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Must read JCB Prize for Literature Longlist 

The JCB Prize for Literature has just unveiled its 2022 Longlist and we have three books in the run. Shortlist to be announced on 7th October 2022. Stay Tuned! 

 

 

Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, Daisy Rockwell

Tomb of sand JCB Prize for Literature Longlist 
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JCB Prize for Literature Longlist 

In northern India, an eighty-year-old woman slips into a deep depression after the death of her husband, and then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention – including striking up a friendship with a transgender person – confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two.

To her family’s consternation, Ma insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist.

Rather than respond to tragedy with seriousness, Geetanjali Shree’s playful tone and exuberant wordplay results in a book that is engaging, funny, and utterly original, at the same time as being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries, or genders.

 

 

 

The Odd Book of Baby Names by Anees Salim

The odd book of baby names JCB Prize for Literature Longlist 
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JCB Prize for Literature Longlist 

Can a life be like a jigsaw puzzle, pieces waiting to be conjoined? Like a game of hide-and-seek? Like playing statues? Can memories have colour? Can the sins of the father survive his descendants?
In a family – is it a family if they don’t know it? – that does not rely on the weakness of memory runs a strange register of names. The odd book of baby names has been custom-made on palace stationery for the patriarch, an eccentric king, one of the last kings of India, who dutifully records in it the name of his every offspring. As he bitterly draws his final breaths, eight of his one hundred rumoured children trace the savage lies of their father and reckon with the burdens of their lineage.
Layered with multiple perspectives and cadences, each tale recounted in sharp, tantalizing vignettes, this is a rich tapestry of narratives and a kaleidoscopic journey into the dysfunctional heart of the Indian family. Written with the lightness of comedy and the seriousness of tragedy, the playfulness of an inventive riddle and the intellectual heft of a philosophical undertaking, The Odd Book of Baby Names is Salim’s most ambitious novel yet.

 

Rohzin by Rahman Abbas

Rohzin
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JCB Prize for Literature Longlist 

Mumbai was almost submerged on the fatal noon of 26 July 2005, when the merciless downpour and cloudburst had spread utter darkness and horror in the heart of the city. River Mithi was inundated, and the sea was furious. At this hour of torturous gloom, Rohzin begins declaring in the first line that it was the last day in the life of two lovers, Asrar and Hina.

The arc of the novel studies various aspects of human emotions, especially love, longing and sexuality as sublime expressions. The emotions are examined, so is love as well as the absence of it, through a gamut of characters and their interrelated lives: Asrar’s relationship with his teacher, Ms Jamila, a prostitute named Shanti and, later, with Hina; Hina’s classmate Vidhi’s relations with her lover and others; Hina’s father Yusuf’s love for Aymal; Vanu’s indulgence in prostitutes.

Rohzin dwells on the plane of an imagination that takes readers on a unique journey across the city of Mumbai, a highly intriguing character in its own right.

16 must-read Indian books in translation this World Translation Day

Here is our list of 16 must-read books in translation, from the length and breadth of the country.

As a reader, you are bound to be a little more inquisitive than the general population. So, your incredible brain must not be limited to the understanding of the diverse nation that we know India to be with the variety of languages, food, clothes and spices grown its separate regions. You must delve deeper! And nothing can tell you more about a land and its people than their stories. Let this specially-curated list act as your binoculars for taking a good look at India!

 

Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell

Tomb of Sand 

WINNER OF THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE 2022

In northern India, an eighty-year-old woman slips into a deep depression after the death of her husband, and then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention – including striking up a friendship with a transgender person – confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two.
To her family’s consternation, Ma insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist.

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I, Lalla by Lal Ded, translated by Ranjit Hoskote
I, Lalla by Lal Ded, translated by Ranjit Hoskote

I, Lalla

The poems of the fourteenth-century Kashmiri mystic Lal Ded, popularly known as Lalla, strike us like brief and blinding bursts of light. Emotionally rich yet philosophically precise, sumptuously enigmatic yet crisply structured, these poems are as sensuously evocative as they are charged with an ecstatic devotion. Stripping away a century of Victorian-inflected translations and paraphrases, and restoring the jagged, colloquial power of Lalla’s voice, in Ranjit Hoskote’s new translation these poems are glorious manifestos of illumination.

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Anthology of Humorous Sanskrit Verses by A.N.D. Haksar
Anthology of Humorous Sanskrit Verses by A.N.D. Haksar

Anthology of Humorous Sanskrit Verses

In recent times, whenever ancient Sanskrit works are discussed or translated into English, the focus is usually on the lofty, religious and dramatic works. Due to the interest created by Western audiences, the Kama Sutra and love poetry has also been in the limelight. But, even though the Hasya Rasa or the humorous sentiment has always been an integral part of our ancient Sanskrit literature, it is little known today.
Anthology of Humorous Sanskrit Verses is a collection of about 200 verse translations drawn from various Sanskrit works or anthologies compiled more than 500 years ago. Several such anthologies are well-known although none of them focus exclusively on humor. A.N.D. Haksar’s translation of these verses is full of wit, earthy humor and cynical satire, and an excellent addition of the canon of Sanskrit literature.

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Temple Lamp by Mirza Ghalib, Maaz Bin Bilal
Temple Lamp by Mirza Ghalib, Maaz Bin Bilal

Temple Lamp: Verses on Banaras by Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan

The poem ‘Chirag-e-Dair’ or Temple Lamp is an eloquent and vibrant Persian masnavi by Mirza Ghalib. While we quote liberally from his Urdu poetry, we know little of his writings in Persian, and while we read of his love for the city of Delhi, we discover in temple Lamp, his rapture over the spiritual and sensual city of Banaras.

Chiragh-e-dair is being translated directly from Persian into English in its entirety for the first time, with a critical Introduction by Maaz Bin Bilal. It is Mirza Ghalib’s pean to Kashi, which he calls Kaaba-e-Hindostan or the Mecca of India.

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Rajinder Singh Bedi by Rajinder Singh Bedi, Gopi Chand Narang and Surinder Deol
Rajinder Singh Bedi by Rajinder Singh Bedi, Gopi Chand Narang and Surinder Deol


Selected Stories: Rajinder Singh Bedi 

Rajinder Singh Bedi: Selected Short Stories curates some of the best work by the Urdu writer, whose contribution to Urdu fiction makes him a pivotal force within modern Indian literature. Born in Sialkot, Punjab, Rajinder Singh Bedi (1915-1984) lived many lives-as a student and postmaster in Lahore, a venerated screenwriter for popular Hindi films and a winner of both the Sahitya Akademi as well as the Filmfare awards. Considered one of the prominent progressive writers of modern Urdu fiction, Bedi was an architect of contemporary Urdu writing along with leading lights such as Munshi Premchand and Saadat Hasan Manto.

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Battles of Our Own by Jagadish Mohanty
Battles of Our Own by Jagadish Mohanty

Battles of Our Own

Jagadish Mohanty’s Battles of Our Own is a rare work of modern Odia and Indian fiction. It seeks to delineate a world that is off the grid. Its action unfolds in the remote and non-descript Tarbahar Colliery-a fictional name for the over hundred-year-old open-cast Himgiri Rampur coal mine in the hinterland of western Odisha. A work of gritty realism in its portrayal of a dark and dangerous underworld where coal is extracted, the novel poignantly reveals the primeval struggle between man and brute nature.

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Four Chapters by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Radha Chakravarty
Four Chapters by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Radha Chakravarty

Four Chapters

Char Adhyay (1934) was Rabindranath Tagore’s last novel, and perhaps the most controversial. Passion and politics intertwine in this narrative, set in the context of nationalist politics in pre-Independent India.
This new translation, intended for twenty-first-century readers, will bring Tagore’s text to life in a contemporary idiom, while evoking the flavour of the story’s historical setting.

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Hungry Humans by Karichan Kunju and Sudha G. Tilak
Hungry Humans || Karichan Kunju and Sudha G. Tilak

Hungry Humans

Ganesan returns, after four decades, to the town of his childhood, filled with memories of love and loneliness, of youthful beauty and the ravages of age and misfortune, of the promise of talent and its slow destruction. Seeking treatment for leprosy, he must also come to terms with his past: his exploitation at the hands of older men, his growing consciousness of desire and his own sexual identity, his steady disavowal of Brahminical morality and his slowly degenerating body. He longs for liberation-sexual, social and spiritual-but finally finds peace only in self-acceptance.

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Vultures by Dalpat Chauhan and Hemang Ashwinkumar 
Vutures by Dalpat Chauhan and Hemang Ashwinkumar

Vultures

Based on the blood-curdling murder of a Dalit boy by Rajput landlords in Kodaram village in 1964, Vultures portrays a feudal society structured around caste-based relations and social segregation, in which Dalit lives and livelihoods are torn to pieces by upper-caste vultures. The deft use of dialect, graphic descriptions and translator Hemang Ashwinkumar’s lucid telling throw sharp focus on the fragmented world of a mofussil village in Gujarat, much of which remains unchanged even today.

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Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar and Jerry Pint
Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar and Jerry Pinto

Cobalt Blue

A paying guest seems like a win-win proposition to the Joshi family. He’s ready with the rent, he’s willing to lend a hand when he can and he’s happy to listen to Mrs Joshi on the imminent collapse of our culture.
But he’s also a man of mystery. He has no last name. He has no family, no friends, no history and no plans for the future.
The siblings Tanay and Anuja are smitten by him. He overturns their lives. And when he vanishes, he breaks their hearts.

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The Prince and the Political Agent by Binodini Devi and L. Somi Roy
The Prince and the Political Agent byb Binodini Devi, L. Somi Roy

The Prince and the Political Agent

The Manipuri writer Binodini’s Sahitya Akademi Award-winning historical novel The Princess and the Political Agent tells the love story of her aunt Princess Sanatombi and Lt. Col. Henry P. Maxwell, the British representative in the subjugated Tibeto-Burman kingdom of Manipur. A poignant story of love and fealty, treachery and valour, it is set in the midst of the imperialist intrigues of the British Raj, the glory of kings, warring princes, clever queens and loyal retainers.

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Hangwoman by K.R. Meera and J. Devika
Hangwoman by K.R. Meera, J. Devika

Hangwoman

The Grddha Mullick family takes pride in the ancient lineage they trace from four hundred years before Christ. They burst with marvelous tales of hangmen and hangings in which the Grddha Mullicks figure as eyewitnesses to the momentous events that have shaped the history of the subcontinent.

In the present day, the youngest member of the family, twenty-two-year-old Chetna, is appointed the first woman executioner in India, assistant and successor to her father Phanibhushan. Thrust suddenly into the public eye, even starring in her own reality show, Chetna’s life explodes under the harsh lights of television cameras. As the day of her first execution approaches, she breaks out of the shadow of a domineering father and the thrall of a brutally manipulative lover, and transforms into a charismatic performer in her own right.

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Ha Ha Hu Hu by Velcheru Narayana Rao and V. Satyanarayana
Ha Ha Hu Hu by Velcheru Narayana Rao, V. Satyanarayana

 

Ha Ha Hu Hu: A Horse-Headed God in Trafalgar Square

Ha Ha Hu Hu tells the delightful tale of an extraordinary horse-headed creature that mysteriously appears in London one fine morning, causing considerable excitement and consternation among the city’s denizens. Dressed in silks and jewels, it has the head of a horse but the body of a human and speaks in an unknown tongue. What is it? And more importantly, why is it here?

In the hilarious satire Vishnu Sharma Learns English, a Telugu lecturer is visited in a dream by the medieval poet Tikanna and the ancient scholar Vishnu Sharma with an unusual request: they want him to teach them English!

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Tejo Tungabhadra by Vasudhendra and Maithreyi Karnoor
Tejo Tungabhadra by Vasudhendra, Maithreyi Karnoor

Tejo Tungabhadra: Tributaries of Time

Tejo Tungabhadra tells the story of two rivers on different continents whose souls are bound together by history. The two stories converge in Goa with all the thunder and gush of meeting rivers. Set in the late 15th and early 16th century, this is a grand saga of love, ambition, greed, and a deep zest for life through the tossing waves of history.

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Phoolsunghi by Pandey Kapil and Gautam Choubey
Phoolsunghi by Pandey Kapil, Gautam Choubey

Phoolsunghi

The first ever translation of a Bhojpuri novel into English, Phoolsunghi transports readers to a forgotten world filled with mujras and mehfils, court cases and counterfeit currency, and the crashing waves of the River Saryu.

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Lilavati by Tridip Suhrud and Govardhanram Tripathi
Lilavati by Govardhanram Tripathi, translated by Tridip Suhrud

Lilavati: A Life

In a moment of rare passion Govardhanram Madhavram Tripathi, author of Sarasvatichandra, exclaimed ‘I only want their souls’. He was referring to the souls of his countrymen and women, which he sought to cultivate through his literary writings. Lilavati was his and Lalitagauri’s eldest daughter. Her education and the writing of Sarasvaticandra were intertwined. She was raised to be the perfect embodiment of virtue, and died at the age of twenty-one, consumed by tuberculosis. In moments of ‘lucidity’ , she spoke of her suffering and that challenged the very foundations of Govardhanram’s life. In 1905 he wrote her biography, Lilavati Jivankala. This is a rare work in biographical literature, a father writing about the life of a deceased daughter. Despite Govardhanram’s attempts to contain Lilavati as a unidimensional figure of his imagination, she goes beyond that, sometimes by questioning the fundamental tenets of Brahminical beliefs, and at others by being so utterly selfless as to be unreal even to him.

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So, with this breathtaking list in hand, let’s get travelling, shall we?

 

What does the history of dissent look like?

In the second volume of his landmark book, Discordant Notes, Rohinton Nariman brings to light ground-breaking cases and judgements which made remarkable additions to our Constitution, improved and improvised some laws and most importantly, gave the space to the citizens of this country to be able to think, re-think and re-learn freely.

 

Charting out the history of the dissenting judgements in the history of the Supreme Court of India, Nariman begins by quoting Professor Allan Hutchinson’s Laughing at the Gods: Great Judges and How They Made the Common Law, where he speaks of ‘judicial greatness’ as:

 

‘Great judges seek to make a critical accommodation with the legal tradition by combining heresy and heritage in a playful judicial style; they refuse to be hampered by customary habits of judicial mind. For them, law is not something to be mastered. It is a sprawling tableau of transformation in which experimentation and improvisation are valued as much as predictability and faithfulness to existing rules and ideas. They see possibilities and make moves that others overlook. Great judges flaunt conventional standards in the process of remaking them; their judgements are the exceptions that prove the rule. And, once they have done what they do, others are less able to view the world in the same way again.’

Discordant Notes by Rohinton Nariman
Discordant Notes || Rohinton Nariman

 

He then mentions that it is in this sense that he chose the four great dissenters for this book. Overlooking other prominent judges who wrote numerous dissents in their lifetime, he chose to write about the ones who might have given only six dissents, for example, but had brilliant oversight packed in them, insights that changed the course of future judgements in India.

 

Nariman named these four dissenters, the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ because just like in Book Six, ‘Revelation’ of the New Testament in the Bible, these are the people who give the world a chance to repent before they are consigned to the ashes. He states how each one of these four dissenters fulfills this role, some of them prophesying doom if their dissents do not become the law, and others offering a chance of redemption, if in the future, their view is accepted in preference to that of majority.

 

One of the first cases discussed in the second volume of Discordant Notes is the Keshava Madhava Menon v. State of Bombay (1951) case dissented by judge Sir Saiyid Fazl Ali. What came up for consideration before the Supreme Court was the interpretation of the expression ‘void’ contained in Article 13 (1) of the Constitution of India. The majority judgement, delivered by S.R. Das, J., on behalf of the three learned judges of the court, held that Article 13 (1) does not make existing laws which are inconsistent with fundamental rights void ab initio, but only renders such laws ineffectual with respect to the exercise of fundamental rights on and after the date of commencement of the Constitution, Article 13 (1) having no retrospective effect. Therefore, if prosecution for a criminal act was commenced before the Constitution came into force, it can be proceeded with according to that law, even after the commencement of the Constitution.

 

Fazl Ali, J., joined Mukherjea, J., dissented. For reference, Article 13 (1) reads as follows:

 

‘All laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.’

 

Fazl Ali, J referred to the original draft of the Constitution, in which the words ‘shall stand abrogated’ were used instead of ‘shall be void’ in Article 13 (1). He then observed that the Constitution makers used various expressions to convey precisely and thoroughly what they meant. While some articles used ‘invalid’, ‘ceased to have effect’ and ‘shall be inoperative’, ‘void’ is used only in two articles 13 (1) and 154 – and both of them deal with cases where laws are repugnant to other laws. Hence, the learned judge concluded that there is a precision and thoroughness of the framers of the Constitution with the strong sense in which the word ‘void’ has been used and cannot be completely ignored.

 

Nariman noted that this case is an important judgment, which was later followed in Behram Khurshid Pesikaka v. State of Bombay (1955) and Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of M.P. (1955), as forming the foundation for what became known as the ‘Doctrine of Eclipse’, i.e. that pre-constitutional law cannot be said to be void from inception, but only ineffective if it violates a fundamental right, the fundamental right casting a shadow over such law.

 

Rohinton Nariman discusses and analyses many more such interesting cases and judgements and enlightens us with the kind of roads they fractured, mended and laid the foundation of, in this remarkable book. It speaks to anyone who decides to speak for themselves or for others, who decides to obtain knowledge in multi-dimensional spheres and most notably, for someone who decides to learn and re-learn.

Delve deep into what India’s 72nd Republic Day truly represents with these books

The Constitution of India came into effect on 26th January, 1950. As we celebrate India’s 72nd Republic Day, let’s dig deeper to understand the journey till this day in 1950, and our journey since then.

Here is a list of books from various authors, including Abhinav Chandrachud, Ramachandra Guha, Khushwant Singh, Sagarika Ghosh, K.R. Narayanan and many more! What’s more, there are titles for the little ones as well!

 

Republic of Rhetoric
Republic of Rhetoric || Abhinav Chandrachud

Exploring socio-political as well as legal history of India, from the British period to the present, this book brings to light the idea of ‘free speech’ or what is popularly known as the freedom expression in the country. Analysing the present law relating to obscenity and free speech, this book will evaluate whether the enactment of the Constitution made a significant difference to the right to free speech in India. Deeply researched, authoritative and anecdotal, this book offers arguments that have not been substantially advanced before.

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How India Became Democratic
How India Became Democratic || Ornit Shani

How India Became Democratic explores the greatest experiment in democratic human history. It tells the untold story of the preparation of the electoral roll on the basis of universal adult franchise in the world’s largest democracy. Ornit Shani offers a new view of the institutionalisation of democracy in India, and of the way democracy captured the political imagination of its diverse peoples.

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Makers Of Modern India
Makers of Modern India || Ramachandra Guha

Makers of Modern India is a detailed source for information about the country’s political traditions. The republic of India had a very tumultuous beginning and the author shows you how 19 political activists were instrumental in the evolution of this country. The author goes beyond a description of the people by including extracts of the speeches they have written. Each phase of the freedom movement and the following years of independent India are shown through the written works produced by these 19 individuals.

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Democrats and Dissenters
Democrats and Dissenters || Ramachandra Guha

A major new collection of essays by Ramachandra Guha, Democrats and Dissenters is a work of rigorous scholarship on topics of compelling contemporary interest, written with elegance and wit.

The book covers a wide range of themes: from the varying national projects of India’s neighbours to political debates within India itself, from the responsibilities of writers to the complex relationship between democracy and violence.

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The Idea Of India
The Idea Of India || Sunil Khilnani

This long essay makes an eloquent and persuasive argument for Nehru’s idea of nationhood in India. At a time when the relevance of Nehru’s vision is under scrutiny, this book assumes a special significance.

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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.

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India’s Legal System
India’s Legal System || Fali S Nariman

India has the second-largest legal profession in the world, but the systemic delays and chronic impediments of its judicial system inspire little confidence in the common person. In India’s Legal System, renowned constitutional expert and senior Supreme Court lawyer Fali S. Nariman looks for possible reasons. While realistically appraising the criminal justice system and the performance of legal practitioners, he elaborates aspects of contemporary practice, such as public interest litigation, judicial review and activism.

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The Case That Shook India
The Case That Shook India || Prashant Bhushan

On 12 June 1975, for the first time in independent India’s history, the election of a prime minister was set aside by a high court judgment. The watershed case, Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain, acted as the catalyst for the imposition of the Emergency. Based on detailed notes of the court proceedings, The Case That Shook India is both a significant legal and a historical document.

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The Great Repression
The Great Repression || Chitranshul Sinha

The Indian Penal Code was formulated in 1860, three years after the first Indian revolt for independence. Where did this law come from? How did it evolve? And what place does it have in a mature democracy? Concise, incisive and thoughtful, The Great Repression by Chitranshul Sinha, an advocate on record of the Supreme Court of India, tells the story of this outdated colonial-era law.

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The Burden Of Democracy
The Burden Of Democracy || Pratap Bhanu Mehta

After nearly seven decades of its existence, there is a pervasive feeling that India’s democracy is in crisis. But what is the nature of this threat? In this essay, republished now with a new foreword from the author, Pratap Bhanu Mehtare minds us what a bold experiment bringing democracy to a largely illiterate and unpropertied India was.

Optimistic, lively and closely argued, The Burden of Democracy offers a new ideological imagination that throws light on our discontents. By returning to the basics of democracy it serves to illuminate our predicament, even while perceiving the broad contours for change.

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The End Of India
The End Of India || Khushwant Singh

Analysing the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, the burning of Graham Staines and his children, the targeted killings by terrorists in Punjab and Kashmir, Khushwant Singh forces us to confront the absolute corruption of religion that has made us among the most brutal people on earth. He also points out that fundamentalism has less to do with religion than with politics. And communal politics, he reminds us, is only the most visible of the demons we have nurtured and let loose upon ourselves.

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India’s Struggle For Independence
India’s Struggle For Independence || Bipin Chandra & Others

India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra is your go to book for an in-depth and detailed overview on Indian independence movement . Indian freedom struggle is one of the most important parts of its history. A lot has been written and said about it, but there still remains a gap. Rarely do we get to hear accounts of the independence from the entire country and not just one region at one place. This book fits in perfectly in this gap and also provides a narration on the impact this movement had on the people.

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Why I Am a Liberal
Why I Am a Liberal || Sagarika Ghose 

 

The stamping out of difference, the quelling of diversity and the burial of argument is, in fact, most un-Indian. Anyone who seeks to end that dialogue process is ignoring Indianness and patriotism. The liberal Indian argues for the rights of the marginalized in the tradition of Gandhi for trust, mutual understanding and bridge-building. Real patriotism lies in old-fashioned ideas of accommodation, friendship and generosity; not in force, muscle flexing and dominance. Why I Am a Liberal is Sagarika Ghose’s impassioned meditation on why India needs to be liberal.

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In The Name Of The People
In The Name Of The People || K R Narayanan

In the Name of the People brings together K.R.Narayanan’s most important writings spanning five decades, from his first published article in 1954 to the Republic Day speech of 2000. In these pieces, he covers a diverse range of topics, from Indo–US ties and India–China relations to human development, Islam in India and women in politics; from the benefits of the parliamentary system and the need to build democracy from the grassroots to the role of education and technology in development and the importance of a sustainable environment.

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Vichhoda
Vichhoda || Harinder Sikka

Bibi Amrit Kaur’s life is literally torn apart in the 1947 riots. She’s now in a different country with a different identity. She accepts this new life gracefully and begins a new chapter. She gets married and has two children. Life, however, has something else in store for her. It breaks her apart. Again.

This time the pain is unbearable.

But the hope that she will reunite with her children and be whole again keeps her alive. And she doesn’t let the bitterness cloud her days, becoming a beacon of hope and courage for all.

From the bestselling author of Calling Sehmat comes another hitherto untold story of strength, sacrifice and resilience.

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Sixteen Stormy Days
Sixteen Stormy Days || Tripurdaman Singh

Sixteen Stormy Days narrates the riveting story of the First Amendment to the Constitution of India-one of the pivotal events in Indian political and constitutional history, and its first great battle of ideas. Drawing on parliamentary debates, press reports, judicial pronouncements, official correspondence and existing scholarship, Sixteen Stormy Days challenges conventional wisdom on iconic figures such as Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R. Ambedkar, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel and Shyama Prasad Mookerji, and lays bare the vast gulf between the liberal promise of India’s Constitution and the authoritarian impulses of her first government.

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Ambedkar’s Preamble
Ambedkar’s Preamble || Aakash Singh Rathore

 

Although Dr Ambedkar is universally regarded as the chief architect of the Constitution, the specifics of his role as chairman of the Drafting Committee are not widely discussed. Totally neglected is his almost single-handed authorship of the Constitution’s Preamble, which is frequently and mistakenly attributed to B.N. Rau rather than to Ambedkar.
This book establishes how and why the Preamble to the Constitution of India is essentially an Ambedkarite preamble.

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Vision for a Nation
Vision For A Nation || Ashish Nandy, Aakash Singh Rathore

What is the nation? What is the idea of India? Whose India is it, anyway?
This inaugural volume in the series titled Rethinking India aims to kickstart a national dialogue on the key questions of our times. It brings together India’s foremost intellectuals, academics, activists, technocrats, professionals and policymakers to offer an in-depth exploration of these issues, deriving from their long-standing work, experience and unflinching commitment to the collective idea of India, of who we can and ought to be. Vision for a Nation: Paths and Perspectives champions a plural, inclusive, just, equitable and prosperous India, committed to individual dignity as the foundation of the unity and vibrancy of the nation.

Let’s not leave the children out! Here is a list of books for your children.

We, The Children Of India
We The Children Of India || LeIla Seth 

Former Chief Justice Leila Seth makes the words of the Preamble to the Constitution understandable to even the youngest reader. What is a democratic republic, why are we secular, what is sovereignty? Believing that it is never too early for young people to learn about the Constitution, she tackles these concepts and explains them in a manner everyone can grasp and enjoy. Accompanied by numerous photographs, captivating and inspiring illustrations by acclaimed illustrator Bindia Thapar, and delightful bits of trivia, We, the Children of India is essential reading for every young citizen.

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The Constitution of India for Children
The Constitution Of India For Children || Subhadra Sen Gupta

Every 26th January, people gather on New Delhi’s Rajpath amidst a colourful jamboree of fluttering flags, marching soldiers and dancing children. What is celebrated on this day is at the heart of our democracy-the magnificent Constitution of India.

The document didn’t only lay down the law but united India with a vision that took two years, eleven months and seventeen days to realise. Subhadra Sen Gupta captures the many momentous occasions in Indian history that led to its making in The Constitution of India for Children. Populated with facts and dotted with cheerful illustrations, this book provides answers to innumerable questions asked over the years.

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The Puffin History Of India (Vol.1)
The Puffin History Of India (Vol.1) || Roshen Dalal
The Puffin History Of India (Vol. 2)
The Puffin History Of India (Vol. 2) || Roshen Dalal

These books trace the fascinating story of the social, political, cultural and economic development across the high points of Indian history-from the earliest times to the British conquest, the Nationalist movement and, finally, the triumph of Independence. The informal, engaging style and the colourful descriptions of people, events and cultures provide a comprehensive picture of what life was like in India up to 1947. Informative, well researched and containing a host of illustrations and maps, this amazing reference guide helps bring the past to life for students and young readers like never before.

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India A To Z
India A To Z

What was India’s very own desi dino called? How did India’s currency come to be named the rupee? Which Indian glacier is the highest battleground in the world? Who wrote the world’s first grammar book? If questions like these make you curious about incredible India, here is a bumper info-pedia packed with fascinating facts, terrific trivia and colourful cartoons on just about everything in India, this book encourages interest in a wide range of subjects.

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My India
My India || A.P.J Abdul Kalam

My India: Ideas for the Future is a collection of excerpts from Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s speeches in his post presidency years. Drawn from Dr Kalam’s addresses to parliaments, universities, schools and other institutions in India and abroad, they include his ideas on science, nation-building, poverty, compassion and self-confidence.

India, War and the Armed Forces: Books to read

 

Our soldiers’ heroism and valour is perhaps not talked about enough. As the country celebrates Army Day, here are books by various authors on the history of India at war, accounts of fighting and stories from the border. Learn more about the impact of war: personally and politically.

Also included are some titles to introduce the special forces to your children: they talk about life in the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.

The Raj at War

At the heart of The Raj at Warare the many lives and voices of ordinary Indian people. Yasmin Khan presents the hidden and sometimes overlooked history of India at war, and shows how mobilisation for the war introduced seismic processes of economic, cultural and social change―decisively shaping the international war effort, the unravelling of the empire and India’s own political and economic trajectory.

 

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A Revolutionary History of Interwar India

Focusing on the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA), A Revolutionary History… delivers a fresh perspective on the ambitions, ideologies and practices of this influential organization formed by Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh and inspired by transnational anti-imperial dissent. It is a new interpretation of the activities and political impact of the north Indian revolutionaries who advocated the use of political violence against the British.

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India’s War

Between 1939 and 1945 India changed to an extraordinary extent. Millions of Indians suddenly found themselves as soldiers, fighting in Europe and North Africa but also – something simply never imagined – against a Japanese army threatening to invade eastern India. Many more were pulled into the vortex of wartime mobilization.

Srinath Raghavan’s compelling and original book gives both a surprising new account of the fighting and of life on the home front.

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SHOOT, DIVE, FLY

Learn all about an exceptional way of life SHOOT, DIVE, FLY aims to introduce teenagers to the armed forces and tell them about the perils-the rigours and the challenges-and perks-the thrill and the adventure-of a career in uniform. Ballroom dancing, flying fighter planes, detonating bombs, skinning and eating snakes in times of dire need, and everything else in between-there’s nothing our officers can’t do!. Read twenty-one nail-biting stories of daring. Hear from some amazing men and women about what the forces have taught them-and decide if the olivegreen uniform is what you want to wear too.

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Vijyant at Kargil

This was the last letter Captain Vijyant Thapar wrote to his family. He was twenty-two when he was martyred in the Kargil War, having fought bravely in the crucial battles of Tololing and Knoll. A fourth-generation army officer, Vijyant dreamt of serving his country even as a young boy. In this first-ever biography, we learn about his journey to join the Indian Military Academy and the experiences that shaped him into a fine officer.

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Kargil

Kargil takes you into the treacherous mountains where some of Indian Army’s bloodiest battles were fought. Interviewing war survivors and martyrs’ families, Rachna Bisht Rawat tells stories of extraordinary human courage, of not just men in uniform but also those who loved them the most. With its gritty stories of incomparable bravery, Kargil is a tribute to the 527 young braves who gave up their lives for us-and the many who were ready to do it too.

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Guns, Guts and Glory

The perfect boxset to gift: this has three titles. 1965: Stories from the Second Indo-Pakistan War, Shoot, Dive, Fly: Stories of Grit and Adventure from the Indian Army and The Brave: Param Vir Chakra Stories that share stories from the war

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India’s Most Fearless I &II

India’s Most Fearless covers fourteen true stories of extraordinary courage and fearlessness, providing a glimpse into the kind of heroism our soldiers display in unthinkably hostile conditions and under grave provocation. The highly anticipated sequel to India’s Most Fearless brings you fourteen more stories of astonishing fearlessness, and gets you closer than ever before to the personal bravery that Indian military men display in the line of duty.

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1965

On 1 September 1965, Pakistan invaded Chamb district in Jammu and Kashmir, triggering a series of tank battles, operations and counter-operations. It was only the bravery and well-executed strategic decisions of the soldiers of the Indian Army that countered the very real threat of losing Kashmir to Pakistan. Recounting the battles fought by five different regiments, the narrative reconstructs the events of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, outlining details never revealed before, and remembers its unsung heroes.

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The Brave 

Twenty-one riveting stories about how India’s highest military honor was won. Rachna Bisht Rawat takes us to the heart of war, chronicling the tales of twenty-one of India’s bravest soldiers. Talking to parents, siblings, children and comrades-in-arms to paint the most vivid character-portraits of these men and their conduct in battle and getting unprecedented access to the Indian Army, Rawat has written the ultimate book on the Param Vir Chakra.

 

BOOKS FOR CHILDREN:

My Mother is in the Indian Air Force  

Rohan thinks his mom is a bit like a a superhero-she flies in to save the day, she loops and swoops between the clouds, she even jumps off planes wearing parachutes! But her job demands that she keep moving from place to place, and Rohan doesn’t want to move again. Not this time. Can he find a way to stay?

Read on to find out about the people and their families whose big and small acts of heroism make the Indian air force formidable!

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My Father is in the Indian Army

Beena’s dad is in the Indian army, which means that when duty calls, he’s got to get going at once. Beena knows her dad’s job is important, but her birthday is coming up. She really, really wants her dad to be at home to celebrate with her. Will he be able to make it back in time?

Read on to find out about the people and their families whose big and small acts of heroism make the Indian army inspiring!

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My Sister is in the Indian Navy

Nikky’s sister is in the navy. When her ship is in port, she and Nikky get to do lots of fun things together. Nikky would like to spend more time with his sister, and he doesn’t want her to leave, but he knows that, eventually, her sailing orders will arrive…

Read on to find out about the people and their families whose big and small acts of heroism make the Indian navy exemplary!

Fun new reads for your shelves, this Children’s Day

Not that we need an occasion to buy books, but Children’s Day is the perfect time to add some fascinating and wonderful reads to your young readers’ shelves! From magical adventures in forests, to exciting stories about monarchs, and a glimpse into the constitution of India, we have you covered on all fronts.

 

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front cover of A Box of Stories
A Box of Stories||Ruskin Bond

 

A Box of Stories: A Collector’s Edition

by Ruskin Bond

 

A collector’s edition featuring the best of Ruskin Bond’s works

Featuring some of Ruskin Bond’s finest stories, poetry and selected non-fiction pieces, this special collector’s edition brings together the best works of India’s best-loved author for all his fans. Included in the collection are the two treasuries The Room of Many Colours and Uncles, Aunts and Elephants. Featuring illustrations and a rich cast of characters, this box set is a    perfect collection for fans of the master storyteller.

 

 

front cover The Magic of the Lost Temple
The Magic of the Lost Temple||Sudha Murty

The Magic Of The Lost Temple

by Sudha Murty

 

City girl Nooni is surprised at the pace of life in her grandparents’ village in Karnataka. But she quickly gets used to the gentle routine there and involves herself in a flurry of activities, including papad making, organizing picnics and learning to ride a cycle, with her new-found friends.

Things get exciting when Nooni stumbles upon an ancient fabled stepwell right in the middle of a forest.

Join the intrepid Nooni on an adventure of a lifetime in this much-awaited book by Sudha Murty that is heart-warming, charming and absolutely unputdownable.

 

front cover Moin and the Monster
Moin and The Monster||Anushka Ravishankar, Anitha Balachandran

 

 

Moin and the monster

by Anushka Ravishankar

Illustrated by Anitha Balachandran

 

One night, in the dim darkness of his room, Moin heard something shuffling and sniffling under his bed …’

It is a monster. Moin has to learn to live with the monster, which does nothing but eat bananas, sing silly songs and try out new hairstyles.

However, keeping the monster a secret from his parents and teachers is a tough task and finally Moin decides that the only thing to do is send the monster back where it came from…

 

 

front cover Book of Beasts
Book of Beasts||M Krishnan

 

 

Book of Beasts: An A to Z Rhyming Bestiary

by M Krishnan

 

The hispid hare is rather rare in fact, outside north-eastern east it lives nowhere and even there it is a most uncommon beast.
With scientific facts, quirky verse and gorgeous illustrations, this is a most unusual alphabet book!
A writer and an artist, M Krishnan was one of India’s best-known naturalists.

 

 

 

front cover 10 Indian Monarchs
10 Indian Monarchs Whose Amazing Stories You May Not Know||Devika Rangachari

10 Indian Monarchs Whose Amazing Stories You May Not Know

by Devika Rangachari

 

This book tells the stories of ten Indian monarchs who find, at best, passing mention in the history textbooks we read, though their lives were exciting and their achievements considerable:
Ajatashatru
Bindusara
Rudradaman
Pulakeshin II
Jayapida
Didda
Ramapala
Abbakka
Chand Bibi
Ahilyabai Holkar

Historian and award-winning novelist, Devika Rangachari writes absorbing tales of the men and women who shaped lives and kingdoms in their times.

 

 

front cover of The Curious Case of the Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop
The Curious Case of The Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop||Nandini Nayar

The Curious Case of The Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop

by Nandini Nayar

 

Making and selling sweets day after day is the life of Vishnudas Mithaiwala, the owner of The Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop. However, when Laddoo appears at his doorstep one night, claiming to be his estranged sister Revati’s son, Vishnu’s life is thrown into confusion. More craziness ensues when Anu turns up, also insisting that she’s Revati’s child! With no idea how to discern the real Mithaiwala, life is full of chaos for Vishnu, as the two children compete to prove their identity.

And Laddoo, worried about his parents, who have suddenly disappeared, is thrown another curveball-he senses a ghostly presence in the house! When a plot to steal the Mithaiwala family’s valuable recipe book is hatched, Laddoo tries to use this new psychic ability to save the day.

 

front cover Akbar and The Tricky Traitor
Akbar and the Tricky Traitor||Natasha Sharma

 

 

Akbar and the Tricky Traitor

by Natasha Sharma

 

The mighty Mughal emperor Akbar is angry. Someone is leaking secrets of his court to his enemies. What’s worse, his enemies are now laughing at Akbar. Who can help the emperor   solve this mystery?

Mysteries you’ll never find in history books

 

 

 

front cover of Timmi in Tangles
Timmi in Tangles||Shals Mahajan

 

 

Timmi in Tangles

by Shals Mahajan

 

Timmi’s life is full of tangles. Her mother expects her to go to school even though she’s a raja; Idliamma eats up all her idlis and everyone thinks Timmi ate them … and why can’t people understand that if you have a giant for a friend you can lift the roof to let the rain in?

 

 

 

 

front cover of Simply Nanju
Simply Nanju||Zainab Sulaiman

 

Simply Nanju

by Zainab Sulaiman

 

Nothing worries Nanju too much; not the fact that he walks funny or that he’s known as the class copy cat or that the cleverest (and prettiest) girl in class barely knows he’s alive.

But when books start disappearing from the classroom, the needle of suspicion begins to point at Nanju. Aided by his beloved best friend, the fragile but brainy Mahesh, Nanju has to find out who the real thief is. Otherwise, his father might pack him off to Unni Mama’s all-boys Hostel from Hell, and Nanju might lose all that’s dear to him.

Set in a school for children who are differently abled, this funny, fast-paced whodunit will keep you guessing till the very end.

 

 

front cover Discover India
Discover India: The Complete Collection||Sonia Mehta

Discover India: The Complete Collection

by Sonia Mehta

 

The Discover India series will take you on a grand tour of every single one of our country’s states. Join the adorable Pushka and Mishki and the wise and witty Daadu Dolma as they traverse the length and breadth of India. Meet nawabs in Andhra Pradesh, roam the highways of Haryana, learn the history of Odisha, study the culture of Bihar, explore the snow-laden valleys of Uttarakhand and pick up a new dance in Sikkim.

 

 

 

 

The Jungle Radio

front cover The Jungle Radio
The Jungle Radio||Devangana Dash

by Devangana Dash

 

Come, listen to the sweet jungle orchestra, featuring the Woodpecker’s drums, the Hornbill’s trumpet and the Kingfisher’s blues

When curious little Gul hears some strange sounds coming from her radio, she follows the musical clues into . . . an Indian jungle! On her walk, she finds feathered friends who TWEET, TAPP and TALK. There are some who howl and hoot, and others who play the flute. With a KEE here and a KAW there, Gul discovers songs everywhere!

Brought to life by painterly illustrations, The Jungle Radio is a little story about the language of birds-their songs and sounds-with a loud and clear call to listen to the world around us.

 

 

front cover of We the Children of India
We, The Children Of India||Leila Seth

We, The Children Of India

by Leila Seth

Illustrated by Bindia Thapar

Former Chief Justice Leila Seth makes the words of the Preamble to the Constitution understandable to even the youngest reader. What is a democratic republic, why are we secular, what is sovereignty? Believing that it is never too early for young people to learn about the Constitution, she tackles these concepts and explains them in a manner everyone can grasp and enjoy. Accompanied by numerous photographs, captivating and inspiring illustrations by acclaimed illustrator Bindia Thapar, and delightful bits of trivia, We, the Children of India is essential reading for every young citizen.

 

 

 

The Incredible History of India’s Geography

front cover The Incredible History of India's Geography
The Incredible History Of India’s Geography||Sanjeev Sanyal

by Sanjeev Sanyal

 

Could you be related to a blonde Lithuanian?

Did you know that India is the only country that has both lions and tigers?

Who found out how tall Mt Everest is?

If you’ve ever wanted to know the answers to questions like these, this is the book for you. In here you will find various things you never expected, such as the fact that we still greet each other like the Harappans did and that people used to think India was full of one-eyed giants. And, sneakily, you’ll also know more about India’s history and geography by the end of it. Full of quirky pictures and crazy trivia, this book takes you on a fantastic journey through the incredible history of India’s geography.

 

 

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Pack your young reader’s day with this varied collection!

 

The turning tides of Indian history

Indian culture has been greatly marked by foreign arrivals. As trade turned into colonial settlements, India would forever carry the remnants of that imperial history. This excerpt from The Incredible History of The Indian Ocean explores how some of these colonial advents set up European strongholds on Indian lands:

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In 1580, the English sea captain Francis Drake returned to England after circumnavigating (travelling all the way around) the world. He brought back two things: one, a ship filled with Spanish booty and spices from the Indies, and two, information that the Portuguese hold on trade in the Indian Ocean region was not as secure as widely believed.

The English now decided that it was time to stake a claim on the spice trade. A fleet of three ships was sent out under the command of James Lancaster in 1591. The ships bypassed India and made directly for the Straits of Malacca. The English did not even pretend to trade but simply plundered Portuguese and local ships before heading back. On the way home, however, two of the three ships were wrecked in a storm and all the ill-gotten cargo was lost. The smallest of the three ships somehow limped back with just twenty-five survivors, including Lancaster himself.

In the meantime, the Dutch also sent out a number of fleets, which brought home much valuable cargo. Spurred on by this, English merchants decided to take another shot at sailing eastwards. Queen Elizabeth I was petitioned for a royal charter, a document that granted a right or power to a person or a group. On New Year’s Eve in 1600, the merchants set up as ‘The Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies’; we know this now as the East India Company (EIC). Dutch merchants similarly banded together to form the United East India Company (also known by its Dutch initials, VOC).

Both of these entities would grow to become among the largest and most powerful multinational companies the world

Front cover ofThe Incredible History of the Indian Ocean
The Incredible History of The Indian Ocean||Sanjeev Sanyal

has ever seen.

… The English soon set up modest warehouses in Machilipatnam on the Andhra coast, Hugli in Bengal and Surat in Gujarat. As business grew, the EIC decided that it was necessary to build fortified settlements that could be defended against both Indian rulers as well as European rivals. The first of these was Madras (now Chennai). A small strip of coastline was acquired from the local ruler in 1639 by the EIC agent Francis Day. It was an odd choice as it was neither easily defensible nor did it have a sheltered harbour. Ships had to be anchored far from the shore and boats had to ferry people and goods through heavy surf. It was not uncommon for boats to overturn and cause the loss of life and property. Nonetheless, the English built a fortified warehouse here and christened it Fort St George.

The next major settlement was Bombay, which was acquired from the Portuguese as part of the dowry when King Charles II married Catherine of Braganza. The group of small islands was leased to the EIC in 1668 for ten pounds per annum. Unlike Madras, it already had a small but functioning settlement and also a good harbour. As a naval power, the English would have found its island geography easier to defend and a more substantial fort was built on the main island, in the area still known as ‘Fort’. A series of smaller fortifications were also maintained at various strategic points.

The third major EIC settlement was built in Bengal. Yet again, the decision was taken because the English found their position in the old river port of Hugli untenable due to conflicts with the Mughal governor. When peace was finally declared after an abject apology from the English, they were allowed to return and set up a new establishment. In 1690, the EIC’s agent Job Charnock bought the rights to three villages from the local landlords for 1300 rupees. This is how Calcutta (now Kolkata) was founded. The English soon built Fort William—this is not the star-shaped eighteenth- century fort that is used today as the Indian Army’s eastern headquarters but its predecessor, which was built on the site now occupied by the General Post Office. Nonetheless, the proximity of the Mughals and later the Marathas made the EIC directors in London nervous. The humid, swampy terrain, moreover, took a heavy toll on the Europeans and even Job Charnock died within three years of founding the outpost. It is worth mentioning that each of the above EIC settlements soon attracted a sizeable population of Indian merchants, clerks, labourers, sailors, artisans, mercenaries and other service providers. Thus, Madras, Bombay and Calcutta each developed a thriving ‘black town’ where the Indians lived.

The English were not the only Europeans building trading posts during this period. The French East India Company, a relative latecomer, would build a number of outposts including a major settlement in Pondicherry (now Puducherry). This was established right next to the Roman-era port of Arikamedu. Pondicherry would remain a French possession till the 1950s and still retains a strong French flavour.

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Through The Incredible History of The Indian Ocean, Sanjeev Sanyal has created a comprehensive channel into understanding the maritime history of our country, and the events that have shaped its culture.

Under American Eyes: Mark Twain in Bombay

For 230 years, America’s engagement with India, Afghanistan and Pakistan has been characterized by short-term thinking and unintended consequences. Beginning with American traders in India in the eighteenth century, the region has become a locus for American efforts-secular and religious-to remake the world in its image. Even as South Asia has undergone tumultuous and tremendous changes from colonialism to the world wars, the Cold War and globalization, the United States has been a crucial player in regional affairs.
In the definitive history of the US involvement in South Asia, The Most Dangerous Place by Srinath Raghavan presents a gripping account of America’s political and strategic, economic and cultural presence in the region.
Of the many interesting incidents and lesser known anecdotes in the book, one interesting narrative is Mark Twain’s visit to Bombay. Here is an excerpt from it.
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On a sunny morning in January 1896, the visiting American— decked out in a white suit and straw hat—took a stroll on the outskirts of Bombay. On seeing a row of Indian washermen sweating it out, he asked his guide, ‘Are they breaking those stones with clothes?’ Samuel Langhorne Clemens had kept his sense of humour despite the fact that he had practically been forced to travel to India. A failed venture with a typesetting machine and the bankruptcy of his publishing firm had left Mark Twain ensnared in a web of debt: of over $1,00,000. To shake this off, the fiftyyear- old writer had embarked on a year-long lecture trip covering a hundred cities in Australia and New Zealand, South Africa and the British Isles, Ceylon and India.
In Bombay, Twain’s first appearance was in the Novelty Theatre before an overflowing audience worshipping ‘at the shrine of the world’s great humourist when he made his debut before his first Indian audience’. Twain spoke of, among other things, how there were 352 different kinds of sins, so that ‘the industrious persons could commit them all in one year and be inoculated against all future sins’. He told stories, some apocryphal, about George Washington and other great Americans, and also read a chapter from Tom Sawyer. Twain lunched with the Governor in his official residence and met Jamsetji Tata over dinner.
Like many well-informed Americans of his generation, Mark
Twain had thought of India as a land of fantasy: ‘an imaginary
land—a fairy land, dreamland, a land made of poetry and moonlight
for the Arabian Nights to do their gorgeous miracles in’. Ahead of his trip, he had written jocularly to Kipling, ‘I shall come riding my ayah with his tusks adorned with silver bells and ribbons and escorted by a troop of native howdahs richly clad and mounted upon a herd of wild buffalos; and you must be on hand with a few bottles of ghee, for I shall be thirsty.’3 After spending two months in the country and visiting over sixteen cities and towns, Twain concluded that India was the most interesting country on the planet. But his view of India was a tad more realistic: ‘This is indeed India—the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle . . . the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.’
Twain was a curious and sympathetic traveller. The people, he wrote, were ‘pleasant and accommodating’. ‘They are kindly people . . . The face and bearing that indicate a surly spirit and a bad heart seemed rare among Indians,’ he added. The sight of an Indian servant in his hotel being needlessly struck by a European manager reminded him of his childhood in the American South and the stain of slavery on his own country. The ‘thatched group of native houses’ along the Hooghly River took him back to ‘the negro quarters, familiar to me from nearly forty years ago—and so for six hours this has been the sugar coast of the Mississippi’.5 Even Indian religion and spirituality, of which he had had no high opinion, Twain encountered with an open mind. On the massive Hindu religious festival in Allahabad, he wrote, ‘It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that.’ Meeting an Indian saint in Benares, Twain gave him an autographed copy of Huckleberry Finn and noted his admiration for men who ‘went into the solitudes to live in a hut and study the sacred writings and meditate on virtue and holiness and seek to attain them’. Twain had heard of the storied tradition of ‘thuggee’ or ritual strangling as a boy in America and wrote at inordinate length about it in his account of the passage through India. Nevertheless, he also observed, ‘We white people are merely modified Thugs; Thugs fretting under the restraints of a not very thick skin of civilization.’
All the same, Twain’s views of India were shaped by a sense of civilizational hierarchy. While India was ‘the cradle of human race, birth place of human speech’ and so forth, it was a civilization that had no notion of ‘progress’: ‘repeating and repeating and repeating, century after century, age after age, the barren meaningless process’. India had been the ‘first civilization’ and remained stuck there. If this was redolent of Britain’s ideological justification for the conquest of India, Twain more explicitly endorsed the political rationale of the Raj: ‘Where there are eighty nations and several hundred governments, fighting and quarrelling must be the common business of life; unity of purpose and policy are impossible.’ The beneficence of British rule flowed logically from these premises. ‘When one considers what India was under her Hindoo and Mohammedan rulers, and what she is now; when he remembers the miseries of her millions then and protections and humanities which they enjoy now, he must concede that the most fortunate thing that has ever befallen that empire was the establishment of British supremacy here.’

Everybody Loves a Good Drought (20th anniversary edition), An Excerpt


Palagummi Sainath has been a journalist and reporter for thirty-seven years and has covered rural India full time for twenty-five of those. His book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, is the established classic on rural poverty in India. Twenty years after publication, it remains unsurpassed in the scope and depth of reportage, providing an intimate view of the daily struggles of the poor and the efforts, often ludicrous, made to uplift them.

Here’s an excerpt from the new introduction to this critically acclaimed work.

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One of the first things people who have read Everybody Loves a Good Drought ask me is: ‘How did you come to give this book its name?’ I didn’t. I just grabbed the idea from Ramji Lakhan. He was a peasant activist who organized agricultural labourers to fight for their rights in Palamu (then in Bihar, now in Jharkhand).
‘We have a great drought going here,’ he told me. ‘The big people are making much money out of it. And the Block Development Officer (BDO) has gone to harvest the Third Crop.’

I was mystified. ‘I know of the kharif crop, harvested in autumn after the rainy season. And I know of the rabi, sown in winter and harvested in spring. But what is this Third Crop?’
‘Drought relief,’ said Ramji. He’d been hoping I would ask. ‘The money that comes in as relief makes the powerful richer than they were. It’s quite a good business. We like a good drought here.’

He called the BDO the BTDO, or Block The Development Officer. ‘No work takes place unless he gets his cut.’ But he did not use the term Third Crop in English. He said teesri fasl. And that remains the title of the Hindi edition of this book.

Another common question: ‘Have things changed in these districts since you wrote this book?’ Yes. Not always for the better, though. The women stone-quarry workers of Pudukkottai, who drew inspiration from their strength as a collective, changed their world for the better. For many others living in the regions the book’s stories come from, things got a lot worse. For a reason Ramji Lakhan understood very well even back then: growing inequality.

An India was emerging where new inequalities were feeding into old ones. Not by accident, but driven by human agency. Even in the year 2000, according to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Databook, the top 1 percent of the Indian population held 36.8 percent of the total household wealth. By 2016, their share had risen to 58.4 percent, far ahead of their counterparts in the United States, whose share of wealth in their nation was 42.1 percent.

That also means the top 1 percent of Indians held a greater share of wealth that year within our nation than the top 1 percent of Americans ever did within their own. The same year, the Databook shows, the bottom 10 percent of Indians saw their share fall from 0.1 to -0.7 percent––suggesting that many millions whose assets were far lower than their liabilities were sinking further into debt.

The next two deciles, just above the -0.7 group, recorded shares of 0.2 and 0.5 per cent, respectively. Club those three together and it means the bottom 30 percent of the Indian population own next to nothing.
In the year 2000, Forbes listed nine Indians who were dollar billionaires. In 2011–12, when our Socio Economic and Caste Census found that the main breadwinner in 75 percent of rural households take home less than Rs 5000 a month, Forbes said we had fifty-five dollar billionaires. This year, India logged 101 dollar billionaires in the Forbes 2017 list. We now rank number four in the world in that distinguished line-up. But we also rank 131 in the United Nations Human Development Index.

This is where we needed the media to ‘signal the weakness in society’. Instead, they celebrated this inequality. Unique success stories, and those on super celebrities, took centre stage. And we focused on how wonderful we were. A small part of the population surely did very well. Clinging to our delusions meant trashing the integrity of the data we gathered on ourselves. We did this with poverty numbers. We do it with farm suicide data.


 

6 Statements from ‘Demonetization and Black Economy’ that are point on about demonetization

Arun Kumar is the country’s leading authority on the black economy. In his recent book Demonetisation and the Black Economy he gives a lucid account of demonetization along with its effects on the economy.

Here are six statements by Prof Kumar which describe impacts and effects of demonetisation.






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