Publish with us

Follow Penguin

Follow Penguinsters

Follow Hind Pocket Books

This Our Paradise: Stories of Longing and Belonging in Kashmir

Stories from Kashmir always tug at the heartstrings, and we have something truly exceptional for you! In This Our Paradise by Karan Mujoo, follow the lives of a Hindu and Muslim family from Kashmir as they navigate the storm of political unrest. Through the innocent eyes of an eight-year-old boy and the challenging journey of a young man named Shahid, this novel reveals how their worlds are forever changed by the forces beyond their control. 

 

This Our Paradise
This Our Paradise || Karan Mujoo

***

Clocks ticked. Hairs sprouted. Voices deepened. Harvests passed. Calendars changed.

 

And Shahid leapt from adolescence to teenage. He sat for his twelfth standard exams in 1985 and barely passed. There was only one government college in Kupwara, and admission there followed a certain pattern. You would get a seat if you were a brilliant student with exceptional marks. You would get a seat if an influential politician made a phone call on your behalf. You would get a seat if you greased the palms of the education department officials.

 

Shahid and his family failed to meet these criteria. Corruption had seeped into the cracks and now was running riot in the Valley. Every government official, whether senior or junior, asked for bribes unabashedly. This culture was born during the reign of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. Having taken over from the Sheikh as the prime minister in 1953, he had opened industries, provided subsidies, improved healthcare and made education accessible. But he had also turned a blind eye to the greed and malpractices of those close to him.

 

Once he set this precedent, it was gleefully followed by everyone else.

 

It became clear to Shahid that there was no room for people like him in Kashmir. Every door he knocked on was rudely shut in his face. The few jobs available in Zogam involved manual labour or farming. But Shahid was clear he did not want to stoop so low. He wanted a life of dignity. A life independent of the mood swings of weather gods.

 

Since there was no work or college to go to, Shahid began whiling his hours away at Rajeshji’s shop. Every morning, after breakfast, he would leave his house and head over there.

 

After ordering a cup of tea, he would sit on a stool and read the newspapers. He was not the only aimless, unemployed boy searching for succour at the shop. Scores of boys from Zogam and Kupwara, who had been shunted out by the system, came there to smoke and gossip.

 

Rashid was one of them. Shahid often heard him talking to his entourage, among other things, about the Quran and Hadiths. His eyes shone passionately as he discussed the various ayats. While giving these mini-sermons Rashid smoked like a steamer ship. He lit up Capstan after Capstan, often mid-sentence. Due to the relentless smoking, his incisors bore brown tobacco stains. Some of the boys jokingly called him the smoking prophet, which both offended and pleased Rashid. One day, he asked Shahid to pass a matchbox and the two became, at first acquaintances, and then friends. When they started talking, they discovered they had much in common. Both of them were frustrated by the corruption in society, both were unemployed, both were dismissive of menial jobs. For the first time in his life.

 

Shahid could call someone a friend. Over long sessions of tea and cigarettes (Shahid started smoking under the influence of his new friend), their bond thickened. They confided their fears and dreams to each other. They tried to come up with ways to jumpstart their stagnated lives. Rashid was certain the society needed an overhaul. The privileged and corrupt had to be shaken up. The playing field had to be leveled.

 

One day, a boy from Kupwara came to the shop to smoke a cigarette. He was carrying a few files, which indicated he had a government job. It was unclear what sparked the confrontation—a grazing of the shoulders, a challenging stare—but for some reason Rashid started slapping the boy, accusing him of stealing jobs and paying bribes. Unaccustomed to violence, Shahid froze for a moment. But then he too saw red. He lunged out with his leg and caught the boy squarely in
his ribs. The boy groaned and collapsed on the ground. Rajeshji ran out of the shop to help him. Rashid and Shahid, their hearts pounding, their veins surging with adrenaline, ran away towards the fields.

 

‘The bhatta deserved it,’ Rashid said breathlessly. Shahid had not noticed the narywun which had marked out the boy. But it did not matter. The system had to be dismantled. Even if it was one kick at a time.

 

Brawls, abuses and loutish behaviour were frowned upon in Zogam. A small council of elders, both Muslims and Pandits, turned up at Shahid’s house and requested his father to reign him in. Such incidents were not good for the village, they said. Shahid’s father and Zun were shocked by their son’s  involvement in the fracas. They convinced the group that Shahid would never indulge in such behaviour again. After they left, Zun crumpled and sobbed quietly. When Shahid came home later that night, his father admonished him.

 

‘You have humiliated us in front of the whole village. I had to bow my head and ask for forgiveness on your behalf.’ Zun, teary-eyed, said, ‘Shahid, you have always been such a gentle boy. From where did this fire erupt in your chest? It must be those scoundrels you keep hanging around with at the shop. Swear by me that you’ll stop meeting them. Swear by me!’

 

Shahid heard their complaints quietly. He had nothing to say. He went to his room and lay down on the hard bed. Deep in his heart, he knew he had done no wrong.

***

Get your copy of This Our Paradise by Karan Mujoo on Amazon or whereeve books are sold.

7 Must-Read Books to Understand Indian Economics Before You Vote

As the 2024 elections continue, understanding Indian Economics and its issues is key for informed voting. With a complex landscape shaped by rapid growth, persistent challenges, and reforms, Indian Economics is at a pivotal juncture. Understanding its intricacies can empower voters to make decisions as India stands on the brink of significant change. Dive into these seven must-read books, packed with insights to help you make sense of it all and vote wisely for a brighter future.

 

India in Search of Glory
India in Search of Glory || Ashok

India and the Indians have made some progress in 75 years after Independence. The number of literates has gone up. The Indians have become healthier and their life expectancy at birth has gone up. The proportion of people below the poverty line has also halved. But the shine from the story fades when India is compared with that of the East Asian Tigers and China. It looks good but not good enough. India looks far away from the glory it seeks. This issue forms the core subject matter of this book. It tries to argue why India could not achieve more and what all it could have achieved. It paints a picture of its possible future and highlights the areas that need immediate attention.

 

Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India
Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India || Viral V. Acharya

How to maintain financial stability in India? Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India is a classic work to understand this critical subject. In this Penguin edition, with a new introduction, Viral V. Acharya, former Deputy Governor of RBI offers a concrete road map for comprehensive improvement of India’s economy. Authoritative and definitive, this is a must read for the students and scholars of Indian economy, policymakers and anyone interested in India’s finance sector.

 

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

India is at a crossroads today. Its growth rate, while respectable relative to other large countries, is too low for the jobs our youth need. Intense competition in low-skilled manufacturing, increasing protectionism globally and growing automation make the situation still more difficult. Divisive majoritarianism does not help. India
broke away from the standard development path—from agriculture to low-skilled manufacturing, then high-skilled manufacturing and, finally, services—a long time back by leapfrogging the intermediate steps. Rather than attempting to revert to development paths that may not be feasible any more, we must embark on a truly Indian path.

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.

 

Slip, Stitch & Stumble
Slip, Stitch & Stumble || Rajrishi Singhal

Manmohan Singh’s 1991 Union Budget speech made history by altering the course of the Indian
economy, especially its financial sector. His measures took a broom to multiple cobwebs in this sector. What Manmohan Singh started over three decades ago is still a work in progress today, but it does raise some questions: Why did he focus on financial sector reforms? What has motivated continuing these reforms?
This book tries to answer questions like these while focusing on the evolution of financial sector reforms which, oddly, remain incomplete even after thirty years. The fabric of this sector has been fraying and initiatives over the past three decades have resembled hasty, temporary needlework; the patchwork, incomplete reforms make the sector further vulnerable to failure. Hence: Slip, Stitch and Stumble.

 

India's Finance Ministers
India’s Finance Ministers || A.K. Bhattacharya

India’s Finance Ministers: Stumbling into Reforms (From 1977 to 1998) is the second volume in the series of books on some of India’s unforgettable finance ministers. Analysing the role of India’s finance ministers who managed India’s economy during one of its worst phases (post Emergency to the late 1990s), the book highlights the lasting impact they left on India’s political economy. This volume also provides a fascinating account of India’s economic history offering an incisive view of the key events in India’s journey from an closed, agrarian economy to a liberal economy.

 

Economic Sutra
Economic Sutra|| Satish Y. Deodhar, YS Rajan

A general perception exists that ancient Indian literature on economic matters is fatalistic and an admixture of sacred and secular thoughts. Economic Sutra provides a comprehensive perspective on the elements of Indian economic thought leading up to and after the Arthashastra. Economic Sutra is a perception-correction initiative to distil the Indian mind in the realm of economic thoughts and behaviour as brought out by the ancient Indian authors. It highlights the broader spread of economic ideas both prior to and sometime after Kautilya, giving insights into the purpose, actions and vision of our forefathers.

Poor Economics
Poor Economics || Abhijit V Banerjee, Esther Duflo

Imagine you have a few million dollars. You want to spend it on the poor. How do you go about it? Billions of government dollars, and thousands of charitable organizations and NGOs, are dedicated to helping the world’s poor. But much of their work is based on assumptions about the poor and the world that are untested generalizations at best, harmful misperceptions at worst.

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo have pioneered the use of randomized control trials in development economics through their award-winning Poverty Action Lab. They argue that by using randomized control trials, and more generally, by paying careful attention to the evidence, it is possible to make accurate-and often startling assessments-on what really impacts the poor and what doesn’t.

Are You Election-Ready? Check Out these 12 Essential Books Before You Vote!

With the 2024 elections in full swing, it’s time to prepare ourselves. We’ve put together a list of 12 essential books that you absolutely need to check out before you cast your vote. These books cover everything from politics to policies, helping you make a well-informed decision when it’s time to hit the polling booth. Let’s dive in and get election-ready together!

Caste as a Social Capital
Caste as Social Capital || R Vaidyanathan

Caste as Social Capital examines the workings of caste through the lens of business, economics and entrepreneurship. It interrogates the role caste plays in the economic sphere in terms of facilitating the nuts and bolts of business and entrepreneurship: finance, markets and workforce. Through this qualitative view of caste, an entirely new picture emerges, which forces one to view the age-old institution of caste in a new light.

 

Price of the Modi Years
Price of the Modi Years || Aakar Patel

Columnist, author and political commentator, Aakar Patel has long been a close observer of the political scenario. In Price of the Modi Years, he seeks to explain the data and facts on India’s performance under Narendra Modi.

Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, had once said that Modi would be a disaster as prime minister. This book shows how. It concedes Modi’s popularity; this is an accounting of the damage he has wrought. It is the history of India since 2014, assessing the damage across the polity from the economy, national security, federalism, foreign relations, legislations and the judiciary to media and civil society.

 

The Essentials of Hinduism
The Essentials of Hinduism || Trilochan Sastry

Hinduism is an ancient religion, philosophy and way of life. Unlike other great religions that are based on a small set of books, there are hundreds of texts in Hinduism, most of which are very voluminous. They span not merely centuries, but millennia. And most importantly, these ancient scriptures are all in Sanskrit which many do not know. Therefore for a beginner with an interest in Hinduism it is a daunting task as you don’t know where to start such a study.
In The Essentials of Hinduism, Trilochan Sastry unpacks all the ancient texts from the Vedas to the epics covering the entire range of scriptures and everything you need to know about them in an easy-to-read and accessible way making it of special interest to Hindus and those from other religions and nations, and even those who are agnostic or atheistic.

 

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.

Evocative, anecdotal, argumentative and deeply researched, Modi and India: 2024 and the Battle for Bharat chronicles the emergence of, and the battle for, a new republic in the making.

 

A New Idea of India
A New Idea of India || Harsh Madhusudan, Rajeev Mantri

 

A New Idea of India constructs and expounds on a new framework beyond the rough and tumble of partisan politics. Lucid in its laying out of ideas and policies while taking a novel position, this book is illuminated by years of research and the authors’ first-hand experiences, as citizens, entrepreneurs and investors, of the vagaries and challenges of India. This revised edition builds on some of the arguments of the earlier edition and brings things up-to-date.

 

Curfewed Night
Curfewed Night || Basharat Peer

Basharat Peer was a teenager when the separatist movement exploded in Kashmir in 1989. Over the following years countless young men, seduced by the romance of the militant, fuelled by feelings of injustice, crossed over the Line of Control to train in Pakistani army camps. Peer was sent off to boarding school in Aligarh to keep out of trouble. He finished college and became a journalist in Delhi. But Kashmir-angrier, more violent, more hopeless-was never far away.

 

Lyrical, spare, gutwrenching and intimate, Curfewed Night is a stunning book and an unforgettable portrait of Kashmir in war.

 

 

The Politician Redux
The Politician Redux || Devesh Verma

Ram Mohan, an ambitious man in newly independent India, refuses to let his humble origins define him. On a mission to build a political career, he realizes that the only way to live a respectable life is to hold some kind of power.

When the Congress high command vetoes Ram Mohan’s inclusion in the Uttar Pradesh cabinet, Saansad-ji, the state’s chief minister, appoints him as member, UP Public Service Commission, Allahabad. Though non-political, the position has a high social status, and Ram Mohan quickly takes a shine to it. Meanwhile, the JP movement continues to challenge the Congress regime, surging through large parts of India and setting the stage for Indira Gandhi’s downfall.

A sequel to the critically acclaimed The Politician, this new novel, set in the 1970s to 1980s north India, provides a captivating, vivid view of the political battles of that era, and captures the spirit, manners and social conditions of a transformational phase in Indian history.

 

After Messiah
After Messiah || Aakar Patel

‘Everyone bowed to the Big Man. He was glorified, deified even, with temples raised to him, as the embodiment of the nation.’

Now the Big Man is gone, with nobody named as his successor. Into this void is pushed Mira, who is reluctant at first but increasingly interested in the position she finds herself in. Will she use her authority to further her agenda, or will she hold on to her principles? Watched by her political rivals, Jayeshbhai and Swamiji, and guided by well-wishers Ayesha, Prabhu and Du Bois, she marches on and discovers something about power-and about herself.

The Quest for Modern Assam
The Quest for Modern Assam || Arupjyoti Saikia

Definitive, comprehensive and unputdownable, The Quest for Modern Assam explores the interconnected layers of political, environmental, economic and cultural processes that shaped the development of Assam since the 1940s. It offers an authoritative account that sets new standards in the writing of regional political history. Not to be missed by any one keen on Assam, India, Asia or world history in the twentieth century.

 

Another India
Another India || Pratinav Anil

Another India tells the story of the world’s biggest religious minority through vivid biographical portraits that weave together the stories of both elite and subaltern Muslims.

By challenging traditional histories and highlighting the neglect of minority rights since Independence, Pratinav Anil argues that Muslims, since 1947, have had to contend with discrimination, disadvantage, deindustrialization, dispossession and disenfranchisement, as well as an unresponsive leadership. He explores the rise and fall of the Indian Muslim elite and the birth of the nationalist Muslim, and emphasizes the importance of class in understanding the dynamics of Indian politics.

 

Post-Hindu India
Post-Hindu India || Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd pens a thought-provoking critique of Brahmanism and the caste system in India, while anticipating the death of Hinduism as a direct consequence of, what he says is, its anti-scientific and anti-nationalistic stand. This work challenges Hinduism`s interpretation of history, with a virulent attack on caste politics, and also takes a refreshing look at the necessity of encouraging indigenous scientific thought for the sake of national progress.

 

The Politician
The Politician || Devesh Verma

Ram Mohan is an intrepid and ambitious young man in newly independent India, who refuses to be held down by his humble origins. Spurred on by his diehard optimism, he aims for things usually inaccessible to people of his extraction. However, he soon realizes that without political or bureaucratic power, the idea of a respectable life in India is nothing but pretence, and when Gulab Singh rescues him from being insulted by a thug, Ram Mohan becomes persuaded of the efficacy of violence in certain situations . . .

Beginning at the peak of Nehruvian era and ending in the early seventies, The Politician is an enthralling, evocative view of provincial northern India-once the political heartland of the country-and the ebb and flow of the fortunes of its protagonists.

12 Must-Read Books for First-Time Voters in 2024!

Are you gearing up to cast your vote for the very first time? It’s an exciting milestone, marking your entry into civic duty and participation. But fear not! To assist you in this pivotal moment, we’ve curated a list of 12 must-read books spanning politics, history, and critical thinking, tailored to empower and inform you as you prepare for the 2024 election season.

 

We, The Citizens
We, The Citizens || Khyati Pathak, Anupam Manur, Pranay Kotasthane

We, The Citizens, by Khyati Pathak, Anupam Manur and Pranay Kotasthane, decodes public policy in the Indian context in a graphical narrative format relatable to readers of all ages. If you want to be an engaged citizen, aspire to be a positive change-maker, or wish to understand our sociopolitical environment, this book is for you.

The idea of India was an audacious dream. The fulfilment of this dream lies upon We, the citizens.

 

The Idea of Democracy
The Idea of Democracy || Sam Pitroda

While electoral democracy continues to be the most prevalent form of government, a series of indicators measuring political and civic freedom reveal that the institution of democracy is in deep distress. With the liberal foundations of democracy shakier than ever before, confidence in institutions has plummeted. The Idea of Democracy looks at this paradox of so-called democratic success coupled with its liberal decline. It provides a detailed analysis of the essence of democracy, its workings, the kind of values it needs to encapsulate, forces and safeguards which work in liberal democracy’s favour and how they can be preserved.

 

The Last Heroes
The Last Heroes || P Sainath

In The Last Heroes, these footsoldiers of Indian freedom tell us their stories. The men, women and children featured in this book are Adivasis, Dalits, OBCs, Brahmins, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. They hail from different regions, speak different languages and include atheists and believers, Leftists, Gandhians and Ambedkarites.

The people featured pose the intriguing question: What is freedom? They saw that as going beyond Independence. And almost all of them continued their fight for freedoms long after 1947.

The post-1947 generations need their stories. 

 

Reignited
Reignited || A P J Kalam, Srijan Pal Singh

Join Dr A.P.J. Kalam on a fascinating quest to explore the realm of science and technology, its extraordinary achievements and its impact on our lives in the days to come.
Co-written with Srijan Pal Singh, this book features exciting and cutting-edge career paths in areas such as robotics, aeronautics, neurosciences, pathology, paleontology and material sciences . . . in other words, careers that are going to make a difference in the future. The result of extensive research, this book offers a plethora of ground-breaking ideas that will make youngsters think out of the box.
Filled with anecdotes, conversations, experiments and even inputs from leading scientists, Reignited is the perfect handbook that is bound to create a spark for science among students, youth and science enthusiasts.

 

 

Democracy on the Road
Democracy on the Road || Ruchir Sharma

On the eve of a landmark general election, Ruchir Sharma offers an unrivalled portrait of how India and its democracy work, drawn from his two decades on the road chasing election campaigns across every major state, travelling the equivalent of a lap around the earth. Democracy on the Road takes readers on a rollicking ride with Ruchir and his merry band of fellow writers as they talk to farmers, shopkeepers and CEOs from Rajasthan to Tamil Nadu, and interview leaders from Narendra Modi to Rahul Gandhi.

 

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.

How were groups eligible for reservations identified and defined? How were the terms ‘depressed classes’ and ‘backward classes’ used in British India and how have they evolved into the constitutional concepts of ‘Scheduled Castes’, ‘Scheduled Tribes’, and ‘Other Backward Classes’ in the present day?

Deeply researched and ably narrated, this volume is a compelling addition to every thinking individual’s library.

 

Fake news
Fake news || Gaurav Sood

The news is a public good and needs to be handled with care and integrity. Even though lies and misinformation campaigns have been around for years—maybe since the dawn of journalism—the rate at which fake news is being spread these days is both alarming and preposterous. Almost every institution—public or private—uses fake news to further its own agenda. Governments and corporate houses spread fake news either through their own agencies or by influencing the popular media. In the business sector, fake news manifests itself in the form of exaggerated company returns and false data.

 

Strange Burdens
Strange Burdens || Sugata Srinivasaraju

Strange Burdens is not a biography but a book of political commentary. It examines and analyses Rahul Gandhi’s ideas and leadership since he officially entered politics in March 2004. It journeys all the way to the conclusion of the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Srinagar on 30 January 2023 and captures the dilemmas of his disqualification a couple of months later.

The narrative here crawls across two decades with the intention of understanding Rahul Gandhi’s politics and predicaments, confusions and contradictions, triteness and triumph, as well as his burdens and benignity. It is not the purpose of this book to understand his failures and successes in tabular columns but speculate in the best traditions of political commentary why he is where he is, both politically and as an individual.

 

Dreams of a Healthy India
Dreams of a Healthy India || Ritu Priya

Dreams of a Healthy India, the ninth volume in the Rethinking India series, is an attempt to demystify the issues of health care and health systems for the general reader, and to simultaneously provoke rethinking on several critical dimensions through writings by policymakers and academics. Its introductory essay and the thirteen subsequent essays lay out the scenario as well as the challenges in this regard, and provide actionable solutions. These are solutions for the present times that can simultaneously contribute to sustainable health care for the future. Complex ideas are not made simplistic but are presented in simple language, with some illustrative case studies, vignettes and data that speak for themselves.

 

Everybody Loves a Good Drought
Everybody Loves a Good Drought || P Sainath

Acclaimed across the world, prescribed in over 100 universities and colleges, and included in part in The Century’s Greatest Reportage (Ordfront, 2000), alongside the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Studs Terkel and John Reed, 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.

 

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

India is at a crossroads today. Its growth rate, while respectable relative to other large countries, is too low for the jobs our youth need. Intense competition in low-skilled manufacturing, increasing protectionism globally and growing automation make the situation still more difficult. Divisive majoritarianism does not help. India
broke away from the standard development path—from agriculture to low-skilled manufacturing, then high-skilled manufacturing and, finally, services—a long time back by leapfrogging the intermediate steps. Rather than attempting to revert to development paths that may not be feasible any more, we must embark on a truly Indian path.

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.

 

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.

Replete with characters, anecdotes, insights, research and accounts of an annual pilgrimage on a special train-Jagriti Yatra, and an enterprise ecosystem established in Deoria district, the book outlines a new vision of India focussed on its rising Middle. It proposes a Banyan Revolution over the coming twenty-five years of Amrit Kaal, using the tool of enterprise or Udyamita that can ignite a national renaissance.

 

The Foresighted Ambedkar
The Foresighted Ambedkar || Anurag Bhaskar

In The Foresighted Ambedkar, Anurag Bhaskar argues that India’s Constitution was drafted not just between 1946 and 1950 but over the course of four decades. Dr Ambedkar was the only person to have been involved at all the stages related to the drafting of the Indian constitutional document since 1919. These stages bear the imprint of his contribution and role.

 

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.

Revolution or Ruin? The Jaw-Dropping Events of ‘The Politician Redux’

Ever wondered what politics looked like in India during the 1970s and 1980s? The Politician Redux by Devesh Verma has all the answers. Join Ram Mohan’s journey as he lands on the UP Public Service Commission, having been denied a cabinet position. Against the backdrop of the JP movement shaking up the Congress regime, Ram Mohan’s story unfolds amidst significant changes in Indian history.​

 

Read this excerpt to experience the political intrigue, societal upheaval, and relentless pursuit of power in this thrilling sequel to The Politician.

The Politician Redux
The Politician Redux || Devesh Verma

***

There had been signs of popular unrest and political turmoil across an enormous chunk of India, and the way it came to grow in scope and intensity was staggering. Ram Mohan was thankful to Saansadji, the Chief Minister, for sending him to the Commission. Handpicked by Indira Gandhi, no Congress CM had the resources of his own to handle a crisis of this nature. It had all begun in the state of Gujarat, this flaring up of popular rage at inflation, where, incensed at their increased mess bill, students at an engineering college assaulted a college official, and put the canteen to the torch, following it up with another bout of destruction of college property. The trouble metastasized to other educational institutions Students were baying for the sacking of the state government led by one of the most corrupt Congress leaders, Chimanbhai Patel, who had procured massive funds for the party through questionable means. That inflamed the situation on the price rise front. Then, Jayprakash Narayan, an esteemed socialist figure, decided to lend his support to the agitation in Gujarat. Having been associated with the freedom struggle, he had once been invited by Nehru to join his cabinet. He had declined and quietly settled down in his home state, Bihar, emerging now and again from his retirement to pick up odd causes. Soon to be known as JP, he hailed the Gujarat students’ angst, seeing it as a force that could bring about the redemption of the country from corruption infesting the Indian polity.

 

With the students’ anger winning public endorsement, the situation in Gujarat became one of pandemonium. Violence and vandalism were rampant. The opposition latched on to the agitation, and Indira Gandhi had had to remove the Chief Minister placing the state under President’s rule while the opposition clamoured for the dissolution of the assembly and fresh polls. She was unwilling. Forcing her hand was a fast unto death to which her old foe Desai, the tallest leader of Gujarat, had resorted. Meanwhile, students in the lawless Bihar had put together their own movement with the opposition in tow, the grievances being the same as in Gujarat: corruption, price rise unemployment.

 

With rioting, arson vandalism becoming the order of the day, Bihar was thrown into anarchy. There was also this strike by railway workers when hundreds of thousands of them stopped work, demanding pay parity with other government employees. A little prior to this twenty-day-long, debilitating strike that had to be broken up by the government, JP had agreed to take up the reins of the Movement. Sensing general discontent, he resurrected his old idea of ‘total revolution’ and, with the opposition rooting for him, took the Movement beyond his home state, appealing to people, chiefly the youth, to rise against the misrule of Indira Gandhi. In the meantime, Saansad-ji’s reputation took a knock when the Congress lost a by-election for Allahabad, the parliamentary seat from which he had resigned to become member of the state legislature.

 

It was against this backdrop of growing bitterness of the Congress rule that Ram Mohan went to see Saansad-ji in Lucknow. He wanted to thank him for the Commission that had inaugurated a delightful chapter in his life ‘This was the best I could do in the circumstances and take my word, it’s one of the most coveted non-political positions. As Member Public Service Commission, you’ll have a term of sixyears during which nobody can touch you, whereas no political
office can be immune to instability.’ ‘Yes, I have a large family to provide for. I need stability. But whenever I’m needed in active politics, you’ll find me standing right behind you.’ Saansad-ji laughed. A listless laugh. His heart wasn’t in it.

 

You’d remember that within four months of my taking over as CM, Jayprakash ji came to UP to campaign for his total revolution. I didn’t try to stop him. I declared him our state’s guest, arguing that not only was he a renowned freedom fighter but a crusader for the good of the common man. This, I did, to restrain the rabble-rouser in him. Look at the response he’s getting wherever he goes! But Indira-ji listens to Shukla-ji’s wily Uncle Uma Kant Shukla and the like. These two things the way Congress was licked in Allahabad by-poll and the welcome extended to JP by my government didn’t go down well with her. There’s something else. She hasn’t taken kindly to my style of functioning . . . No Congress CM is supposed to govern in a manner that casts him as a leader under his own steam. Your only objective as minister or chief minister should be to keep the masses glued to the thought of her person,’ Saansad-ji paused to sip his tea. ‘JP is heading a movement out to undermine the Congress regime, and my action was nothing but a calculated move, a gambit. That’s what I tried to explain to her coterie. Some agreed. What I should worry about most, Ram Mohan, is the misgiving she might have about my motive. That’s why somebody advised me to avoid the trap of going after personal popularity.’

 

***

Get your copy of The Politician Redux by Devesh Verma wherever books are sold.

Here’s What Really Happened in the 2G Spectrum Scam!

Ever wondered what really happened behind the scenes of the infamous 2G spectrum scam?
Just a Mercenary? by D. Subbarao unveils the truth, inviting you into the dynamic world of bureaucratic processes, policy decisions, and public perception. In this exclusive excerpt, Subbarao shares his firsthand experience with the 2G spectrum controversy, offering a raw and honest look at the challenges of decision-making in Indian governance.

 

Continue reading to immerse yourself in an account brimming with insight and introspection.

Just a Mercenary
Just a Mercenary || D. Subbarao

 

In 2007, the Department of Telecom (DoT) under the ministerial charge of A. Raja of the DMK, a partner in the UPA coalition, determined that there was a case for licensing more 2G operators in each of the twenty-three telecom circles in the country in order to encourage competition in the sector. The department consulted TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India), and TRAI, in turn, endorsed the need to increase the number of operators and recommended that fresh licensees should be given spectrum at the same price at which incumbent operators had gotten it, which was the price set in an auction in 2001. The absence of a level playing field, TRAI argued, would disadvantage fresh entrants and defeat the goal of deepening telecom services.

 

The 2001 cabinet decision stipulated that all future pricing of spectrum would be decided jointly by DoT and the Ministry of Finance. When the issue came to the finance ministry for opinion, I took the view that it would be inappropriate to sell spectrum in 2007–08 at a price set in 2001 and that we must rediscover the price through a fresh auction. My opinion was informed by the experience in India and around the world during the intervening years that spectrum was a scarcer commodity than originally believed. It was only appropriate that the government should garner a part of that scarcity premium by rediscovering the price through a fresh auction.

 

The DoT wrote back to say that they saw no reason to revisit the pricing issue and that they preferred to go along with the TRAI recommendation. For sure, there was some logic to the DoT position. If the objective was to deepen telecom penetration, it made sense to keep the price of spectrum low; competition among operators would then ensure that the lower price was passed on to customers.

 

Even as this disagreement on pricing remained unresolved, the DoT went ahead and invited applications for licences in September 2007 and awarded 120 licences to forty-six companies on 10 January 2008. Although these licences were given away at the 2001 price, the licence agreement contained a clause that the price could be increased later to accommodate the possibility of the finance ministry’s view prevailing.

 

The whole licencing process turned out to be controversial and contentious. There were allegations of arbitrarily advancing the cut-off date for receipt of applications, abrupt announcement of the successful applicants, tampering with the first come, first served principle and allowing a very narrow window for payment of the licence fee to favour some parties. This licensing part was an issue in which I was neither involved nor had any locus standi.

 

In July 2008, some six months after the licences were issued, the two ministers, Finance Minister Chidambaram and Telecom Minister Raja, reached an agreement that this round of 2G spectrum would be given at the 2001 price while all future spectrum, including 3G, which was then on the anvil, would be auctioned. Both ministers presented this agreed package to the prime minister at a meeting where I was present. I recorded that decision in the file.

 

In the months after the issue of licences, stray reports began appearing that spectrum had been given away at a throwaway price. These reports gained momentum when two of the licensees were able to sell equity to foreign investors at a huge premium, suggesting that the true value of spectrum was much higher than what was reflected in the 2001 price.

 

Very soon the trickle of allegations of corruption turned into a flood. That the government had ignored the advice of its own finance secretary added fuel to the fire. There was a furore in the parliament. The decision was attacked in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) ordered a CBI investigation, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) decided to take up a special performance audit and a public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court. This meant that the 2G issue was simultaneously the subject of a CBI investigation, a PAC inquiry, a CAG special audit and a Supreme Court probe. And subsequently, it would be the subject matter of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) inquiry as well.

 

The CAG report, signed off by Vinod Rai, incidentally my IAS batchmate, was tabled in the parliament in November 2010. Its most important conclusion was that the government had incurred a ‘presumptive loss’ of Rs 1.76 trillion by selling spectrum at below market price. This huge number, as much as 3.6 per cent of GDP, was explosive and turned the 2G issue into a full-blown scam.

 

***

Intrigued to know if Subbarao was a hero or villain in the 2G scam?

Get your copy of Just a Mercenary? by D. Subbarao wherever books are sold.

7 Audiobooks Every Voter Must Listen to for the 2024 Election Season

Informed voting begins with enriched understanding! As we gear up for the 2024 Indian elections, we’ve handpicked seven audiobooks that every voter must have on their radar. From insightful analysis to historical narratives, these audiobooks are your go-to companions for understanding the issues and making your voice heard in the upcoming election season.

 

Ready to cast your vote?

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 centered 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.

The authors offer praise where the Indian establishment has been successful but are clear-eyed in pointing out its weaknesses. They urge India to break free from the shackles of the past and look to the possibilities of the future. Written with unusual candor, and packed with vivid examples and persuasive arguments, this is a book for anyone who has a stake in India’s future.

 

 

The Discovery of India
The Discovery of India || Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote 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.

The work started from ancient history; Nehru wrote at length of Vedas, Upanishads, and textbooks on ancient time and ends during the British raj. The work is a broad view of Indian history, culture, and philosophy; the same can also be seen in the television series. The work is considered as one of the finest writings on Indian history. The television series Bharat Ek Khoj, which was released in 1988, was based on this work.

 

Savarkar: Echoes of a Forgotton Past, Vol. 1: Part 1
Savarkar: Echoes of a Forgotton Past, Vol. 1: Part 1 || Vikram Sampath

An alleged atheist and a staunch rationalist who opposed orthodox Hindu beliefs, encouraged inter-caste marriage and dining, and dismissed cow worship as mere superstition, Savarkar was, arguably, the most vocal political voice for the Hindu community through the entire course of India’s freedom struggle. From the heady days of revolution and generating international support for the cause of India’s freedom as a law student in London, Savarkar found himself arrested, unfairly tried for sedition, transported and incarcerated at the Cellular Jail, in the Andamans, for more than a decade, where he underwent unimaginable torture.

From being an optimistic advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity in his treatise on the 1857 War of Independence, what was it that transformed him in the Cellular Jail to a proponent of “Hindutva”, which viewed Muslims with suspicion?

Drawing from a vast range of original archival documents across India and abroad, this biography in two parts – the first focusing on the years leading up to his incarceration and eventual release from the Kalapani – puts Savarkar, his life, and his philosophy in a new perspective and looks at the man with all his achievements and failings.

 

The Rise of the BJP
The Rise of the BJP || Bhupendar Yadav, Ila Pattnaik

The Bharatiya Janata Party is an idea that was seeded into the minds of nationalist Jana Sangh leaders when they began to envision India after Independence. Much like the very core the freedom struggle was built on, they saw India as a demographically, culturally and historically cohesive and unified nation—as Bharat.

In this book, senior BJP leader and cabinet minister Bhupender Yadav and leading economist Ila Patnaik come together to trace the BJP’s journey from its humble roots, through ups and downs and to eventually getting 303 seats in Lok Sabha in 2019 and becoming the world’s largest political party. While focusing on the larger economics and political story, the book encapsulates many smaller, yet hugely significant stories of individuals and incidents, which brought the BJP to where it stands now.

For the first time ever, The Rise of the BJP, tells us the inside story of how one of the most powerful political parties makes decisions, implements ideas and executes policy. Meticulously researched and immensely compelling, the book shows us how the BJP fought competing ideologies, political assaults and catapulted to the centre stage of national politics.

 

Our Hindu Rashtra
Our Hindu Rashtra || Aakar Patel

India has taken so sharp a turn in recent years that the very center has shifted considerably. What led to this swing? Is it possible to trace the path to this point? Is there a way back to the just, secular, inclusive vision of our Constitution-makers?

This country has long been an outlier in its South Asian neighborhood, with its inclusive Constitution and functioning democracy. The growth of Hindutva, in some sense, brings India in line with the other polities here. In Our Hindu Rashtra, writer and activist Aakar Patel peels back layer after layer of cause and effect through independent India’s history to understand how Hindutva came to gain such a hold on the country. He examines what it means for India that its laws and judiciary have been permeated by prejudice and bigotry, what the breach of fundamental rights portends in these circumstances, and what the all-round institutional collapse signifies for the future of Indians.

Most importantly, Patel asks and answers that most important of questions: What possibilities exist for a return? Thought-provoking and pulling no punches, this book is an essential listen for anyone who wishes to understand the nature of politics in India and, indeed, South Asia.

 

 

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.

How were groups eligible for reservations identified and defined? How were the terms ‘depressed classes’ and ‘backward classes’ used in British India and how have they evolved into the constitutional concepts of ‘Scheduled Castes’, ‘Scheduled Tribes’, and ‘Other Backward Classes’ in the present day?

The book delves into the intellectual debates that took place on this matter in the Constituent Assembly, the Supreme Court and Parliament. Several contentious issues are examined dispassionately: are reservations an exception to the principle of equality of opportunity? Do quotas in government service undermine efficiency? Can ‘merit’ really be defined neutrally? What is the thinking behind the rule that no more than 50 per cent of the available seats or positions can be reserved?

Deeply researched and ably narrated, this volume is a compelling addition to every thinking individual’s library.

 

 

1971
1971 || Anam Zakaria

The year 1971 exists everywhere in Bangladesh—on its roads, in sculptures, in its museums and oral history projects, in its curriculum, in people’s homes and their stories, and in political discourse. It marks the birth of the nation, it’s liberation. More than 1000 miles away, in Pakistan too, 1971 marks a watershed moment, its memories sitting uncomfortably in public imagination. It is remembered as the ‘Fall of Dacca’, the dismemberment of Pakistan or the third Indo-Pak war. In India, 1971 represents something else—the story of humanitarian intervention, of triumph and valor that paved the way for India’s rise as a military power, the beginning of its journey to becoming a regional superpower.

Navigating the widely varied terrain that is 1971 across Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, Anam Zakaria sifts through three distinct state narratives, and studies the institutionalization of the memory of the year and its events. Through a personal journey, she juxtaposes state narratives with people’s history on the ground, bringing forth the nuanced experiences of those who lived through the war. Using intergenerational interviews, textbook analyses, visits to schools and travels to museums and sites commemorating 1971, Zakaria explores the ways in which 1971 is remembered and forgotten across countries, generations and communities.

Drama, Doves, and the Big Man’s Fall!​

Step into a world of unexpected turns in After Messiah by renowned journalist and author Aakar Patel. Explore an ill-fated inauguration, where even the best-laid plans couldn’t prevent the catastrophe that lurked over the Big Man. From polished facades to chaotic twists, read this exclusive excerpt to know more about the event that captured the nation’s attention for all the wrong reasons.

 

After Messiah
After Messiah || Aakar Patel

***

He strode directly to the podium, where an announcer was already concluding her brief introduction hailing him. The chief minister attempted to walk with the Big Man but was taken by the arm by one of the escorts and led away into the audience. The announcer fled, and the Big Man now stood alone, facing his people, with flags framed to either side of him. He looked to his left at the battery of cameras and scowled. The senior-most bureaucrat present scampered up to find out what the problem was. The sun was in the wrong place, behind the Big Man. His image would not be lit but appear in silhouette.

The cameramen, a couple of them grumbling, were asked to dismantle their equipment and shift it all across to the other side. This took a few minutes, and the crowd waited. The media crew held off live coverage as instructed. The Big Man glanced at the new position taken by the cameras and, now satisfied, began to speak.

 

He spoke of the misery of the past, the great advances of the present and the glory that was coming soon if it was not already here. It was his standard theme. This hospital would serve the community as it had never been served before. It would help the locals achieve their dreams and those of their children. It was an institution whose founding was the start of an era, and it was only one of many coming up. Times had changed, and this phase in time was a new one, like no other.

 

The Big Man’s content sounded, to some, banal, but his delivery was energetic and often emotional. Certainly, he appeared to be moved by his own words. The audience was not silent and joined in to scream when he led it through the slogans, and it shouted ‘yes!’ and ‘no!’ to the rhetorical questions he posed.

 

Yes, this was a historic occasion. Yes, their lives were better under the Big Man. No, they had never been hopeful in the past. No, the ones who had come before him were not honest. And so on.

 

After he was done, he picked up the remote control on the lectern and raised it to give it a click. From behind the building, a large flock of doves was released and flew up in a disorderly fashion. Some of them had been painted in different colours, to display the colours of the national flag as they rose. But the thing could not possibly have been rehearsed, since the birds flew off once released, and the effect on the whole was chaotic rather than impressive. The Big Man did not communicate his displeasure, but the senior-most bureaucrat grimaced and made a note of who would be held to account.

 

The click had also unveiled a large plaque set around a little concrete circle. It bore some text in the ancient language along with a religious symbol that resembled the Rod of Asclepius but had been altered to make it seem indigenous. The Big Man touched it reverentially and bowed to it.

 

He then stood, appeared to look at the ground and fell on his face, going straight down like a tree. The head bounced once off the paved surface, but the body was still and the hands perfectly aligned to either side, almost as if the going down had been deliberate.

 

It may have been some undetected condition, or perhaps it was something else. The Big Man had died on his feet, in an instant and without warning.

 

The crowd waited for him to rise again. The cameras continued to broadcast the scene, capturing the Big Man’s elegant soles and still hands. The senior-most bureaucrat was unsure what to do, and his concern mounted rapidly. It was out of the question that he would muster the courage to disturb what appeared to be some unrehearsed ritual. (Was the Big Man praying to the hospital?) The armed escorts had been looking into the crowd and to their sides, unaware that behind them the life they were protecting had departed. Their supervisor, a man who had served in the military, first noticed what had happened. Familiar with the relaxed slump of dead bodies, he
sprinted to the corpse with a shout and sounded the alarm. The senior-most bureaucrat, now in full-blown panic, also hobbled quickly over with his juniors. The crowd became restive, and the large police presence between it and the building slowly melted as the chaos grew.

 

The Big Man’s body was picked up and taken to the hospital by the armed escorts, who now assumed charge. Inside they discovered that there was no treatment available in the building—it was not an operational hospital.

 

They took the body back to the helicopters, buckled the Big Man into his seat, his head now to one side, the sunglasses askew, his mouth slightly open and his eyes expressionless. The escorts shouted instructions at each other over the thump of the rotor blades, reached an agreement, signalled through raised thumbs and flew off. The chief minister tried to get into his ride but was pushed away. He did not resist and went off to figure out his way home, and what he would have to tell the party and the media. The senior-most bureaucrat called the Big Man’s office, and told them what he had seen and what was headed their way.

***

Get your copy of After Messiah by Aakar Patel wherever books are sold

Champions of Change: 8 Trailblazers in Indian Politics

Step into the revolutionary world of political biographies, where we uncover the personal stories and untold struggles behind the influential figures who shaped our history. From the halls of power to the battlegrounds of rebellion and change, journey alongside these 8 trailblazers in Indian Politics whose stories continue to inspire and provoke thoughtful reflection.

 

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.

 

Maverick Messiah
Maverick Messiah || Ramesh Kandula

Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, widely known as NTR, was not merely a film star who strayed into politics and captured power in Andhra Pradesh. The actor-politician redefined the political culture in the state and scripted a new political idiom.
His rather dramatic entry into politics, the profound impact he left on the people of Andhra Pradesh and the vital role he played in national politics during his relatively short political life, however, have not received deserving recognition.
Maverick Messiah captures the different facets of NTR’s life in all their varied hues and puts in perspective the significant contribution of the actor-politician to the Indian political tapestry.

 

 

Kannur
Kannur || Ullekh N.P.

Born in Kannur and brought up amidst some of the tallest political leaders of the state, author Ullekh N.P. delves into his personal experiences while drawing a modern-day graph that charts out the reasons, motivations and the local lore behind the turmoil. He analyses the numbers that lay bare the truth behind the hype, studies the area’s political and cultural heritage, and speaks to the main protagonists and victims. With his journalistic skills and years of on-the-field reporting, he paints a gripping narrative of the ongoing bloodbath and the perceptions around it.

Ullekh’s investigations and interviews reveal a bigger game at work involving players who will stop at nothing to win.

Sunrise Over Ayodhya
Sunrise Over Ayodhya || Salman Khurshid

 

On 9 November 2019, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous verdict, cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

As we look back, we will be able to see how much we have lost over Ayodhya through the years of conflict. If the loss of a mosque is preservation of faith, if the establishment of a temple is emancipation of faith, we can all join together in celebrating faith in the Constitution. Sometimes, a step back to accommodate is several steps forward towards our common destiny.

Through Sunrise Over Ayodhya, Salman Khurshid explores how the greatest opportunity that the judgment offers is a reaffirmation of India as a secular society.

Bose
Bose || Chandrachur Ghose

Was Bose really a Nazi sympathiser? Knowing very well about the strong public opinion that existed among the political leadership and the intelligentsia in India against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and imperial Japan, why did he risk his own political image by allying with the Axis powers?

Pacey, thought-provoking and absolutely unputdownable, Bose: The Untold Story of an Inconvenient Nationalist will open a window to many hitherto untold and unknown stories of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

Probably the first critical biography of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose till date.

 

Savarkar A Contested Legacy from A Forgotten Past
Savarkar A Contested Legacy from A Forgotten Past || Vikram Sampath

This two-volume biography series, exploring a vast range of original archival documents from across India and outside it, in English and several Indian languages, historian Vikram Sampath brings to light the life and works of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, one of the most contentious political thinkers and leaders of the twentieth century.

Comprehensive, definitive and absolutely unputdownable, this two-volume biography opens a window to previously unknown untold life of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

 

Furrows in a field
Furrows in a field || Sugata Srinivasaraju

Furrows in a field narrative is instructed by Gowda’s rich parliamentary record, archival material and interviews conducted with people associated with him at various stages of his life. The layered narrative is further nuanced by Gowda’s own voice, gargantuan memory, a close reading of the time when he made history and the currents of destiny that preceded it. Although Gowda has spent most of his years in Karnataka and has become a symbol of the federal idea, this book argues that the diverse national imagination and sincerity that he deployed as prime minister had magically lit up different corners of India.

 

Hisila
Hisila || Hisila Yami

In this fascinating book, Hisila Yami traces her journey from being a young Nepali student of architecture in Delhi in the early eighties to becoming a Maoist revolutionary engaging in guerrilla warfare in Nepal. Yami was one of the two women leaders who were a part of the politburo of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which led the People’s War in the country that changed the course of its history forever.

What Makes Madam President a Great Leader?

In the book, Madam President by Sandeep Sahu, we explore the life of Droupadi Murmu and take a look at her formative years, where she honed her leadership skills amidst numerous challenges and her unwavering pursuit for excellence that would later shape her into a trailblazing leader. From her unyielding passion for education to active participation in cultural activities, Droupadi Murmu’s talents shone brightly even in her youth.

Read this fascinating account to catch a glimpse of the leadership qualities that marked her journey from the village to the historic role of Madam President.

Madam President
Madam President || Sandeep Sahu

 

***

After completing her high school education, Murmu went back to her village. She wanted to pursue higher studies. But given the poor state of communication those days, she did not get to know about the commencement of the admission process. By the time she did, the last date for admission had already passed. As a result, she lost a year after school. She spent the year doing household chores and teaching younger girls in the village. But determined as she was to be a graduate, she took no chances the next year and duly took admission in the Ramadevi Women’s College, the premier women’s college in Bhubaneswar which now is a full-fledged university. However, since
the hostel for ST and SC students in the college was not yet ready, she continued boarding in her old school hostel for some more time.

 

Her former classmates and contemporaries remember her as a quiet, disciplined girl who denied herself the ordinary pleasures that her batchmates indulged in. She was not exactly an outstanding student but was extremely attentive in classes, never participating in the pranks other students were up to. She would borrow books and notes from her seniors and ask them to help her out with a subject if she had a problem understanding something. ‘She consulted me and other seniors on what subjects to choose for the undergraduate and graduate classes,’ says Delha Soren, her senior in college, in an interview with this author.

 

There was great camaraderie among the boarders in the hostel, who came from similar sociocultural milieu. ‘There were five girls in every room. If someone was busy with something when the dining bell was sounded, others would keep her meal ready. If it suddenly started raining, whoever was present would collect the dresses of everyone, not just her own, hung outside for drying,’ shares Delha.

 

With the pittance she got as monthly allowance from her father, there was no scope for indulgences in college for Murmu. In her four years at Ramadevi, she did not go to the college canteen even once, rarely went to the market and watched just one movie, an Odia film called Gapa Hele Bi Sata at the now defunct Ravi Talkies. She would mostly hang out with girls from Mayurbhanj. But she would come into her own whenever there was a sports meet or a cultural function in the college. ‘She excelled in sports and often ended up on the podium,’ recalls retired Prof. Anima Kar, who taught her at Ramadevi, while talking to this writer. ‘I remember because I used to do the running commentary,’ she adds

 

‘She was most sought after whenever there was a cultural event in the college or the hostel because not only did she sing very well, she also played the percussion instruments to perfection,’ remembers Gayamani Besra, her senior in college and a lifelong friend. ‘During annual functions in the college, we would organize an adivasi dance item and sing and play the tunda, which is a tribal musical instrument. She was so good at what she did. Everybody appreciated her skills as a singer and musician. She was a happy-go-lucky girl but was always respectful towards seniors.’ Besra is among those specially invited by Murmu for the swearing-in ceremony. She adds, ‘She would invariably be part of the choir that sang the opening song at every cultural function in the college.’

 

Once, the girls of the hostel staged a play in which Murmu played the ‘hero’. ‘It was such a huge success that there was an invitation from a cultural group in Baripada, the headquarters of Murmu’s home district of Mayurbhanj, to stage the drama there. Murmu and the troupe travelled to Baripada and performed the play there to thunderous applause,’ recalls Delha.

 

Murmu was a quiet girl alright, but she was never shy of speaking up when she felt something wasn’t fair. ‘She never contested any election in college, not even for a class representative. But her leadership qualities were evident even in those early years. I remember an occasion when there was an issue about the quality of food served in the hostel. She led a delegation of students that met the principal and got the issue sorted,’ says Surama Padhi, senior BJP leader and a former minister in the Odisha government who was her senior in college, in an interview with this author.

 

Beneath her shy exterior lay nerves of steel. Once, she was on her way to the hostel from the bus stand on a rickshaw with her senior Delha when they realized a boy was following them on a bicycle. Without panicking one bit, Murmu took out a bundle of twigs she had brought from home to be used as toothbrush (no one in the hostel used toothbrush in those days) and waved it at the street Romeo, who panicked and stopped following them.

***

Get your copy of Madam President by Sandeep Sahu from Amazon today.

error: Content is protected !!