Books This Weekend: Vivekananda, travel adventures and contemporary India

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New Delhi– Know and understand the bewildering, fascinating and complex Swami Vivekananda; flick through an interesting story of travel adventures; map the history of contemporary India through the eyes of the Amul girl; and read the tale of four sisters who live the life of relative freedom in the Karachi of the 1970s.

The IANS bookshelf offers varied interests this weekend.

1. Book: The Modern Monk; Author: Hindol Sengupta; Publisher: Penguin; Pages: 207; Price: Rs 399

He loved French cookbooks, invented a new way of making khichdi, was interested in the engineering behind ship-building and the technology that makes ammunition. More than 100 years after his death, do we really know or understand the bewildering, fascinating, complex man Swami Vivekananda was? Vivekananda is one of the most important figures in the modern imagination of India.

He is also an utterly modern man, consistently challenging his own views and embracing diverse, even conflicting arguments. It is his modernity that appeals to us today. He is unlike any monk we have known. He is confined neither by history nor by ritual and is constantly questioning everything around him, including himself. It is in Vivekananda’s contradictions, his doubts, his fears and his failings that he recognises his profoundly compelling divinity — he teaches us that to try and understand god, first one must truly comprehend one’s own self.

This book is an argument that it is not just because he is close to god but also because he is so tantalisingly immersed in being human that keeps us returning to Vivekananda and his immortal wisdom.

2. Book: Colorful Notions; Author: Mohit Goyal; Publisher: Srishti; Pages: 194; Price: Rs 175

Would you give up your high-paying job and comfortable personal life to drive 10,000 km across India? Three people in their 20s dared to do just that. While the two men take turns to drive, the woman provides the voice-over as they record their journey on a handycam.

Sasha and Unnati are ordinary youngsters, rendered special by the feat they accomplish. As they recount their adventures, I crave to live their journey all the more. They look at each other with a glint in their eyes, as if refurbishing those memories, as they narrate their spooky time at Bhangarh Fort, strange escapades at Wagah border and Sundarbans, car breakdowns, wild animals, near-death experiences and highway robbers! It’s nothing less than crazy.

“Colorful Notions” is a journey of three young hearts on the Indian terrain and into the inner recesses of their souls, giving a new perspective to relationships, love and life

3. Book: Amul’s India 3.0; Conceptualized by: daCunha Communications; Publisher: Harper Collins; Pages: 231; Price: Rs 299

Chronicling the kaleidoscopic stories of India, one ad at a time, the Amul girl, with her wry wit, is both mascot and mapper of the history of contemporary India for over half a century. This edition is her third excursion into the minds of our finest writers and social commentators, many of them new contributors to the “Amul’s India” series. Their essays and interviews offer the most interesting angles on the freshness as well as lasting impact of the world’s longest-running outdoor advertising campaign.

The writers look at how the Amul girl has, over the years, covered the nation’s concerns and obsessions, specially politics, Bollywood and cricket. They marvel at how, even in these times of intolerance, the Amul girl retains her sense of innocence and fun — and continues to hold a mirror to our high hopes and troubling lows.

4. Book: This Wide Night; Author: Sarvat Hasin; Publisher: Penguin; Pages: 312; Price: Rs 499

The Maliks live a life of relative freedom in 1970s Karachi. The four beautiful sisters — Maria, Ayesha, Leila and Beena — are warily watched over by an unconventional mother.

Captain Malik is usually away. So, women make rules of their own. There is also Amir, the professor who falls in love with Maria. Then there is Jamal or Jimmy, who tells this tale. The curious young man is drawn to all the four sisters and particularly by rebellious Ayesha. But slowly, it becomes clear that he will never completely penetrate their circle, just as they will never completely move with the tide that swirls so potently around them.

Moving from Karachi to London and finally to the rain-drenched island of Manora off Karachi, here is a compelling new novel from the subcontinent and a powerful debut author to watch out for. (IANS)


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