“Navratri” ed. by Bibek Debroy and Anuradha Goyal

Growing up in the South of India, I knew about the practice of Kolu or Golu during the Navratri festival. In many houses in the locality where we lived, dolls were unpacked with care, arranged tastefully and exhibited for all to view and admire. This was called Bommai Kolu in Tamilnadu and Gombe Habba in Karnataka. The lady of the house often stood there proudly looking on with approval at the elaborate display. Later it became common to have some kind of theme built into the display of dolls.

When I visited Gujarat many years later, I saw an entirely different way of celebrating Navratri. This was through the Garba and “Dandiya Ras” with the ladies swaying to the beat in colorful costumes. I had never seen anything so vibrant and colorful in my life! Later, In West Bengal, I experienced the grandeur of the Durga Puja pandals and all the associated celebrations. Years have passed by, but the beat of the drums while the ladies performed the “Dhunuchi Naach” stays fresh in my mind.

These and more memories flooded my mind when I read the recently published book, ” Navaratri” edited by Bibek Debroy and Anuradha Goyal, published by Rupa Publications. “When Devi Comes Home” is the appropriate byline as we Hindus believe that it is during these nine days/nights that Devi visits us here on earth. The editors have assembled a collection of 16 articles which depict how Navaratri, one of the most important of festivals in Hinduism is celebrated in different parts of India. The descriptions cover not just the background of the festival in each region but the rituals most commonly practiced, along with the other associated elements including food, customs, and cultural events.

Amrita Chakravorty’s book cover design is captivating. It attracts you to read the contents. The book itself is written in fairly simple language and makes one marvel at the rich cultural heritage of our country. From Kashmir in the north to Kerala in the extreme south, from Gujarat in the west to West Bengal in the East, we are exposed to how the Navaratri festival is celebrated in each of the regions. Needless to say, though the festival of Navaratri has some common elements , it is interesting to note both the similarities and differences, explained in the articles. This diversity adds considerably to the charm of our customs.

As the editors explain, ” The common thread among all the Navaratri celebrations is the devotion to Devi, who is also the Prakriti or Nature manifested all around us, of which we are a small part.” The editors have arranged the book in 16 chapters which pretty much cover the entire country. I was happy to see that celebrations in places like Konkan and Assam -which tend to get ignored as compared to the bigger and more famous celebrations elsewhere- were also covered. There is a chapter too on Nepal, the only Hindu country in the old today.

In the nine days of Navaratri, Devi is worshipped in Her different forms. This book makes you feel as if you are physically there- in the midst of the frenzy that typifies community worship. So well are the rituals and cultural events described! You can sense the smells and sounds of the celebrations as if you are there in person to join the thousands of worshippers.

Congratulations to the editors for bringing this book to us. It is extremely informative about the origins of the Navaratri festival and explains why and how Devi came to be worshipped in a particular manner in one or the other region.

“Business as ‘Yajna'” : B Anantha Bhat & Team

Many of you will be familiar with quotations from the Bhagavad Gita, the timeless wisdom given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battle field of Kurukshetra. These have taught millions of Indians- and increasingly people of other countries all over the world- a set of principles to lead their lives. A kind of moral compass, if you will.

One of the most quoted is, β€œDo everything you have to do, but not with ego, not with lust, not with envy but with love, compassion, humility and devotion.” Judging by both his actions and words, I can think of few people who have followed this advice as effectively and successfully as Mr Yajna Narayana Kammaje, the Chairman and Managing Director of the privately-held Sona Group of Companies, headquartered in Bengaluru.

The book I review today – “Business As ‘Yajna'”– is about this gentleman. It tells us how he succeeded as a first generation entrepreneur. Apart from this, he positively impacted the lives of thousands of people, many of them from rural areas and from the economically lower strata of our society.

The title itself is quite intriguing. It combines two elements, Yajna Kammaje’s approach and thoughts about doing business and “Yajna” as a person- with a clever play of words. The book was recently released in Bengaluru and described as “Life Lessons from Industrialist: Yagna Narayana Kammaje.” The lead author is Mr B Anantha Bhat, who has worked in the VLSI/Semiconductor technology field for over 30 years in India and abroad. He is an entrepreneur himself. The key drivers of this initiative are some dedicated folks from the National Institute of Technology-Karnataka ( NIT-K)Alumni Association.

Yajna has close ties with this venerable institution which started as the Karnataka Regional Engineering College (KREC) at Surathkal, near Mangaluru in 1960. He did his B.Tech in Electrical Engineering in 1971 and M. Tech in Industrial Electronics in 1973 from this institution.

He was the President of the Alumni Association for many years. In this field too, he excelled. He did more than anybody else in recent times to build and nurture this body. It is now a vibrant alumni association with active members from all over the world.

The lessons from this book are really directed towards entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs. In the India of 2021, it is quite common- and indeed somewhat fashionable in some circles- to talk of entrepreneurs, start ups, venture funds and angel investing.

Things were vastly different in the 1970’s and the decades that followed. For most people a secure job was probably the most important thing in their lives. In such a milieu, Yajna, then a rising star of the famous HMT, who had rapidly grown to the position of Dy General Manager in the Watch Division and clearly ear marked for higher responsibilities chose to give it up and strike out on his own! Considerations that most people would have worried about like having a wife and two children and other family to support, did not come in the way of his dream to start and grow a business. Not just to make money for himself – though of course this was an important parameter – but to give back in good measure to society at large and the less affluent in particular. The second would have been the farthest in the thoughts of most people in such circumstances.

In this venture, immense credit is due to his wife Smt. Vasanthi Kammaje who stood by him like a rock through thick and thin. She has made very significant contributions towards his success as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist, since they began their entrepreneurial journey in 1987.

As a student of human behavior, I have seen that often when someone is in need, those with “less” are the first to give while those with “more” are the most reluctant. Likewise, as a proportion of what they have, those with less tend to be far more generous than those with more. Yajna, in my view, is an exception to this general rule. He gave in plenty when he didn’t have much and he continues to give in plenty as he became more wealthy. Charitable causes, religious causes, people in need, employees, vendors, budding entrepreneurs and many others have benefited from his generosity. Often they return with more than what they hoped for, if he thinks theirs is a right cause to support or their need for help is genuine.

What has shaped him to be what he is today? Clearly his disadvantaged start in life has. He came from humble economic origins and knows, more than most, what is means to tb economically disadvantaged. As a consequence, all his life he has worked hard, and worked smart. He has demonstrated his risk taking ability on many occasions- the true differentiator between a real entrepreneur and others who go by that name.

The book is made up of contributed articles by people who have known him and his work. They are too many to list here but they have impeccable reputations and records of distinction in their professional lives. It is written by his professional colleagues, friends and admirers and many who have benefitted from their association with him.

On a personal note, I am proud to know Yajna for a decade or more as we live in the same apartment complex in Bengaluru. Besides, he is from Siddakatte a small village in the Bantwal Taluk of the Dakshina Kannada District of Karnataka. And, I happen to belong to Bantwal! Shobana, and I were honoured to receive a copy of the book from Yajna recently.

“Business As ‘Yajna'” is printed and published by Tik-Talker & TradePost and can be ordered through Amazon. I would urge not just those who wish to become entrepreneurs but indeed any one in business to read this book. It is replete with lessons on how to conduct oneself with humility and consideration for others while being successful in business.

“Dark Horse” by Gen Larry O Spencer, USAF Retd

Some books are truly inspirational. That’s because the characters in them touch your heart and move you to action. I would rate “Dark Horse” by General Larry O. Spencer, USAF (Retd), as one such book. He came from fairly humble circumstances, being born in 1954 to a African-American family in a tough inner-city area called The Horseshoe in Washington DC. He enlisted in the United States Air Force at the lowest level as an airman. After 44 years of distinguished service he retired as a four-star General and the Vice Chief of the United States Air Force. He was only the ninth African-American to get four -star rank. His is an extraordinary story of grit, commitment to his profession and an ability to aim high and achieve his goals. He became and remained a top achiever despite many challenges that came his way.

General Spencer’s story is all the more remarkable because as a student he was considered a failure. The circumstances in which they lived didn’t help. His father was a US Army veteran who had an arm amputated following war wounds in the Korean War. He had to wear a prosthetic arm and was derisively called Captain Hook by the kids in the neighborhood. His mother wasn’t well-educated either having studied till the 10th grade. Theirs was a family with 6 growing children. His parents naturally faced a lot of hardship in making both ends meet, with his father working at two jobs to bring home enough to feed his family.

Larry Spencer, like most African-Americans of his background, thought the way to break away from poverty was to succeed in professional sport. He wanted to become a star football player. In 1971, he enlisted as an airman in the US Air Force as there was no assurance that he would succeed with a career in football. In the Air Force there was an opportunity for him to study and better his life. He served a stint in Taiwan and after his first spell in the USAF, he decided to re-enlist so that he could work towards becoming a graduate.

An encouraging supervisor suggested he try for Officer Training School after his graduation. He was selected and became the first person in his extended family to become a commissioned officer in 1980. Many of his family and friends were in the US Military but none of them were officers. He had broken a huge barrier.

Over the years, Spencer felt the hardships that commonly came the way of African-Americans in the 1970s and 1980s, even when he wore the uniform of the United States Air Force.

He was a committed professional, held himself and others to very high standards and worked with great passion for his profession. Perhaps because he was not a trained pilot but served in the financial management area of the USAF, his rise to higher positions saw him break more barriers.

General Spencer writes with a lot of candor on how he coped with difficult and challenging situations in his career. Needless to say, many of them were because he was an African-American.

More than the high command positions he held or his professional achievements, laudable as they may be, the book’s value lies in our understanding of General Spencer as a person. We see how he succeeded against the odds. We marvel at the way he emerged to be the dark horse in horse racing parlance. And, last but not the least, General Spencer leaves us with a crisp summary of his life lessons, which are invaluable.

Overall, an inspirational book about an officer and a gentleman.

“Lights! Wedding!Ludhiana” by Jas Kohli

It was a delight to read, “Lights! Wedding!Ludhiana!” by Jas Kohli, published by Rupa recently. I came to know that Jas Kohli is actually a well-known cosmetic surgeon who has written two novels earlier in the same vein as this one. They are titled, ” Lights, Scalpel, Romance” and ” Anything To Look Hot!” Judging by the book I just read, I think I must add the others by Dr Jas Kohli to my library list!!

The plot of his book is fairly straight forward. Kushal, an industrialist in Ludhiana who would love to be an activist to protect the environment more than anything else, is caught in a jam. His hyper active young son, Lakshya has discovered from his phone that he is getting messages from an old flame from his college days. Kunal’s wife, Reeti, a good looking free spending beauty is aghast, as are his parents. Dr Kohli covers what happens next in an interesting and entertaining manner.

The earthy language and slang used in Ludhiana, the social norms prevalent there, the hunger for fame, food and booze, are brought out extremely well in this book. We also come to know of the high expectations from Ludhiana society whenever a Big Fat Punjabi Wedding is planned and taking place!

What I liked best of all was the accurate characterization of the people involved. Apart from those already mentioned, we come across Kunal’s parents, Kimti and Tripta ( with their own stories to be told); his daughter Vanya, a typical teenager of today, and assorted others. On reading the book, we feel we know these people ourselves.

A typical Punjabi wedding with all the grandeur and the noise provides the backdrop to much of the story. Here again, the author’s description of people and their behavior demonstrate his skills in wielding the pen ( figuratively if not literally) as well as he does his scalpel.

All in all, a light read, and fun too! I am prompted to read Dr Jas Kohli’s other books having sampled this one.

“Reminiscence” by S G Gopinath

Let me start by saying that Sathavalli Govindarajulu Gopinath, or just Gopi to his friends all over the world, counts as being one of my oldest friends. He and I have been friends for many, many years now. Over 60 years to be precise. This clarification is necessary because once when I introduced someone as being my oldest friend, the person whom he was being introduced to said, ‘ Oldest friend? But he doesn’t look that old. In fact, you look older than him.”

Gopi joined The Lawrence School, Lovedale a year before I did. When I started there in the 3rd Standard in 1959, Gopi had already been there for a year having joined in the 2nd. Since we are talking about his book on his family, the story of how his Dad left him at the Prep School is still fresh in my mind. We studied together till we left School in 1967. He did his engineering at the famous old College of Engineering, Guindy, in Madras, following the footsteps of his father who studied there from 1941 to 1945. Gopi was the University topper, in 1973. He then went to the US to complete his MS from the University of California, Berkeley.

‘Reminiscence: A Journey Through Three Generations” is the history of his family.

Often people mix up the history of the family with family history. The two are not, I believe, interchangeable. “Family history” is more from the domain of medicine. ” Did one or both of your parents have diabetes?” ” Did your grandparents die due to heart ailments? ” are questions we are frequently asked as the doctor pieces together our family history to help her make a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

In India, it is not so common but in the United States many undertake, as Gopi did, to chart the history of their families and write about the larger family in the form of a book. Gopi has written a comprehensive and interesting account of his family focussing on three generations, his father’s, his, and his son’s. Gopi’s book therefore is in three sections: the first about his parents; the second about his own journey and the third and last about his children.

This book is, I understand, for a restricted audience and hence is more like a coffee table book. It has been produced quite tastefully, printed in expensive glossy paper and is replete with photographs from family albums. How Gopi found the time and energy to put them together like this is quite amazing. I would imagine that writing the history of one’s family can be most demanding, and often rather risky. The writer throws himself or herself open to criticism from uncles, aunts, cousins and other relatives, close and distant. They demand to know why you wrote something about them or why you did not write something else about them! I am sure Gopi has faced his challengers boldly with the School motto, ” Never Give In” being an inspiring force.

This history of his family starts with his grandparents and the first part is largely about his parents. His father, Mr S P Govindarajulu, worked for all his working life in the Military Engineering Service. He rose to become the Chief Engineer before he retired in 1981. This part of the book will bring back many memories for all of us, as the incidents described are evocative of one’s own childhood. In those days families were much bigger and tended to be more close knit than they are today. In any case, Gopi’s father had a larger than life personality and was universally popular. His mother was the ideal support for the family and was a big influence in Gopi’s life.

I naturally found the second part most interesting because it is about my friend and the School we went to. I feel honored that Gopi has a picture of me in his book. I think I made the cut because I edited, “Glimpses Of A Glorious Past: An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale”. The school stories brought back many memories. Gopi has been very candid and describes incidents which many would have quietly skirted away from, like how bunking from School lost him the definite probability of becoming a House Prefect in our final year. The book then covers his professional career and his growing family, and their lives in different parts of the world.

The last part is the most touching, and I think the reason why he wrote the book. It is about his son, Venkat (S G Venkatraj) whose promising career sadly came an end when he passed away while working in the United States. The book moves into a different plane in this section. One can feel the agony of Gopi and Beena, his wife, as they try to come to terms with a devastating blow to their lives. The years go past, as they will, but some memories stay forever. His daughters – Rohini and Rukmini- have contributed too by sharing events from their perspective.

I praise the book, not just because Gopi is an old friend, but because it has clearly been for him a labour of love. That is reflected in the writing, the design, and the overall get up of the book. Successive generations can read about the family legacy, and about the stalwarts who shaped their family culture and values. Indeed, it is a precious gift he has crafted for his daughters, and his grandchildren. Well done, Gopi! Take a bow!!

“Let Me Say It Now” by Rakesh Maria IPS

These days many senior officers of the Indian Police Service (IPS) are writing their memoirs. We, the public at large, get to hear from them their perspective of what happened and what did not, why they did something, and why they did not! In the old days, we had only newspaper reports to find out details about the case. We naturally were biased based on what we read.

Now things have changed so much. We are no longer ignorant of what is going on, thanks to 24x 7 high volume, ‘breaking news’ media coverage of the more sensational cases on national television. Channels vie with each other to spill the beans, often trying to solve the cases before the cops do so!

In such a context, it’s fascinating to read the story of one senior IPS officer who was involved in some of the most notorious cases in recent decades. Rakesh Maria wrote, “Let Me Say It Now” – published by Westland in 2020- to give his versions of these cases.

They included the infamous 1993 Bomb Blasts that rocked Mumbai and changed the dynamics of religion of that city (and probably the country itself ) for ever ; the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai again in 2008, this time by Pakistan trained terrorists sent to create mayhem and kill themselves while doing so; and more recently, the Sheena Bora murder case in which a highly placed socialite, Indrani Mukherjea was accused of a foul murder of a young lady, her own daughter!

Rakesh Maria IPS, served the Indian Police Service for 36 years in the Maharashtra cadre before he retired in 2017. He was awarded the Police Medal for Meritorious Service in 1994 and later the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2007.

We read about how a young boy born and bred in suburban Bandra of Punjabi origin knew early in life that he wanted more than anything else to become a police officer. His father was a well- known figure in the Hindi film industry. In those days, Bollywood was less ” associated ” with crime and the underworld as it has been for the past few decades.

In his book, Maria comes across as a forthright, honest officer who had inherent skills to investigate crime. He could get the best out of his overworked, underpaid investigators who did the drudgery or the donkey work in finding clues and piercing the case together. He also steered clear from politics the involvement in which has proved to be the undoing of many a police officer. We know that politicians have long memories. They come back to power just as often as they are eased out of power. For a police officer to remain largely neutral and not take sides calls for a certain amount of moral courage.

The cases described in the book are too well-known to be detailed here. You must read the book to understand the nuances of each case, how difficult it was to get that vital break through, and how the pieces of the puzzle were put together by painstaking investigation.

Maria was not new to controversy. In the 26/11 case, Vinita Kamte widow of Ashok Kamte IPS made grave accusations against Maria . Later in the Sheena Bora case, again certain accusations were made about him. In this book, Maria defends his actions spiritedly and explains things from his perspective.

If you like books on crime, here’s one that you shouldn’t miss. Maria happened to be the man on the spot in some of the most publicized cases in recent memory. Read for yourself, how he conducted himself in highly trying circumstances.

“The Case That Shook An Empire” by Raghu & Pushpa Palat

I have often felt that writers of our Indian history have tended to give grossly disproportionate prominence to some figures and totally ignore some others. Here’s a case in point.

Until this book came along, I must confess rather sheepishly that I as a reasonably well-educated person hadn’t even heard of Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair. So for me, his accomplishments described in “The Case That Shook The Empire” by Raghu and Pushpa Palat were really quite astonishing. and most revealing. “One Man’s Fight for the Truth about the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre” is the perfect summary of the book.

The book was published by Bloomsbury India in August 2019. It was well received by appreciative readers. It made major headlines recently when it was announced that Karan Johar and his film production house have bought the rights to make a movie based on the book.

To think that in the 1920’s when the British Empire was at its peak, an Indian fought a famous British Administrator in a British Court of Law about an appalling event that took place in India was indeed news to me. I am sure millions of others wouldn’t have heard of this case. To that extent the authors have done Indian history valuable service by researching, writing and publishing this book. Thanks to them, I am sure, many more people will come to know of – and admire- their illustrious forefather. Raghu Palat, is the great grandson of Sir Sankaran Nair.

Sir Sankaran Nair’s character, with all its idiosyncrasies, has been well sketched by the authors. We visualize a man of strong character, who was autocratic in all that he did, at work as much as at home. He could be extremely blunt. Many a hapless colleague, including Britishers, felt the heat of his scorn and anger when debating issues or when they said something he did not approve of.

In the course of a long and illustrious career, Sir Sankaran Nair held many important positions including that of Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. He was also a former Judge of the Madras High Court. I had no idea that at one time he was the President of the Indian National Congress! Indeed, many reckon he was one of the stalwarts in the early days of the INC but his open disagreements with Mahatma Gandhi ensured he was pushed back into the shadows of the party’s history. When his famous legal case was decided in England, there were no messages of any kind from the Indian National Congress, the party of which he had once been the President!

Sir Sankaran resigned from the highly prestigious position as the Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council ( the only Indian to hold that post) following events at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. The two Britishers involved in that infamous event, as most Indians know, were Sir Micheal O’Dwyer, Lt Governor of the Punjab, and Brigadier General Reginald Dyer. I learnt from this book that Dyer was later reverted to his rank of Colonel.

The book describes all that followed the tumultuous events in Jallianwalla Bagh, a turning point in the history of modern India.

Taking umbrage at Sir Sankaran’s remarks about him in his book, “Gandhi And Anarchy” published in 1922, Sir Micheal filed libel charges against him. This paved the way for the “Case That Shook The Empire.” The admirable manner in which Sir Sankaran defended himself and his honour is excellently documented in the Palats book.

I wish the editors had been more meticulous. Ever so often Sir Sankaran is wrongly referred to as ” Sir Nair”. In the foreward, O’Dwyer is written as O’Dywer. These mistakes could have been avoided.

My congratulations to Raghu and Pushpa for their book which I found quite absorbing. A strong bibliography lends credence to the meticulous research done by the authors.

Based on my experience of biopics from Bollywood, I am not exactly looking forward to the movie. The book should have been left a book. I hope I am proved wrong ! I must grant, of course, that what a movie would do- especially one from Karan Johar’s production house- to publicize Sir Sankaran’s achievements, could never get done by the book alone.

The Palats’ book is highly recommended for any student of modern Indian history and politics. I would urge the youth of India in particular to read the book.

“Tongue of Slip” by C P Belliappa

I simply loved this book as it made me chuckle from time to time. My wife mentioned that it has been so long since she saw a book elicit such a response from me! The book I talk of is called, ” Tongue of Slip: Looking Back On Life With Humour” by C.P. Belliappa, published by Rupa Publications in 2014.

When it was first published, little would the author have known that his book would bring so much cheer in the dreadful times we are living in. I would heartily recommend this book of light humor to anyone looking to cheer up in these stressed times. It is something like the “Buck U Uppo” made famous by Wodehouse, if you get what I mean!

Let’s start with the author. C. P. Belliappa? The name sounds familiar, you may think. Isn’t he the guy who used to write “middles” in the Deccan Herald amongst other publications? Or wait! Is he the guy you met in Goa?? The well known Charlie Peter??? But you need to read the book to find out for yourself.

Writing a fiction novel is not easy. Writing a short story, I consider even more difficult. Writing a well-crafted ” middle” has to take the cake! It looks easy but it is not, take it from me. C P Belliappa has mastered this art and this book is perhaps based on some of them fleshed out in more detail.

I am sure these tales ( over 50 in number) from locales ranging from his beloved Coorg to Chennai to China will hold your attention as they did mine. There are delightful nuggets in there but I don’t want to spoil your reading.

Look out for stories about the chap who was hungry all the time while at school; the prankster at college; the Pomeranian with a huge appetite for food and more; and the sales girl trying to flog a time share deal as if her life depended on it (which possibly was the case – of her budding career, if not her life!)

Thank you, Mr Belliappa. You made me laugh spontaneously on reading your stories. I bet this would be a common reaction amongst many more who will read your book.

Highly recommended!

“Master Your Core” by Dr Bohdanna Zazulak

In this day and age, the “Do It Yourself” or DIY trend has become commonplace all over the world. You are expected to do most things yourself. How about fitness and taking care of your body? Avoiding injuries? Keeping fit and getting the best performance possible from your body? Can you do this yourself too? A new soon to be published book by Dr Bohdanna Zazulak and published by TCK Publishing seems to suggest so. This can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

In this highly detailed yet interesting book , the author who has over three decades of experience in the field of physical therapy shares her experience on how to master your core. This is not one of those read and forget kind of books. It is more like a manual which you can refer to from time to time as you commence your journey to becoming and staying fit. It has been described as a science-based guide to achieve peak performance and resilience to injury. The author shares her Core BASE, an integrative, holistic guide for breathing, awareness, stability, and empowerment of your core in body, mind, and spirit.

Dr. Zazulak won the highly regarded and prestigious Rose Award from the American Physical Therapy Association for her groundbreaking research, and has three decades of experience as an American Physical Therapy Association Orthopedic Certified Specialist, a Doctor of Physical Therapy in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, and a researcher and faculty member at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University School of Medicine.

Broadly speaking, on one hand we have the Western view of fitness through the study of modern science and medicine. On the other we have the age old Oriental take on keeping well through a mix of exercise and meditation. In my view, the best part of Dr Zazulak ‘s book is that she has creatively uses the best of both worlds. Although she now lives and works in the United States, she is able to effectively comprehend both the western and oriental schools of thought and use them appropriately.

The book begins with some basic gleanings from her experience. Amongst them are that too much exercise and that too of the wrong sort or done at the wrong time can cause more damage than too less exercise which is bad in itself. She also spends a lot of time explaining the physiological factors which seem to make women, especially in the realm of sports, more injury prone than men. She gives her advice on what can be done to reverse this trend. Every woman athlete or sports person will benefit from reading this book!

Each chapter has crisp summaries of the key points, which I thought was an extremely good way of getting the reader to recapitulate learnings and develop action plans.

Based on her practice over the decades, Dr Zazulak has catalogued a very elaborate regimen of exercises of different kinds that one needs to follow to Master The Core. There are backed with illustrations for ease of understanding.

I enjoyed the liberal sprinkling of quotations strewn all over the book. Dr Zazulak has chosen some of the best quotations.She has placed them appropriately because after all putting things into practice to master the core required changes in mind set as much as changes in physiological routines. Here is an example: “Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open. B K S Iyengar

The book ends with a glossary for easy reference and an exhaustive list of scientific. technical and philosophical work and papers that the author has referred to help you master your core.

I would say this book has value not just for world class athletes and sports people though they have benefited from Dr Zazulak’s lessons but also for every person keen on becoming and staying physically and mentally fit.

“Biting The Bullet” : Ajai Raj Sharma IPS

A friend of ours who retired as Director General of Police in Karnataka was often asked why he didn’t write a book on his experiences in the police force. His stock reply was that there were many things he could not talk about. He said he could not write anything other than the truth. This he believed would stir many a hornet’s nest amongst his erstwhile superiors, colleagues, and of course politicians of different parties, though a large number of them were dead and gone by then.

I was reminded of this when I read “Biting The Bullet” Memoirs of a Police Officer by Ajai Raj Sharma, IPS recently. Mr Sharma is of the 1966 batch of the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS) and served largely in the Uttar Pradesh cadre. This book covers his memories of some of the most exciting and important events that took place in his career. He retired after 38 years meritorious service in 2004 as the Director General of the Border Security Force ( BSF).

In the initial years of his service, Sharma drew some very challenging assignments in the interior areas of the vast State of Uttar Pradesh, where the law and order situation was dodgy, at the best of times. Lawlessness and dacoity were so common that crime was a career option for many. This state of affairs was aggravated by the factors of caste and grudge feuds which went on for decades. He cut his teeth in the notorious Chambal Valley, and he writes about his experiences in the shadowy world of poverty, greed, informers, and sadists.

Mr Sharma’s competence at work is reflected in his being awarded the much coveted Presidents Police Medal for Gallantry twice in his career. He was tasked by two Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh to get rid of specific notorious criminals. He later was selected to be the Commissioner of Police in Delhi, a rare posting in those days for one from another cadre. During his period of office in the national capital, he was at the helm of affairs when the Hanse Cronje match fixing scandal took place and later when terror modules became active in Delhi supported and managed by the ISI. It was also during his tenure that the attack on Parliament took place. His book gives details of these cases and his role and involvement in dealing with them.

After serving his full tenure as Commissioner of Police in Delhi, he took charge of the Border Security Force. He writes of the many challenges this large force faces in manning the thousands of miles of borders with hostile neighbors. A porous border makes their tasks immensely difficult.

Overall, one gets the picture of a highly committed and conscientious Police Officer who was humane and tough depending on the circumstances. These days we often talk of the deteriorating law and order situation. Mr Sharma’s book gives the reader insights into life in the police service, the hardships the common policeman and police officer face, and the challenges they come across on a daily basis as they battle terror, crime, and the like.