Author Archive > Anjana Basu

A White Trail

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A White Trail: A Journey into the Heart of Pakistan's Religious Minorities, Khalid Haroon, book reviewWhen Pakistan was divided during Partition, it became a nation frantically seeking identity through religion. However it was also a country where religious minorities still existed because people would not leave their hearth and home believing that their neighbours would remain their friends and life would continue as before. But Pakistan was not what it had been and the minority faiths began to find themselves more and more marginalised and many were forced to take Muslim names so that they could go around publicly without drawing attention to themselves. 45 year old Shazia Waleed, for instance, a Hindu convert to Islam working for a prominent global NGO was Sandhya Gupta before her parents were murdered in 1981. Journalist Haroon Khalid courageously embarked on a series of articles about these communities and how they were managing to survive.


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An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

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An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Christopher Hadfield, book reviewThis is a self-help book with a difference, and it takes you some time before you discover that this is where the book is headed, apart from targeting the moon. In the beginning you float weightlessly through space with one of the world’s top astronauts, a Canadian who at the age of 9 looked up at the stars and decided that he wanted to be lost amongst them. Especially since that was when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon ‘It was no longer a distant, unknowable orb but a place where people walked, talked, worked and even slept.’

He began flying with his father but the stars seemed a long way away. From the army to flying jet planes, he took his life a step at a time and included a happy marriage.


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Transforming India: Challenges to the World’s Largest Democracy

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Transforming India: Challenges to the World’s Largest Democracy Sumantra Bose, book reviewWith a nation of 1.25 billion people, India is the world’s most diverse and possibly most baffling democracy. At one end of the spectrum are prosperous farmers in the Punjab who live in chalets that could have come straight from Switzerland. At the other, in Mahasrashtra is the wife of a farmer who once did well enough to become his village’s pradhan, but who was forced by crop failure and debt to commit suicide and to be followed by the son as well, leaving the wife to bring up her grandchildren on one meal a day and the bullying of debtors she cannot repay.

Drawing on his wide-ranging experience in the field and his understanding of the Indian political system, Sumantra Bose recounts the tale of Indian democracy’s evolution from the 1950s and lists the threats that confront it today: they range from poverty and inequality to Maoist rebel cadres and Kashmir secessionists.


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The Price You Pay

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 The Price You Pay, Somnath Batabyal, book reviewYou might be forgiven to mistaking it all for a game, the trading of favours between cops and the media. But the problem is that it is very much a reality in today’s India, especially in Delhi, a city overrun by migrants from other states, offering quick anonymity to the criminal and a rat’s warren of hiding places. Batabyal, an ex-media person who now teaches film studies at SOAS, used his own experiences to spin the story of Abhishek Dutta, a rookie who broke into crime reporting with all the odds stacked against him.


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Chaos Theory

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Chaos Theory,  Anuvab Pal, book reviewThere’s an interesting theory in physics about apparently random events which can be predicted because there is an underlying system to it – part of it is what we call the butterfly effect, the theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wings could call a storm in Brazil. Roughly speaking that is the story of Chaos Theory, Anuvab Pal’s novel adapted from his play of the same name.

Sunita and Mukesh are two English literature students who bump into each other as freshers at St Stephen’s College in Delhi during the sixties. Mukesh is attracted and tries to win over Sunita with a quotations game – only to discover to his surprise that she knows as much about Shakespeare than he does. His ego is slightly hurt but the two of them embark on a relationship based solely on quotations which leads them from India to the US, traversing various US universities in search of jobs and romance.


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Sophie Says

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Sophie Says, Judy Balan, book reviewSophie Tilgum, the famous Breakup Coach is in a dilemma. There’s a cousin’s wedding coming up and she has no boyfriend to flaunt in front of the family. Despite her status as a popular blogging counsellor of sorts, she is terrified of her mother and aunts and desperate not to give them more grist for their marriage mill. She runs into a male friend and desperately asks him to provide her with a fake boyfriend for twelve weeks.

Into her life comes the perfect Ryan who charms every relative in sight and actually wins over Sophie’s rebellious heart in two weeks. He also showers her with seeds and guppies to develop her nurturing side.


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New Market Tales

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New Market Tales, Jayant Kripalani, book reviewOld fashioned stories with a beginning, middle and end come at a premium these days. Most are dark twisted flights of language that demand applause for brilliance. And then comes Jayant Kriplani’s New Market Tales which is a nostalgic trip to a time and place that the actor-author was once familiar with in the 1960’s and 70’s. Most of the stories are linked to Lindsay Street and New Market and the ‘marketayr bachhas’, or children of the shopkeepers – some of whom were obviously real life people and those familiar with the Market will be able to guess at their identities. There is the cricket team which has the boys out at nets early in the morning before school, including the baker’s son who doesn’t want to be a baker, and the team captain Raju who has insights into the lives of nightclub owners.

The stories are told by different someones who come into contact with market people over chai and singaras early in the morning and exchange gossip or who know the shopowners and their families.


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Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times

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Narendra Modi The Man The Times, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, book reviewFor political India Narendra Modi is very much the up and coming man. He has been making his presence felt on the political landscape for a long time, most specifically during his first stint as Chief Minister of Gujarat when he found himself at the vortex of a Muslim pogrom, part of the Godhra incident fall out. The question was did he order it or did he not, a question which still continues to be asked as Gujarat’s Chief Minister goes from strength to strength, especially now when he is aiming for the Prime Ministerial post.

Journalist Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay has been covering Modi’s career for a long time. ‘When he was seventeen, Narendra Damodardas Modi had an extra middle name—‘Trouble’’ Mukhopadyay wrote in an Outlook newsmagazine piece.


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The Mine

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The Mine, Arnab Ray, book reviewArnab Ray is better known for his political spoofs under the pen name of The Great Bong. This is his first excursion into novel territory and thriller territory at that. From the first chapter, The Mine sets the tone for what the reader can expect: blood, gore, guts and extreme violence verging on horror. It also seems to have an eye firmly fixed on a cinematic rendition with a red room flashing black lights and a sex and violence combination that ends badly right in the opening pages.

The Mine has a Bengali protagonist, Samar Bose, an ex-spy who has lost his wife, has a missing daughter, a mentally challenged brother and lives on blue pills. He is offered an intriguing job with a dream salary and finds himself deep underground in the Thar Desert to solve the mystery of an ancient shrine which seems to curse everyone who comes in contact with it.


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Not Only The Things That Have Happened

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Not Only The Things That Have Happened, Mridula Koshy, book reviewHer short story collection, If It Is Sweet, set a kind of expectation flowing. Textured use of language, layered nuances, much unsaid. Mridula Koshy established herself as a miniaturist. One always has apprehensions about short story writers venturing into novel ground because novels are really very different things – harder to juggle with not much room for leaving things unsaid. Many short story writers have tried valiantly and failed to make much of a mark as novelists.

Koshy’s debut novel is ambitious in form and sticks to themes which she is familiar with. Life in America for a child with roots in South India, relations between parents and children and the griefs that plague teenage girls growing up with a void inside.


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Mahanayak Revisited: The World of Uttam Kumar

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Mahanayak Revisited: The World of Uttam Kumar, Swapan Mullick, book reviewOddly enough, despite the fact that he passed away in 1980 no one has yet written an English biography of Bengal’s first superstar till senior journalist Swapan Mullick took up the challenge posed by Tranquebar and tried to make sense of the legend and the madness. He starts with the rumour that crept round the shabby Tollygunge studios in the 1970’s that Uttam Kumar was leaving Calcutta for Mumbai and this time for good. Bengal’s superstar had yet to make his mark in Hindi films, mainly because his Hindi pronunciation left much to be desired and his voice was too well known to be dubbed.

Mullick organizes Uttam Kumar’s life into various chapters that deal with his co-stars : Sabitri Chatterjee, Suchitra Sen, Supriya Devi who became his live in partner, his relationship with Satyajit Ray, who refused to use him in most of his films, barring Nayak which was based on the legend of a superstar and asked Uttam Kumar to delve into his darker side, influences from Hollywood for some of the films he acted in and his art compared to that of the other leading actors of the time.


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Mohammed Rafi My Abba – A Memoir

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Mohammed Rafi, Yasmin Khalid Rafi, book reviewMohammed Rafi, known for his songs and his playback in Hindi films, died over three decades ago. Between 1940 and 1980, he dominated the Hindi film music world and the leading star of the time, names like Shammi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna, competed to have him sing in their films. However since his passing, there really have been no definitive biographies of Rafi the human being till this volume written by his daughter in law. Yasmin Rafi and her husband Khalid lived in England, near Windsor and life with dominated by visits from their much loved Abba. Mohammed Rafi, from all accounts, was a very affectionate man and his daughter in law was fond of cooking for him.


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