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From a presidential memoir to COVID-focused reads, the insights by an influential former civil servant, The Dalai Lama’s message on climate change, and a power-packed book by the co-founder of the Black Live Matter movement, 2020 was a significant year for books. Here’s what kept us company during the tumultuous 2020.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making-from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy
In the stirring, the highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from a young man searching for his identity to the leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency-a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
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Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.
A Burning by Megha Majumdar
For readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies-and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India
This is an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe. They seek to rise to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies. One is Jivan, a Muslim girl from the slums accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. The second is PT Sir, an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, only to find his own ascent linked to Jivan’s fall.
And the third is Lovely, an irresistible outcast who has an alibi that can set Jivan free-but at the cost of everything she holds dear. Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting right from the outset, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed that it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance, at a breakneck pace, on complex themes that read as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles while nurturing big dreams in a country spinning towards extremism.
The Purpose of Power by Alicia Garza
In a powerful and timely exploration of recent racial history, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter examines the moment we’re in, how we got here, and how together we can create a just and equal world.
Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag when Alicia Garza wrote what she calls a love letter to Black people’ on Facebook. But hashtags don’t build movements, she tells us. People do. Interwoven with Garza’s experience of life as a Black woman, The Purpose of Power is the story of how she responded to the persistent message that Black lives are of less value than white lives by galvanizing people to create change. It’s an insight into grassroots organizing to deliver basic needs – affordable housing, workplace protections, access to a good education – to those locked out of the economy by racism.
It is an attempt not only to make sense of where Black Lives Matter came from but also to understand the possibilities that Black Lives Matter and movements like it hold for our collective futures. Ultimately, it’s an appeal to hearts and minds, demanding that we think about our privileges and prejudices and ask how we might contribute to the change we want to see in the world.
Portraits of Power: Half a Century of Being at Ringside by N.K. Singh
N.K. Singh has been a formidable civil servant, an empathetic politician, a keen chronicler of India’s socio-economic history, and the quintessential academic that academia never got. His life’s work, as chronicled in this book has indeed been intertwined with the progress India has made. In many such cases, Singh has been not just an active contributor but has also given shape to that many momentous decisions-whether through the use of diplomacy or the rigors of understanding the mechanism of the levers of power or, for that matter, by consensus building.
Portraits of Power is not just an autobiography of a man, who for several decades has played an active role in India’s march towards becoming a formidable economy; it is indeed, on multiple levels, a book that profiles myriad institutions that work in harmony to make things happen. And in everything that N.K. Singh has done, so in this book too, there is both incisive clarity and insightful anecdotal heft.
Our Only Home: A Climate Appeal to the World by The Dalai Lama and Franz Alt
Saving the environment is our collective duty. With each passing day, climate change is causing Pacific islands to disappear into the sea, accelerating the extinction of species at alarming proportions and aggravating a water shortage that has affected the entire European continent. In short, climate change can no longer be denied – it threatens our existence on earth.
In this inspiring new book, the Dalai Lama, one of the most influential figures of our time, calls on political decision-makers to finally fight against deadlock and ignorance on this issue. He argues that we all need to stand up for a different and more climate-friendly world and to allow the younger generation to assert their right to regain their future.
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From the voice of the beloved world religious leader comes this eye-opening manifesto that empowers the generation of today to step up, take action, and protect our world.
The Battle Of Belonging: On Nationalism, Patriotism, And What It Means To Be Indian by Shashi Tharoor
There are over a billion Indians alive today. But are some Indians more Indian than others? To answer this question, one that is central to the identity of every man, woman, and child who belongs to the modern Republic of India, eminent thinker and bestselling writer Shashi Tharoor explores hotly contested ideas of nationalism, patriotism, citizenship, and belonging.
In the course of his study, he explains what nationalism is, and can be, reveals who is anti-national, what patriotism actually means, and explores the nature and future of Indian nationhood. He gives us a clear-sighted view of the forces working to undermine the eidea of India’ (a phrase coined by Rabindranath Tagore) that has evolved through history and which, in its modern form, was enshrined in India’s Constitution by its founding fathers.
Divided into six sections, the book starts off by exploring historical and contemporary ideas of nationalism, patriotism, liberalism, democracy, and humanism, many of which emerged in the West in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and quickly spread throughout the world. The author then summarizes India’s liberal constitutionalism, exploring the enlightened values that towering leaders and thinkers like Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore, Ambedkar, Patel, Azad, and others invested in the nation. These are contrasted with the narrow-minded, divisive, sectarian, us vs them’ alternatives formulated by Hindutva ideologues, and propagated by their followers who are now in office.
Firmly anchored in incontestable scholarship, yet passionately and fiercely argued, The Battle of Belonging is a book that unambiguously establishes what true Indianness is and what it means to be a patriotic and nationalistic Indian in the twenty-first century.
Till We Win: India’s Fight Against The Covid-19 Pandemic by Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, Dr. Gagandeep Kang, Dr. Randeep Guleria
When will India ever win the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic? How long do we have to use masks? When can we expect a safe and effective vaccine? Do we need to wear masks even after we get a vaccine? What if there is no definitive treatment against COVID-19? How can we protect our family from this disease? How should we respond to this ‘new normal’ as an individual and as a community? What is the way forward? Offering insights on how India continues to fight the pandemic, Till We Win is a must-read for everyone. It is a book for the people, for political leaders, policymakers, and physicians, with the promise and potential to transform public health in India.
No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer
Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings reveals for the first time the unorthodox culture behind one of the world’s most innovative, imaginative, and successful companies.
There has never before been a company like Netflix. It has led nothing short of a revolution in the entertainment industries, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue while capturing the imaginations of hundreds of millions of people in over 190 countries. But to reach these great heights, Netflix, which launched in 1998 as an online DVD rental service, has had to reinvent itself over and over again.
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This type of unprecedented flexibility would have been impossible without the counterintuitive and radical management principles that cofounder Reed Hastings established from the very beginning. Hastings rejected the conventional wisdom under which other companies operate and defied tradition to instead build a culture focused on freedom and responsibility, one that has allowed Netflix to adapt and innovate as the needs of its members and the world have simultaneously transformed.
Here for the first time, Hastings and Erin Meyer, bestselling author of The Culture Map and one of the world’s most influential business thinkers, dive deep into the controversial ideologies at the heart of the Netflix psyche, which have generated results that are the envy of the business world. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with current and past Netflix employees from around the globe and never-before-told stories of trial and error from Hastings’s own career, No Rules Rules is the fascinating and untold account of the philosophy behind one of the world’s most innovative, imaginative, and successful companies. (IANS)
Clean beauty products are making inroads and have gained a significant share of the beauty market, with more more people becoming aware of the their benefits. With each passing year thanks to technology, research and development natural ingredients have finally regained their place in the spotlight. Don't take our word for it, beauty icons Kriti Sanon and Shanaya Kapoor also believe in natural and clean beauty products, and associate with the 'Naturali' range launched by RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. The new age nature-inspired personal care brand aims to provide a one-of-a kind experience to their customer infused with trendy natural ingredients delivering quick visible results.
Hair care ambassador Kriti Sanon said, 'I am extremely thrilled to be associating with Naturali haircare range that is infused with modern, trendy natural ingredients which are free from harmful chemicals. I have always been an ardent supporter of the 'no nasties' proposition when it comes to my hair care needs, hence this association came very naturally to me. Everyone knows that natural products are supposed to be good for you, but they are often believed to be slow in giving results. Naturali changes this, as the range has a unique SuperBlend of complementary natural ingredients, that are optimized to give you quick visible results. As a woman myself, I strongly believe that no woman should ever have to compromise especially with respect to her beauty choices. So, it is extremely fulfilling to see a brand that is not only good for you being free from harmful chemicals but also makes you look good.'
Clean beauty products are making inroads and have gained a significant share of the beauty market, with more more people becoming aware of the their benefits. | Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Bollywood debutante and skincare ambassador Shanaya Kapoor said, 'It is exhilarating to be associated with Naturali Skincare range. It's a brand that I feel complements my personality and I'm sure, just like me, a lot of young women are going to instantly connect with it. It's trendy, unapologetic, true to its claims, and most importantly takes charge. What resonated with me the most was the fresh take Naturali offers on nature-based skincare, the exciting ingredients - Avocado, Tea Tree, Red Raspberry coupled with the free from harmful chemicals promise. As someone who's had to deal with her fair share of skin problems like pimples while growing up, I am certain this range is going to be very useful for girls out there and I can't wait for them to try it out!'
Shashwat Goenka, Sector Head, Retail & FMCG said, 'There has been a paradigm shift in how Indian consumers, especially the younger, more conscious generation, engage with beauty products today. They are looking for a holistic and transparent approach towards beauty and wellness that is result-oriented. However, despite there being a burgeoning rise in the demand for natural beauty products, the personal care 'free from nasties' segment is still underpenetrated in terms of mass, affordable players. And that's where we come in - Naturali, a personal care brand infused with natural ingredients that are efficacious and free from harmful chemicals. The range is also available at pocket-friendly price points to the masses, a first for the segment."
He further added, 'We are very glad to announce Kriti Sanon as the face of the Naturali haircare range while Shanaya Kapoor represents the skincare offerings. We are a new, bold, and trendy brand and we wanted to associate with individuals who could help bring out and advocate these values. Kriti and Shanaya are a perfect choice as both are young, vivacious, and personally, resonates with our natural first proposition.'
The brand is backed by a SuperBlend technology that offers a combination of two modern, efficacious, natural ingredients like Avocado and Charcoal, Moringa and Avocado, Red Onion and Bhringaraj, Tea Tree & Avocado amongst others.
(Article originally published by: N. Lothungbeni) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Beauty, skincare, Kriti Sanon, Shanaya Kapoor, clean beauty
Children are often seen running around singing "London Bridge is Falling", and making a face of sadness when they reach the last line. Most people assume that the Fair Lady referred to in the rhyme is the Queen of England, and the current queen at that. But the history behind this rhyme goes farther back in time than we realize.
Speculation associated with this rhyme has to do with a process call immurement. Immurement was when a person was enclosed in a room with no exit points. This was more an act of superstition than punishment. It was believed to bring sturdiness to the structure if people were imprisoned behind the walls. London Bridge falling down was something that people at the time associated with weakness. But there is no evidence to substantiate the idea of immurement.
The Bridge of yesteryear London Image source: wikimedia commons
A more historical account states that the bridge fell as a result of a Viking attack. Vikings of Norway have a similar set of rhymes that associate their role in bringing down the Bridge of London. They sing of conquest and gold, and blessings from Odin, in Norse, which refers to the Bridge. King Olaf II is credited with this feat.
Most historians, unable to properly supply evidence of the above claims, state that perhaps the Thames River is the reason this rhyme came into existence. The original London Bridge had 19 arches that went deep into the river. This caused difficulty in navigation. The Bridge was taken down and reconstructed to accommodate boats and ships. Perhaps, it was this historical reconstruction that is being sung about. The London Bridge is the only one that directly refers to a historical event, and yet has no plausible evidence to support it.
Keywords: Rhymes, London, Bridge, History, Viking, Immurement
Atop the Vindhyagiri hills in Karnataka, a 57-foot-tall statue stands. This is the statue of Lord Gomateshwara, or Bahubali, as he is known to the local patrons. The surrounding area is filled with temples where each of the many Jain Tirthankaras sits.
Sharavanabelagola is named after a pond that is located at the foothills. 'Bel' in Kannada means white, and 'kola' means pond. This is a sacred water body to the activities of the temples. It is a tourist attraction and a pilgrim destination located 85 kilometres from Mysore, and 145 kilometres from the capital, Bangalore.
The pond that Sharavanabelagola is named after Image source: wikimedia commons
Since the statue is placed at such a great height, pilgrims are made to make a journey to the top of the hill by foot. They are required to climb the stone steps barefoot as an act of piety and devotion. Palanquins are offered only to senior citizens who wish to worship at the temple.
In 3 B.C, when India was ruled by the Mauryan Dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya became a Jain monk and took up residence in the Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri hills. He is supposedly responsible for the establishment of the temple complex at Shravanabelagola, where he lived till he died. Later on, his grandson, Ashoka made some additional changes to the place.
A shop in the tourist section that sells handmade items Image source: wikimedia commons
Every twelve years, a Mahamastabhisheka is conducted, and Jains from every part congregate to witness it. The statue is washed with water, rice flour, sugarcane juice, saffrom, sandalwood paste, gold, and silver flowers, curd, ghee, milk, and turmeric, and all the monks offer special prayers. The surrounding temples and rocks are preserved as archaeological wonders owing to the 800 edicts and inscriptions found here which span 600 to 1830.
Keywords: Shravanabelagola, Jainism, Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Karnataka