The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta, by Kushanava Choudhury
Calcutta, as a city, is a living ecosystem. The city has everything in its DNA. A rich history, megadiversity, top-notch schooling nurseries, exquisite varieties of food, opinionated public, refugees excluded and included overtime etc make up rich strands of a layered puzzle. Kushnava Choudhury, an author born to Bengali parents and grew up in the then Communist-ruled Calcutta and New Jersey, has presented in quite a crafty manner some of the best portions of the world in Calcutta, dynamic and yet so traditional. He has exploited the facility of varnished vocabulary, erudition, routine conversations and on-the-pith experiences to present this brilliant book. Full four stars out of the total five.
VAJPAYEE: The Ascent of the Hindu Right, 1924–1977, by Abhishek Choudhary
Absolutely loved the book. Very candid and thoroughly researched. Despite being only the first book of Abhishek Choudhary, the book has dived deep into the subject and has busted many a myth constructed on the eventful life of the former Prime Minister of India. Rest assured, the book is a nice introduction to the rise of the right-wing in Indian politics. The second part is coming out in some months from now.
Marginlands: Indian Landscapes on the Brink, by Arati Kumar-Rao
The book is rich in detail and diversification of the themes that it has covered. The net centre of gravity of the book is about the lives of those living on the margins. Marvelous is the range of the book, from dwellers of the Thar desert in Rajasthan, with their unique understanding of the water ecosystem of the area to the extinction of the Gangetic Dolphin in Sutlej to the inhabitants of riverine islands in Brahmaputra to the bank-shifting of Ganga near Farakka barrage to the lives of those living inside Sundarbans. One gets a proper understanding of the lives of those we don’t often see or encounter in our lives. Kudos to the author.
The Eastern Gate: War and Peace in Nagaland, Manipur and India’s Far East, by Sudeep Chakravarti
As somebody who has followed the Northeastern parts of India for years now, I found this book very informative in its intent and educative in its purpose. Whatever the ideological underpinnings of the author, the book comes out to be a very honest assessment of the bludgeoning and knotted psychosocial, political, economic and ethnic geography of this part of the world. Read it to understand what all has gone into making the plot of this beautiful, but unfortunate, microcosm so thick and bloody. Recommended.
China After Mao, by Frank Dikötter
Two cheers for Frank Dikötter for attempting, so adroitly, to mainstream the writings on one of the most secretive, yet so huge, countries that humanity has ever known. While reading anything that Frank Dikötter has ever written, one must know that there is a certain pulpit in what he writes and deliberates upon. But beyond his visceral soft hatred-cum-bias against China, it needs admission that he knows a lot about China. This book captures the two-and-a-half-decades in China after Mao’s death. It has captured the intricacies of how the boom of the economy, in general, has led to innumerable busts alongside almost all the realms of life, society, polity and economy of the country. The brilliance of the book lies in how it has brought forth China’s melding of the mix of hero worship of the politicians, repression and suppression of any form of dissent, easy availability of bank credit, corruption, red tape, decentralisation of the decision-making down to the local councils and mad-scale focus on the development of urban agglomerations, which derives sustenance from endless state subsidies. Read the book to let yourself be informed.
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