Monday, September 26, 2011

Akhtar's book launch called off

Close on the heels of Shoaib Akhtar's book launch function being cancelled in Mumbai, another function which was to be attended by the Pakistani speedster on Tuesday for promotion of his controversial biography has also been called off.

The launch of the book was to be hosted by Landmark and HarperCollins Publishers India in the evening but has now been called off, a communication from the organisers said on Monday without giving any reason.

Sources said that the event has been cancelled because of unforeseen circumstances.

Two of Akhtar's promotional events in Mumbai had been cancelled though no official reasons were given.

Former India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar was to release Akhtar's biography " Controversially Yours" at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) premises on Sunday.

Full report here Times of India

Controversy claims Shoaib book launch

The scheduled release of Shoaib Akhtar’s book in Mumbai on Sunday has been cancelled, with the organisers giving no reasons. Former India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar was to release Akhtar’s autobiography ‘Controversially Yours’ at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) premises. “The event has been cancelled,” confirmed a CCI official, without assigning any reason.

According to sources, the sudden cancellation may be because of less than flattering remarks about Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in the book. Akhtar has made many controversial claims, such as Tendulkar did not have the ability to finish matches in the initial stages of his career. Meanwhile, a protest was held in suburban Dahisar on Saturday against Akhtar, for his comments on Tendulkar. Protesters carried Akthar’s posters on donkey-backs.

Full report here Indian Express

Huawei to embed Bhagat’s books

Huawei will embed books from Indian author Chetan Bhagat in its MediaPad tablet, as a part of a deal under which Bhagat also becomes the company’s brand ambassador in India. Bhagat, who is expected to launch his new book The Revolution 2020 on October 7th, will be associated with the promoting the tablet, but Huawei tells the Economic Times that it will “consider the possibility of Chetan creating content for the brand, for instance, writing short stories that will be available for Huawei device users.”

For a books publishing industry still coming to grips with digital delivery of books, this does set a rather useful precedent, though one can’t be sure of whether such an offer will be open to other writers as well: Bhagat has mass appeal, and his books are positioned and priced to appeal to a readership that wants content that is easy and not high-brow. He is fairly active (and provocative) on Twitter, and has over half a million followers.

Full report here Medianama

NCP, Sena lock horns over Akhtar book

Worried that the Sharad Pawar-led NCP may steal a march over the Shiv Sena in connection with Shoaib Akhtar's autobiography which reportedly contains controversial remarks about Sachin Tendulkar, Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray asked Dilip Vengsarkar to keep away from the book release function.

Akthar's autobiography was to be released at a function in Mumbai on Saturday. However, the event was cancelled even as the 'Rawalpindi Express' gave interviews to the electronic media about the book.

Akhtar has lashed out against his own team members in the book and is understood to have made remarks about the Indian batting master, who he claimed was afraid of his bowling as the delivery speed was over 150 kph. Uddhav is believed to have sent instructions to Vengsarkar to keep away from the controversial cricketer as Akhtar's remarks against Tendulkar have triggered a global backlash. Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram has ridiculed the remarks and said it was an attempt to market his book before its official release on Sunday.

Full report here Times of India

Now, Gandhi Katha in paperback

Good news for those who savoured every word of the favourite lecture series, Gandhi Katha - it is now not only available in paperback, but in three languages too. Based on the popularity of renowned Gandhian, Narayan Desai's lecture series, a book on Gandhi Katha was launched on Sunday at the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA). The book was released in English, Hindi and a second version of the Gujarati edition was re-launched.

The idea of converting the lecture series in the form of a book was that of Narayan Desai, reveals AMA president, Pankaj Patel. "We had organised Desai's lecture series in December 2005. Later Desai expressed his wish to transcribe and translate the audio series into books and we took up the task."

Patel added that the Gujarati version of the book which was earlier launched was quite a hit and it proves that the interest of the people in knowing more about Gandhi has not dipped. "1000 copies were booked soon after the edition was launched. Gandhiji's holistic approach and non violent means will continue to help the people for generations."

Full report here DNA

Akhtar's autobiography must inspire others!

Now that Pakistan pace ace Shoaib Akhtar's book, Controversially Yours, is virtually assured of bestseller status, will other players take inspiration to write autobiographies? Here are some title suggestions... 

Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's recent and controversial autobiography made me think. If he can 'write' a book, why not Indian Test cricketers?

Here are suggestions for autobiography titles:
The Great Wall of India, My Very Very Special Story, Viru's Gunning for a Six, Yuvi's Six Appeal and Saving for a Raina Day.

The English way
At least nine cricket books were written after England regained the Ashes in 2005. I wonder how many will be written after Andrew Strauss' men dethroned India to reach the No 1 Test ranking. Some zany ideas for autobiography titles for them: Eat, Pray and Cook, It Rings a Bell, My Broad, Broad Ways, Swann Song, Waltzing with Strauss, Fox Trott and Flint off his game?

Some ideas for Australian Test cricketers: Fast bowler Trent Copeland getting a wicket off his second ball in Test cricket at Galle inspired me with this novel notion. Why not title his biography, Cope Lands a Winner? Then I saw Peter Siddle in the Australian dressing room sitting between Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey. The title of his bio/ghosted autobiography sprung to my mind: Siddle in the Middle.

Full report here Mid-day

'Love is when I can't pay attention in class'

Presenting an excerpt from Penguin's latest book by Ludhiana-based Chanchaldeep Singh Sandhu.

Penguin India's new series of 'mass market books' aims to target the youth by bringing out novels inspired by today's environment and situations at work or at college, different challenges they face in their love lives and relationships.

Debutante author Chanchaldeep Singh Sandhu's I Never Thought I Could Fall in Love is the story of a boy who did not know what he was capable of doing in life until he fell in love.

Here is an excerpt from the book:
Next morning, Sid came and insisted that I get ready to attend class. I resisted a lot, but he forced me to come with him to college. After so many days, I got dressed in clean and ironed clothes, after having showered and combed my hair. It felt I good. I liked my bearded look. I smiled at myself and followed Sid to college. As I entered class, I looked at Monica. She was wearing a yellow suit and looked as beautiful as ever. She looked at me; our eyes met for a few seconds but then the teacher came inside and the moment was broken. I hurriedly took a seat and became conscious that I was sitting next to Mickey.

Full report here Rediff

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Akram tears into Shoaib Akhtar

 Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram on Saturday ridiculed Shoaib Akhtar and his controversial biography, which has made several tall claims, saying the pacer was a "problem" when he was an active player and remains just that even in retirement.

Akram pooh-poohed Shoaib's claims of making Sachin Tendulkar uncomfortable with his pace in the Faisalabad Test in 2006 and also rejected some of the other allegations he has made in the book titled 'Controversially Yours'.

"I remember Sachin's one innings when he was 16 and touring Pakistan. Sialkot Test was Sachin's 4th Test. He made his debut in that series. There was a lot of grass on the pitch. Waqar and I bowled very fast. Waqar, I think, was 19 and Sachin was 16.

Full report here Times of India

Shoaib Akhtar turns back the clock!

A new chapter to the history of one of the most controversial cricketers to ever grace the game was added as Shoaib Akhtar’s autobiography was launched in India on Friday.

Akhtar is supposedly the fastest bowler that the game has ever seen and is best remembered not only for bowling missiles that had stumps after stumps flying all around the ground but also for his antics off the field which included fights with the PCB,  many disciplinary hearing and suspensions. His long run up to the bowling crease was as talked about as his driving around in an expensive sports car when on tour. He was the ultimate ‘Rawalpindi Express’!

But all this is about to change with the release of ‘Controversially Yours’. This is what he will always be remembered for from now onwards.

From the excerpts that have been released to the media, the book marks Akhtar’s journey from an economically deprived childhood, when his family couldn’t even afford new clothes for Eid, to breaking into the Pakistani team, to becoming the man that broke the 100mph barrier.

Full report here Express Tribune

New written worlds

Egyptian writer Mansoura Ezeldin and Yemeni poet and novelist Ali Al Muqri hail from a region known for repressive regimes and rocked recently by people's upheavals for change. In New Delhi as panellists at The Hindu Lit for Life conclave, they talk to Subash Jeyan on what it means to be a writer, to engage in their own different ways with the issues important to them...
Writing is a way to freedom and a weapon against the many injustices in society. Yet, she insists, a writer is not a mere spokesperson for his/her nation or people. Meet Mansoura Ezeldin.

Tell us about your work with Akhbar al-Adab... and the contemporary literary scene in Egypt today…
I was the book review editor at Akhbar al-Adab literary newspaper till last month. I have taken a year off to finish my new novel because I wanted to devote all my time to writing. The contemporary literary scene in Egypt is really rich. Since 2002, we've been having a flourishing period; many bookstores have opened and many independent publishers support daring experimental writing, and we have a good readership compared to the 1980s and 90s. Egyptian literature, especially that written by the new generation, is daring and breaches many taboos and also beautifully written at the same time.

How are contemporary women writers in Egypt contributing to social change? What are some of their predominant concerns?
Egyptian women in general were in the forefront of demonstrations during the revolution. And many Egyptian women writers were with them. Women writers also play an important role through their novels and essays and columns in newspapers. There are many female political and social activists who are fighting now for a secular, democratic country. Many of them, including myself, don't want the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists to come to power. Because a possible victory of the Muslim Brotherhood will worsen Egyptian women's position as they have a backward, negative image of women. But I'm not afraid of them. Fear gets you nowhere. We're fighting a battle for building a new democratic country and in such a battle fear is the worst enemy.

Full interview here Hindu

'Indian English writers get fewer readers'

Writer Anita Nair inaugurated the Indian Ruminations literary festival in  Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday.

Nearly 70 delegates, including writers and poets from around the country, are participating in the two-day event, organised by online Indian English writers' journal Indian Ruminations.

The theme of the festival is ‘Exploring Indian Alternatives in Reading and Writing.'

Ms. Nair said although more and more young talents were coming up, Indian English writers did not get acceptance like foreign writers in India. “I think the whole idea of contemporary Indian English writing is a misnomer. A large section of people, especially the academia, do not recognise Indian writers post 1960s. Although Indian English writers are accepted elsewhere, in our own country we have fewer and fewer readers,” she said.

Additional Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar delivered the presidential address. Mr. Jayakumar said world writers were edging native writers out of the shelf in Kerala as world literature invaded the Malayalam literary space. “The space that is taken away does not belong to established writers but the struggling young writers of Kerala,” he said. Mr. Jayakumar said that with the advent of the Internet and blogging, the hierarchies of publishing had been shaken and the publishing business had become more democratised. “Our publishers should take up the responsibility of familiarising our writers to the world. Having good translations is equally important. Translation has to be encouraged and promoted as a highly paid profession,” Mr. Jayakumar said.

Full report here Hindu

Mamoni's health deteriorates

Friends, fans and family members started to pour in at the Gauhati Medical College Hospital with their fingers crossed on Saturday as Jnanpith award-winning writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami's health deteriorated further since Friday night.

The litterateur was shifted to the hospital's Intensive Care Unit (ICU) from her cabin on Wrdnesday due to a lung infection. Though her health remained stable for next 24 hours, a convulsion on Friday night caused the deterioration. Currently, she is said to be in a critical stage.

State health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma rushed to the hospital on getting the news. Meanwhile, Ulfa pro-talks faction members also wished for her recovery.

"She has been in coma since February and her brains cells are not responding accurately. Convulsions on Friday night worsened her situation further. She is now on ventilator and her condition is very critical. Lets hope for the best," said A K Adhikari, surgeon at GMCH.

Full report here Times of India 

'TCS deserved to go public much earlier'

Subramaniam Ramadorai took the reins at TCS in 1996 when the Indian IT industry was on the cusp of a quantum leap in growth and globalisation. During his 13-year watch, TCS became the first billion-dollar IT company to come out of India, even though it only went public in 2004, more than a decade after companies like Infosys had stolen the thunder in the stock market. Now, two years after his retirement, Ramadorai reflects on the challenges he faced and how he overcame them, in his book that’s just been published, The TCS Story... And Beyond. In this interview with DNA, Ramadorai fleshes out some key takeaways from his TCS experience.

You’ve written about how you changed the TCS tagline from ‘Beyond The Obvious’ to ‘Experience Certainty’. What was the logic behind this change?
We felt we had to clarify the obvious in some way, because obvious was obvious to us but not to the customer. People went haywire in talking about the future, future and future, when you had not even created the future. So we were in two extremes: one was stating the obvious and looking inward, I know what I’m good at, this is what TCS does; the other way was to say, let’s define the future, in three words — Innovation, Technology, Consulting. Then we saw that 100 companies do the same thing (innovation, technology, consulting). It doesn’t communicate anything that is unique about TCS. So we hired a global branding company to interview a bunch of people and come back to us with a definitive statement that exactly describes the TCS DNA and that is easily understandable to everybody. The key thing that came out of all these deliberations was that these TCS guys deliver what they promise and they don’t promise what they can’t deliver. Out of that came ‘Experience Certainty’.

On the business side, it seems to have suited Tata Sons from an accounting perspective to run TCS as a subsidiary until finally you had your IPO in 2004. On hindsight, do you think you would have been better off if TCS had entered the market 10 years earlier, along with its peers like Infosys and Wipro? 
We always had this debate. It’s not as if we decided in 2003 to go public in 2004. It was a continuous journey of looking at what was good for the parent, what was good for TCS’ growth, and what was the right thing to do. It is true we were not getting the visibility we should have had. We had everything that was required for us to be listed earlier than a lot of other companies because we had been in the industry much longer than them. But it was a constant process of dialoguing with the owners, Tata Sons, and coming to the conclusion that we will do it when the time is right.

Full interview here DNA

Hindi is going places, literally

Hindi may not be widely spoken or used by India’s urban youth. However, in spite of stiff entry barriers, the language has now found favour with Oxford Dictionary, widely regarded as the most trusted of all dictionaries.

In fact, a Hindi word for almost every emotion can be found featured in the Dictionary. Sample this: Achha, badmash, bindaas, buddhu, sadhu, goonda, neta, seth, chhi-chhi, and namkin. The more popular ones are bapu, dhaba, dharna, gherao, mahajan, jhuggi, and ‘Hindutva’. The list is merely illustrative.

Juliet Evans, publicity manager, Oxford Dictionary, said, “Increasing multiculturalism may have led to more Hindi words being incorporated into English, and therefore a steadily increasing number enter our dictionaries each year.”

She explained that whilst 274 Indian words were added to the Dictionary, 374 words of Hindi etymology are also now a part of it.

Three hundred and thirty seven words from Sanskrit, 144 from Urdu and 27 from Tamil have also been incorporated into Oxford Dictionary.

Full report here DNA

Review: Lokpal


Lokpal: Facts and Arguments
Parsa Venkateshwar Rao
Har Anand
Rs. 295; Pp 134
ISBN : 9788124116524
Hard Back

About the book 
This book traces the developments with regard to the Lokpal legislation in the past and in the present. The debate in the Lok Sabha in August 1969 before the passing of the Lokpal Bill is discussed along with the many texts of the Lokpal bills prepared by the Anna Hazare group and the UPA governments as well as that of the five ministers in the Joint Drafting Committee. The work and observations of the Lokyuktas in the states is discussed. It also looks at the political assumptions that each side brings to the debate in the present, and what it means for the political culture and life of the country.

Full review here DNA
As the idea for writing this book was suggested to the author by the publisher only in the last week of June this year and the book was out on the stands by the end of August, it was clearly written in a hurry. There are, therefore, many printer’s devils, grammatical errors and disjointed sentences which hamper the flow of reading.

Having said that, it’s a timely book on a hotly-debated subject, and clears a lot of misconceptions about both the government and Team Anna’s version of the proposed Lokpal Bill.

One of the commonest fears about team Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill is that with its sweeping powers, the Lokpal itself could become a monstrous, corrupt genie impossible to tame. Well, the present draft does have a few provisions to prevent this. For one, once a case is closed, all documents related to it will be treated as public, and every month a list of such cases will be put on the website with reasons for closing the case. Further, all the material related to the case will be provided to anyone seeking it under the Right to Information Act. Second, the hearings before the Lokpal will be video recorded and available to anyone who pays for the copying costs.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Politics, cinema at Delhi literature fest

Politics, Anna Hazare, new wave cinema and changing trends in contemporary writing will be on offer at the daylong 'The Hindu Lit for Life' festival on Sunday.

The Delhi edition of the festival, which will lift the curtain on the two-day literature extravaganza and the awarding of the Hindu Literary Prize Oct 29-30 in Chennai, will begin 9 am at the India Habitat Centre, a spokesperson for the festival said.

The Delhi edition of the festival will be presented by Siyahi, a literary forum.

One of the high points of the festival is a session on 'New Wave Cinema', sponsored by Om Books International, which features the award-winning director of 'Rang De Basanti' (2006) Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra in conversation with cinema writer Jai Arjun Singh.

"It is a celebration of the country's rich visual literature. India has produced a world class writers across all genres. Cinema holds a very special place in my heart and I am delighted to get Mehra on board to deliberate on the new trends of cinema and his contribution to Indian cinema," Ajay Mago, publisher of Om Books, said in a statement.

The literary spotlight will be on Esther David, who discusses her work in a session 'Are You Going to Eat All That'.

Full report here IBMLive

A celebration of literature in our lives

The Hindu's Lit for Life, a three-day, two-city conclave, will delve into various forms of writing

India has always had a strong literary tradition and the past few decades have produced dozens of outstanding writers. Until recently, middle-class Indians seemed to know more about foreign writers than about their own. It took a while for the Indian writers to take the centre stage, but when they did it was with a bang.

With more Indians writing in English, there was a concurrent boom in the publishing industry and that began to spill over to the media, especially newspapers. The Hindu had always had two pages devoted to book reviews, but with the growth in the publishing industry and the rising number of Indian writers, need was felt for a special supplement devoted to literature and issues in the literary world. There was, obviously, more to literature than just book reviews. Thus, on November 3, 1991 was born the Literary Review. For 20 years, this has been the only supplement devoted to literature and books published by a daily newspaper.

Full report here Hindu

RSS leaders congratulate Dr Kambara

Senior RSS functionaries of Karnataka congratulated veteran Kannada writer and winner of Jnanpith award Dr Chandrashekara Kambara at his residence in Bengaluru on September 22. RSS National Executive Member Shri MC Jayadev, national president of Shaikshik Mahasangh Prof. K Narahari, editor of Utthana monthly Shri SR Ramaswamy, RSS Sah Prant Karyavah Prof BV Shreedhara Swamy, general secretary of Rashtrotthan Parishat Shri N Dinesh Hegde and chief of Samarasya Vedike Karnataka Shri Vadiraj visited Dr Kambara’s residence.

Shri Jayadev along with Shri Ramaswamy and Prof K Narahari honoured Dr Kambara. They also had an informal talk on education system with Dr Kambara for half an hour. Dr Kambara expressed happiness over the visit of RSS functionaries.

Full report here Organiser

A new chapter

Author Anita Nair, who turns scriptwriter with “Lessons In Forgetting”, talks about her constant quest to reinvent herself

“Joyously invigorating, and agonising,” is how Anita Nair describes the experience of writing the film script for of her latest novel Lessons in Forgetting. “While fiction is my first love, I need to constantly challenge myself. Hence I seek different forms and structures,” says the author of novels such as The Better Man, Ladies Coupe, and Mistress, besides many short stories, essays, travelogues, and poems. Lessons in Forgetting takes the issue of female foeticide head on. Says Nair: “According to a 2007-survey by the UN, over 2,000 unborn girls are aborted every day in India. While it is illegal to reveal the sex of the child through pre-natal scans, the law has so far been ineffectual. Son Preference for sons, dowry, and patriarchal systems are said to be the key reasons for female foeticide. According to campaigners, many fertility clinics in India offer a seemingly legitimate facade for a multi-billion-dollar racket — gender determination is still big business in India.” The film is produced by the Bangalore-based Prince Thampi of Arowana Consulting. It marks the directorial debut of Unni Vijayan, alumnus of Film and Television Institute, Pune. Made in English with sub titles wherever the dialogue is in Tamil, the film it is to be completed by early October. Excerpts from an interview with the author.

The book received good reviews. Were you sceptical about adapting it into a film?
Not really. As I was doing the screenplay myself, I knew I would be able to capture the essence of the book without losing its layered textural values. There were instances where I left bits out, and at other times introduced a new scene to make the connection seamless. I had some semblance of control. It was also a learning experience.

You recently translated Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai's magnum opus Chemmeen
A translation would require me to walk the way of another writer and see his landscape and characters through his eyes. The very first line of the book had me in knots. Chemmeen is in fishermen's dialect. This was unfamiliar territory and I put the pen down. What was I going to do? Over the course of the next fortnight, I roped in my secretary, a Malayali, to read out the book aloud to me. I have no formal education in Malayalam. What I do have is an ability to understand and comprehend the nuances of the language. The familiarity with the cadence grew into a natural ease. It was perhaps one of the most creatively satisfying things I have done.

Full interview here Hindu

Book fair to turn into treasure trove

Book lovers will love this. Interested in buying books at throwaway prices. Visit the ongoing book fair at the Institution of Engineers (IEI) held by a Goa-based book shop.

Broadway Book Centre, Panjim, is offering a variety of books in fiction, education, management, medical, children’s stories and teaching books with addition to interior designing, photography, artists’ collections and travel guides at just Rs50.

The owner of Broadway Book Centre, Khalil Ahmed, said that the month-long fair would continue till October 9. It is open from 9 am to 9 pm.

Although the bookseller has been organising such events since 2001, it is for the first time that they are selling books at such a low price to clear stocks of its three stores in Goa.

The owner has put on sale over 1 lakh books, half of which is already sold.

Full report here DNA

Nationalise school education: Kambara

Jnanpith award-winning poet-playwright Chandra-shekhara Kambara on Friday strongly advocated imparting education in the mother tongue. “You can learn English as a language. I feel Kannada should be the medium of instruction. After 10th Standard, you can have a choice”, he contended. Mr Kambara argued that the State should not privatise education till 10th standard. “Let primary and high school education be state-sponsored till 10th standard to wipe out the disparity between children from upper class and downtrodden”, he said.

The playwright downplayed the Karnataka-Maharashtra border issue maintaining that one should not attach much importance to the ‘unwanted dispute’ created by some people from across the border. Mr Kambara, who hails from Belgaum district, said, “I have many friends, including several writers, in Maharashtra who are least bothered about this issue. For some politicians, this issue should be kept alive in the form of a dispute so that they can thrive. If there is no issue, these people will find it hard for their survival”, he said.

Full report here Deccan Chronicle 

Creativity blooms from divine grace

He is a novelist, a short-story writer and a screenplay writer, all rolled into one. Peace has been his mission and the essence of his writing. Balakumaran explains to M. Balaganessin how the temples in and around Tiruchi have been a catalyst to develop tranquillity, peace and noble thoughts. Be a writer or a painter or an artiste, any creativity will be ideal and perfect, only if the creator is blessed with peaceful thoughts, the veteran writer pronounces.

For him, a visit to Tiruchi is a delight for more than one reason. Temples in and around the city have been a source of inspiration for him, blessing him with a gift to realise divine grace. Mr. Balakumaran says that he had meditated at various temples in Tiruchi, constantly uttering some sacred ‘mantra'. He specifically says that it was the Sri Samayapuram Sri Mariamman temple where he realised the eternal bliss differently. “The Divine Mother at Samayapuram has been a guiding force in my quest for realising the supreme power,” he says.

Full report here Hindu

Friday, September 23, 2011

'Pak GenNext in US doesn't want to return'

In the new generation of Pakistani immigrants to the US, the ties that bind youngsters to their Asian homeland are fast disappearing, says Jabeen Akhtar, writer and policymaker of Pakistani origin from the US.

"We cannot be expected to speak about what's happening back home in Pakistan and India all the time," Akhtar, who drafts policies for the People for Ethical Treatment to Animals (PETA) in the US, told IANS.

"I know of many immigrant friends who don't want to return home," she said. "Personally, I don't want to go back."

Akhtar, who has made her debut as an novelist with the much-talked-about Welcome to Americastan, is in India to promote her book.

She said she wanted to provide an alternative perspective on the young South Asian Islamic diaspora in Washington, DC.

"Every book on South Asia has arranged marriages and this idea of the home country being an exotic locale," Akhtar said. "The protagonist takes his exotic odyssey back home... it involves an identity crisis. The 'goras' (whites) may like it but the idea is a bunch of crap!"

Her book provides an irreverent snapshot of Pakistani immigrants in the US through the eyes of young Samira, a Pakistani-American woman.

It has been hailed by critics and senior writers like Bapsi Sidhwa and Moni Mohsin as a funny, original and thoughtful look at her community.

Full report here Daijiworld

Hanif takes darker turn in new novel

Mohammed Hanif’s 2008 debut, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, employed satire and the distance of a recent historical setting to bravely grapple with issues of military dominance and authoritarianism that continue to afflict Pakistani society.

Mr. Hanif has followed this success up with Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, a novel set in contemporary Pakistan which is darker, less humorous and perhaps more daring than his earlier work.

The novel centers around Alice Bhatti, a beautiful, scrappy 27-year-old whose father is a drain cleaner from French Colony, a poor Christian quarter of Karachi, as she tries to make her way in life by training as a nurse, marrying a bodybuilder and becoming a mother.

Karachi, one of the world’s most violent cities, is a faintly-sketched backdrop for the daily degradations that Alice must face as both a woman and a poor Christian. She’s attacked at nursing college by a group of Muslim girls for being a “kafir” and later jailed for an operational procedure gone wrong that was not her fault. She is sexually assaulted by a rich, gun-toting man from an “old money” family in the VIP room of a hospital, with a casualness which is sickening.

Full report here WSJ blogs

Books banned in India

Though India is a democratic nation, the suppression in India mainly targets religious issues. The Constitution of India assures freedom of expression but places certain restrictions on substance, with an outlook towards maintaining communal and religious harmony, given the narration of communal tension in the nation.

Listed below are a few books that created a "topsy-turvy" situation in India which led to ban against these books.

Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses"
India has uncertain respect of being the initial country in the world to ban the Indian-born novelist's divisive work "The Satanic Verses". The novel written by Salman Rushdie had subsequent protest from dominant Muslim leaders. The novel was banned in India in 1988, and fatwa was imposed on Rushdie by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini on February 14, 1989, for demeaning Islam. Rushdie had to spend almost a decade in hindrance. Though Iran has held its government will not carry out the fatwa's death-sentence dictate, the book remains banned in India.

Full report here Siliconindia

Kissinger’s China, India’s neighbor

“On China” is Henry Kissinger’s effort to draw a long arc that traces the political history of China, from an ancient civilization with “no beginning” to a modern-day state that is fast becoming the 21st century’s most consequential power.

November 24, 1973: Then U.S. Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger, right, with Mao Zedong, left, in Beijing.
Can India learn anything more about its neighbor from a diplomat who has closely watched the country over the last 40 years?

The book’s prologue dramatically starts with a conversation between Mao Zedong and his top commanders on the eve of China’s war with India in October 1962.  The border war is one of the only parts of the book where Mr. Kissinger deals with India directly, giving a blow-by-blow account of events. India gets little attention elsewhere, which may be an accurate depiction of the lack of deep engagement between the two neighbors historically, or perhaps a reflection of Mr. Kissinger’s acceptance of the current Beijing narrative that India is inconsequential to China’s rise on the world stage.

But Mr. Kissinger’s story on how the border conflict came to be is interesting in its own right, given that it sharply contradicts the popular Indian version of itself as the aggrieved party.

The former U.S. Secretary of State goes back to the 1912-1914 Simla conference convened by the British with Chinese and Tibetan authorities to settle the borders between the three countries. The Chinese delegate, citing his country’s weakened condition at that stage, initialed the resulting agreement on the McMahon line but did not sign the document, thus keeping the border dispute open. Decades later, in the late 1950s, upon completion of Tibet’s annexation, Mr. Kissinger says Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai made an offer to accept the Indian position in the west (Arunachal Pradesh) in return for recognition of Chinese claims on Aksai Chin in the east. India Prime Minister Nehru rejected the offer.

Full report here WSJ blogs

The cry is heard!

Ah! Those were the days – very carefree years. Lucknow then was a quiet, sleepy town. Between getting whacked by the monitors and teachers of La Martiniere College (my alma mater – and yes, corporal punishment was more the norm than the exception…) life was a blur of flying kites, playing marbles and gulli-danda. What I remember most about Mart was the adaptability that it taught us – something that held me in good stead all my life. It was at Mart that I acquired the reading habit – thanks to Mrs. Dignum, my teacher and housemaster's wife. She was the one, who made me fall in love with story telling. I vividly remember sitting under the trees by the cricket / football field (yes, barring mind games, I was not much interested in sports…) and spinning yarns to other shammers like me….

Next came the National Defence Academy and then the Indian Military Academy. The sudden move from Mart to NDA was a shock to the system. All at once the carefree days were over. Life in NDA was fun and amazingly transformational, and certainly more gruelling…horse riding, hang gliding, sailing, all kinds of (some very insane) sports, firing and grenade throwing. NDA gave us exposure to a world we were not even aware off. Being a first generation soldier it was horizon widening for me.

Full report here Hindu

The Pratham girl story

Pratham Books celebrates the International Girl Child Day with a unique marathon

This Thursday and Friday, the team at Pratham Books was busier than usual. They had organised a Live Write-a-thon, to commemorate the International Girl Child Day (September 24), and the launch of their new website (

Four women authors and four illustrators from across the country got together for the occasion to pen a book in two days. “Since we strongly believe that reading is an important tool in the development of a child, we are launching this book on the International Girl Child Day,” said Mala Kumar, Editor, Pratham Books. “And we wanted our online community to be a part of this event. The idea of doing a book online with collaborators from all over the country seemed just right.”

Full report here Hindu

The new you

Sajeev Nair on breaking the rhythm of the same old thought process and creating new synergies
Sajeev Nair, a success coach and mentor, after authoring three self-help books in Malayalam and Tamil, has now come up with one in English, Tathaastu: Transforming Thoughts into Reality. Through his book, based on a thought-provoking subject, Sajeev encourages people to develop an optimistic approach. The objective of bringing out the book is to enable people to change their thought process. Excerpts from an interview with the author.

What prompted the move from business to transformational success coaching?
My entrepreneurial journey started with Amway, where people development is a continuous process. We helped people from all walks of life to become entrepreneurs, the training and coaching interventions were very powerful. I myself got amazed the way people got their lives transformed. I started developing a passion for creating positive transformations in people. It reached a level where I realised that more than the business what I like is to see positive transformations happening in others' lives.

Full interview here Hindu

Horror show

What makes violence acceptable in books for young readers?

Suzanne Collins' “Hunger Games” has recently been the focus of articles on violence in children's books. The book is about a young girl selected to compete in a reality show. The winner gets to live. As in the most frightening dystopias, the story is set in the near future, in North America. The population has been decimated. The few who remain scrounge for food, and once a year the authorities select 24 young people, two from each of the twelve districts, to fight each other to the death. The novel is highly readable. For those who feel books should let children be children, I would say, Yes, but.

It is patronising to imagine that children cannot face violence on the page when we know what they face in life. Childhood is not idyllic for all children. Some are abducted, or sold by their parents to work on tobacco farms and in factories, fight in armies, and worse. Collins brilliantly ties it all to today's television reality shows, where respectable adults visit psychological and emotional violence on children while everyone applauds, and a classic is born.

Full report here Hindu

Kovalam Lit Fest to have Delhi stopover

The famed Kovalam Literary Festival (KLF) of Kerala will have a one-day stopover in Delhi on September 29, the first time outside Kerala.

The Delhi leg, scheduled to be held at the India International Centre (IIC) here, will be followed by the two-day main event, now in its fourth year, on October 1 and 2.

Pakistani and Israeli writers will join Indian literary stalwarts for the Delhi leg.

"The KLF has now moved to the national stage and is now firmly established as India's second biggest literary festival. Our brand equity has also improved considerably over the last four years and that is the reason why the support to the event is growing,’’ KLF founder-director Binoo John said.

Two of Israel’s best known literary figures, short story writer Savyon Liebrecht and playwright Motti Lerner will be taking part in the Delhi event. Another highlight of the festival will be the presence of Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif, the author of "A Case of Exploding Mangoes", who will be reading for the Delhi book lovers from his new novel, "Our Lady of Alice Bhatti". He will also be in conversation with Indian author Manu Joseph.

Full report here Netindian

Kambar bats for Kannada in schools

Jnanpith award winner Chandrashekhara Kambar on Friday suggested that all schools having classes from the lower kindergarten (LKG) to Standard 10 must be run by the government and that the medium of instruction up to class 10 must be in Kannada.

Kambar, noting that there is a wide divide between students who pass out of private, English medium schools and those passing out of government-run, Kannada-medium schools said: “This can be removed only when the government runs all the primary and high schools. They can allow any private management to run educational institutions from the PU level.”

His justification for having Kannada as the medium of instruction was that only mother tongue can provide an experience, which is an integral part of learning and learning through any other language only gives people information, which makes them less competent.

“I am not saying that one should not learn English. All I am saying is that learn even English through Kannada, because it is essential to have an experience when one is learning and being merely suffocated by information will not take us far. Even learn Japanese if you feel it is necessary but don’t compromise on having Kannada as the medium in primary and high school,” Kambar  explained.

Full report here Deccan Herald

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ramadorai recalls the TCS Story

Tech geeks are always busy dabbling in software and hardware language that they hardly indulge in tales of their work, but former chief executive officer of Tata Consultancy Services, Subramanium Ramadorai, proved it otherwise with the launch of his book The TCS Story … and Beyond.

Speaking at the launch of the book by noted scientist M S Swaminathan here at a function organised by Penguin Books and Taj Coromandel in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry on Wednesday evening, the advisor to the Prime Minister in the National Skill Development Council said the book is about getting the story from an IT professional and it is the biggest challenge considering that their whole day is spent on working with hardware and software.

“It was a challenging experience to put in my 40 years of experience in 300 pages and the biggest was to make the IT professionals recall a project to capture the finer nuances of the experiences. As such, I mastered the art of asking the same question so that I could get what I am looking for,” disclosed Ramadorai while highlighting how he went about compiling his book.

Full report here IBNLive

Socialist push behind India’s capitalist rise

Twenty years ago, India faced a fiscal crisis caused by profligate public spending and rising oil prices after the first Persian Gulf War. There was a risk it would default on its international payments.

The finance minister, an English-educated Sikh economist named Manmohan Singh, responded to an almost unmanageable situation by liberalizing trade and industrial policies.

So India entered a bright world of market-driven capitalism after years of socialist darkness, and was set on its current path of almost 8 percent annual growth in gross domestic product.

Or so the story goes. Like all historical watersheds, India’s economic liberalization in 1991 has generated its own share of heroes and myths. Few books or articles in the mainstream press about Indian politics and economy in the past two decades have been judicious with their praise for Manmohan Singh, the apparent slayer of India’s socialist fantasies, the prophet of free-market logic, and for the past seven years prime minister of India.

Full report here Bloomberg Businessweek

Simon & Schuster eyes digital space

The booming publishing market in India has lured yet another international publishing firm, Simon & Schuster, which is high on the country's growing digital reading space.

Simon & Schuster, the publishing segment of CBS Corp, Wednesday opened an India-specific unit.

The publishing house wants to cash in on digital transformation, the demand for inexpensive books and the inherent financial advantages like lesser material and allied costs in India, said Carolyn K. Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster.

"In India, the digital book revolution has bypassed e-readers and tablets (reading e-tablets with screens) to reach mobile phones, unlike in the US and UK. Everyone in India has a mobile phone but not all own e-readers or tablets," Reidy said.

Full report here Economic Times

‘Happy, but under pressure’

Flooded with congratulatory phone calls and messages from well-wishers and dear ones for winning the 45th Bharatiya Jnanpith award for 2009, Hindi literary giant Amar Kant looked relaxed and happy.

But the views of the octogenarian on the government’s attitude towards writers have not changed much.

“Does the government care? It is not only about writers. Young scientists, researchers and other such people — they all need support. Otherwise, how will you get fresh writing, new innovations and discoveries? These people need to experience the world and need to travel far and wide,” said Kant at his modest home at Panch Pushp Apartments here.

Nearly three years ago, fighting illness and a bad financial situation, Kant was so fed up with the apathetic attitude of the government that he contemplated selling his Sahitya Akademi Award, which he had won in 2007 for his novel Inhi Hathiyaaron Se. He had then said he wanted the government to “serve him” in the same way as he had served the people all these years through his works.

Full report here Indian Express

Speaking from Shivapura

Poet, playwright and novelist, recipient of the 2010 Jnanapith Award Chandrashekara Kambaraa, interrogates modernity with myths, folk narratives and native theatrical forms

When Chandrashekara Kambaraa wrote his long narrative poem “Helatena Kela” (Listen, I will Tell you)in the early 1960s, he introduced, knowingly or unknowingly, some of the recurring themes which he would often return to in his later works. The poem which sings in praise of the traditional past and laments over the loss of innocence due to the onslaught of the modern forces clearly set the tone of his works that followed. Themes of tradition and modernity, crises of feudalism, native identities, colonialism, march of history, sex, loss of faith, the death of God and several related themes explored later in his plays, novels and poetry had found metaphorical expression in the narrative poem. “Helatena Kela” which could well be the central metaphor created by Kambara is located in Shivapura, an imaginary utopian village which continues to be a character, a metaphor and the locale in most of his works.

Kambara who has made Kannadigas proud by bringing the eighth Jnanapith award for Kannada is arguably among the best of the three greatest modern Kannada poets (the other two being D.R. Bendre and Gopalakrishna Adiga) and has trodden his own path deviating from both the stalwarts. His creative engagement with myths, folk narratives and native theatrical forms has helped him develop a distinct style and world view and makes him stand apart from his predecessors as well as his contemporaries. Though Kambara began as a Navya writer, he seems to have realised too soon that the Navya mode did not suit his sensibility. So he set out exploring the collective psyche of the community through native myths which were almost unexplored till then in modern Kannada literature. The non-Vaidika mythical world not only provided him the world view but also the rich texture, lyricism and the raw energy of the rural dialects. Though Kambara kept on journeying to the past like a ‘modern man in search of a soul', to borrow an insight from Carl Jung, the journey seldom refrained him from negotiating contemporary themes. In his poems on Mao Tse Tung or plays like “Jaisidanaika”, or “Harakeya Kuri” he has treated themes related to contemporary politics with a progressive outlook, albeit being naive at times.

Full report here Hindu

The singer and his seeking

The monograph on Mallikarjun Mansur takes you through his life and times

At a time where riches and glamour matter, and destination is more important than process, the story of Mallikarjun Mansur sounds bizarre. The rigour and austerity with which the legendary maestro of Jaipur-Atrauli gharana earned his music in the gruelling, uncompromising akhadas of the great masters is surely not a tale from our times. Toiling to seek individual expression in the lessons imparted by his great gurus remained Mansur’s pursuit for most part of his life; even the concert stage did not matter to him.

P.V. Vivekananda, in his monograph on Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur in the Vyakti Chitra Maale series of Vasanta Prakashana, recalls how a critic of those times had expressed his wonder at Mansur’s devotional surrender to music. “There is such clamour to present their music before a learned audience, but this master from the South remains cocooned in his own world of music,” the critic is said to have remarked. Mansur, for whom music was a personal act of faith, was content to sing in his puja room.

Full report here Hindu

Imran Khan's book recalled in India

Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's new book has become the latest publication to trip over the cartographic tangle of the India-Pakistan border.

Publisher Random House has recalled all advance copies of the book in India and delayed its release here due to errors in a map of the two countries at the time of the Partition, which wrongly showed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir shaded in the same colour as that of Pakistan.

Titled Pakistan: A Personal History, the book was launched in the United Kingdom over the weekend, but was scheduled to be released in Indian bookshops on Wednesday. Advance copies had already been sent to the media for review. However, on the scheduled date of release, Random House recalled the 30-odd advance copies, reportedly due to the errors in the map.

Sources at the publishing house say the book is now likely to be released next week after the offending pages are replaced with a map that India considers accurate.

Full report here Hindu

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Taseer on Partition and Pak violence

Few people of Aatish Taseer’s generation have experienced Partition as much as he has. For the majority, on either side of the India-Pakistan border, it survives as a defining political rivalry. For some, with its tales of migration and loss, it is a painful episode in the family’s history. But for the half-Pakistani author, who was brought up in New Delhi by his Sikh mother, the Partition of 1947 was a lot more than that.

For Mr. Taseer, now 30, the relationship with his father had everything to do with Partition and the enmity it cemented. His father was Salman Taseer, the former governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province who was killed by an Islamic extremist, his own bodyguard, in January.

For the elder Taseer, who lived in Lahore with his Pakistani family, having an Indian connection – a son born from a short-lived relationship with an Indian woman and who called India his home – proved problematic for his political career.

Long before the assassination, this and disagreements on the nature of Pakistani society and politics, of which the younger Taseer was critical, strained relations between the two. By the time the governor of Punjab was killed, father and son were no longer on speaking terms.

Full report here WSJ blogs

Chetan Bhagat to endorse Huawei

India's best-selling writer is entering unchartered territory, perhaps a first for any writer—the world of celebrity brand ambassadors. Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies has roped in Chetan Bhagat as brand associate for its devices such as smartphones and tablets, a senior executive told ET.

"Chetan Bhagat is a youth icon and he has changed the dynamics of the publishing industry. Our endeavour is to bring highend technology at affordable prices. Our target audience and values are the same," Huawei Devices India President Victor Shan said. He refused to disclose the size of the deal.

Full report here Times of India

'Night Life of Trees'

If there ever was a project that reclaimed "authenticity" and "innovation" from their present status of fluff-lined buzzwords and into a genuine ethos, it would be South Indian independent publisher Tara Books, who for the past 16 years has been giving voice to marginalized art and literature through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on remarkable handmade books.

Crafted by local artisans in their fair trade workshop in Chennai, the books are hand-bound and each page is painstakingly screen-printed by hand using traditional Indian dyes, whose fresh earthy scent gently oozes from the gorgeous pages of the finished book.

Full report here Atlantic

Kannada writer kicks up Jnanpith storm

Karnataka is no stranger to controversy when it comes to awards. Be it the film awards or the Rajyotsava awards, controversy has always shadowed the announcement of awards in the state.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that a controversy has erupted again, this time over Dr Chandrashekar Kambar being honoured with the prestigious Jnanpith award.

On Tuesday, amidst the euphoria, noted Kannada writer and journalist Patil Puttappa struck a jarring note in the Kannada literary world when he said Kambar did not deserve the award, which, in Puttapa’s view, should have gone to the “most deserving novelist SL Bhyrappa”.

Puttappa sees intense lobbying as the reason for Bhyrappa losing out to less deserving litterateurs like Kambar.

Full report here DNA

Goswami shifted to the ICU

Jnanpith award-winning writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami has been shifted to the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) due to a lung infection.

Hospital sources said today Goswami's condition remained unchanged after she was shifted to the ICU from her special cabin the day before. The eminent Assamese writer was transferred to the ICU as a precautionary measure after the doctors treating her diagnosed a lung infection, the sources said.

Asserting there was no immediate cause for concern, they said her condition was being monitored round the clock by a team of doctors.Goswami (68) would be shifted back to her cabin in the GMCH as soon as her condition improved, the sources added.Goswami has been undergoing treatment in the hospital since July last when she was brought back here from Medanta Medicity Hospital, Gurgaon.

Full report here IBNLive

Guv congratulates Shukla for Jnanpith

Uttar Pradesh Governor B L Joshi today congratulated noted Hindi litterateur Shrilal Shukla on being chosen for the Jnanpith Award - country's highest literary honour. A Raj Bhawan release said that since Joshi was out of town, he could not go personally to greet Shukla.

The Governor's principal Secretary G Pattnaik, visited him and conveyed greetings from Joshi and presented a bouquet on behalf of the Governor. Shukla, born in 1925 in Uttar Pradesh, is an eminent novelist and a satirist whose works threw light on the falling moral values of the Indian society in the post independence era.

His noted works include Raag Darbari, Makaan, Sooni Ghaati Ka Sooraj, Pehla Padaav, Agyatvas and Bisrampur Ka Sant. He is winner of several awards which included Sahitya Akademi Award and Vyas Sammaan. In 2008, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to Indian literature and culture. The announcement to confer Jnanpith Award for the year 2009 on him was made yesterday.

Kambara stunned, delighted

He may have received a number of awards, but when it came to the Jnanpith, he was unprepared and even disbelieving. A faulty phone meant he could not be reached by the awards committee and it was left to his son, Raju Kambara, to convey the news to him. But Chandrashekar Kambara remained sceptical, responding with: “Don’t believe what people tell you. They are probably pulling your leg. How can I get the Jnanpith, check again.”

But he had to believe it when television channels made the announcement. The modesty however, did not leave him. As always he attributes a lot of his success to the breaks he got early on in his life courtesy people like Krishnamurthy Puranik, a writer and teacher in Gokak, who conducted Sunday classes on literature to help bright students further their interest in literature.

Full report here Deccan Chronicle 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Brooklyn, writers consider ‘New India’

The “New India” is

(a) A place where the pursuit of individual happiness is now possible

(b) A place that wants to be a part of history

(c) A place where the most common job category for women is “maid”

(d) A place that is not that different from the old India

Put your pencils down now. When Indian-origin writers get together to discuss the complexities of the new India, the answer, naturally, is (e) All of the above.

Siddhartha Deb and Bharati Mukherjee, who respectively have nonfiction and fiction books on India out this year, and Amitava Kumar, whose most recent book dealt with the fallout of the War on Terror, gathered on Sunday in Brooklyn to discuss the subcontinent as part of the New York City borough’s literary festival.

Full report here WSJ blogs

Om Books celebrates visual literature

Om Books International is pleased to get on board award-winning film director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra to The Hindu Lit for Life. A three-day, two city conclave to appreciate the role of literature in our lives begins on September 25, 2011 in New Delhi, and will see the grand finale in Chennai on October 29 and 30 with the announcement of the winner of The Hindu Literary Prize for Best Fiction 2011.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra will be in conversation with one of the finest authors, journalists and bloggers of our times, Jai Arjun Singh on 'New Wave Cinema' and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's contribution to Indian cinema on September 25, 2011 between 12:30-1:20 PM.

Ajay Mago, publisher, Om Books International, says, "It is my privilege to be associated with The Hindu Lit for Life where one gets to know and understand the kind of writing talent we have in India. In this age of globalization, India has produced world-class writers across all genres. Cinema holds a very special place in my heart and I am equally delighted to get on board Mr. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra to deliberate on the new trends of cinema and his contribution to Indian cinema."

Riya Travel & Tours, one of India's leading travel organizations and Audi, Gurgaon, a brand that's synonymous with automobiles are co-sponsors for the session on New Wave Cinema.

Shrilal Shukla, Kambar win Jnanpith

Eminent Hindi authors Amar Kant and Shrilal Shukla were on Monday chosen for India’s highest literary honour Jnanpith Award for the year 2009 while renowned Kannada litterateur Chandrasekhar Kambar won it for the year 2010.

The selection board chaired by noted writer and Jnanpith award winner Dr. Sitakant Mahapatra made the selections for the 45th and 46th Jnanpith awards.

86-year-old Kant is a leading author whose famous novel Inhin Hathiyaron Se earned him Sahitya Akademi Award in 2007.

His short stories like Hatiyare, Dopahar ka Bhojan and Diptee Kalaktari have found place in the syllabi of several Indian Universities.

Shukla, born in 1925 in Uttar Pradesh, is an eminent novelist and a satirist whose works threw light on the falling moral values of the Indian society in the post-independence era.

His noted works include Raag Darbari, Makaan, Sooni Ghaati Ka Sooraj, Pehla Padaav, Agyatvas, and Bisrampur Ka Sant. He is winner of several awards which included Sahitya Akademi Award and Vyas Sammaan. In 2008, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to Indian literature and culture.

Full report here Hindu

Review: Last Man in Tower


Last Man in Tower
Aravind Adiga
Rs. 699
Pp 432
ISBN: 9789350290842

About the book
Ask any Bombaywallah about Tower A of the Vishram Co-operative Housing Society and you will be told that it is unimpeachably pucca. Despiteits location close to the airport and bordered by slums, it has been pucca for some fifty years. But then Bombay has changed in half a century not least its name – and the world in which Tower A was first built is giving way to a new city, a Mumbai of new development and new money; of wealthy Indians returning with fortunes made abroad.

When real estate developer Dharmen Shah offers to buy out the residents of Vishram Society, planning to use the site to build a luxury apartment complex, his offer is more than generous. Yet not everyone wants to leave; many of them have lived in Vishram for years, many of them are no longer young. But none can benefit from the offer unless all agree to sell. As tensions rise, one by one those who oppose the offer give in to the pressure of the majority, until only one man stands in the way of Shah’s luxury high-rise: Masterji, a retired schoolteacher, once the most respected man in the building. Shah is a dangerous man to refuse, but as the demolition deadline looms, Masterji’s neighbours – friends who have become enemies, acquaintances turned co-conspirators – may stop at nothing to score their payday. A suspense-filled story of money and power, luxury and deprivation; a rich tapestry peopled by unforgettable characters, not least of which is Bombay itself, Last Man in Tower opens up the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of a great city – ordinary people pushed to their limits in a place that knows none.

Full review here Guardian
If the residents of Tower A, Vishram Society, pride themselves on anything, it is their respectability – their "pucca" way of life in their "unimpeachably pucca" apartment building. Once pink, Tower A may now be a "rainwater-stained, fungus-licked grey"; it may not boast an uninterrupted supply of running water; it may sit amid the slums of Vakola, in the flight path of Mumbai's domestic airport; and it may be falling into a state of disrepair unchecked by its ineffectual secretary. But Vishram Society's virtues outweigh its failings; a model of neighbourliness and middle-class virtue, it brings together those of different backgrounds – originally built for a Catholic population, it admitted Hindus in the 1960s and "the better kind of Muslim" in the 80s – in harmonious testimony to the possibility of cooperative living. That, at least, is the theory, although Aravind Adiga's painful tragicomedy demolishes it more quickly than Dharmen Shah, his ruthless property developer, throws up his luxury redevelopments.

Full review here Telegraph
In his first, Man Booker-winning novel, The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga captured the contradictions of the new India; in this, his third book, he goes further: they are quite literally the building blocks of his plot.

Last Man in Tower tells the story of a struggle for a slice of shining Mumbai real estate, bringing all of Adiga’s gifts for sharp social observation and mordant wit to the fore.
The “last man” of the title is Yogesh Murthy, or “Masterji” as he is affectionately known, a retired schoolteacher who gives top-up science classes in his spare time. He lives in a crumbling but “absolutely, unimpeachably pucca” middle-class block of flats in the Vishram Housing Society. The water only works for a couple of hours twice a day and each monsoon threatens to bring the roof in; but this is still an idyll representing what was once, itself, “new India”. Citizens of every religion rub along together in a way, Adiga writes, that would have made Nehru proud.

-o-o-o-Full review here Hindustan Times
There comes a point in Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, a chronicle of his love-hate relationship with Bombay, where he takes Paul Theroux’s ‘Bombay-smells-of-money’ argument up by a notch to conclude, “Bombay is a city in which everything is on broad, public display. Nothing is hidden.” This simplistic observation stands apart from the rest of the book, which repeatedly asserts that you cannot describe Bombay in black and white, for beneath the surface of this seemingly monochromatic megalopolis lies a vibrant spectrum of greys.

This is where Aravind Adiga enters with his third book (and second novel) Last Man In Tower. If people, not steel and glass, impart Mehta’s florid and fragile Bombay its character, Adiga’s admiration for Mumbai forms the foundation of his latest novel.

“I was born in India, raised here and I love it here,” says Adiga. But that love didn’t go unopposed. In 2008, Adiga faced the ire of self-styled nationalists who read too much into the journalist-turned-author’s debut novel The White Tiger (which went on to win the Man Booker Prize), and involuntarily transformed him into a critic of India’s social and economic dichotomies. The story of the clash of an advancing India with its primitive self, where the eponymous character-narrator Balram Halwai’s “schematic and limited” vision of life was mistaken to be that of Adiga’s, exposed to the world a nation caught with its pants down, ‘loyalists’ felt.

Full review here Financial Times
Land, today, has become the most valuable resource in India, lying at the dark confluence of politics, money, business and pure human avarice. With the economy growing at breakneck pace, the pressure for the acquisition and development of land has never been greater. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital. As rents and property prices have skyrocketed, so has grown the public outcry against the city’s rapacious redevelopment. A veteran journalist lamented recently that every government in the region “has been the government of the builders, by the builders and for the builders”.

Aravind Adiga’s latest novel Last Man in Tower examines this sharpening crisis from the perspective of the residents of an old apartment block in north-west Mumbai. Vishram Society “is anchored like a dreadnought of middle-class respectability” in a neighbourhood populated by slums. Despite its peeling paint and 47-year-old brickwork, the grandmotherly building is spoken of with reverence because its residents “pay taxes, support charities, and vote in local and general elections”.


Full review here DNA

Last Man In Tower is set in Tower A of the Vishram Co-operative Housing society in Vakola, Mumbai. It is an aging, run-down apartment building inhabited by a disappearing breed, the middle class. The occupants of Tower A are a closely knit bunch, having supported each other through many crises, trials and tragedies. Yet, when a builder approaches the society with a lucrative offer, friendships that have spanned decades start to fall apart.

The novel takes for inspiration a phenomenon that has swept every Indian metro in recent years: middle class families wooed by sky-rocketing property prices sell their modest homes and move into penthouses, swapping their scooters for cars, Godrej almaris for imported teak cupboards, thrifty habits for a lifestyle of affluence. In Adiga’s Last Man In Tower, a retired sixty-one year old science teacher, ‘Masterji’, is the last man to resist the builder’s offer.

Full review here GQ India

When Aravind Adiga’s debut novel The White Tiger swept to victory in the Man Booker Prize, instead of throwing bouquets, Indian critics threw brickbats. A barrage of epithets, rather unfairly, rained in: stereotypical, dull, demeaning and tedious.

The writer’s third novel, Last Man in Tower, might not change their minds entirely. A taut, visceral tale based in Mumbai, this literary pot-boiler probes urban redevelopment, a festering sore in a city where land is scarce and invaluable. Adiga’s minutely detailed and almost voyeuristic insights into the lives of the dwellers of a cosmopolitan housing society are bigger than the plot, though.

Full review here Washington Post 
Funny, provocative and decadent: Aravind Adiga’s “Last Man in Tower” is the kind of novel that’s so richly insightful about business and character that it’s hard to know where to begin singing its praises.

That Adiga knows economics well should come as no surprise. After all, he worked as a financial journalist for Time magazine in India, and his first novel, “The White Tiger,” reveled in the darker consequences of a world turned flat. The story described a servant seduced by visions of wealth who murders his way out of poverty. It was as popular as it was controversial in India, and in Britain it captured the Man Booker Prize.

Full review here Seattle Times
Aravind Adiga, winner of the Man Booker Prize for "The White Tiger," brings readers another look at an India at once simple and complex, as old as time and brand new.

The Mumbai residents of Tower A, Vishram Society, get along very well; Catholic, Muslim and Hindu sharing what was once a thoroughly first-class building. Their home is now short on light and running water, long on flaking, rainwater-stained walls and in need of the periodic services of the seven-kinds-of-vermin man.

Despite these shortcomings, Vishram dwellers are content, until they meet Dharmen Shah, an eminently successful and ruthless developer and his "left-hand man," the enforcer, Shanmugham.

Shah, who is not a well man, wants to ensure his legacy by building "The Shanghai," a modern high-rise, on the site of Tower A. He offers each tenant more money than any of them could amass in a lifetime, just to relocate. This offer is met with great rejoicing all around, except by one person: Yogesh A. Murthy, known as "Masterji," age 61, a retired schoolteacher and a recent widower.

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In Mumbai, property development is a serious business. Sometimes deadly serious.

Prime land is costly; human life is cheap. The Vishram Society is a middle-class housing co-operative based in a block to the city's east. The area has become intensely desirable, and property developer Dharmen Shah is determined to tear Vishram down and replace it with luxury apartments. Yet not all Vishram's residents are willing to be bought out, despite Shah's generous offers. Opposition centres around Yogesh Murthy, nicknamed "Masterji", an obdurate retired teacher and widower.

Aravind Adiga is most famous, of course, for his Booker prize-winning novel The White Tiger. It told the story of a downtrodden servant who was willing to go to shocking extremes to get the better of his masters. Subtle it wasn't, but the savage energy of its satire could not be ignored. Adiga's next volume, Between the Assassinations, was a collection of stories set in a fictitious southern Indian town, also focussing on poverty and corruption. In it, Adiga's facility with language came further to the fore in a series of evocative cameos that captured the town's stagnation.