Publish with us

Follow Penguin

Follow Penguinsters

Follow Hind Pocket Books

The Ultimate Bharat Book Binge

This Republic Day, join us for a thoughtful exploration through books unveiling India’s rich history. From tales of strength to political insights, we’re delving into stories that define our nation. Get ready for a reflective reading journey as we celebrate the essence of Republic Day.

Let The Ultimate Bharat Book Binge begin!

1947-57 India Birth of a Republic
1947-57 India Birth of a Republic || Chandrachur Ghose

The first decade after India’s independence, 1947-1957, was probably the most crucial in the nation’s history. Opening a window to this period, this book weaves a story out of the complex ideas and events that have largely remained beneath the surface of public discourse. The transfer of power, the framing of the Constitution and the formation of the governance machinery; the clash of ideas and ideologies among parties and personalities; the beginning of the disintegration of the Congress and the consolidation of political forces in the opposition; Nehru’s grappling with existential problems at home and his quest for global peace; the interplay between democratic ideals and ruthless power play-all these factors impinged on each other and shaped the new republic in its formative decade.

 

You Must Know Your Constitution
You Must Know Your Constitution || Fali S. Nariman

26 November 1949 marks the date when the longest constitution in the world was formally adopted to guide the largest democracy in the world. It effectively transformed the British Dominion of India into one nation—the independent Republic of India. The supreme law of the land set forth the workings of Indian democracy and polity, and its provisions aimed to secure justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity for the people of India. As drafted and as conceived, the constitution makes provision for a functioning democracy and not an electoral autocracy, and this is how it has to be worked. It is therefore imperative for all citizens to familiarise themselves with its provisions.

 

Modi and India
Modi and India || Rahul Shivshankar, Siddhartha Talya

In 2014, the BJP, under the leadership of Modi, won a clear majority in the Lok Sabha elections. The National Democratic Alliance’s triumph ended a nearly two-and-a-half-decade run of mostly messy coalition governments. In 2019, the BJP further improved its tally, cementing its parliamentary majority and its ability to ring in transformational laws and policies. Most of the initiatives taken by the Modi-led NDA have been aimed at positioning Bharat as a ‘Vishwa Guru’—an exemplar of moral righteousness, a pluralistic democracy led by dharma and drawing sustenance from the wellspring of an eternal Hindu universalism.

 

Middle of Diamond India
Middle of Diamond India || Shashank Mani

Middle of Diamond India proposes a revolutionary idea – that India has long ignored its largest and most talented segment, citizens in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 districts, its Middle.

The book reveals the hidden stories of those in its Middle who have been ignored owing to their location and language. By examining India’s revolutionary past, its culture, its citizens, its innovators, and its spirit, the book illuminates this Diamond shaped India.

 

The Great Flap of 1942
The Great Flap of 1942 || Mukund Padmanabhan

The Great Flap of 1942 is a narrative history of a neglected and scarcely known period—between December 1941 and mid-1942—when all of India was caught in a state of panic. This was largely a result of the British administration’s mistaken belief that Japan was on the verge of launching a full-fledged invasion. It was a time when the Raj became unduly alarmed, when the tongue of rumour wagged wildly about Japanese prowess and British weakness and when there was a huge and largely unmapped exodus (of Indians and Europeans) from both sides of the coastline to ‘safer’ inland regions. This book demonstrates, quite astonishingly, that the Raj cynically encouraged the exodus and contributed to the repeated cycles of rumour, panic and flight. It also reveals how the shadow of the Japanese threat influenced the course of nationalist politics, altered British attitudes towards India and charted the course towards Independence.

 

Babasaheb
Babasaheb || Savita Ambedkar, Nadeem Khan

Born into a middle-class, Sarasvat Brahmin family, Dr Sharada Kabir met and got to know Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar as a patient riddled with life-threatening diseases, and eventually married him on 15 April 1948, getting rechristened as Savita Ambedkar. From the day of their wedding to the death of Dr Ambedkar on 6 December 1956, she aided him in some of his greatest achievements-drafting the Constitution of India, framing the Hindu Code Bill, writing some of his most celebrated books, including The Buddha and His Dhamma, and leading millions of Dalits into Buddhism. Following his death, she was hounded into obscurity by some of Dr Ambedkar’s followers, who saw her as a threat to their political ambitions. She re-emerged into public life in 1970 and got back to working on the mission to which her husband had devoted his life-the welfare of the Dalit community. Her autobiography, Dr Ambedkaraanchya Sahavaasaat, was first published in Marathi in 1990.

 

Madam President
Madam President || Sandeep Sahu

 

Madam President is the first-ever comprehensive and authentic biography of Droupadi Murmu, the fifteenth President of India, by senior journalist Sandeep Sahu. Murmu’s long and eventful political journey is a story of true perseverance and inspiration. Having battled early years of struggle in securing quality education, being struck by a series of personal tragedies such as the loss of her husband and two sons in quick succession,
and suffering electoral victories and losses, Murmu has risen through her circumstances with grace, fortitude and resilience that make her the well-revered leader she is today.

These Seats are Reserved
These Seats are Reserved || Abhinav Chandrachud

Reservation or affirmative action is a hugely controversial policy in India. While constitutionally mandated and with historians, political scientists and social activists convinced of its need, many resist it and consider it as compromising ‘merit’ and against the principle of equality of opportunity.

In These Seats Are Reserved, Abhinav traces the history and making of the reservation policy.

 

M.K.Nambyar
M.K.Nambyar || K.K. Venugopal

It is rare to see a lawyer from a district court occupy centre stage in the Supreme Court but M.K. Nambyar achieved this remarkable feat. Starting his practice in a district court in Mangalore, M.K. Nambyar rose to become an eminent constitutional lawyer. Written by his son K.K. Venugopal, a legal luminary himself, this biography provides a fascinating account of Nambyar’s life. It not only describes the man but also recapitulates India’s legal history from the pre-Independence era. The book includes some landmark cases argued by Nambyar that have significantly contributed to the development of constitutional law in India such as A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras and I.C. Golak Nath v. State of Punjab, where he sowed the seeds of the ‘basic structure’ doctrine. These cases continue to guide and inspire lawyers and judges today.

Court on Trial
Court on Trial || Aparna Chandra, Sital Kalantry, William H.J. Hubbard

The Indian Supreme Court was established nearly seventy-five years ago as a core part of India’s constitutional project. Does the Court live up to the ideals of justice imagined by the framers of the Indian Constitution? Critics of the Supreme Court point out that it takes too long to adjudicate cases, a select group of senior advocates exercise disproportionate influence on the outcome of cases, the Chief Justice of India strategically assigns cases with an eye to outcome, and the self-appointments process-known as the collegium-is just another ‘old boy’s network’. Building on nearly a decade of original empirical research, Court on Trail examines these and other controversies plaguing the Supreme Court today. The authors provide an overview of the Supreme Court and its processes which are often shrouded in mystery, and present data-driven suggestions for improving the effectiveness and integrity of the Court.

 

Breaking the Mould
Breaking the Mould || Raghuram Rajan, Rohit Lamba

In Breaking the Mould, the authors explain how we can accelerate economic development by investing in our people’s human capital, expanding opportunities in high-skilled services and manufacturing centred on innovative new products, and making India a ferment of ideas and creativity. India’s democratic traditions will support this path, helped further by governance reforms, including strengthening our democratic institutions and greater decentralization.

15 Books Celebrating India’s Nation-Making Icons!

Celebrate this Independence Day with a diverse and thought-provoking collection of books about India that will lift up your patriotic spirits. From riveting biographies of influential leaders to insightful accounts of India’s formative years, these books offer a window into our great nation and the visionaries who shaped its destiny.

Take a look!

Madam President The Biography of Draupadi Murmu
Madam President The Biography of Draupadi Murmu

Madam President is the first-ever comprehensive and authentic biography of Droupadi Murmu, the fifteenth President of India, by senior journalist Sandeep Sahu. Murmu’s long and eventful political journey is a story of true perseverance and inspiration. Having battled early years of struggle in securing quality education, being struck by a series of personal tragedies such as the loss of her husband and two sons in quick succession,
and suffering electoral victories and losses, Murmu has risen through her circumstances with grace, fortitude and resilience that make her the well-revered leader she is today.

 

1947-57 India Birth of a Republic
1947-57 India Birth of a Republic || Chandrachur Ghose

The first decade after India’s independence, 1947-1957, was probably the most crucial in the nation’s history. Opening a window to this period, this book weaves a story out of the complex ideas and events that have largely remained beneath the surface of public discourse. The transfer of power, the framing of the Constitution and the formation of the governance machinery; the clash of ideas and ideologies among parties and personalities; the beginning of the disintegration of the Congress and the consolidation of political forces in the opposition; Nehru’s grappling with existential problems at home and his quest for global peace; the interplay between democratic ideals and ruthless power play-all these factors impinged on each other and shaped the new republic in its formative decade.

 

Scars of 1947
Scars of 1947 || Rajeev Shukla

From the stories of figures like Manmohan Singh and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, to Gauri Khan’s grandmother and Avtar Narain Gujral, Scars of 1947 is a moving and nostalgic collection of a journey back in time, of an unforgettable period that left two nations scarred forever.

 

Court on Trial
Court on Trial || Aparna Chandra, Sital Kalantry, William H.J. Hubbard

The Indian Supreme Court was established nearly seventy-five years ago as a core part of India’s constitutional project. Does the Court live up to the ideals of justice imagined by the framers of the Indian Constitution? Critics of the Supreme Court point out that it takes too long to adjudicate cases, a select group of senior advocates exercise disproportionate influence on the outcome of cases, the Chief Justice of India strategically assigns cases with an eye to outcome, and the self-appointments process-known as the collegium-is just another ‘old boy’s network’. Building on nearly a decade of original empirical research, Court on Trail examines these and other controversies plaguing the Supreme Court today. The authors provide an overview of the Supreme Court and its processes which are often shrouded in mystery, and present data-driven suggestions for improving the effectiveness and integrity of the Court.

 

Middle of Diamond India
Middle of Diamond India || Shashank Mani

Middle of Diamond India proposes a revolutionary idea – that India has long ignored its largest and most talented segment, citizens in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 districts, its Middle.

The book reveals the hidden stories of those in its Middle who have been ignored owing to their location and language. By examining India’s revolutionary past, its culture, its citizens, its innovators, and its spirit, the book illuminates this Diamond shaped India.

 

Nehru and the spirit of India
Nehru and the spirit of India || Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

As a second-generation refugee, Bhattacharjee argues for a ‘minoritarian’ approach to national politics. Breaking ideological and disciplinary protocols, he compels us to learn from the insights of poets and thinkers. Lucidly written, Nehru and the Spirit of India book offers an original perspective on Nehru and Indian history.

 

The discovery of India
The discovery of India || Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote the book ‘The Discovery of India’, during his imprisonment at Ahmednagar fort for participating in the Quit India Movement (1942 – 1946). The book was written during Nehru’s four years of confinement to solitude in prison and is his way of paying an homage to his beloved country and its rich culture.

 

Bhagat Singh
Bhagat Singh || Satvinder S. Juss

A timely antidote, Bhagat Singh, A life in Revolution meticulously researched biography is an expansive foray into the life of Bhagat Singh. The volume deliberates upon his family from before when he was born, examining along the way the role that various episodes, policies and people played in shaping the identity of a legendary revolutionary, while also delving into his opinions on important questions of the time. It shines a bright light on the oft-ignored personal influences that made Singh who he was, along with the issue of his contested identity in today’s politics. This is the definitive Bhagat Singh biography of our times.

 

Bravehearts of Bharat
Bravehearts of Bharat || Vikram Sampath

Narrating the tales of valour and success that India, as a nation and civilization, has borne witness to in its long and tumultuous past, Bravehearts of Bharat opens a window to the stories of select men and women who valiantly fought against invaders for their rights, faith and freedom.

 

India Rising
India Rising || R. Chidambaram, Suresh Gangotra

Ruminating about his interactions with the scientific community and the political leadership, Dr Chidambaram describes key events in India’s journey to self-reliance in nuclear energy. India Rising is not only a memoir of one of India’s eminent scientists, but also a fascinating account of India’s ascendance in the world of science and technology.

 

Bose
Bose || Chandrachur Ghose

There are not many Indian heroes whose lives have been as dramatic and adventurous as that of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. That, however, is an assessment of his life based on what is widely known about him. These often revolve around his resignation from the Indian Civil Service, joining the freedom movement, to be exiled twice for over seven years, throwing a challenge to the Gandhian leadership in the Congress, taking up an extremist position against the British Raj, evading the famed intelligence network to travel to Europe and then to Southeast Asia, forming two Governments and raising two armies and then disappearing into the unknown. All this in a span of just two decades.

 

Nehru & Bose
Nehru & Bose || Rudrangshu Mukherjee

Had relations between the two great nationalist leaders soured to the extent that Bose had begun to view Nehru as his enemy? But then, why did he name one of the regiments of the Indian National Army after Jawaharlal? And what prompted Nehru to weep when he heard of Bose’s untimely death in 1945, and to recount soon after, ‘I used to treat him as my younger brother’? Rudrangshu Mukherjee’s Nehru & Bise traces the contours of a friendship that did not quite blossom as political ideologies diverged, and delineates the shadow that fell between them-for, Gandhi saw Nehru as his chosen heir and Bose as a prodigal son.

 

Missing in Action
Missing in Action || Pranay Kotasthane, Raghu S Jaitley

Questions are rarely asked of the Indian State-the institution that makes rules, bends them and punishes others for breaking the laws it creates. The privileged can afford not to think about the State because we have given up on it. The not-so-privileged have resigned themselves to a State that provides short-term benefits. Either way, we seldom pause to reflect on why the Indian State works the way it does.

Missing in Action aims to change such perceptions through sketches from everyday experiences to illustrate India’s tryst with public policymaking. It acquaints the reader with some fundamental concepts of the public policy discipline. It explains the logic (or the lack of it!) of the Indian State’s actions, shortcomings, constraints, and workings.

 

Madam Sir
Madam Sir || Manjari Jaruhar

After an unexpected turn of events upended the homemaker role her parents had planned for her, Manjari Jaruhar overcame extraordinary odds to become the first woman from Bihar to join the country’s elite police cadre.
A masterclass in courage, resilience and leadership by a woman who broke new ground and thrived despite being viewed with disbelief and derision by her colleagues, Madam Sir is a stirring account of a sheltered girl’s rise to the top echelons of the Indian Police Service.

 

The people of India
The people of India || Ravinder Kaur, Nayanika Mathur

In The People of India, some of the most respected scholars of South Asia come together to write about a person or a concept that holds particular sway in the politics of contemporary India. In doing so, they collectively open up an original understanding of what the politics at the heart of New India are-and how best we might come to analyse them.

Jawahar and Edwina, the greatest love story of the twentieth century? Fact and fiction

By Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang
I know about historians.  I am married to one!   They look at the evidence, interpret it and make judgements to give you a balanced and judicious account.  If you want a critical assessment of the historical setting in which Jawahar and Edwina developed their friendship, then you need a solid work of history.  But if you want to understand the feelings, emotions, personal histories, tensions, contradictions and passion that drove them together, then you need a work of fiction.
The historical novelist does not pretend to be a historian. In some ways the net must be cast wider than that.  Not only must a historical novelist have a thorough grasp of the period of the relevant political and social history, but they must also have an understanding of fashion, food and psychology- in sum be a jack of all trades!  My aim in writing The Last Vicereine was to transport the reader back to the chaotic last days of the British Raj. I wanted to put the reader in Edwina’s and Jawahar’s shoes so that they could empathise with them and live moment by moment with them in their world.  Unlike the historian, the historical novelist is not there to judge or assess, and needs to remember that historical figures and imaginary characters do not have the benefit of hindsight.  This requires constant vigilance when writing. People in the novel might attempt to predict the outcomes of certain decisions and calculate their actions accordingly. They might genuinely believe that they were doing the right thing in the circumstances, and be acting out of the best of intentions, but history might judge them to be wrong.  Today we all know that partition was a disaster, but no one at the time, neither British nor Indian had a full grasp of the horrendous short term consequences, never mind the long term implications of the decision to divide British India along religious lines.
So how exactly did I go about bringing Jawahar and Edwina to life?  I began by avidly reading all the standard history books of the period and general histories of India. I then moved onto autobiographies and biographies particularly of Nehru, Gandhi and the Mountbattens, and supplemented this with as many diaries and memoires as I could get my hands on. The next step was to spend time in the Mountbatten archives going through the papers of Countess Mountbatten of Burma and some of those of her husband, the Viceroy. And finally I undertook a research trip to India so I could truly soak up the atmosphere.  Only when I felt I had a full grasp of the locations and historical period and could enter the minds of the key players, did I begin to write.
It was at this stage that I stopped playing historian, pushed aside my own judgements, and put on my novelist’s hat. It was then that history moved from the foreground and took on a different function. It became both background set and plot driver. We know for example that some of Edwina’s letters of Jawahar were stolen in the run up to the transfer of power. What was in these letters? Who had sight of them? How did the characters react and what might have been the political consequences if they had been leaked?
Furthermore, Jawahar and Edwina were characters of their time. Both were born with silver spoons in their mouths and were respectively members of the British and Indian elite. This imposed certain restrictions, privileges, duties and obligations on them that conditioned their world view and actions.  They cannot be judged by today’s standards.
While a historian might dread gaps or ambiguities in the record, the historical novelist can turn them to advantage. The blanks and omissions in the record are fascinating and exciting and are where stories lie. What are they hiding?  What is missing? What might have been said or not said after a big meeting? Perhaps the minutes don’t exactly tell the full story. What might have happened at the party? What did the gossips say and what were the consequences of rumour and chatter on the political process?
The gaps leave space to imagine and create.  For example, we know from the records that Lady Mountbatten had two female English secretaries on her staff.  Unlike the men of Lord Mountbatten’s staff neither of them appears to have kept a diary or written or published memoires.  Here was my opportunity to create the character of Letticia, Lady Wallace, a widowed school friend of Lady Mountbatten who served on her staff and became my narrator. She was privy to many private conversations, she became our eyes and ears and she took on an exciting and exotic life of her own.
For various reasons the main histories and records have dithered around the relationship between Jawahar and Edwina, partly because it was a private friendship, partly out of respect to the parties involved and also because it has been in the interests of both the British and Indian Congress establishments not to ask too many questions. Nevertheless, it is clear for example that Lady Mountbatten probably played a key role in saving the talks on the transfer of power from complete collapse in Simla in May 1947 and I enjoyed dramatizing this.
Today, with the benefit of hindsight, is easy to ask why on earth India should have been divided in 1947.  The first thing to understand it that it was the end of the war.  The Japanese had broken the will of the British in the Far East and the British people and State were exhausted. Nehru had spent years incarcerated in British jails and was no longer a young man.  Jinnah too was old and probably knew that he was dying.  In dramatizing the situation in Viceroy’s House in the spring of 1947, it was clear from my research that British India was in a state of virtual collapse.  There had been a complete breakdown of law and order in some areas. The British were terrified, bunkered down with a siege mentality and planning for a mass evacuation of their nationals- to say this is not to absolve the British from their responsibilities.
In my novel, I attempt to reflect the sense that things were spinning out of control, the exhaustion, illnesses and at times sense of hopelessness and futility experienced by Edwina, Jawahar, the Viceroy and his staff. By May of 1947 it was obvious that a solution had to be found and quickly. It is not widely known that shortly after independence there was a real fear that the new government of India might have to be evacuated from New Delhi for its own safety. For a period of time the survival of the new India was in question, and Nehru had to work with Mountbatten as Governor General and the outgoing British administration to ensure the future of the new administration and preserve the illusion of central authority. Given this, perhaps we can understand the kind of pressures Jawahar and Edwina were under, their day to day experiences and the extreme stress they shared together, both of them constantly risking their own lives to serve India.  Perhaps if we understand the kind of emotional stress they were under as public figures at an desperately traumatic time, we can they appreciate why they supported each other, why they cared about each other and perhaps also why some decisions were made in the way they were.
What is the truth of the Jawahar Edwina relationship?  My own sense is that there was certainly a deep physical attraction but that it was a friendship between two older people based on emotions and the mind.  Both would have counted themselves as socialists.  They shared interests in art, history, music and poetry and enjoyed riding, swimming and hill walking together.  Edwina was also an experienced aid worker before she became Vicereine of India. She was good with people, having a common touch, and worked valiantly to get aid to refugee camps both before and after partition.  Again this is not really known in India today. But Nehru saw how hard Edwina worked and appreciate all she was doing for India. Both were public figures with a keen sense of public service and duty and they understood that this came at huge personal cost.  Somehow, they managed to carve out a private space for their friendship and to continue to meet, correspond, and support each other emotionally until Edwina’s death in 1960.  Perhaps one day, if the full content of the letters between becomes publically available, we will know more.  But we will always need historical fiction to bring the past to life. Jawahar and Edwina’s friendship is arguably the greatest love story of the twentieth century. If Shakespeare were alive today, he might not have written Anthony and Cleopatra but rather Jawahar and Edwina.
About the Author
Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang is a British writer. Her work focuses on historical fault lines and themes that are globally significant. She studied Oriental Studies at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, and is a non-practising lawyer. She is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese.

error: Content is protected !!