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An unmissable love story set in Mughal times

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The Romance of Roopmati and Baz Bahadur

Malathi Ramachandran

Niyogi Books, Rs 395

Mandu is a perfect set up of historical tale and fiction as perceived by author Malathi Ramachandran. The book is a glimmering imagination and magnificence materialised on paper. As an author, Malathi has been successful in portraying the historical city of Mandu—situated in the Malwa region—with all its grandeur and lifestyle. The architecture of forts, the greenery of the city, river Narmada, and the background of the story have been very well described in the book.

Set in 16th century India, this novel is inspired by the legend of the young sultan, Baz Bahadur, and the beautiful peasant girl, Roopmati, who works as musicians in his court. Her passion for music attracts Baz Bahadur and he falls in love with her, going against the will of his mother and wife. But, far away, in Agra, Mughal emperor Akbar is planning his war campaigns and Mandu has been pinned on his map as a kingdom to be captured.

Will Baz be able to protect his capital, and more importantly, the woman he loves, from the enemy forces? 

The author has beautifully painted this love story and brought famous Indian folk tales to life, as well as the independent character of Roopmati. Baz Bahadur and Roopmati’s romance stands the test of time and enemies abound, and that’s quite interesting and inspiring.

With this book, Malathi has delivered a masterpiece. The author has swirled various colours and tinges of love, romance, exuberance and shadiness attached to it without any cease. Roopmati’s passion and aura made Baz Bahadur think out of his wits. Overcoming all the plots of jealousy, revenge and regret, they come out strong in the most unexpected of ways especially when Akbar is also pacified with Roopmati’s talent.

The author has done a great job in character development of both the protagonist. Roopmati and Baz Bahadur and their twisted tale of romance made the plot intriguing enough to let the readers look for more. The story has been very well laid out with events unfolding in line with the plot. It is well paced and there is no rush. The language of the book is lucid and simple. The cover of the book is equally beautiful.

Malathi Ramachandran.

There were some parts that could’ve been detailed better. There is, for instance, a mention of a dwarf and a eunuch; the description seems to be very stereotypical. But it’s a lacuna that can—and should—be ignored for the otherwise gem of a book The Romance of Roopmati and Baz Bahadur is. With prose as stunning as the story itself, the author paints an epoch often told but scarcely written in detail. Highly recommended for historical, love and fictional story lovers.

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The Wrath of an Editor

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The IB sprang into action. So did RAW. The central outfits interrogated both Mariam Rasheeda and Fauziya Hassan on 16 October and 19 October. After the second round of interrogation was over, the Inspector tried to contact the correspondent of Indian Communicator who had filed the story about drug trafficking. When he couldn’t find him, he contacted his journalist friend in Thaniniram, an eveninger, and leaked the news about a spy who had come to destroy India. He also gave an anonymous call to Desabhimani.

Once the story was set, Vijayan informed the Police Commissioner that the press had come to know of Mariam’s detention. The Commissioner rang up R.B. Sreekumar, Deputy Director (IB), who told him that IB couldn’t get anything incriminating from her. The Commissioner suggested that he could book her on grounds of overstay so that IB would get more time for further probe, and it was acceptable to Sreekumar. The Commissioner gave directions to Vijayan to arrest Mariam the next day. It was on 20 October 1994.

Oblivious of the plot, Mariam telephoned Inspector Vijayan to find out whether her papers were ready. He asked her to come to his office at 4 p.m. By that time, the eveninger had flashed the news of her arrest. Only she didn’t know it!

She waited in front of the office when the photographer of Desabhimanislowed his motorcycle in front of her and clicked a snap. Vijayan then called her in. He asked her to remove her ornaments and told her that she was under arrest. From there she was taken to Vanchiyoor Police Station where her arrest was officially made. She was then taken to the women’s cell.

The next day, Desabhimani flashed its scoop. Police have arrested a foreign defence officer on a mission to spy on India’s PSLV technology. The Maldivian woman, Mariam, is a high-profile secret agent in the National Security Service. She had been in constant touch with a senior ISRO scientist and had contacted him thirteen times over the phone. The police have been closely monitoring the activities of foreigners following a report in this daily, a few days back, that foreign spies are having a free hand in the city. Meanwhile, Inspector Vijayan prepared a report in Malayalam and got the draft corrected with the City Police Commissioner based on which the Commissioner sent a confidential letter to the DGP. As per the confidential letter that became the genesis of the police version of Mariam’s arrest, this is how Inspector Vijayan first met Mariam: Since it was felt necessary to have some sort of watch over the movements of these Maldivian nationals, special instructions were given to the City Special Branch staff to form a special cell and verify hotel registers periodically. As part of such verification, on 15.10.94, the officers of the City Special Branch visited different hotels, lodging, etc., in Thiruvananthapuram City. Vijayan, Special Branch Inspector, noticed that a lady named Mariam, holder of Maldivian passport No. A- 080493, was residing in Room No 205 in Hotel Samrat at Thakaraparambu Road, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram. Another Maldivian woman, Fauziya Hassan, holder of Maldivian Passport No. 057394 was also found staying in the same room…

The Commissioner’s letter is silent about Mariam’s first visit to the inspector’ office on 8 October 1994 since he was relying on a note submitted to his office by the inspector himself, who deliberately didn’t mention anything about the meeting.

Inspector Vijayan gave another version of the whole episode in his report sent to Thampi S. Durgadatt, Sub-Inspector (SI), Vanchiyoor Police Station, requesting him to record Mariam’s arrest. So, the arrest report, produced before the Additional CJM court on 21 October 1994 was in line with this new version. It reads: Inspector Vijayan, through some sources, came to know that Mariam was in constant touch with scientists who are connected with the defence of India. On enquiry, he understood that she had shifted from Hotel Samrat to a rented house. On 20 October ’94, he went to the house and cerified her passport. He found her overstaying since 14 October. As she had violated Rule 7 of the Foreigners Order, 1948, and Section 14 of the oreigners Act, 1946, she was detained in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of the country, and later arrested. Vijayan presented ISRO as a defence organisation to prevent any possible counter-allegation from Mariam regarding his misbehaviour. He was sure any such allegation would become a damp squib if Mariam was presented as a spy who had come to destabilise the sovereignty and integrity of India.

The excerpt is from ‘Classified: Hidden Truths in the ISRO Spy Story’ (published by Srishti Publishers).

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UNDERSTANDING THE IGNORED ‘FACES OF INEQUALITY’

Tucked away in the margins of this book is a glimpse of actual India. It’s a compilation of articles based on serious research by journalist Pradeep Baisakh.

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Journalist Pradeep Baisakh collected an account of the persecution and turmoil of approximately a number of places from various states while travelling through all the difficult roads in the book “Faces of Inequality: Stories of the poor and underprivileged from India’s grassroots,” recently published by Notion Press. Biasakh’s book is a compilation of articles based on his serious research, and it disproves the government’s claims of improvement. This book also provides a perspective on India that does not make the front pages of any newspaper or become breaking news on television. Due to a shortage of space in local newspapers, such events are usually forgotten. In reality, tucked away in the margins of this book is a glimpse of actual India.

Amid the talks of a five trillion dollar Indian economy, there is still an India where people struggle to arrange two square meals a day. Many strive hard for the basic needs of food, health and education. Often unheard and ignored, these voiceless people mostly don’t matter to the mainstream media. This book, through various ground reports over a decade and a half, captures the stories of the most marginalised people of society. All the reports should serve as a warning bell till the time another man dies of starvation in Odisha, a girl is raped in brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh, a poor child is forced to work in the cotton fields of Gujarat or an HIV positive woman is thrown out of her house. These are not mere real-life stories but a chronicle of policy and governance failures. The reports analyse the systemic causes of such failures. But all is not lost. Still, there are rays of hope amid the bleak picture. Many positive stories show us how, with the right policy interventions and community effort, the lives and livelihoods of the marginalised can flourish.

The author makes a comparison between the rich and the poor while explaining inequality by narrating a personal experience. The comparison of a luxurious life in a metro city and precarious life in a village depicts the stark reality of economic discrimination in India. The money spent in a Delhi pub in a night, if saved, can feed a village consisting of 250 families in the Balangir district for a month. And this is inequality!

One of my favourites, Devdutt Pattanaik, has tried to respond in his simple yet intellectual manner on several occasions. The storyline of “India is an English-speaking country. Regional languages are the focus of Bharat. India is a highly urbanised country. Bharat is a rural country. India is well-served by English-language media. Bharat is well-served by regional media. India holds Western principles in high regard. Traditional beliefs are upheld by Bharat. India is the domain of the wealthy and powerful. Bharat is a poor, unsophisticated people “Our political leaders are continually endorsing it, frequently across party lines. The goal, according to Pattanaik, appears to be to produce “heroes and villains.” However, he claims that this does not negate the necessity for India to learn from Bharat and for Bharat to learn from India.

The book discusses the evolution of the inequality debate at the global level and in India. Poverty and inequality discussion goes side by side. A large percentage of the population is poor because a few people are super-rich and the global economic system is designed to foster such inequality. The ’Occupy Wall Street’ protest in New York in 2011, which used the slogan, ’We are the 99’ signifying the concentration of wealth in the top one per cent population implying this fact. The book goes beyond the intellectual debates on inequality and attempts to give a human face to inequality – the “Faces of Inequality”!

The book has seven parts and 44 articles. The articles are a reproduction of the author’s grassroots-based write-ups published in various newspapers and journals in India and abroad in the last fifteen years. The issues covered are starvation, distress migration, employment guarantee act, right to information, forest issues, self-help movement, industrialisation and violence, agrarian distress and farmers suicide, disaster etc.

The first article is on the hunger death of Jhintu Bariha’s family in 2011 from the Balangir district of Odisha. The government is always in denial whenever there is a report of alleged starvation death. But circumstances and independent observations suggest that the deaths are actually triggered by hunger.

The articles on distress migration discuss the factors leading to the forced migration of people belonging mostly to tribal and Dalit communities mainly from western Odisha to neighbouring states and the associated adversities.

Under industrialisation, the famous anti-POSCO (Pohang Steel Company, a South Korean steel giant) struggle in Odisha has been discussed in some stories exposing how far a government can go to criminalise its own people for a foreign company. On the other hand, the people who willingly gave away their land to the company, which never came into being, lost their livelihood and are living a life of penury.

Part IV discusses the state of implementation of the progressive laws in India on right to information and rural employment. The stories bring forth how people struggling for their rights face backlash from state and non-state actors. But in some cases, the resilience of people also shows the strength of people’s power, for example, the fight of people in Delhi slums to streamline the public distribution system using the right to information law.

The self-help movement of women in India has shown significant results in the socio-economic empowerment of women.

The book also discusses the plight of millions of migrant workers across the country who had to walk hundreds of kilometres during the lockdown, after the outbreak of novel coronavirus that took shape of a (Covid-19) pandemic in 2019, to reach their homes. A story narrates the ordeal of Rakesh, a homeless migrant worker in Bhubaneswar, who breaks down while asking for food during the lockdown. And there are several such migrant people who reported living in hunger immediately after the lockdown was imposed in March 2019. There is also a story on how the Odisha government, through its proactive intervention, used the self-help groups to procure and distribute basic grocer and vegetables to the villagers in Malkangiri district during the pandemic induced lockdown.

The book also discusses the farmers’ suicides, conditions of people living with HIV, people with disabilities and the fallout of communal clashes. Like the hunger-related deaths, the government would never accept a farmer’s suicide.

The foreword for the book is written by Dr Devinder Sharma, Food and agriculture policy analyst and an authoritative voice on farmers’ issues in India. The book is a good read for the policymaker, social workers, and all people who live a better life but are often oblivious of the people living in distress in their own neighbourhood.

This book depicts an India that has been driven to the periphery, sometimes in the name of progress, sometimes in the name of modernism, and sometimes in the name of change. In reality, it is the disparities in the pain, struggle, love, happiness, and dreams of the poor who live in worlds far apart that makes one wonder if they are in the same nation.

Ashutosh Kumar Thakur is a Bangalore-based Management Consultant, Literary Critic, and Co-director with Kalinga Literary Festival. He can be reached out at ashutoshbthakur@gmail.com

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Getting your storytelling right

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When you are at an event—whether that’s a friend’s dinner party or a networking evening with peers—what do you notice in people? Maybe it’s an outfit that was particularly stylish or the fact that someone had lovely hair or was very elegant. And what makes you remember them the next day? It’s what they had to say for themselves, yes? We conversation you had that was funny or enlightening. An anecdote they shared that stayed in your mind. We remember people for the stories they tell. And that’s true for brands, too.

The maverick and very successful marketer and author Seth Godin says we now live in a ‘connection economy’, and what sets us apart from the Industrial Age is the fact that nothing is standardised anymore. Mass media, communication, marketing, and advertising are not the norm any longer. People now listen to those they want to listen to. They will click on the links they choose to and open the emails they feel matter to them. To communicate e²ectively and successfully, brands (and individuals) need to build trust, create meaningful connections, ask for permission to speak to someone, and exchange ideas in a generous and unique manner. You cannot stick to a formula. You cannot do anything that’s just enough—you have to bake the extraordinary into the routine. And you need to think out of the box as the rule and not the exception.

What all of this boils down to for brands, in my opinion, is storytelling. Now that you have a voice and are clear on your messaging, what do you have to say for yourself? And I want to dispel a common mistake I see people making these days of assuming that storytelling is just for social media posts. It’s really not. From the text on your website to the bio on your social media and the content you share online and offline, brand storytelling is another foundational aspect you cannot afford to take lightly. Today’s consumer no longer makes buying decisions based on price or product range.

They are driven by emotions and experiences, and they want to understand a brand’s values, provenance, and purpose before investing time or money in its products and services. Take for example the fact that if you want to buy a simple white t-shirt, you can choose to either go to a high-street brand, or support a sustainable organic label, or even buy that t-shirt with a high-luxe branded price tag. Each of these brands has a story to tell, and they have to share it consistently across platforms to not just reach their ideal customer, but also retain their attention and support.

When Deepika Gehani was talking to me about brand messaging, she also outlined the importance of knowing what to say, and who to say it to: ‘Many brand success stories are testament to the effectiveness of storytelling. Every brand essentially has its unique strengths, an angle, or a story, and customers want to hear about it. Sometimes it is the brand heritage and the journey, or sometimes the product may be state of art and innovative and therefore inspiring. This hook is an effective strategy as it compels people to make a purchase. Storytelling also helps in building brand loyalty with customers. However, there needs to be a healthy balance, and more often than not brands forget that the narratives need to resonate with your target audience. If a brand story is disconnected from the people that you want to influence, even the greatest version of it will not suffice.’

In all her years of experience, she finds that ‘honesty is what makes a brand communication successful. Any global or local or high-end luxury brand can plan the most outrageous campaigns, but if the quality of the product does not deliver, it is definitely a disaster in making. You have to focus on three things—your product and its USP, which clearly needs to be the highlight of your communication; understanding your customer; and planning, because without it, even the best ideas are unsuccessful.’

As much as it is tempting to stick to a formula or try pleasing an algorithm, your brand story needs a strong foundation and a lot of thought. So where do you start?

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Think about your customer and what they expect from you. This is an important aspect to get very clear on because it helps you decide your storytelling pillars, the social media platforms you need to be on, and the offline strategy you have to employ. Chinmayee Manjunath, who helped me write this book and works with brands on content and communication strategy, has a couple of firm guidelines to help her clients understand their audience:

• How old is your ideal customer? This is absolutely the first step, because once you know the age group of the person you want to target, you can understand what kind of storytelling will appeal to them.

• How and where does your ideal customer consume content? This immediately helps you decide whether you need to be making Reels on Instagram or if your money is better spent doing in-store events, and maybe emailing a fortnightly newsletter. Or perhaps you need to do nothing online and focus on traditional media.

• What are the other brands that your customer supports, and is there a gap between what your competition offers them and what you can? Create a unique storytelling universe, and while there is always some overlap and repetition within an industry, getting very clear on your USP will help you stand out regardless.

• Is there a category of content or information that you know they would benefit from, even if they don’t know it themselves? Say, for example, you own a florist business and specialise in creating bespoke arrangements. What might be nice is to look at the mythology, healing properties, characteristics, and attributes of the flowers that you use. You could also share your own process of how you source flowers, what draws you to certain blooms, and guide your clients on how to choose flowers based on more than just colour and appearance. This adds many layers to what could be a very cut-and-dried process.

Next, you need to align your messaging—which the previous chapter helps you strategise on—with your storytelling pillars. Broadly, these are the most common five pillars, but you will need to tweak them according to your business and what your brand stands for.

1. Inspirational: Happy, cheerful, bright, and uplifting messaging, which is something everyone can and should benefit from. This is when you use quotes from famous people, create stunning flat lays, shoot beautiful visuals, and feature influencer shout-outs, for instance.

2. Educational: To build thought leadership, facilitate knowledge and create an environment for people to learn about your brand and your industry is essential. Content under this pillar includes tips and tricks, video trainings, and stories of culture and heritage.

3. Conversational: Engagement is always key, whether that means comments on a post or chatting with clients on the phone or via video calls. Your aim here is to spark organic interaction via events, giveaways, contests, and polls.

4. Community-building: This pillar is especially important on social media because it helps you convey the lifestyle you envision for your clients, share behind-the-scenes of the brand, and foster personal connections with your content.

5. Commercial: Fairly straightforward and essential to your marketing are calls to action, announcements of new launches or sales, and conducting lives on social media or events offline.

The excerpt is from ‘Pitch Perfect: How to Create a Brand People Cannot Stop Talking About’ (published by Penguin Random House India).

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WHY YUDHISHTHIR IS STILL KNOWN AS DHARMARAJ

Through Dhritarashtra and Duryodhan’s discourse from the Mahabharata, the author has made an excellent effort to clarify the myths, confusion, and ignorance disseminated about Yudhishthir Maharaj.
By debunking the myths and misconceptions about Mahabharat and Yudhishthir Maharaj perpetuated by modern historians, mainly Western historians, and Indologists, this book is of great value.

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While the government of India imposed a lockdown due to the global outbreak of Covid-19, it additionally sorted out for individuals to invest their energy and time at home. On Doordarshan, numerous programs were broadcasted, with the Ramayan and Mahabharat among the most notable. The entire nation enjoys likewise taken benefit of this step of the Government. Social media was flooded with people’s experiences watching the Ramayan and Mahabharat serials at the time. Even videos of the Ramayan and Mahabharat serials’ celebrity casts watching these serials went viral.

Yudhishthir: The Praan Of Dharm.

A book by Aditya Satsangi, an Indian origin Author who lives in America, titled ‘Yudhishthir: The Praan of Dharm’ (Kapot Publications, Delhi) caught my eye recently. I had a different perspective on Mahabharat before reading this book, especially Yudhishthir Maharaj. There was only one reason for this: I had not read the Mahabharat myself, and whatever knowledge I may have had about the Mahabharat come from B. R. Chopra’s Mahabharat and Ramanand Sagar’s Shri Krishna serial, or some other works or novels about the Mahabharat.

My understanding of Yudhishthir Maharaj before reading Aditya Satsangi was that he was the eldest son of Pandu and Kunti, therefore he was the elder brother of the five Pandavs. It is said that he was constantly preoccupied with his own thoughts. He was weak and perplexed, having gambled away his entire kingdom, siblings, and wife, forcing him to roam from forest to forest. Later, when the Mahabharat war erupted, he, too, fought the battle out of terror. After answering the questions of the Yaksh in exile, he was able to bring his brothers back to life. Also, people called him Dharmaraj. Another misconception was that Mahabharat and its characters are fictional, they have no basis in reality. I didn’t agree with it at the time, and I don’t agree with it now, but I didn’t know how to answer. The reason I haven’t studied Mahabharat has previously been stated. That is, all I knew was based on what others had said. My mind was in turmoil when I read the first few lines of the preface to the book ‘Yudhishthir: The Praan of Dharm’, because this is what we all desire to read but can’t find in books.

Those lines are as follows, “Mahabharat is the most studied great composition of Vyasadeva. The Western & Indian Indologists have been writing long commentaries creating fake news and commentaries which have long destroyed the identity of all Indians. Most Indians have been made to believe in fake narratives on Mahabharata that affect their faith. This book contains many authoritative versions of the stories from the point of view of Vyasadeva. Readers will love the wisdom, characters and their true identity.”

When I first started reading the book’s introduction, I came across something like this, “It has almost become a fashion to comment on Mahabharat without understanding the mood of Vyasadeva, the original compiler of Mahabharat. Nor do most people understand Ganesh, the original scribe of Mahabharat. ……………Most importantly they considered Vyasadeva as some ordinary author. When you consider him a mythological figure then everything in this world is fake. However, every single geographical description of the earth in Mahabharat is real. The names of landmasses, many cities and many regions have the same names even today. Where is all this fake news on Mahabharat originating from? From the vestiges of Romans, Greeks, Middle Eastern Historians, Christian Missionaries, Faith-based Cabals, and Islamic academicians have come some ridiculous brave attempts to make Indians not believe in Mahabharat. The mythology brigade has a newfound friend in the left that wants to undermine everything else to spread their neo ideologies.”

The introduction of the book has a variety of knowledge, and every Indian who reads himself as Sanatani will say, “These are my feelings.”

The book’s prologue was written by Dr Ratan Sharda, a well-known Indian TV personality, and author of numerous books. It occurred to me after reading the book’s account of Maharishi Ved Vyas that Maharishi Ved Vyas was the one who compiled the Mahabharat “Vyasochishtam Jagat Sarvam”, a Sanskrit word I’d heard or read since boyhood, presumably translates to the complete knowledge of this world is the leftovers of Maharishi Ved Vyas, and another lyric sprang to mind—“Dharmo Vivardhati Yudhishthirakirtanen”… That is, chanting the name of Yudhishthir causes Dharma to flourish.

After that, I had a lot of questions, like how can Mahabharat be fictional if all knowledge is Maharishi Ved Vyas’ leftovers? What makes Maharishi Ved Vyas a fictional character? What kind of personality would Maharishi Ved Vyas have had? We who follow Sanatan or Hindu traditions are constantly told that Ved Vyas is one of the eight Chiranjeevis (immortals), so how could his creation be fictitious or false? If chanting Yudhishthir Maharaj’s name helps Dharm to flourish, why is his face depicted so weakly? Many such questions began to appear in my mind, but I kept my attention on the book. The introduction’s final phrases will make the reader think, “Vyasadeva is the authority on all Vedic histories and scriptures. Minimising the position of Vyasadeva is the beginning of mythology.”

In this book, the author also outlines the Structure of Mahabharat. For Sanatan Dharm followers, knowing which is extremely important. As soon as I read the first chapter in the main portions of the book, the image I had of Yudhishthir Maharaj, which I had mentioned earlier, was completely demolished. Is this true? was the only thought that sprang to mind. So, until today, which Yudhishthir was I familiar with?

The author’s claim that he is writing everything on the basis of the Sanskrit version of Mahabharat and that it is not a work of fiction has led to this demolition of the previous image of Yudhisthir. Why is Yudhishthir Maharaj crowned Emperor, and why is he still known as Dharmaraj? What was the root of Duryodhan’s enmity? He was the son and the crown prince of Dhritarashtra at the time. What transpired after Yudhishthir’s Rajsu yagya that Duryodhan felt compelled to concoct a Dyut (gambling) conspiracy? These questions can be answered by scholars. But, based on what I’ve heard thus far, the answers are found in the narrative derived from the serial Mahabharat as well as commentaries or translations of the Mahabharat.

Through Dhritarashtr and Duryodhan’s discourse from the Mahabharata, the author has made an excellent effort to clarify the myths, confusion, and ignorance disseminated about Yudhishthir Maharaj. Duryodhan himself explains why he is envious of Yudhishthir Maharaj, and it is in this envy that the great personality of Yudhishthir Maharaj is hidden. If I write in fewer words, after reading the first chapter of the book, Did Yudhishthir love Gambling?, readers will begin hunting for Yudhishthir Maharaj’s portrait in the market to hang in their homes. The meeting/dialogue between Yudhishthir and Maharishi Ved Vyas is also described in the book. Now, how could the Yudhishthir Maharaj, whose glory is recounted by Duryodhan himself, Maharishi Ved Vyas himself used to come to meet Yudhishthir Maharaj, be weak and confused? Do those who follow the Sanatan Dharm reject Maharishi Ved Vyas as well? The author has delegated this decision to the readers, which is a good step.

By citing Ved Vyas, the author attempts to dispel all of the issues surrounding Mahabharat and its events in this book. After reading the chapter Eklavya & Dronacharya, I learned that it was Dronacharya who later made Eklavya a master of archery through his fingers, which I had not known before.

Another chapter of the book, Kanik’s Political Advice to Dhritarashtra, is the hidden jewel of this book, which is vitally necessary for contemporary Sanatanis to read in order to grasp the Sanatan opponents’ crafty manoeuvres. In this 250-page book, you’ll find a wealth of information.

By debunking the myths and misconceptions about Mahabharat and Yudhishthir Maharaj perpetuated by modern historians, mainly Western historians, and Indologists, this book is of great value. This lays the foundation for readers to study scriptures such as the Mahabharat and Ramayan on their own. When generations of Indians are raised reading, hearing, and experiencing these stories, they will no longer consider India’s wonderful history to be mythology, fantasy or fantasy fiction.

The author is a Himachal-based educator, columnist, and social activist. He can be contacted at mahenderchem44@gmail.com

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BOOKS TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEK

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A Place in My Heart

Anupama Chopra

Penguin Random House, Rs 499

‘A Place in My Heart’ is a many-splendoured thing. It is a listicle. It is a celebration of the power of storytelling. It is also an account of a life lived in the Bollywood trenches. National Award-winning author, journalist and film critic Anupama Chopra writes about fifty films, artistes, and events that have left an indelible impression on her and shaped her twenty-five-year-long career. Shah Rukh Khan is here. So are ‘Super Deluxe’ and the Cannes Film Festival. ‘A Place in My Heart’ is a blend of recommendations and remembrances, nostalgia and narratives. It is a smorgasbord of cinematic delights, written, as Marie Kondo would say, to ‘spark joy.’ Above all, this book is a testament to Anupama Chopra’s enduring love for all things cinema.

A SACRED JOURNEY: THE KEDARA KALPA SERIES OF PAHARI PAINTINGS AND THE PAINTER PURKHU OF KANGRA

Karuna Goswamy & B.N. Goswamy

Niyogi Books, Rs 3,000

The Kedara Kalpa is a relatively little-known Shaiva text; and only slightly better known than it are the two dispersed series of paintings to which this study is devoted. But both raise questions that are at once elegant and deeply engaging. Ostensibly, they treat of a journey by five seekers who set out to reach the realm of the great god, Shiva—walking barefoot through icy mountains and deep ravines, frozen rivers and moon-like rocks, running on the way into temptations and dangers the like of which no man before them had encountered—and, in the end, succeed. The text is visualised with brilliance sometimes by members of a talented family of Pahari painters.

Classified: Hidden Truths in the ISRO Spy Story

J. Rajasekharan Nair

Srishti Publishers, Rs 350

Did you know that the CIA had sabotaged ISRO’s top secret operation to transfer cryogenic rocket technology from Russia to India? Ever wondered what is the real reason why S. Nambi Narayanan does not want the whole truth behind the ISRO spy story to surface? Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was rocked by a spy case in 1994, taking down in its wake six persons, including S. Nambi Narayanan. They were blamed for passing critical rocket technology to a neighbouring nation and booked for the same. Classified exposes the hidden truth behind the spy story and how it highlighted the fractures of our premier institutions. It shows us how the spy case stripped them bare, down to their bones.

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Banter and bonding

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‘You’re late for work, Kittu,’ Ravi Pant remarked, grave concern on his face, as he took a bite out of his lightly buttered toast. ‘When is she not?’ Shamik added his unsought opinion. ‘Dadu, we should get her married. Get a house-husband for her who would pitch in.’ ‘Because there are not enough duffer men in the house already?’ High BP chimed in calmly. ‘You’re always targeting me, Dadu,’ Shamik whined. ‘Kittu is right. You boys need to start acting your age and take responsibility for yourselves,’ Ravi Pant’s voice assumed a deeper baritone, warning Shamik to curb the nonsense.

‘Hear that, Shamik?’ Kittu glared at the twins, conveying with her eyes that if they helped out a tad, she wouldn’t be so drained. Sometimes she felt like a single mother of four. ‘Better organisation, better planning. Little changes, big rewards. That’s what Kittu Di needs. Learnt that in class yesterday,’ Shamik attempted a wisecrack. ‘I agree, Kittu Di. Better planning is all you need. Otherwise you’re very efficient,’ Nishant didn’t spare her either.

Kittu wanted to punch the boys, but that would be a losing proposition. Instead she opted for a mind game. ‘Nishant, someone called for you while I was cleaning your room. Esha, I think her name was.’ A slice of apple he was about to munch on plopped on to his plate. ‘She said she had accidentally left an important letter in a library book. Said she wanted it back.’ Nishant’s demeanour went from brat-like to pup-like in under a second. A hapless look emerged and stayed put. He pleaded with his eyes to keep his secrets between them. She smiled slightly in agreement, pleased with the dice rolling in her favour. ‘Kittu Di, I know you’re late for work. But could you please stop by the dhobi and check on my trousers?

I need them for a party tonight,’ Shamik was lazy and incorrigible.

‘You want a good spanking?’ ‘Who wants a spanking, ever?’ Shamik mocked. ‘Unless, you know, it was me asking someone on a romantic night,’ he winked and added so softly only she could hear. ‘Shut up. You’re so cheap.’ ‘What? I’m talking about Bark Twain.’ Bark Twain jumped to his feet at the sound of his name. ‘Who’s the bad boy? Who’s the bad boy?’ Woof, came the response. ‘The bad boy is our Mehul Malappa,’ High BP handed out his verdict, helping himself to a generous serving of oat bran cereal. ‘His father should have trained him before allowing him to run for chief minister. And what is all this nonsense he keeps tweeting?’ ‘Bauji, it’s just facetiousness that creates a sensation on social media. Bad leaders the world over are resorting to it.

Why blame the poor kid? And please, watch the sugar,’ Ravi pointed at the cereal bowl High BP had just filled to the brim with cold milk and cereal. ‘It’s not just bad leaders. It’s bad journalists too. I read what your respected Mr Verma tweeted on the marginalisation of minorities yesterday. Despicable it was.’ ‘Also the truth,’ Ravi retorted, helping himself to some ketchup, which he smothered on his omelette. ‘He’s your boss, not your god. You can call a distasteful tweet a distasteful tweet once in a while. I’m glad I did.’ ‘I don’t treat him like a god. It’s not like a public sector bank where you blindly worship authority.’ ‘There’s a fine line between worship and respect. It’s definitely not the private company culture where everyone’s on a first name basis. You wouldn’t know.’ High BP was at it between mouthfuls of cereal. ‘Can you pick up a different variety? I don’t like this,’ he ordered Ravi, pointing at his bowl. ‘Respect in the guise of—’ Ravi had developed selective hearing just like his father. ‘Wait, what do you mean you’re glad you did?’ ‘I’m glad I gave your Mr Verma a fitting reply. Will set him straight,’ High BP announced smugly. ‘You gave a fitting reply to my boss?’ The hand that held Ravi’s omelette-laden fork stood frozen in the air. So did his mouth, a few inches away from the fork. ‘Sure I did. It was nasty but fitting. He asked for it.’ ‘On Twitter?’ It was a futile question, but Ravi still posed it, hoping against hope. ‘Arre bhai if he wrote on Twitter where else would I retort?’ 110 Parinda Joshi ‘Bauji! You don’t even have a Twitter account.

‘Bauji! You don’t even have a Twitter account.’ ‘So? The iPad does. I used the Twitter icon on it.’ Ravi buried his red face in his palms, then ran a hand through his hair. ‘That iPad is MINE. It’s got MY Twitter account. Do you realise you just wrote a nasty retort to my boss using my name?’ ‘So what? Tell him it was your father. You wouldn’t dare anyway.’

The excerpt is from A House full of Men (HarperCollins India).

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