In this no-holds-barred memoir, renowned feminist economist and academician Devaki Jain recounts her own story and also that of an entire generation and a nation coming into its own.
She begins with her childhood in south India, a life of comfort and ease with a father who served as dewan in the Princely States of Mysore and Gwalior. But there were restrictions too, that come with growing up in an orthodox Tamil Brahmin family, as well as the rarely spoken about dangers of predatory male relatives. Ruskin College, Oxford, gave her her first taste of freedom in 1955, at the age of 22. Oxford brought her a degree in philosophy and economics—as well as hardship, as she washed dishes in a cafe to pay her fees. It was here, too, that she had her early encounters with the sensual life. With rare candour, she writes of her romantic liaisons in Oxford and Harvard, and falling in love with her ‘unsuitable boy’—her husband, Lakshmi Jain, whom she married against her beloved father’s wishes.
Devaki’s professional life saw her becoming deeply involved with the cause of ‘poor’ women—workers in the informal economy, for whom she strove to get a better deal. In the international arena, she joined cause with the concerns of the colonized nations of the south, as they fought to make their voices heard against the rich and powerful nations of the former colonizers. Her work brought her into contact with world leaders and thinkers, amongst them, Vinoba Bhave, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Henry Kissinger, Amartya Sen, Doris Lessing and Iris Murdoch, her tutor at St Anne’s College, Oxford, who became a lifelong friend.
In all these encounters and anecdotes, what shines through is Devaki Jain’s honesty in telling it like it was—with a message for women across generations, that one can experience the good, the bad and the ugly, and remain standing to tell the story.
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Prabhakar, returning home one evening, comes upon a corpse at a crossroads, naked but for the skullcap on his head. Days later, he listens to Katerina’s stark retelling of a gang rape in a village, as chilling as only the account of a victim can be. And in a macabre sequence, he finds his favourite dhaba no longer serves gular kebabs and rumali roti, while Bonjour, the fine dining restaurant run by a gay couple, has been vandalised by goons.
Casting a long shadow over it all is Mirajkar, the ‘Master Mind’, brilliant policy maker and political theorist, who is determined to rid the country of all elements alien to its culture—as he, and his partymen, perceive it.
A professor of political science, Prabhakar observes these occurrences with deepening concern. Is the theory he put forth in his book—that it is not the influence of those who preach goodness and compassion that prevails, but the matter-offactness of cruelty—playing out before him?
In the midst of all this, he meets Katerina, beautiful, half-Russian, wearing the scars of a brutal incident as a badge of honour. Together, they discover that, even in times that are grim, there is joy to be had.
In this frank and freewheeling narrative, Kuldip Nayar recounts his experiences of meeting many of the men and women who shaped the destiny of pre- and post-Independence India, revealing hitherto unknown aspects of their personalities and shedding light on many key events in the country. Was Nehru a secret dynast who had only his daughter Indira Gandhi in mind as his successor? What role did Nayar himself play in Lal Bahadur Shastri’s election as prime minster after Nehru’s death? Why did Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan—revered as the Frontier Gandhi—refer to Indians as ‘baniyas’? And who did Zulfikar Ali Bhutto think should be the prime minister of the entire subcontinent—India, Pakistan and Bangladesh?
Interspersed with these political reminiscences are delightful accounts of Meena Kumari’s encounter with Shastri on the sets of Pakeezah, and Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s flawless recitation of his great poetry even after consuming a full bottle of Black Dog whiskey.
Nayar does not fight shy of expressing his opinions—be it a comparison of JRD and Ratan Tata, advice for Narendra Modi, or reflections on the shape of Indo-Pak relations had Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah lived longer.
In this absorbing and entertaining book—which he finished only weeks before he passed away—Kuldip Nayar writes in the grand old tradition of journalists who were not afraid to tell it like it is.
Under Something of a Cloud spans a lifetime of Dom Moraes’ work to select the very best of his travel writing. Featured in this volume is a vividly recollected childhood tour of Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Australia with his father, Frank Moraes, and his mother, Beryl, who was then rapidly sliding into madness; a darkly comic account of a trip to the Sikkim-Tibet border, amidst rumours that the Chinese would soon attack India; and a thrilling adventure among the Dani tribe in Indonesia who, at that time, were reputed to be cannibals.
Also included here are Moraes’ sojourns among dacoits in the Chambal valley, one of whom, Lacchi, he helped spring from police custody; the account of a heartwrenching meeting with a man in Bhagalpur in Bihar who had acid poured into his eyes by the police; and encounters with women victims in Ahmedabad, soon after the riots in 2002, which left him shattered.
With a keen sense for atmosphere, colour, understated wit and unfailing empathy for the underdog, Dom Moraes brings to life people and places like few other writers anywhere can. Not only will fans of the author love Under Something of a Cloud, it will also appeal to readers of world-class travel writing and connoisseurs of timeless prose.
Spanning half a life, My Father’s Garden tells the story of a young doctor—the unnamed narrator—as he negotiates love and sexuality, his need for companionship, and the burdens of memory and familial expectation.
The opening section, ‘Lover’, finds him studying medicine in Jamshedpur. At college, he discovers an all-consuming passion for Samir, a junior, who possesses his body, mind and heart. Yet, on their last morning together, when he asks Samir to kiss him goodbye, his lover tells him, ‘A kiss is only for someone special.’
In ‘Friend’, the young doctor, escaping heartbreak, finds relief in Pakur where he strikes up an unusual friendship with Bada Babu, the head clerk of the hospital where he is posted. In Bada Babu’s house, they indulge a shared love for drink, delicious food and convivial company. But when government bulldozers arrive to tear down the neighbourhood, and Bada Babu’s house, the young doctor uncovers a sordid tale of apathy and exploitation—and a side to his new friend that leaves him disillusioned.
And in ‘Father’, unable, ultimately, to flee the pain, the young doctor takes refuge in his parents’ home in Ghatsila. As he heals, he reflects on his father—once a vital man who had phenomenal success at work and in Adivasi politics, then an equally precipitous downfall—and wonders if his obsessive gardening has anything to do with the choices his son has made.
Written with deep empathy and searing emotional intensity, and in the clear, unaffected prose that is the hallmark of Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s style, My Father’s Garden marks a major talent of Indian fiction writing at the top of his form.
Dom Moraes was not only one of India’s greatest poets, he was also an extraordinary journalist and essayist. He could capture effortlessly the essence of the people he met, and in every single profile in this sparkling collection he shows how it is done.
The Dalai Lama laughs with him and Mother Teresa teaches him a lesson in empathy. Moraes could make himself at home with Laloo Prasad Yadav, the man who invented the self-fulfilling controversy, and exchange writerly notes with Sunil Gangopadhyaya. He was Indira Gandhi’s biographer—painting her in defeat, post Emergency, and in triumph, when she returned to power. He tried to fathom the mind of a mysterious ‘super cop’—K.P.S. Gill—and also of Naxalites, dacoits and ganglords.
This collection is literary journalism at its finest—from an observer who saw people and places with the eye of a poet and wrote about them with the precision of a surgeon.
This book is an outcome of the efforts of all the contributors who have been past employees of The British Council in India. I am very appreciative of their indulgence and patience. The book is a limited edition print, which aims to highlight the learning and training that all of us have been through in the corridors of Jor Bagh, Rafi Marg and Kasturba Gandhi Marg not forgetting short stints in the UK. The articles are the sort of experience sharing that I aimed to manifest through the book.
The contributors have been on an Indo-British journey that has been very adventurous for some, exciting for others, unpleasant for a few but definitely educative for all. The British colleagues have also benefitted from living in India, albeit for short durations and working with Local Staff (the Odd Desi) and the two have mingled well. The proof of their integration is the Memories that remain etched in the minds of each of the contributors.
This book has been published in a no profit no loss basis by Speaking Tiger under its imprint Tiger Print.
Conceptualised, Co-ordinated, Compiled and Co-Financed by: Frank Joseph Victor (popularly known as Joe Victor).
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A legend of Hindi cinema, Gulzar is among the Subcontinent’s finest poets and lyricists, whose songs have touched millions. He remains as popular today, and as sensitive a chronicler of our emotions, as he was half a century ago. And throughout, his work has been gloriously distinctive—especially for the unforgettable images and the intimacy he brings to his songs.
In this book of conversations with the acclaimed author and documentary filmmaker Nasreen Munni Kabir, Gulzar speaks about the making of his most enduring songs—from ‘Mora gora ang lai le’ (Bandini; 1963) and ‘Dil dhoondta hai’ (Mausam; 1975) to ‘Jiya jale’ (Dil Se; 1998) and ‘Dil toh bachcha hai ji’ (Ishqiya; 2010). He also discusses the songs of other greats, like Shailendra and Sahir Ludhianvi; his favourite music directors, like SD and RD Burman, Hemant Kumar and AR Rahman; and several playback singers, among them, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle, Vani Jairam, Jagjit Singh and Bhupinder Singh.
Full of insight, anecdote and analysis—and containing over 40 songs, in roman script and English translation—this book is a treasure for students and lovers of Hindi cinema, music and poetry.
The origin of New Delhi can be traced to the Coronation Durbar in December 1911, where Emperor George V announced the transfer of the capital of the British Empire in India from Calcutta to Delhi.
Swapna Liddle traces in fascinating detail the events that led up to that historic day: the deliberations over the choice of location; the roles played by the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, and the two principal architects, Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker; and, finally, the naming of the capital as ‘New Delhi’—to distinguish it from the old city of Shahjahanabad.
Even as the new capital took shape, it was Connaught Place that gave life to the city. Designed as a shopping and commercial centre for the elite—both British and Indian—it boasted of the most exclusive shops, cinemas and restaurants.
While many of the old familiar haunts like Gaylord, Volga and Regal Cinema have shut their doors, Connaught Place continues to reinvent itself with shiny new multiplexes, branded stores and restaurants taking their place. A guidebook of the early 1940s described Connaught Place as ‘indeed the most fashionable shopping centre…and, undoubtedly the most progressive part of the most progressive town in the country.’ The crowds that continue to throng its corridors, both young and old, visitors to the city and residents alike, bear testimony to the statement.
Rare photographs and illustrations add to its value as a classic amongst city biographies, in keeping with Liddle’s earlier book, Chandni Chowk: The Mughal City of Old Delhi.