“Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell

I loved this book when I first read it as a kid more than 50 years ago and I loved it even more when I read it once again recently. The timeless classic for young and old alike, “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell has been re-published by Rupa Publications in 2018. This book which has remained a best seller over the decades was first published way back in 1877, over 140 years ago. It has always been a favourite amongst children. Interestingly, it was also the only book written by Anna Sewell!

This story of a horse called Black Beauty set in Victorian England is told in the first person by the horse himself. Of course, in the course of his life he was called by different names by his various owners. Staring from his youth till the present when he is about 14 or 15 , the story written in a simple yet elegant style is captivating. It takes you through the ups and downs that Black Beauty faces in the course of his life. By the way, a horse aged 13 is reckoned to be a middle-aged 43 in terms of human age.  Continue reading ““Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell”

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“Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” by Koenraad Elst

The title is arresting and I had to read this book though I had never till now heard even remotely of the author, Dr Koenraad Elst. I am glad that Rupa Publications have published, “Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” in 2018. It is a balanced account of what motivated Nathuram Vinayak Godse to assassinate Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. On that January evening in Delhi in 1948, barely a few months after India became an independent nation, Godse shot Gandhiji at point blank range. You may agree with Nathuram Godse or you may not, but this book makes you consider issues from his point of view and explains why he opposed the Mahatma, going so far as to kill him in cold blood and make no effort to escape.  Continue reading ““Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” by Koenraad Elst”

“Ambedkar: An Overview” Book Review

In case you are wondering why I have not mentioned any author for the book “Ambedkar: An Overview” I must clarify that the book (published by Rupa Publications in 2018) is a collection of essays/writings of Bharat Ratna Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar ( 1891-1956). To that extent I think the title of the book itself is somewhat misleading. It suggests that someone has written about Dr Ambedkar but in reality is a collection of his own writings! Even “Essays by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar” or ” Selected Writings of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar” would have been more apt as a title, in my opinion.

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“The Lucknow Cookbook” by Chand Sur and Sunita Kohli

I love history, I love food. With this as the background, it’s a no brainer that I loved, ” The Lucknow Cookbook” by the mother and daughter team of Chand Sur and Padma Shri Sunita Kohli, the famous interior decorator. This book of 225 pages, each one worth reading carefully has been published by Aleph in 2017. As specified in the title the book is centred around the city of Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh in North India.

Lucknow, the capital of the Nawabs of Oudh, has had a special place in Indian history. It is renowned for its culture and customs. In more senses than one, it is the cultural capital of North India. No one who has visited there can come away without carrying memories of a Nawabi culture which sounds almost quaint now in the hustle and bustle of 21st century India. It is in this setting that Sunita Kohli shares family recipes handed down to her by her mother Chand Sur and other family members, friends and relatives. Chand first came to Lucknow in 1948 as a young bride from Quetta, in the days following the tumultuous Partition of British India into India and Pakistan.

Though the story of Chand Sur covers a  mere 20 odd pages, they are full of life and evoke fond memories of a period long gone by.  Continue reading ““The Lucknow Cookbook” by Chand Sur and Sunita Kohli”

“Happiness Is All We Want” by Ashutosh Mishra

Recently, I was delighted to read ” Happiness Is All I Want” by Ashutosh Mishra, a 200-page book published by Bloomsbury in 2016. Mishra is a B. Tech from IIT Delhi and an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur. He has spent more than one and a half decades in the banking industry. He has worked with international organisations such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank and is currently a senior banker in ANZ Bank.  Mishra is therefore well-qualified to understand the stresses and strains of modern-day corporate life where executives are expected to be accessible almost on a 24×7 basis.  Continue reading ““Happiness Is All We Want” by Ashutosh Mishra”

“No Mud, No Lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Often a catchy title of a book makes you want to read it all the more. One such book is, “No Mud, No Lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh, who is reckoned to be one of the best Zen Buddhist teachers in the world. This slim book, just 109 pages in all, was published by Aleph Book Company in 2017. As a reader we figure out what the title of the book suggests and this is borne out by the book’s byline, ” The Art of Transforming Suffering.” At the outset, writes Hanh, “Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud, to help the lotus flower of happiness to grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”

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“The Indigo Sun” by Rupa Bhullar

I found “Indigo Sun” by Rupa Bhullar to be, like the curate’s egg in the famous phrase,  “good in parts.” It captured effectively the smells and sounds of Rajasthan and gave you an in-depth account of life there, but the story was slow off the blocks. Also, I could not reconcile myself as a reader to what I felt were some glaring anomalies. The character of Maya was well sketched and totally believable. But that little fellow Ananda, the son of a watchman in a hotel! How on earth did he get so much wisdom from being an uneducated boy. I could not believe that someone like him could hold forth on so many subjects under the sun. I found those parts quite boring.  Continue reading ““The Indigo Sun” by Rupa Bhullar”

“Excellence: The Amitabh Bachchan Way” by Virender Kapoor

In a country where 15 to 24 year olds make up more than 35 %  of the population  there is a strong need to have effective role models. In my view, the famous actor Amitabh Bachchan qualifies quite comfortably to be such a role model. Fortunately too in India “Bollywood” the world of Hindi cinema had tremendous influence on the minds of people so it is not at all surprising that Virender Kapoor chose to write a self-help/motivational book based on this super star.  Continue reading ““Excellence: The Amitabh Bachchan Way” by Virender Kapoor”

“Devi: The Goddesses of India” edited by John Stratton Hawley & Donna Marie Wulff

Hindus, by and large, are accustomed to a plethora of Gods and Goddesses. From childhood on they have seen their parents and the elders in their houses worship a myriad of gods and goddesses. Every child will remember a shrine, big or small, ornate or simple, which housed the gods and goddesses to which the family prayed. The Gods and Goddesses which featured in the prayers often depended upon which part of the country one lived in. In the North of India, it was commonly Vaishno Devi, just as it was Durga in the East of India and Saraswati , the Goddess of Learning in the South of India. Perhaps Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth was a common factor all over the country. I too had my own notions about the Goddesses of India. Continue reading ““Devi: The Goddesses of India” edited by John Stratton Hawley & Donna Marie Wulff”

“Curried Cultures” edited by Ray & Srinivas

I found, “Curried Cultures” edited by Krishnendu Ray and Tulasi Srinivas to be a fascinating book. Perhaps this is because I like stories about people, and yes, I like food! This is no collection of recipes or descriptions of what people eat in various cultures, lest you get me wrong. It is a scholarly yet eminently readable book of 300 + pages about how food, and Indian food in particular has influenced cultures and been influenced by cultures in different parts of the world. This meticulously researched book, replete with notes as one would expect of a book of this type yet retains readability which is ever so important, especially for the lay man who may not be a research scholar. Continue reading ““Curried Cultures” edited by Ray & Srinivas”