Penguin celebrates 20 years in India this year, and coinciding the landmark, comes a two-volume compendium of extracts from its fiction titles. Being the largest publishing house in India today, this is the richest, most representative collection of writing on and about South Asia to have come out. From Khushwant Singh and Pico Iyer to Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth and Rohinton Mistry, it’s all here. A worthy piece for personal collections.
Family inheritance, a vision, a brand, the brand’s success—a business biography can be more than that. Why then would you read Moguls of Real Estate, a book that explore not much more than that about five real estate giants who have revolutionized the sector in India—Kushal Pal Singh, Niranjan Hiranandani, Sushil Ansal, Shapoor Pallonji Mistry and Irfan Razack. But the author, Manoj Namburu, the chairman and managing director of the Alliance Group in Bangalore, offers some insider’s insight into the highs and lows of India’s real estate story. It is also of interest to insiders because the workings of this industry hadn’t been documented in a book so far.
Books of investigative journalism are still hard to come by in India. In their account of the real story behind the 1984 Sikh riots in Delhi, senior editor Manoj Mitta and advocate for the cause, H.S. Phoolka, claim that the Ranganath Misra Commission, which probed the carnage, presented a “diluted” version of events and also blame the police for the mass killings. When a Tree Shook Delhi, if not an eye-opener, is important for the details that prove the complicity of the Delhi police in the riots that broke out after Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984.
Based on the private letters and written testimonies of Lord Mountbatten, Shashi Joshi’s play, The Last Durbar, is an informal, personal take on the last days of the British empire. The dramatic prose is not powerful, but after a spate of books on the the same subject since 15 August this year, this is a refreshing take on our political leaders of the time, portrayed without using the rhetoric of greatness and idealism. The drama form is used to explore a complex era in world politics.
A contender for the Man Booker Prize this year, Nicola Barker’s comical epic Darkmans has a host of confused, eccentric and fantastical characters—phantom birds flapping about, figures from the past invading the mind and making history repeat itself. The 838-page novel is based on The Owl Service, a spooky 1967 children’s classic by Alan Garner, still in print. Beyond Barker’s wit and humour, the imaginative power of the book is still rooted in Garner’s story, but Darkmans is sure to intrigue lovers of the fantasy genre.
Human vs political
This novel, set against the spice trade in 16th century India ten years after Vasco da Gama’s landfall at Calicut in 1498, evokes an era of turmoil, when new beliefs invaded ancient faiths. Four different characters—a trader, a pirate, an ascetic and a tribal girl—sets out to discover themselves during the turbulent times. The girl finds the “city of love” and has the best answer to the human dilemmas that afflict the ordinary Indian during that time.