Unless you’re planning to take the IAS exams or are an avid quizzer, one of the reasons you should shell out 150 bucks for this bulky year book is that it’s completely made with recycled paper. The yellowish papers of The Penguin Yearbook 2008 contain a comprehensive round-up of the year gone by—its key events in politics, sports, entertainment and world affairs. A special addition in this year’s book—Penguin has been publishing the yearbook for the last three years—has two special sections: 60 defining moments of independent India and 100 Indians who made modern India, including both Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Vinoba Bhave and, surprisingly, Salman Rushdie. The essays by Arun Maira, Bimal Jalan, Muhammad Yunus, Shashi Tharoor and others fail to provoke.
Nury Vittachi, the Hong Kong-based writer who writes the column Traveller’s Tales for the Far Eastern Economic Review, shows how wisdom found in ancient Indian texts such as the Bhagvad Gita and the Kama Sutra can be applied to the world of management in The Kama Sutra of Business. Vittachi tries to prove that the world’s first management consultant was from India—no surprises there, he is talking about Chanakya. Vittachi’s book is more likely to interest Western readers as the examples he chooses are a part of common story-telling lore in Indian families—that of Gautam Buddha, Emperor Ashoka and others.
Kolkata is seen through the prism of bureaucratic oppression and a political regime of crime and hypocrisy in this debut novel by Saikat Majumdar, a professor of English literature at Stanford University, in his early 30s. It has been a while since the city has been the backdrop of a novel; the last really memorable one was Amitav Ghosh’s Calcutta Chromosome (2001). Majumdar, born and raised in the city, writes about a morally-torn retired schoolteacher in present day Kolkata and the plight of a widow in British-ruled Bengal. Their lives connect in Silverfish, a tale about collective memory and individual moral dilemmas.
This is the second book to have come out this year on the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. The first, When a Tree Shook Delhi by Manoj Mitta and H.S. Phoolka, was backed by investigative rigour and the authors questioned the role of the then union government under Narasimha Rao in the carnage. In Betrayed by the State, Jyoti K. Grewal, professor of social and behaviourial sciences, Zayed University, Dubai, focuses more on the human suffering and fortitude that was displayed by Delhi’s Sikh community in the riots’ aftermath. Grewal also examines why lessons from this crime against humanity is relevant today, when sectarian politics is on the rise the world over.
Gods as inspiration
Religion-inspired art has existed since time immemorial. From religious lore illustrated on papyruses and parchments to higher art forms such as sculpture and dance, religious stories and myths continue to inspire artists the world over. Dr Shashibala, a teacher of Japanese and South Asian art at the Capital’s National Museum and author of Buddhist Art, traces the histories of religious art in her new, Divine Art. Most of her research is based in parts of India and China, and some parts of Europe. Mosaic works of Greco-Roman motifs on the walls of churches in Croatia, carvings on the walls of temples in South India, calligraphy in China and the wandering minstrels singing divine folk songs in India are some of the subjects she explores in the book.
1) The Penguin Yearbook 2008:
Penguin, 816 pages,
2) The Kama Sutra of Business:
Wiley India, 216 pages,
HarperCollins India, 293 pages,
4) Betrayed by the State:
By Jyoti Grewal,
5) Divine Art:
By Dr Shashibala,
143 pages, Rs595.