India

Tanya Tania by Antara Ganguli

Tanya Tania by Antara Ganguli

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Drama
Imprint: Bloomsbury, India
ISBN: 9789384898410

Antara Ganguli is a Gender and Development Specialist with UNICEF. She is also a writer. He debut novel is Tanya Tania.

Tanya, a Pakistani-American in Karachi starts to write letters to Tania, an Indian in Bombay, now Mumbai. The story is set in the times of Babri Masjid issue, 1992. The two girls are poles apart in characteristics, yet they connect with each other as they continue to exchange letter. The story is in epistolary form, but in two timelines. 1992 and after three years. The girls write to each other in 1992 but stop writing after a few months. Why? Not because of the Babri Masjid issue and the fact that Tanya is a Muslim. Then why do they stop writing to each other? Only Tanya keeps writing to Tania after three years only to stop after a few letter. Why? You will get your answers only from Tania.

Antara creates characters that are too real. Though the story is set during a real-life incident, it is a fictitious story but difficult to believe so. Tanya’s and Tania’s mothers are best friends since college in the USA. Tanya is your typical Miss Goody Two Shoes, trying to study well and get into a good university back in the USA. Tania is also your typical Queen Bee, trying to keep her boyfriend to herself and be more famous in school. Tanya has Chhoti Bibi whom she treats just the way she has to treat a servant. Tania has Nusrat whom she considers her best friend but is also her servant. Tanya has a twin brother. Tania has an elder brother already studying in the States. Tanya’s parents, American mother and Pakistani father, once very much in love with each other, don’t quarrel but don’t talk to each other either. Tania’s parents quarrel often but love each other. So different from one another, yet so relatable.

Tanya starts writing to Tania because of her mother’s suggestion. After stopping to write in a few months, Tanya again starts to write to Tania because of her psychiatrist’s suggestion after three years. I felt like Tanya is a blinded horse. Tania has a mind of her own and knows what she wants. I could relate to Tanya throughout the story, but in the end, I could not. I was able to imagine the narration of Antara Ganguli, as if I was watching a movie and not reading a book. I can’t tell you more than that. You have to read the book. YOU HAVE TO!

Yes, I recommend this book to every reader.

Nine Lives by William Dalrymple

Nine Lives by William Dalrymple

Review by Venkatesha M

This is a collection of nine different stories, an honest attempt to throw light on various customs which are still in practice in Modern India.

Author Dalrymple travelled across India and Sindh region in Pakistan and tried to cover Nine different lives in this book. Stories include customs from Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism and also forms of Tantric practices. Each story in the book starts with introduction to a specific custom and runs into the biography of an individual.

Entire book is on the theme ‘Faith’ and ‘Principles’. I liked all the stories in the book. In a few stories, Dalrymple tried to show difficulties faced by some of the backward communities in India. I couldn’t agree with this part as many things about caste system are changed in Modern India. You can see that Author has done lot of research and travelled to different places for this book.

My personal favourites from the book are ‘The Nun’s Tale’, ‘The Monk’s Tale’ and ‘The Maker of Idols’. Author also explains how the Modern India is a threat to the continuation of these traditions. Most of the customs are hereditary in nature and the new generation is not interested as they are more intended towards alluring professions. Personally I have seen similar cases of Gen-Y not willing to continue the family business which is also affecting few traditions mentioned in the book.

There are few poems/songs translated to English. I will definitely suggest this book.

One of the poems:

“My soul cries out,
Caught in the snare of beauty,
Of the formless one.

As I cry by myself,
Night and day,
Beauty amassed before my eyes,
Surpasses moons and suns.

If I look at the clouds in the sky,
I see his beauty afloat.
And I see him walk on the stars,
Blazing within my heart”

Guest Post: The Best Place to Retire in India by Nilesh Rathod

Every five years, we have a circus played out for appointing someone as the President of India. A President who will live in the largest palace of the world to preside over nothing! Most of his time would be spent on touring places, providing lip service and cutting ribbons. Any assurance or promise he will ever offer will simply be a request to the elected government. Even the speeches he gives in the parliament or his addresses to the nation are not his own, they are written by the elected government. He just reads them! I do not intend to demean the office (or any of its honourable inhabitants) since it exists, but I really question this insistent waste of tax payers’ money to serve something largely useless.

What’s the history here? King George VI, the king of British India, was represented by his Governor General to govern India. There were constituent assemblies much like our current day parliament then too. But their purpose was to serve British interests and not Indian interests. Anyways, India got its independence on 15th August 1947 and under the leadership of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the constitution of India was re-drafted.

Largely adopted and adapted from the British administrative system. That administrative system had a King whereas, we fought over 200 years to get rid of one! Well! So we cannot have a King, but can certainly have his constitution. Now instead of cleaning up the whole muck and re-drafting the constitution, we simply replace the King as an administrative head of the government to what we now know as the President! While the King was tyrannical but the President (post) is useless. I won’t go into a full budget of such a position, but I am told the telephone bill of his palace alone is 60 lacs a year.

In reality all powers vested with the President are only customary. There are no real powers. He can veto a few laws for a while and pocket-veto (remain undecided and hold decisions) a few more, but can change nothing permanently. Whatever he accepts including ordinances require to be duly passed and accepted by the elected representatives of the people in specific time lines. And by the way he can propose nothing, it must come to him for consideration from the Government of the day!

Carrying over the then unlimited Veto powers of the British Monarchy under a alternate term of “President” and without any such powers was a thoughtless proposition. Was it done so as to quickly get a constitution in place without having to tamper with the tenants of British Administrative law or worst still think about newer or better ones? I don’t know really.

This also gets me to the subject of Rajya Sabha and its members. Why do we need a bicameral assembly? Why cannot the democratically elected Lok Sabha make the laws instead of a full additional layer of members in the Rajya Sabha who add nothing but delayed implementation of much needed laws. And not to forget while we already have a President to pay for, now we also need a vice president to preside over the Rajya Sabha!

Should I even talk about the Governors for each of the state and their palaces and entourage and the costs thereof? My opinions are strong, but show me some sense in this. To me this is the best retirement home one can have. Look at the list of its residents, and tell me if anyone did anything else after that. And while this has nothing to do with any of the residents in person, for some of the most respected sons of India held that office in the past and continue to hold it. It is merely talking about governance as a means to an end.

Guest Post: Social Science Fiction By Robert Eggleton

Rarity from the Hollow integrates serious social issues into its narrative. An off-world and an Earth setting are used for scenes. The Earth setting is a microcosm of the universe called a hollow and is located in West Virginia, U.S. A hollow is a relatively flatter crevice on the planet’s surface with hills on both sides, and which is often fed by a river or creek. Typically, hollow residents experience relative isolation from centers of culture and adopt values based upon local tradition. In comparison, the 2014 science fiction film, Appuchi Gramam, used a rustic village as a setting.

The characters in Rarity from the Hollow express strong beliefs about right and wrong from a sub-cultural perspective, as do I by the inclusion of social commentary in the story. Today, whether or not consumers will buy stories that are more than simple escapism is a question being asked by writers, publishers, and filmmakers. Young adult and romance stories dominate fiction. The success of the upcoming film, Paani, a dark science fiction drama, may, in part, answer that question for Hindi speakers.

Historically, speculative fiction has fueled social activism, debate, and the adoption of evolving or devolving social policy depending on one’s values. In 380 B.C., Plato envisioned a utopian society in The Republic and that story represented the beginning of a long string of speculations: ecology, economics, politics, religion, technology, feminism….

The impact of speculative fiction on my personal world view began in the 1960s when Ellison, Aldiss, Herbert and others wrote about the stuff that many American teens at the time were reflecting upon – social and political issues at a tumultuous time. Protests against increasing militarism during the Vietnam War were fueled by the writings of Ellison and Vonnegut. Speculative fiction back then was more than escapism, as evidenced by Ursula Le Guinn, who is commonly attributed with coining the term, “social science fiction,” winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970.

More recently, again focused on America because that’s the only place that I’ve ever lived, and I’ve only seen a little piece of it, please consider the social / political / economic issues related to same sex marriage. Did the GLBTQ titles increasingly being released, and the popularity of television shows such as Modern Family, influence the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that same-sex marriage was a Constitutional right? Of course, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do believe that speculations sparked by artists in every venue have at least a subliminal impact on each of us, an impact that transcends our own prejudices, traditions and belief systems.

Rarity from the Hollow is speculative fiction written in colloquial voice that satirically and comically addresses the (1) need to improve systems for the prevention of child abuse, not only in America, but world-wide; (2) duty to internationally recognize that war trauma can cause PTSD for which veterans, out of respect for their service and irrespective of which side of the battle, deserve mental health treatment; (3) moral obligation to research the medicinal use of marijuana for the treatment of mental health problems as an alternative to pharmaceuticals produced by big drug companies; (4) advantages of creating economic options for workers living in impoverished communities to enable self-sufficiency.

Think about peanut butter and Rarity from the Hollow will make more common sense. At the 2013 International Skoll Forum, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, born in Bangladesh but he travelled extensively in India, reportedly said something like, “We have science fiction and science follows….” Muhammad Yunus heads a company that loans money to entrepreneurs who live in impoverished areas and who would not otherwise qualify for financial assistance.

Again consider the concept that speculative fiction can fuel social activism and apply it to the big problem of malnutrition in the world. Dr. Mark Manary of America headed a scientific breakthrough in the processing of peanut butter that is having a significant impact on the social problem of child malnutrition. It’s called a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) and is made in Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. The lives of thousands of African children have already been saved by RUTF.

Reading Rarity from the Hollow is like eating peanut butter. The story is a little sticky with issues and tissues at times, but it nourishes, and tastes good.

 

About Robert Eggleton:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state of the U.S. for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency. Today, he is a recently retired psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia,U.S., where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Future Track India: Blueprint for a Dynamic India by Dr.Kartik H

Review by Shwetha H S

I guess many of you have heard our elders using two common lines often and pointing at us; one, “you are the future of this country” and two, “this generation has gone to the dogs.” It is another thing that they also say “Nothing good will happen with this country.” With the book, Future Track India: Blueprint for a Dynamic India, Dr.Kartik H proves our elders wrong. In this book, he explains various concepts which if implemented, can help in boosting our economy as well as our relationship with neighbouring countries. He has touched every field in which India has to improve.

When you open this book, you might get daunted by its textbook-like appearance. Once you start reading it, you will appreciate the author’s point of view. But, there are ideas about which the reader might feel that the author must have thought more. For example, he talks about a network of pipelines to transport petroleum oil and other lubricants and also mentions that the same model can be used to transport milk from one part of the country to another. Being a food technologist by profession, when I read it, I felt that this model is not feasible for transportation of milk as it is a perishable food and needs temperature controlled environment when being transported for long time and distance. If pipelines are used for transportation of milk, then those long and huge pipelines need to be flushed with suitable cleaning agents at suitable intervals which are uneconomical. Those pipelines have to be maintained at lower temperatures which again contribute to the cost. This model can even lead to loss of milk. I am not saying this is bad, but this way, Dr.Kartik’s ideas not only suggest ideas to improve our country, but also make readers think about them, just like I was made to think more. He invites us also to think about our country.

Apart from certain ideas which need to be thought more about, Dr.Kartik H provides brilliant concepts that should be considered by the people leading our nation.