the-south-asian.com January 2003
JANUARY 2003 Contents
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But another Englishman had only India and the Indians in mind while writing a social premise on the country. India In Slow Motion by Sir Mark Tully and his colleague Gillian Wright published by Penguin and released in November had the makings of a best seller. The authors' attempted to unravel a diverse range of subjects like Hindu extremism, child labour, Sufi mysticism, crisis in agriculture, political corruption and problem in Kashmir.
The book was more on the bad governance that has put the brakes on progress in India." The British administrative system was exploitative as it was designed for a colonial government. It was not suited for a democracy. Unfortunately, when India got independence it started with British style of colonial administration where bureaucrats and other public officials treat people as if they are governing them rather then serving them." Says Tully.
Even as the Britishers Dalrymple, Tully and Wright were writing their accounts of medieval and modern India, Ramachandran Guha too was chronicalling Indians and Englishmen in another historical perspective. A Corner Of A Foreign Field, in many ways, was Lagaan in published form---well nearly.
While Aamir Khan's Oscar nominated film portrayed a fictional cricket match between the gora sahibs and a set of determined villagers, Guha's book took a leaf out of history and chronicled a real match played by an unknown Indian team which defeated the Englishmen at their own game.
Says the cricket lover, historian and author of A Corner Of A Foreign Field, " The book is about 'forgotten connections and forgotten historians'. I have made an attempt to show that India's ties with cricket run deeper than many know. Even much before independence the Indians loved cricket and matches were routinely played between towns and villages."
A Little Malice!
The irrepressible Khushwant Singh has been titillating a whole generation of angst ridden English educated people. His vivid anecdotal skill was at its sharpest with his much-awaited swansong, Truth, Love & A Little Malice : An Autobiography. Readers will recall when excerpts of the book were published in a magazine Maneka Gandhi got a legal injunction against the book's publication. After years of the bitter legal battle the court finally allowed Khushwant to publish the book.
Indeed the author excels in talking about India's who's who many of whom shaped the history of modern India. In his amazing career as a lawyer, diplomat, Parliamentarian, editor, columnist and author Khushwant had the good fortune of watching from close quarters people like Pandit Nehru, Maulana Azad, Sardar Patel, Indra, Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi and Krishna Menon under whom he worked and also the subject of his pen's whip lashing.
Indeed, if a book did well in the year it was Khushwants, candid, racy and utterly engaging Truth, Love & A Little Malice : An Autobiography.
If the autobiography genre did well so did high profile biographies. The most publicised was Anoushka Shankar's tribute to her legendary father Ravi Shankar. In Bapi---The Love of My Life, she detailed many interesting facts of the doyen of music.
" For me Bapi is everything. Musician, rockstar, joker, Bharat Ratna. He is my father, friend, guide and guru," says Anoushka who was frank in her book about her father's affairs with many women, but she stoutly defended him saying it was always a no-strings-attached type of affair.
A wide range was on offer for those seeking the path to salvation. Grow Younger, Live Longer : Ten Steps to Reverse Aging was the indigenous chicken soup for the soul by new age spiritual ‘simplifier’ Deepak Chopra and Shiv Khera’s You Can Win still was high on the popular pills along with Osho’s The New Man for the New Millennium. Definitely a good New Year gift.
Children’s books saw familiar Indian names such as Meera
Uberoi who wrote the absorbing Puffin Book of Classic Indian Tales for
Children. Then there was Sirish Rao and Gita Wolf's The Legend of the
Fish. And the unputdownable Treasury of Stories for Children by
Bond had an intellectually enriching year as he brought out not just the book for kids but also Landour Days : A Writer's Journal. The fulcrum of the book were the diaries that Bond has been maintaining for years. The gentle style of his writing made it compelling reading.
In the end it was the charm of Ruskin Bond, the impish flair of Khushwant Singh, the urgency in Mark Tully's writing and Hari Kunzru's meandering style that made 2002 an interesting year in books though definitely not a notable one.
And so as India looks into another new year of stories, successes, secrets of new age therapies and scandals, there is not doubt that Indian authors and Indian bookstores are going to draw back the loyal readers once again!
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