace with themselves or the world"—adolescents—is on the rise and it is needless to mention that an ill-adjusted youth will not grow into a mature and happy adult.

Poignant tale
Reviewed by David Evans
The Blind Side of the Heart
By Julia Franck.
Trans. Anthea Bell. Vintage.
Pages 432. £7.99.
JULIA Franck’s novel opens with an unforgettable sequence. Amid the chaos of the German withdrawal from Stettin in 1945, Peter, a seven-year-old boy, clings to his mother, Helene, while they are carried along by the crowd at the railway station. She sits him down on the platform with a reassuring smile —and then abandons him.

Improving the quality of governance
Reviewed by V. Eshwar Anand
Building A World-Class Civil Service For Twenty-First Century India
By S.K. Das
Oxford University Press.
Pages 269. Rs 675
Over the years, people’s perception of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers has been such that they do not speak of civil servants or administrators but of bureaucrats. The late L.K. Jha, an able administrator, once said in a lighter vein that "the bureaucrat’s public image is of a creature who sits on files, sleeps over reminders, turns a deaf ear to complaints, cannot see beyond the tip of his nose, smells a rat in every proposal and, at times, eats his own words."

Inexplicable India
Zafri Mudasser Nofil
WSJ journalist S. Mitra Kalita reconciles many faces of the country in her new book
She had been tinkering for years with a book on the Indian economy and struggled with how to tell it and now S. Mitra Kalita’s My Two Indias lucidly reconciles the many faces of India — separate, unequal, inextricably and dependent. "I approached it (the book) as narrative non-fiction, where our journey is shared and contextualised with the reader. I often take a step back to more critically examine anecdotes and offer research and statistic to keep me honest.

Food fables
Madhusree Chatterjee
Eatables have a story to tell, as Ratna Rajaiah explores in How the Banana Goes to Heaven
Food was once a good word. It symbolised fulfilment, nutrition and well-being. But when did it all change? When did we become such guilt-ridden unhappy eaters? Food writer Ratna Rajaiah explores many such questions in her new book, How the Banana Goes to Heaven. "As our cells are nourished and replenished, rejuvenated, our noses should exult in the embrace of a hundred aromas. Our taste buds should laugh joyously at being tickled by all the six tastes," Rajaiah says.

Back of the book
Rock retelling to racy thrillers
By Jeff Abbott
Hachette. Pages 499. Rs 295
Sam Capra is living the life of his dreams. A young American in London, he has a perfect flat, a perfect job with the CIA and a perfect wife, Lucy --- who is seven months pregnant with their first child. But one sunny day, it all goes up in flames. Sam receives a call from Lucy while he’s at work. She tells him to leave the building immediately, which he does — just before it explodes, killing those inside. Lucy vanishes, and Sam wakes up in a prison cell.

  • Rock & Roll Jihad
    By Salman Ahmad
    Jaico. Pages 226. Rs 395

  • The Noah’s Ark Quest
    By Boyd Morrison
    Hachette. Pages 565. Rs 295.

  • The House with Five Courtyards
    Govind Mishra translated by Masooma Ali
    Penguin. Pages 269. Rs 299.