“281 And Beyond” by V V S Laxman, with R Kaushik.


For thousands of cricket fans in India, V V S Laxman has to be one of the classiest batsmen to have donned the India colours. His batting was characterized by grace, elegance, and a certain style which most cannot emulate. He was a worthy successor to other elegant Hyderabadi batsmen before him, like M L Jaisimha and Mohammad Azharuddin.

In his recent book, “281 And Beyond” , we get to know Laxman the person more than just Laxman the stylish batsman. Written in collaboration with R Kaushik, the Hyderabad -based cricket writer, this book gives the reader insight into Laxman’s travails and triumphs playing cricket for India at the highest level.

There were many triumphs, to be sure. On top of the list has to be his 281 in the Kolkatta test of 2001 against the Australians. How he and Rahul Dravid put together a 376 run partnership versus the mighty Australians is a legend in modern day cricket. India won the match despite having followed on! Laxman’s 281 was, at that time, the highest ever individual score by an Indian Test batsman.

This apart, there have many more occasions when Laxman has saved the day for India. After all in a career over 15 years, he scored over 8500 runs in 134 Tests with 17 centuries and an average of 45.97

Laxman’s travails came from his not being a sure shot member of the playing XI of the Indian cricket team of his time, unlike say a Tendulkar, a Dravid, a Sehwag , or a Ganguly. He was shuffled in the batting order many times, and was pushed into opening the batting which was not something he particularly enjoyed.

As Laxman’s career developed, another phenomenon came up which made his place in the Indian cricket team more insecure. This was the advent of 50 over cricket and later T20 cricket via the Indian Premier League (IPL). In both cases, Laxman had the disadvantage of being branded a “Test batsman. ” In addition, not being electric in the field, he lost out to others who were considered more adept in these newer and far more popular versions of the game.

In my view, what shines all through the book is Laxman’s description of his upbringing, values and work ethic which is so typical of the hard working middle class/professional stock he came from. He describes in detail how he had to make an important decision: whether to pursue his studies in medicine ( both his parents being doctors) or to be a professional cricketer.

Laxman’s career statistics are far more impressive than many would imagine. A short summary of his career figures in the book even as a end-of-the-book book summary, would, I believe, have publicized his cricketing achievements and enhanced the value of his accomplishments.

Highly recommended for all cricket lovers as Laxman was one of the finest players of his generation.

“Ambling Indian Diaries: Journey India” by Aina Rao

They say that often the book cover makes a big difference in influencing a reader to buy a book. I loved the cover of,  “Ambling Indian Diaries: Journey India” by Aina Rao. It showed you at a glance what the book could be about. The colors, the contrasts and the chaos that characterize life in our country, irrespective of who you are and where you live. Continue reading ““Ambling Indian Diaries: Journey India” by Aina Rao”

“Hunt The Bismarck” by Angus Konstam

As a kid, growing up in the 60’s I had heard the popular song of the day, ” Sink The Bismarck” by Johnny Horton. That old song rang in my ears as I recently read a comprehensive book about the last battle of the famous German battleship of the Second  World War, the “Bismarck”, the pride of the German Kriegsmarine.

The book I speak of  is , “Hunt The Bismarck” (2019) by the noted naval historian, Angus Konstam, who has authored many books about the Second World War. This book has been published by Osprey Publishing.  Continue reading ““Hunt The Bismarck” by Angus Konstam”

“Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson” by James Buddy Day

James Buddy Day the author of ” Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson” has earned a reputation for being a “true crime documentarian”. His book is one more in the list of many books written about Charles Manson (1934-2017), variously described as a musician, poet, cult leader, drug dealer, pimp, and mass murderer. As a teenager in 1969, I remember how shocked we were to read about the gruesome murders of the beautiful film actress Sharon Tate and others, in “Life” and “Time”, the popular magazines of those days. Continue reading ““Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson” by James Buddy Day”

“Chaos In Romance, Sexuality and Fidelity”: Raksha Bharadia

I know of Ms. Raksha Bharadia from the days when she edited titles for the “Chicken Soup For The Indian Soul” series of books. They were interesting and entertaining. I enjoyed reading her latest book, published by Rupa recently called, “Chaos In Romance, Sexuality and Fidelity”.   Continue reading ““Chaos In Romance, Sexuality and Fidelity”: Raksha Bharadia”

“Open Secrets” by Maloy Krishna Dhar

The full title of this absorbing book by veteran sleuth, the late Mr Maloy Krishna Dhar IPS, is ” Open Secrets: The Explosive Memoirs of An Indian Intelligence Officer”.  It was published in 2012 and I read the Kindle version recently. Mr Dhar was a senior intelligence operative and civil servant of the 1964 batch of the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS). This version has been published after his demise on May 19, 2012 thanks, I believe, to the efforts of his son, Mainak Dhar, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad; a senior executive in an international firm and an acclaimed writer himself.

Continue reading ““Open Secrets” by Maloy Krishna Dhar”

Cricket In The Old Madras & Remembering My Dad

On September 20, 2019, we quietly celebrated my father’s 93rd birth anniversary. B. Anantharam Rao, (Ananth to his cricketing friends) or B.A.Rao ( to his colleagues in Burmah Shell and Indian Oil) or BAR or simply BA (to his many Club friends in Madras and Bangalore) was born in 1926 in Udupi in the erstwhile South Canara District of the old Madras Presidency, then under the British Raj. His family moved to the big city of Madras, the capital of the Presidency,  to improve their fortunes sometime in the 1930s. Here, they lived in cricket crazy Triplicane, so close to the old stadium at Chepauk with its famous Wallajah Road End and the Madras Cricket Club end. Continue reading “Cricket In The Old Madras & Remembering My Dad”

“The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar

While there is so much written ( including many books) about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, respectfully called the ” Mahatma ” and the “Father of the Nation”, relatively less is known about his wife, Kastur. We get glimpses of the life of Kasturba Gandhi (1869-1944 ) through a recent book titled, “The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar. Continue reading ““The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar”

“Hippie Chick” by Ilene English

Before I begin my book review of, “Hippie Chick” by Ilene English, let me begin on a personal note: The Hippie movement started in the United States in the mid-60s – when I was a young teenager in Madras, in far away India. Yet many aspects of the movement fascinated us. During my college days my friends called me “Tripper” after the character in a popular cartoon column called, “Bringing Up Father.” I heard the name of the character was changed to “Groover” later as “Tripper” had connotations of drug usage. I, of course, had just the name and nothing beyond that !!!

I am grateful to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

Continue reading ““Hippie Chick” by Ilene English”

Remember Harry Flash? A Tribute to George MacDonald Fraser

When I was at school decades ago, one of the text books we had was, “Tom Brown’s School Days” by Thomas Hughes. Set in the England of the 1830s it portrayed life at Rugby, one of the better known public schools. Studying in a public school myself,  I could quite easily relate to the ups and downs in the lives of Tom Brown and his friends. One of the memorable, or should I say, notorious characters in that book was the bully, Harry Flashman . He made life miserable for Tom Brown and his friends who had to “fag” for him. We know for certain that Flashman was expelled from the school for being drunk by the venerable Headmaster, Dr Thomas Arnold. Continue reading “Remember Harry Flash? A Tribute to George MacDonald Fraser”