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Five Books To Look Forward To In March 2018

Featuring non-fiction by Romila Thapar; a biography of actor Sanjay Dutt

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The shortest month of the year turned out to be quite a dull one for most readers. While Sourav Ganguly’s “A Century Is Not Enough” and “Do We Not Bleed” by Mehr Tarar did create some buzz, most other books released during the month seem to have gone out of sight. A quick look at the front shelves of bookstores as also the books trending on e-commerce sites shows the disappointment that February was for bookworms.

But IANS recommendations for March will bring cheer. Featuring non-fiction by Romila Thapar; a biography of actor Sanjay Dutt; a politically charged memoir by Taslima Nasrin; a cheeky story of a little girl’s harrowing experiences with public toilets; and finally a powerful collection of stories from Anjum Hasan, these books are sure to be read and talked about widely.

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The most expensive book ever purchased was sold for $30.8 million. Pixabay

Here are the five books that we can’t wait to read this March:

1. Indian Cultures As Heritage, by Romila Thapar (Aleph)

Every society has its cultures: The patterns that reveal how people live and express themselves, and how they value objects and thoughts. What constitutes Indian heritage and culture has been much discussed. Thapar begins by explaining how the definitions of the concept of culture have changed in the last three centuries and hence require added attention. Cultures, when defined by drawing on selected items and thoughts from the past, remain relatively unknown, except to a few. Yet, each has a context and meaning relating them to the past and to their significance as a contemporary presence. Contexts, often regarded as unconnected to culture, can, to the contrary, be quite illuminating.

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There’s a word for loving the smell of old books. Pixabay

2. A Day in the Life, by Anjum Hasan (Penguin)

Quixotic retirees in Coorg and young newly-weds trying to eat meat; teenage boys traveling to Benares in the nineteenth century and a retiree with an anger-management problem in an India where the right wing is rising. Fourteen well-crafted stories give us a sense of daily Indian life of a wide cast of characters. Hasan’s protagonists are, as always, living in their own heads a lot of the time, often whimsical and vulnerable outliers. Where is their place in the new order, where have they come from and where are they going? Billed by the publisher as “quietly devastating, subtly subversive and wonderfully wry”, Hasan’s stories are increasingly a good address for authentic Indian fiction.

3. Sanjay Dutt: The Crazy, Untold Story of Bollywood’s Bad Boy, by Yasser Usman (Juggernaut)

Sanjay Dutt, in the brief of this book, has been dubbed as “the original bad boy of Bollywood”. In the early 1980s, it was not uncommon to find him passed out over the steering wheel of his car on a suburban road of Mumbai after a night of drugs and alcohol. Sanjay’s open love for guns and hard partying, his rippling muscles, long hair and many glamorous girlfriends, including the top actress of that time, defined machismo for a generation of Indian men.

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The first book ever written using a typewriter was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Pixabay

But underneath the tough-guy image, there were genuine struggles, too: Both his mother and his first wife died tragically young of cancer, and Sanjay had to go through long and painful periods of de-addiction therapy. In this book, Yasser Usman tells the uncensored story of Sanjay’s roller-coaster life that is stranger than any fiction — from the time he smuggled heroin into the United States and went on a drunken shooting spree at his Pali Hill home after breaking up with his girlfriend to his curious phone calls to gangster Chhota Shakeel and his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts.

4. Split, by Taslima Nasrin (Penguin)

Nasrin is known for her powerful writing on women’s issues and uncompromising criticism of religious fundamentalism. “Life felt like a feather at one moment and heavy as a stone the very next. I had never really felt this weight before, the full weight of life, and before I could make sense of things, it had crept down my back and slowly bent my spine. I could not recognize this life; it was mine and yet it was not. Without pausing to consider I had given away everything life had offered to me to another. Later, racked with thirst, I had reached out and found that there was nothing left for me… My life was spread out in front of me like an arid wasteland,” she writes in her upcoming book.

“Split” has a compelling narrative that captures the plight of the eminent Bangladeshi woman writer with freedom of expression and speech at the book’s core.

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U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt read one book per day. Pixabay

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5. I Need To Pee, by Neha Singh (Puffin)

And finally, why should adults have all the fun? Here is a charming picture book empowering children to speak up about their right to use toilet facilities in a clean and safe environment. Rahi simply loves slurping refreshing drinks, and so she always needs to pee. But boy, does she hate public loos! On her way to her aunt’s in Meghalaya, she has to pee on a train as well as a stop at a hotel and even the really scary public toilet at the bus depot! And when those around her refuse to help her with her troubles, her only savior is her “Book of Important Quotes”.

Travel with Rahi and read all about her yucky, icky, sticky adventures in this quirky and vibrant book about the ever-relevant worry of finding safe and clean public restrooms. (IANS)

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Now 53 eminent historians issue joint statement against ‘growing intolerance’

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New Delhi: In a bid to express their anguish and protest about the “highly vitiated atmosphere” prevailing in India, 53 historians on Thursday issued a joint statement lashing out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his stoic silence over growing intolerance in the country.

Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib are among the eminent historians who, in the joint statement, decried the climate in which “differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter-arguments but with bullets.”

They also warned the Bhartiya Janata Party government against distorting history.

“What the regime seems to want is a kind of legislated history, a manufactured image of the past, glorifying certain aspects of it and denigrating others, without any regard for chronology, sources or methods of enquiry that are the building blocks of the edifice of history,” the historians wrote.

“It is easy to trample them down, but it is important to remember that it will take too long and will be beyond the capacity of those who are currently at the helm of affairs, to rebuild it once it is destroyed.”

Here is the full text of their joint statement.

“After concerned at the highly vitiated atmosphere prevailing in the country, characterised by various forms of intolerance, we, as academic historians and as responsible citizens of a democracy that has greatly valued its inherited traditions of tolerance, wish to express our anguish and protest about the prevailing conditions.

Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter arguments but with bullets. When a poor man is suspected to have kept a food item that certain sections do not approve of, his fate is nothing short of death by lynching. At the launch of a book whose author happens to be from a country disapproved of by certain groups, the organizer is disfigured with ink thrown on his face.

And when it is hoped that the Head of Government will make a statement about improving the prevailing conditions, he chooses to speak only about general poverty; and it takes the Head of the State to make the required reassuring statement, not once but twice.

When writer after writer is returning their award of recognition in protest, no comment is made about the conditions that caused the protest; instead the ministers call it a paper revolution and advise the writers to stop writing. This is as good as saying that intellectuals will be silenced if they protest.

This is particularly worrying for us as historians as we have already experienced attempts to ban our books and expunge statements of history despite the fact that they are supported by sources and the interpretation is transparent. What the regime seems to want is a kind of legislated history, a manufactured image of the past, glorifying certain aspects of it and denigrating others, without any regard for chronology, sources or methods of enquiry that are the building blocks of the edifice of history.

We would therefore urge the state to ensure an atmosphere that is conducive to free and fearless expression, security for all sections of society and the safe-guarding of the values and traditions of plurality that India had always cherished in the past.

It is easy to trample them down, but it is important to remember that it will take too long and will be beyond the capacity of those who are currently at the helm of affairs, to rebuild it once it is destroyed.”

Here’s a list of the 53 historians.

1. Romila Thapar (New Delhi)

2. Irfan Habib (Aligarh Muslim University)

3. MGS Narayanan (Kozhikode)

4. KN Panikkar (Thiruvananthapuram)

5. Y Subbarayalu (Pondicherry)

6. BD Chattopadhyaya (Kolkota)

7. DN Jha (Delhi)

8. BB Chaudhuri (Kolkota)

9. JV Naik (Mumbai)

10. KM Shrimali (Delhi)

11. Neeladri Bhattacharya (JNU)

12. Kumkum Roy (JNU)

13. Shireen Moosvi (Aligarh)

14. Indu Banga (Chandigarh)

15. Rajan Gurukkal (Bangalore)

16. B Surendra Rao (Mangalore)

17. A.R.Venkatachalapathy (Chennai)

18. MR Raghava Varier (Tirur)

19. Arun Bandopadhyaya (Calcutta Univ)

20. KL Tuteja (Kurukshetra)

21. Sanjay Subodh (Hyderabad Univ)

22. Nayanjot Lahiri (DU)

23. Upinder Singh (DU)

24. Amar Farooqui (DU)

25. Gopinath Ravindran (Jamia Milia Islamia)

26. Farhat Hasan (DU)

27. Sunil Kumar (DU)

28. RP Bahuguna (Jamia Milia Islamia)

29. Ruby Maloni (Bombay Univ)

30. Kesavan Veluthat (DU)

31. BP Sahu (DU)

32. Manjiri Kamat (Bombay Univ)

33. Anshu Malhotra (DU)

34. Aditya Mukherjee (JNU)

35. Mridula Mukherjee (JNU)

36. Rakesh Batabyal (JNU)

37. R Mahalakshmi (JNU)

38. Radhika Singha (JNU)

39. Biswamoy Pati (DU)

40. Suchandra Ghosh (Calcutta Univ)

41. Sushmita Basu Majumdar (Calcutta Univ)

42. Bishnupriya Basak (Calcutta Univ)

43. Radhika Seshan (Pune Univ)

44. Prabhu Mohapatra (DU),

45. Charu Gupta (DU),

46. Sanghamitra Mishra (DU),

47. Aparna Balachandran (DU),

48. Rahul Govind (DU)

49. Yasser Arafat (DU)

50. Manu V Devadevan (Mandi)

51. Ranabir Chakrabarti (JNU)

52. Rajat Datta (JNU)

53. Umesh Ashok Kadam (JNU)