Ruled or Misruled : The Story and Destiny of Bihar by Santosh Singh [Book Review]

rm.jpgTitle : Ruled or Misruled : The Story and Destiny of Bihar

Author : Santosh Singh

ISBN : 9789385436307

Publisher : Bloomsbury India

Genre : Indian History & Politics

Pages : 339

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars

I had started this book quite a few months ago but due to some reason had discontinued it. This time I decided to pick it up and finish it in one go.

As pretty much clear from the title, the book describes the entire political journey of Bihar- The predominant Congress rule till its fall 1990, the JP movement, socialist rule under Karpoori Thakur, the rise of Lalu and the 15 years of Lau-Rabdi Jungle raaj that reduced the state’s reputation to ashes due to the bureaucratic and law-and-order carnage, the rise of Nitish, vernacularisation of Politics by both Lalu and Nitish and the recent rise of BJP in Bihar (the book was written before the 2015 Assembly Polls in Bihar).

One thing that I really liked in this book is that instead of describing all the events chronically, the author has decided to arrange chapters according to a topic/event/political figure which has proved to be a turning point in the history of Bihar. This makes sure that if Lalu-Rabdi misrule and  Nitish’s efforts to revive the economic and social fabric of the state have been elaborated in detail, figures like Paswan, Jiten Ram Manjhi and events like BJP-JDU split and reconciliation of JDU-RJD have also been given proper coverage and attention.

Bihar’s history cannot be narrated without the mention of Lalu and as expected, 6 chapters have been exclusively dedicated to him. His hilarious antics, MY (Muslim Yadav) politics, his peculiar ways of connecting with the masses while breaking all protocols, his rustic banter, stopping of Advani’s chariot, nepotism, scams and scandals have been put down with proper details with numerous references. Some spine chilling account of murders and kidnappings during the “jungle raaj” also find a space in the book, inevitably. Moving ahead, the author scans the political history of Nitish, who though started his journey with Lalu and his party, is poles apart from the RJD chief and had brought the agenda of “Development” for the first time in a state where everything has a caste angle and casteism is deeply entrenched in the political fabric. The various “Social Engineering” approaches used by Nitish have also been mentioned very profoundly and the author also doesn’t miss to point out various loopholes and failures in  execution of numerous projects started by Nitish, making the book a real unbiased account.

The author, Santosh Singh, is an Assistant Editor at Indian Express and himself has been a witness of many events in the book. He deserves all the accolades for the meticulous research he has done to put together multiple references and gather anecdotes from the popular as well as thew tainted political figures of Bihar. Though I must mention that the book needs better editing and perhaps a tighter narrative.

Buy a copy for yourself from Amazon here.

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The Reader by Bernhard Schlink [Book Review]

the-reader1Title : The Reader

Author : Bernhard Schlink

ISBN : 9780375408267

Publisher : Vintage Books

Genre : Historical Fiction

Pages : 218

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars

It’s not always that I finish a book and stare at my surroundings while still pondering should I exclaim “Wow” or try to decipher why I am sad. It’s not always that I go numb for a while after finishing the book and a particular character keep hitting my head like a hammer on the nail.

Michael is 15 year old and one day on his way to school he falls sick and is rescued by Hannah, a 36 year old street car conductor. What follows is a sensual encounter between the two and both continue a furtive courtship full of passion, intense love-making, vacations and romance. Michael becomes bewitched by Hana and falls in love with her but her silences perturbs him. She keeps mum about her past life and is hardly ever seen in public. She asks Michael to read to her and they spend much time with books- Michael reading her popular German classics. One day Hannah disappears without any trace or explanation. Life moves on and Michael joins law school. He is supposed to attend a trial as a part of his course, where he sees Hannah again. She is being tried for a hideous crime but it doesn’t take Michael to realize that during the trial, through her obscure arguments having various loopholes, her momentary blank stares and her peculiar silence, she is trying to guard a secret- a secret about herself that she doesn’t want anyone to know, which Michael is soon to find out.

“The Reader” is a hard-hitting tale of passion, love, guilt and a meditation on choices one makes in life. The story has mention of holocaust and it takes place in Post-war Germany and you might want to step in the shoes of someone who has been through the tragic era to actually understand Hannah’s behavior and her secret.

The book, towards the end, will also leave you wondering- wondering about who was right and who was wrong or if no one was right or wrong and it was just circumstances cunningly setting things the way they came out to be.

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The Criple and His Talismans by Anosh Irani [Book Review]

Cripple.jpgTitle : The Criple and His Talismans

Author : Anosh Irani

ISBN : 9789350296035

Publisher : Harper Collins India

Genre : Magical Realism

Pages : 232

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars

The narrator has lost his arm (and he cannot recall how) and he is on a journey to find it. He starts the journey with a meeting with a man called the “In-charge” who gives him a clue and now it is upto him to unravel the mystery, look for the subsequent clues to retrieve his arm. Sounds simple? It isn’t!!

Along the way, he meets many people who are as weird and unique as him. A lady who sells rainbows, another lady who lights a thousand lamps, an underwater giant who is born out of a wedlock between a peacock and a river, a coffin-maker, a lonely boy in a train, a “goonda” and all of them lead him to a single man- The man who amputates the ones who don’t deserve limbs and then sells those limbs to others who are in a need of them!

“The Cripple and his Talisman” is dark, weird, unexpected, magical and adventurous. Some of the situations depicted might not get down well with the reader, especially the ones where the narrator goes into the flashback and describes his school life’s incidents. Also, the book is sure to take you unaware because you might find it completely random and disconnected at various points.

If you like your fiction to have a concrete, coherent plot, then this book is definitely not for you. But if you believe in the genre of “Magical Realism” and you can let yourself go while reading a book and love to expect the ‘unexpected’, then you will find this book a welcome and engrossing read.

Not to forget, the story is set up in Mumbai and the author doesn’t miss to mention various subtleties that echo the “Spirit of Mumbai’ every now and then.

This books again was a Birthday gift and I haven’t even heard of Anosh Irani before I got my hands on this beautiful and colorful hardcover. Later I got to know that his other works too have won a lot of accolades. I must appreciate the author for this impressive, honest and risky debut and I look forward to read his other works soon.

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Blink by Malcolm Gladwell [Book Review]

Blink.jpgTitle : Blink

Author : Malcolm Gladwell

ISBN : 9780316010665

Publisher : Penguin India

Genre : Psychology

Pages : 296

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars




It is quite rare for me to read two books by the same author almost back-to-back (I just finished reading “The Tipping Point” last month). Also it a coincidence that the last book I read was about “Big Data” which characteristically explained how huge amount of data helps us while “Blink” tries to convey exactly the opposite message that too much information can actually obfuscate the entire decision making process.

An art expert sees a rare expensive statue and immediately realizes that it is fake. An analyst just takes a couple of minutes while he watches newly married couples engage in a conversation and immediately gives the judgment as to how long their marriage will survive. A sports enthusiast can predict within the blink of an eye if the next shot by the basket ballplayer is going to be successful or not…How do they do that? What makes them immediately and correctly judge the situation and take the correct decision?

“Blink” is all about such moments when we know something unconsciously and act but we don’t exactly know why we are doing it. It can make you believe that how at various points of time, “snap judgements” can actually be more beneficial and accurate than carefully thought and deduced decisions. The author also describes contrary situations where snap judgements cannot and shouldn’t be relied upon and this is what makes this book comprehensive.

The book is full of interesting anecdotes and extremely interesting psychological and social experiments that have been done in this subject and is another masterpiece by Gladwell. He very profoundly describes that how too much information actually affects our snap judgement capability and how many a times “the less you know, the better you perform”.

A must read. Buy a copy for yourself from Amazon here.

The Leadership Sutra: An Indian Approach to Power by Devdutt Pattanaik [Book Review]

Big Data.jpgTitle : The Leadership Sutra: An Indian Approach to Power

Author : Devdutt Pattanaik

ISBN : 9789384067465

Publisher : Aleph Book Company

Genre : Economics and Business Management

Pages : 137

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars



Devdutt Pattanaik is not a new name in Indian literary scene lately. If I have to take one name who has actually revived the way “Indian Mythology” is interpreted and presented to readers in the recent times, it has to be Dr. Pattanaik. He has read numerous books after the tremendous success of “Jaya: An illustrated retelling of Mahabharata” and this book too does complete justice to its title and intention of the author.
There are four sections in the book- Significance, Property, Rules and Stability. Each section has many chapters. The distinct feature of each of these chapters is the way it has been presented. Each chapter in turn has three parts :- The first part describes an anecdote from Indian Mythology. Apart from introduction, this anecdote gives you an idea what the author is going to discuss in the chapter.

In the second part, the author puts forward his own comments as to how this anecdote is important in the present context and explains the various points and learning that you can imbibe from the particular anecdote.

In the third part, the author describes a hypothetical situation in a company/corporate setup and analogize it with the mythological anecdote, profoundly explaining how an incident from ancient Indian mythology can prove to be true and relatable in a corporate setup.

The book is also full of hand made flowcharts and graphics which, apart from being a welcome sight to the eyes while reading, also complement the author in his efforts to present his thoughts and concepts.

I got this book as a birthday gift but now I am looking forward to read the other gems from the author- Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management and The Success Sutra: An Indian Approach to Wealth.

Buy yourself a copy from Amazon here

Big Data: Does Size Matter by Timandra Harkness [Book Review]

Big DataTitle : Big Data: Does Size Matter

Author : Timandra Harkness

ISBN : 9781472935830

Publisher : Bloomsbury

Genre : Economics and Business Management

Pages : 304

Source : Publisher

Rating : 3 stars




First of all, thanks to Bloomsbury India for sending a review copy of the book to The Booktrack.

If you are a working professional (at a corporate/startup) you must have realized that the term ‘Big Data’ has almost become ubiquitous. If you aren’t in this sector, then too you must have noticed something peculiar- you visit an e-commerce website and very soon you are seeing the ads for the products that your browsed through almost everywhere on internet. Or, you just tweeted a few times about a particular commodity and there you go bombarded with ads regarding that. That’s ‘Big Data’ coming into play!

I was a bit skeptical when I started this book, because it mentions that the author is a comedian! You don’t expect a comedian to write on a somewhat technical topic but after a little bit of research on internet I found more about Timandra Harkness and realized that she is ‘not just a comedian’.

The author has done a commendable research (especially the historical information related to Statistics is just amazing) in putting down this book.  One the history of Big data is dealt with, the book delves into how Big Data is changing (or should I say ‘has already changed’ ?) our day-to-day life. The books talks about how AI (Artificial Intelligence) is nothing but a product of Big Data and also how politicians can actually influence us to vote for them during Elections by getting to know a few details about us accurately.

Whenever we discuss Big Data, the issue of ‘Breach of Privacy’ is a tacit point of discussion and the author discussed how too much of Data analysis usage can actually act as a “Big Brother” for the common man.

All in all, the book started on an extremely interesting note as far as the historical aspect of Big Data is concerned, perfect enough for a layman to absorb and understand the concepts. But the author all of a sudden gets too ‘technical’ in the chapter ‘Thinking Machines’ which you might find a tough nut to crack (hence, 3 stars). Having said that, the book is still an eye-opener and an enriching account.(I am using the word ‘eye-opener’ because you will realize how much you are ‘watched upon’ and how much your activities are being ‘measured’ and ‘quantified’)

A good read. Buy yourself a copy from Amazon here 


Tanya Tania by Antara Ganguli [Book Review]

Tanya Tania.jpgTitle : Tanya Tania

Author : Antara Ganguli

ISBN : 9789384898410

Publisher : Bloomsbury India

Genre : Contemporary Fiction

Pages : 224

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars




Tanya Tania is a story about two teenage girls, Tanya and Tania, one from Karachi (Tanya) and one from Bombay (Tania). The two, upon their mothers’ insistence, start writing letters to each other and become pen pals.

The two start of as acquaintances and start getting close after the initial few exchanges of letters. In their letters, Tanya and Tania share every detail about their lives, details they wouldn’t even tell their families, with each other, drawing the reader into their intimate worlds. They write to each other about their surroundings, family, events, friends, school/college and aspirations. Eventually the two start talking on the phone. They continue writing to each other for two years (1991 and 1992) until one devastating incident makes Tania stop writing to Tanya.

The book is set in 1990’s Karachi and Bombay. The author has described the two cities vividly through her narration. Although both the girls are of same age, they’re vastly different from each other due to the differences in their upbringing and environment. Yet, the two bond really well and become great friends and become each other’s support in their intertwined worlds.

Things turn violent in the second half of the book, when both Tania and Tanya are subjected to riots and political mishaps in their respective cities (Demolition of Babri Masjid and violence in Pakistan), which leads Tanya to shift to America.

The author through her beautiful narration talks about friendship, sex, companionship, the importance of education, ambitions and jealousy and how these things are differently perceived by the two. The letters are funny and at the same time, heart breaking. This is the first book of Antara Ganguli that I’m reading and I must say the author is a compelling and passionate writer.

The ending of the book, which by the way will make you hold your breath, is heart-wrenching, tragic and unexpected. All in all, Tanya Tania has been an amazing read. It is highly engrossing and kept me hooked till the end, definitely a page turner.

It’s a must read.

One of the quotes from the book:

“It’s better to make people wonder what you think of them rather than wonder what they think of you.”

Buy a copy for yourself on Amazon here