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Thank You Mr Crombie : Lessons in Guilt and Gratitude to the British

Instead, thanks to Mr Crombie’s letter, and to his parents’ chagrin, he was able to embark on a career in journalism which saw hm rise to become the BBC’s sports editor, and as a highly prolific author to write more than 50 books…reports Asian Lite News

David Smith reviews Mihir Bose’s autobiography – Thank You Mr Crombie : Lessons in Guilt and Gratitude to the British

The first challenge for any reviewer is to explain the title of a book. In the case of Mihir Bose’s entertaining autobiography, the Mr (John) Crombie is or was the Home Office official who wrote to him from Croydon in 1975 with the news that he was free to remain permanently in the UK.

For the author, Mr Crombie’s letter was a life changer. Having studied at Loughborough University and qualified as a chartered accountant, he was after six years preparing to return to India and take up an accountancy career, abandoning his dream of becoming a writer.

Instead, thanks to Mr Crombie’s letter, and to his parents’ chagrin, he was able to embark on a career in journalism which saw hm rise to become the BBC’s sports editor, and as a highly prolific author to write more than 50 books.

I should say at the outset that I have a bit part in this book, as a colleague of Bose’s on the now defunct Financial Weekly newspaper in the early 1980s, and as a very occasional player for his cricket team. Most of his story was, however, new to me.

The chapters on his childhood in India are a delight. Born in Kolkata a few months before independence in 1947, most of his upbringing – the “little prince” of his family – was in Mumbai, all of 2,000 kilometres away from Bengal, where his father’s family ran a factory making raincoats and gumboots.

Bose had a good education at the hands of the Jesuits of St Xavier’s College, won debating competitions and, as a result of his success in an elocution competition was chosen to represent India at a youth even in Haifa, Israel. His book is dedicated to Father Fritz, one of his Jesuit teachers, “for making me believe I could be a writer”. In Mumbai he developed a love of literature, and of English newspapers which he found a way of gaining access to. He cannot have expected then that he would later grace many of their pages.

On finishing school, Bose could, like many of his compatriots, chosen a university education in America. After sitting the SATS’ exams, he was offered places there, but his family lacked the foreign exchange for him to be able to go. That was also a challenge when it came to Britain – he needed a sponsor – and his father managed to put together £800, a very large sum in the late 1960s, which he admits he smuggled into the UK by means of some ingeniously designed underpants.

After qualifying as an accountant and working as one. Bose blagged his way into sports journalism. Always cricket mad, and who these days can count some of India’s greatest cricketers among his personal friends, this was far from the case when he contacted the newly established LBC radio station and was hired to report on India’s 1974 tour. By doing so, he met some of his heroes, including John Arlott. Not all of his heroes lived up to expectations. Having admired from afar in India the writings of the late Anthony Howard in the New Statesman, he confesses to being disappointed on meeting him.

Later in the 1970s, by now reporting on football for the Sunday Times, he experienced some of the racism that was typical in the sport. Reporting on a Chelsea-Tottenham game, a seated fan asked him if he was reporting for the Southall Express. When he said that he was there for the Sunday Times, the racist fan said: “Blimey, Brian Glanville (the paper’s veteran football writer) must have changed colour.” Bose got his own back by referencing the racial slur in his report on the match.

There was worse to come, in physical violence and racial slurs – including the inevitable shouts of “Paki” – at the hands of skinhead football supporters. These incidents make uncomfortable reading, as do the racist insults directed his way in letters from a writer, who I will not mention by name, who managed to find his way to the cover of Wisden Cricket Monthly.

Bose’s forte, described in detail, was combining his love and knowledge of sport with his financial expertise as a qualified accountant. He reported on Olympic corruption, the dodgy deals that scuppered England’s bid to host the football World Cup under the Blair government and, most notably what he describes as “taking on a national treasure”, the former England and Tottenham football manager Terry Venables. His reporting, in the Sunday Times, exposed the dark underbelly of football, with its “bungs”, backhanders and other secret payments.

You do not, however, need to be a sports fan to enjoy this book, written as a series of short chapters, almost vignettes, 53 in all, covering everything from amateur dramatics and student politics to the 2012 Olympics.

It is the story of a remarkable man who straddled two cultures, of the small boy born in Kolkata who became a household name in Britain, and who celebrated his 70th birthday, surrounded by his very many friends, at the Reform Club in London, of which he is a prominent member.

He became a member of the British establishment, though never in a stuffy way, friend and occasionally foe to government ministers, invited to Buckingham Palace receptions and encountering the late Duke of Edinburgh’s clumsy style – to put it kindly – and serving on the Gambling Commission.

He is optimistic about Britain’s future, and its ability to come to terms with its imperial past. British culture, he writes, is wonderful but sometimes badly served by the actions of individual Britons. This is a wide-ranging and thoughtful book. It is a delight, and thoroughly recommended.

Thank You Mr Crombie :

Lessons in Guilt and Gratitude to the British

By Mihir Bose Price- £25

 (David Smith is the Economics Editor of The Sunday Times)

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Unwind with Non-Fiction Titles on Money, Politics, and Health

Tracing the history and origin of this philosophy, the book serves to refine one’s thinking, showing how the ancient Roman philosophers Marcus Aurelius and Seneca remain relevant and helpful in day-to-day problem-solving…writes Kavya Dubey

Now that the long Eid weekend is behind us and we are in the thick of work, it may be a good idea to spend the evenings unwinding with a book, instead of waiting to catch up with the latest OTT release. Here’s our selection of four non-fiction titles to help you charge your grey cells and enhance your knowledge bank.

Our subjects include a philosophy for everyday life, tips on optimising wealth and attaining financial security, an insight into the politics of Uttar Pradesh, and menstruation and its mysterious connection with the moon.

William Mulligan, The Everyday Stoic: Simple Rules For A Good Life (Penguin, Rs 550)

Popular on Instagram as ‘The Everyday Stoic’, the page deconstructs, modernises and makes the ancient wisdom of Stoicism practical.

The philosophy of Stoicism encourages the development of self-control as a means to overcome destructive emotions. According to the principles of Stoicism, getting clear and unbiased in one’s thinking allows one to understand universal reason.

Deconstructing the core of Stoicism, namely, virtues such as wisdom, courage, justice and moderation, helps make a person much more resilient in regular modern life, bringing clarity and strength.

Tracing the history and origin of this philosophy, the book serves to refine one’s thinking, showing how the ancient Roman philosophers Marcus Aurelius and Seneca remain relevant and helpful in day-to-day problem-solving.

Like it says in the book: “We all deserve to flourish. It’s only fair if we all get a chance to learn how to live better, for ourselves and for the people we love.” This book is a lens to look at your life afresh.

Shyamlal Yadav, At the Heart of Power: The Chief Ministers Of Uttar Pradesh (Rupa, Rs 395)

If there is one state in India that could serve as India’s indicator of its electoral and political future, it is Uttar Pradesh, and this very fact explains the political significance of the province.

The author, an award-winning journalist with ‘The Indian Express’, delves into the lives of all its 21 Chief Ministers thus far, beginning with the years immediately after Independence to the present.

Panning the spotlight on personalities, from Govind Ballabh Pant to Yogi Adityanath, and their distinguishing qualities, each leader is presented in the light of their politics and imperatives of staying in power. How they dealt with and triumphed over trying times and details of the socio-political landscape during their years in office have contributed significantly to shape the state into what it has become today.

Yadav’s exhaustively researched book presents the legacy of 21 stalwarts, their policies, ideologies and leadership styles. By understanding them, we will be able to appreciate the complexities of governing the state better.

Scott Galloway, The Algebra Of Wealth: A Simple Formula For Success (Torva-Penguin, Rs 899)

Wealth is not all about just money. So, what must one have apart from an understanding of wealth? The author says it is stoicism, followed by a mindful understanding of focus, time management in the larger sense of the expression, and diversification with regard to economic security.

Much like the intricacies and equations of algebra, Galloway decodes the mathematics of wealth, splitting it as “Focus + (Stoicism x Time x Diversification)”. In a little over half a ream, drawing the difference between having money and being rich, the author has condensed his learnings as a professor, mentor, founder and parent.

Drawing on the author’s experience, this book offers insights into how to not just get rich, but also attain financial security. And it leaves the reader with a thought to be mulled over: “If money is the goal, you’ll never have enough.”

A professor of Marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, Galloway has founded nine companies and authored books like ‘The Four and The Algebra Of Happiness’. He is the founder of an online education platform that teaches business strategies to working professionals.

Nirmala Gowda Nayak, Menstruation: Moon, Men and More (Rupa, Rs 1,095)

An offering on “living harmoniously and holistically”, the book encapsulates what is often a debate on public forums or sigh-laden utterance in quiet corners: the need for rest, reflection and rejuvenation during menstruation — and smashing taboos around it.

Clearing out misconceptions surrounding menstruation, the author seeks to celebrate the woman’s womb as a symbol of femininity and power. The book serves as a means to awaken a less-informed community to the reality of this naturalness and understand and address impediments faced by women in the times we live.

A handy guidebook to help you comprehend menstrual health, understand the requirements of emotional well-being, and the nutritional needs of individual body types with a holistic outlook, it calls for as much awareness and mindful engagement of men and encourages them to help create an environment of acceptance and respect.

Nirmala Gowda Nayak is a proponent of menstrual health education and women’s empowerment through yoga and emotional well-being workshops.

ALSO READ-Yoga’s Diverse Health Benefits for Women

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The Nagarwala Scandal: The Heist That Shook a Nation

These theories gained tailwind after Nagarwala died in Delhi’s Tihar Jail — later established to be a case of myocardial infarction and not any foul play — following an unusually quick dispatch of the case and allegations that the probe had deliberately been botched up…writes Sourish Bhattacharya

All those who have been following the exploits of conman Sukesh Chandrasekhar may not have ever heard about the retired Indian Army Captain, Rustam Sohrab Nagarwala. Or may just have a faint recollection of him.

It was Nagawala who pulled off the mother of all cons in a scam with a dramatis personae that included Indira Gandhi, her trusted aide, P.N. Haksar, the State Bank of India and the Mukti Bahini, which was fighting for the liberation of the then East Pakistan.

The sordid saga began with a phone call on May 24, 1971, to the head cashier of the State Bank of India’s Parliament Street branch in New Delhi by a person doing a very good job of impersonating Indira Gandhi.

The voice instructed Ved Prakash Malhotra, who, incidentally, happened to be related to R.K. Dhawan, the late prime minister’s factotum, to hand over Rs 60 lakh to a courier who’d meet him soon for a top-secret operation in East Pakistan. Malhotra was also instructed to go to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) later to collect the receipt.

The gullible cashier — was he gullible, or was he used to receiving verbal instructions from Mrs. G? — did as he was told, but when he showed up at the PMO to ask for the receipt, he was shocked to learn that no such instruction has been issued by the prime minister.

Malhotra panicked and filed a complaint with the Chanakyapuri police station, where SHO Hari Dev, an enterprising police officer, swung into action and the perpetrator of the con, Nagarwala, was caught at the Delhi Airport with much of the money that the cashier had handed over to him unsuspectingly. Nagarwala ended up getting a four-year prison term.

This barebones case summary doesn’t do justice to the zillions of questions that arose in the immediate aftermath of the scam erupting into the public domain — questions that soon gave birth to conspiracy theories.

These theories gained tailwind after Nagarwala died in Delhi’s Tihar Jail — later established to be a case of myocardial infarction and not any foul play — following an unusually quick dispatch of the case and allegations that the probe had deliberately been botched up.

The death of the investigating officer, D.K. Kashyap, in mysterious circumstances (a tonga had crashed into his car) did not help matters, nor did the suspicious transfers of all those who either probed the case or were engaged in Nagarwala’s trial.

Indira Gandhi’s silence on the episode, even as newspapers and the Opposition were dining out on it, only ensured that the suspicions about her role gained a long afterlife.

Senior journalists Prakash Patra and Rasheed Kidwai have trawled a number of sources — from police records to contemporary newspaper reports, to files at the National Archives of India, to the 820-page report of the Justice Jaganmohan Reddy Commission set up by the Morarji Desai government in 1978 to investigate the matter — to piece together a riveting story that deserves to be re-told for a generation that has grown up in a political culture muddied by a succession of scams — real, or invented to fix political rivals.

When the Nagarwala case blew up, against the backdrop of the build-up to the Bangladesh War, scandals of this magnitude were hardly ever heard about. And, rightly, as the title of the book puts it, ‘The Nagarwala Scandal’ was indeed ‘The Scam That Shook the Nation’.

Nagarwala’s con, which inspired the character and story of Major Bilimoria in Indo-Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry’s award-winning debut novel, ‘Such A Long Journey’ (1991), returned to the headlines briefly in 2017.

Retired IPS officer Padam Rosha, who shows up in Patra and Kidwai’s book, approached the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) in 2017 for transcripts of the evidence he had shared with the Reddy Commission, but the Union Home Ministry turned down his request, an order that the then CIC, Wajahat Habibullah, overruled.

Yet, like the case itself, which lies buried with questions that remain unanswered, nothing came out of the CIC episode.

This book revisits the “rash of questions”, to quote the authors, that the case raises: Did the bank keep Indira Gandhi’s unaccounted-for money? Or, was the money that Nagarwala laid his hands on meant for Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti project? Or, was it an operation to fund the Mukti Bahini that went awry? Was Nagawala packed off to Italy, with the story of his death being just a red herring, because he knew too much?

Even Justice Reddy, although he could not find anything to implicate Indira Gandhi, noted he found it hard to believe that Nagarwala came up with the idea all by himself and pulled off the scam just for a lark.

By the time any action could be taken, Indira Gandhi returned to power with a thumping 353-seat majority and her government officially buried the case on January 15, 1981.

Patra and Kidwai’s slim but loaded book navigates the flow of events between May 24, 1971, and January 15, 1981, and leaves us with uncomfortable unanswered questions. That is how the ‘The Scandal That Shook The Nation’ dissipated — in a trail of doubts and theories.

Perhaps the book will inspire an OTT series, for the case has all the spice one needs to make a suspense thriller’s script sizzle. We’ll wait for it.

Prakash Patra and Rasheed Kidwai, ‘The Nagarwala Scandal: The Scam That Shook The Nation’ (HarperCollins Publishers India; Rs 399)

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Weekend Reading: A Diverse Book Selection for Every Reader

With the mercury showing no signs of relenting, sitting in the cool confines of your home with a book might just be the best exchange for stepping out in the scorching heat.

Starting with this weekend, We will put out a curated selection of four books that cater to different sections of readers. We begin with a list that spans political history, an actual cop adventure, a spiritual retreat, and anecdotes from Bollywood of a different generation.

Prakash Singh, Memoirs of a Top Cop: Unforgettable Chapters (Rupa; Rs 395)

Dubbed an “icon” by the former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, retired BSF director-general and prolific writer Prakash Singh did much for the nation’s security in his official capacity.

“Politics without the police is impotent. Police without politics would lack a sense of direction”. With this statement, Singh offers his readers glimpses of the foundations of our police setups, before delving into other functional aspects of policing.

From uneasy equations with politicians to combating insurgency and securing the states in the northeast, to defending the borders in Punjab and J&K, to trans-border operations, the top cop’s autobiography also traces his journey as an IPS officer.

A ringside view of the engrossing world of law enforcement explained in the words of a seasoned officer, this book is an insightful account of not only combatting insurgency and executing trans-border operations in the constant effort to secure the nation, but also of treading the tight rope the connects the police system and the politicians and their interests.

With regard to introducing reforms in police and its far-reaching impact on society, Singh’s take-home message is that the person donning the uniform also powers through his personal realm, given the complexities of our citizenry.

William Gould, Santosh Dass and Christophe Jaffrelot, Ambedkar in London (Rupa; Rs 995)

Here’s a well-documented chronicle of the lesser-known time of life in London of the man hailed as the father of India’s Constitution.

B.R. Ambedkar’s political ideas have not ceased to inspire and mobilise people to this day. His views on caste, labour, women, education, and people’s rights and representation have resonated not only in the country, but also around the world.

This compilation explores Ambedkar’s London-based studies and publication in the early 1920s, allowing for a periscopic view of the global significance of Ambedkar’s ideas. William Gould concludes that Ambedkar is immortalised as a single historical figure whose “wider political significance is unmatched”.

The co-authors of the book are: William Gould, Professor of Indian History at University of Leeds; Santosh Dass, a former civil servant and human rights campaigner who has been calling for the outlawing of caste-based discrimination in the UK; and Christophe Jaffrelot, Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology, King’s College, London.

Swami Mukundananda, Spiritual Secrets From Hinduism: Essence of the Vedic Scriptures (Rupa, Rs 295)

India stands out in the world map as the land of spirituality and divinity, sparking curiosity and fascination for its ancient knowledge system, especially Hinduism.

Ancient rishis and sages are said to have had wisdom revealed to them and the build-up of knowledge that thus took place has enriched the heritage of India.

Sages and scholars put together their wisdom in sacred texts, which we know as the Vedic scriptures. Also included in this body of knowledge, apart from the Vedas, are the Puranas, epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Brahma Sutras, and similar texts.

In the quest for the ultimate reality and “absolute truth”, many have been drawn to India and several people even dedicated their lives to this land. The understanding of ‘Hinduism’ that seems to largely prevail among the masses, however, is arguably vague. Bringing clarity to the discourse, this book helps one understand the essence of the Vedic scriptures.

The author, Swami Mukundananda, a product of IIT Delhi and IIM Calcutta, is a globally acclaimed spiritual guru and authority on mind management. He renounced his earlier life of social and material success and embraced monkhood.

Sameer Anjaan and Shuja Ali, Lyrics by Sameer: Stories Behind the Iconic Songs (Rupa, Rs 295)

For an entire generation, Sameer Anjaan is synonymous with popular Bollywood numbers, most notably the title track of ‘Dhoom’.

But who knew that Shravan (of the music director duo Nadeem-Shravan) had first refused to let a debutant Ajay Devgn enter the recording studio because he was convinced that he wasn’t “hero material”. Only after Sameer intervened did Shravan relent and allow the now-acclaimed actor in.

Also, the immensely popular title track of ‘Dhoom’ would never have seen the light of day but for Sameer, because Aditya Chopra had rejected its signature tune!

As interesting as the stories of Bollywood films are, the stories behind the making of those stories are just as interesting and intriguing. With up to 50 such stories woven around some of the topmost hits of Sameer, and the recounting of disagreements between music composers and film directors, the co-authors, one of whom is the lyricist himself and the other, accomplished screenwriter and director Shuja Ali, provide exclusive glimpses of the making of some of Sameer’s most iconic compositions in over three decades.

Sameer Anjaan holds a Guinness World Record with more than 640 films and 4,500 songs to his credit, and is the recipient of multiple laurels, including three Filmfare trophies and the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Award.

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Young Fans Demand Scarier Ghosts from Ruskin Bond

The author, whose latest book ‘How to be Happy’ (HarperCollins India) aimed at young readers recently hit the stands says the idea came from the publisher. In the book, he stresses that one cannot buy happiness, and you cannot get it wholesale or retail or online…writes Sukant Deepak

Crisp white sheets of paper on his dining table, a bed that serves as his chair, a window to look at the still but alive mountains, a three-legged Persian cat, who is still fast enough to chase away all the rats.

The fact that he still writes by hand. Almost a ceremony of rugs in his flat… There is almost as much to observe as to speak when one is at India’s most popular writer Ruskin Bond’s house in Landour, Mussoorie

And the best part about any conversation with this Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan recipient author who recently turned 90 years old, is the fact that it is never linear.

One can talk about ghosts, and he would not hesitate to tell you that when his publishers threw a party for his birthday, which carried on for a week, he needed a steady supply of Digene and Ranitidine

The author, whose latest book ‘How to be Happy’ (HarperCollins India) aimed at young readers recently hit the stands says the idea came from the publisher. In the book, he stresses that one cannot buy happiness, and you cannot get it wholesale or retail or online.

“It inhabits a small space in your mind, and you must look for it there. This is a book that carries decades of experience on how to be content, how to lead a fulfilling life, how to inhabit the delightful world of books and stories, and most of all on how to be happy,” Bond asserts.

The first book in the series was ‘How To Be A Writer’ followed by ‘How to Live Your Life’. “This latest one was suggested by my publisher Tina Narang of Harper Children’s Books. They now want me to do another. So, as I am becoming a ‘How To’ person. Of course, I am a storyteller and this gives me a break from writing fiction,” says the author, over whose writings films like ‘Junoon’, ‘The Blue Umbrella’ and ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ have been made.

Talk to him about his famous ghost stories, and he smiles as he has yet to see any, he prefers the mischievous ones. “But nowadays, it is not easy to get the children scared. One young reader wrote to me that I should make my ghosts scarier.”

Living in Mussorie (Landour) for decades now, he says the hills keep him alive. Bond, who lived in Delhi for five years during the 1960s doubts he would still be alive if he had continued being there.

“They (hills) let me breathe, and not just in the physical sense of the word but also spiritual and mental. Trees, wildflowers, and small creatures – impart me matter to write about, a reason to smile. The simple people here are a delight to talk to. I may not like the extreme cold very much, but it is definitely better than the torturous heat of the plains.”

For someone who has authored more than 500 short stories, essays, and novels which includes 69 books for children, Bond admits to never running out of stories.

“I have a good memory for people. Looking back over the years, including my childhood provides enough fodder. Every individual offers something interesting about him/her, which can be extracted.”

Adding that his interest in the natural world always gives him something to pen down, he reveals: “Sometimes I just stand. I think a writer needs a room with a window. You cannot live in a shut and closed space. So, if you have a window, you are looking out at the hills, at the sky, at the road beneath you, at people coming and going. Even if you are not doing anything, you are a witness to continuous activity — and something might just stand out.”

Not obsessed with penning a set number of words every day, he smiles that he is yet to figure out his ‘process’. “I think there are no mechanics involved, everything flows just naturally.”

Ask him about his favourite book (his own) and he immediately cites ‘The Room On The Roof, which he wrote at the age of 17. It took him two years to find a publisher and he had to write three drafts.

“I have never worked on anything so hard before, though it did not sell too well at that time,” he smiles. However, after 70 years, it was recently on the bestseller list in India.

“So, you never know with books. Sometimes you expect a lot from work, yet it never takes off. Many times, the opposite happens.”

Believing that writing is no less than an adventure for him, right from his teens, he admits that there have been ups and downs, good and low periods, but the very act of putting pen to paper has been worthwhile.

“It has always kept me going and taken me along with it on unforgettable voyages.”

Even at the age of 90, the process of ageing does not scare the author. “I live from one day to the next and try not to look too far ahead. The best part is, I am still working and writing, and reading two to three books a week.”

For the past year, Bond has been keeping a journal about living in the hills. “So that might be published too. Besides, HarperCollins wants me to do another title — ‘How to be What You Want’.”

Now it is time for Bond to stop talking. He will now look out of his window at the mist-enveloped road and valley. He is bound to find someone/something.

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Chetan Bhagat’s Audio Drama: A Journey into Modern Storytelling

I always tell people to read and reading allows for a lot of absorption, but next to that, or almost the same as that, is listening to an audio format. Whether it is a podcast, audiobook or an audio drama, because that also allows you to absorb content better…N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe

Looking back at his childhood, Chetan Bhagat remembers the time when the radio was the primary source of entertainment. He recounts the sense of anticipation with which people awaited simple yet captivating audio dramas that held their listeners spellbound.

Modern audio dramas, according to the best-selling author, have undergone a remarkable transformation, benefiting from advances in music production technology and heightened creative efforts. He contends that productions today are exponentially richer in content compared to audio dramas of the past.

Bhagat, who recently launched an audio drama adaptation of his acclaimed book ‘The Girl in Room 105’ on Audible, told that the forthcoming rendition of the novel isn’t just a typical audiobook with a single narrator. Rather, it resembles a cinematic experience without visuals.

Bhagat explained the intricacies of producing the audio drama adaptation and the future of the audio drama business. Excerpts from the interview:

Q. What inspired the decision to adapt ‘The Girl in Room 105’ into an audio drama format?

Chetan: I try to always stay connected to the youth of India. I think the young are continually evolving. They have different ways in which they consume their stories. Human beings have always consumed and liked stories, but the medium has changed. I want to be in the most modern medium possible and audio dramas are the future.

Audio dramas have wonderful spaces where you can listen to them anytime and anywhere with a lot of flexibility. You can listen to them while folding your clothes or taking a walk and at the same time they give you almost a movie-like experience.

I wanted to be in this space. I do not want to limit myself to being a writer, but to move on to movies, television, newspapers and motivational talks on stage.

Audio books is another fascinating area that is coming up. I wanted to be the early ones doing this, so I grabbed the chance Audible gave me.

Q. How do you assess the effectiveness of conveying messages through reading versus listening?

Chetan: I always tell people to read and reading allows for a lot of absorption, but next to that, or almost the same as that, is listening to an audio format. Whether it is a podcast, audiobook or an audio drama, because that also allows you to absorb content better.

Sometimes what happens with videos is that while you get absorbed in watching, it doesn’t retain very well.

For example, you may have watched half an hour of Instagram reels today, but do you remember any of them? You probably don’t! But you’ll remember a good speech or good audio instructions; you’ll also remember if you read something.

Reading as well as audio are two excellent ways to learn things and that’s how, if you have noticed, we are taught. We are taught to read books and listen to lectures. These are the two ways how maximum learning and absorption of information happens and it’s a fantastic medium for that.

Q. What trends do you think are shaping the audiobook industry? How are authors like you adapting to it?

Chetan: I realised quickly that I’m not in a paper business or the ink business, I am in the storytelling business. The more new ways and new technologies enable the telling of these stories, the more we need to try and become a part of them. I think this is a very important part for writers who share their ideas with the world and this is an excellent way to do so.

Q. Can you walk us through the production process of the audio adaption of ‘The Girl in Room 105’? What role does Chetan Bhagat play in it?

Chetan: The book itself has a small cameo if you can see by Chetan Bhagat, although it is a work of fiction. I often do this cameo situation where the hero of the story or the protagonist needs the author and the book is written to enable that to happen.

So I played myself, I did a little bit of that, but otherwise, there is a whole cast here. This is not just an audiobook that one person narrates. It is pretty much the same process as making a movie. The only difference is that there is no camera and make-up and all that because you’re not seeing them.

But other than that there’s a whole casting process, there’s scripting, shooting, editing, background sound, music, everything. There’s a full team and that is why the experience is going to be very wholesome or maybe unlike anything you may have experienced before.

Q. In what way does the audio drama explore stereotypes and political issues of contemporary India because that’s something which is always a part of your stories?

Chetan: Although this book is a murder mystery, it is about somebody who is in IIT but not very happy with his career. He is teaching in coaching classes and he is trying to solve the mystery of the death of ex-girlfriend, with whom he is still in love with.

So it brings out the frustration that people experience when they don’t have anything meaningful in their job, nor see a purpose in it. For someone like Keshav, he finds the true purpose of solving this mystery, he believes that nothing absorbs him like trying to solve this case, even though he is not a detective.

The second thing is that it brings out the Kashmir issue, it brings out the stereotypes that exist in our heads and how that confuses the story. I do not want to reveal too much because we have a preconception about Kashmir and the girl is Kashmiri. The mystery hits a certain path, which is often realised as a stereotype. It is often called an unloved story.

We have so many love stories out there, but it is important to learn to unlove because love doesn’t often last forever. People break up and sometimes don’t even get words, and this is pretty much the case in contemporary India and the world. How does one learn to unlove somebody that’s never discussed so I think this book also brings that out.

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‘What Went Wrong With Capitalism’ Set to Challenge Standard Narratives

Sharma, a Shri Ram College of Commerce alumnus, first drew attention to the breadth of his vision with his debut book, Breakout Nations (2012), which made the journal ‘Foreign Policy’ rank him as one of the top global thinkers…reports Asian Lite News

The ‘New York Times’-listed bestselling author and head of the Rockefeller Capital Management’s international business, Ruchir Sharma, will be out with his new book, ‘What Went Wrong With Capitalism’, on June 16.

It will be the ‘Financial Times’ columnist’s fifth book after ‘The 10 Rules of Successful Nations’, published in 2020.

Making the announcement, the publishing house, Penguin Random House UK, said that in the upcoming book, Sharma “rewrites the standard histories, which trace today’s popular anger to the anti-government rebellion that began under Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.”

A book that promises to help us understand the growing popular anger in the capitalist world (at the moment expressing itself in the protests raging across US campuses), its fundamental argument, according to the press statement from the publisher, can be summed up in this statement: “Four decades of downsizing government — cutting taxes, spending, and regulations — left the financial markets free to run wild, fuelling inequality, slowing growth — and alienating much of the population.”

Sharma, a Shri Ram College of Commerce alumnus, first drew attention to the breadth of his vision with his debut book, Breakout Nations (2012), which made the journal ‘Foreign Policy’ rank him as one of the top global thinkers.

In his upcoming book, Sharma, according to the publisher’s press statement, “exposes the story of a shrinking government as a myth”. The statement adds: “With a historical and global sweep, [Sharma] shows that the government has expanded steadily as a regulator, borrower, spender, and micro-manager of the business cycle for a century. Working with central banks, particularly in the last two decades, governments created a culture of easy money and bailouts that is making the rich richer, and big companies bigger.”

In an observation that may explain the appeal of the left-of-centre US Senator Bernie Sanders among young Americans, Sharma says “progressive youth are partly right that capitalism has morphed into ‘socialism for the very rich’.”

Sharma notes: “The broader issue, however, is socialised risk for the poor, the middle class and the rich; the government is trying to guarantee that no one ever suffers economic pain by borrowing heavily to prevent recessions, extend recoveries, and generate endless growth.”

“The result,” he adds, “is rapidly rising debt and declining competition — exactly the environment in which oligopolies and billionaires do best.”

Says the book’s blurb, “This rare capitalist critique of capitalism offers a timely warning. To a surprising degree, politicians on both the right and left now assume that popular anger with capitalism arose in a period of shrinking government, and so offer answers that involve more government — more spending, or regulation, or walls and barriers.”

The blurb goes on to note, “If their historical assumptions are incorrect, their proposed fixes are likely to double down on what went wrong in the first place. There is no returning to the 19th century when the government did little more than deliver mail, but the balance has shifted too far towards state control, leaving too little room for economic competition.”

No matter whether your politics are progressive or conservative, Sharma argues, the answer has to be less government and more cautious central banks.

Commenting on his “most ambitious book yet”, Sharma says, “This book is a pandemic baby, conceived in that dark period when governments were both locking down businesses and spending trillions to support people shut in at home.

“Though many saw this crisis as entirely novel, what I saw was the logical culmination of all that has gone wrong with capitalism, namely, decades of increasingly interventionist government, narrowing the scope of individual freedom and initiative and economic freedom.”

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Must-Read Summer Releases to Keep You Hooked

The international best-selling author explores the revolutions, past and present, that define the chaotic, polarized and unstable age in which we live…reports Asian Lite News

As the summer heat creeps in, are you looking for a book you can’t put down as you spend your time indoors? Here’s a list of some of the latest releases that will keep you engrossed. 

An Abundance of Wild Roses by Feryal Ali-Gauhar

In the ‘Black Mountains of Pakistan’, the discovery of an unconscious, unknown man is the first snowball in an avalanche of chaos. The head of the village is beset with problems – including the injured stranger – and failing to find his way out. His daughter receives a love letter and incurs her father’s wrath. A lame boy foretells disaster, but nobody is listening. Trapped in terrible danger, a wolf-dog is battling ice and death to save a soldier’s life. Beaten by her addict husband for bearing him only daughters, a woman is pregnant again – but can this child save her?

All the while, the spirits of the mountains keep a baleful eye on the doings of the humans. In a land woven with myth, chained with tradition and afflicted by ongoing conflict and the march of progress, can the villagers find a way to co-exist with nature that doesn’t destroy either of them? 

Co-Intelligence: Living and Working with AI

‘Co-Intelligence is the very best book I know about the ins, outs, and ethics of generative AI. Drop everything and read it cover to cover NOW,’ says Angela Duckworth, American author and psychologist. Angela Duckworth. Consumer AI has arrived. And with it, inescapable upheaval as we grapple with what it means for our jobs, lives and the future of humanity.

Cutting through the noise of AI evangelists and AI doom-mongers, Wharton professor Ethan Mollick has become one of the most prominent and provocative explainers of AI, focusing on the practical aspects of how these new tools for thought can transform our world. In the book, he urges us to engage with AI as co-workers, co-teachers and coaches. Wide-ranging, hugely thought-provoking and optimistic, it reveals the promise and power of this new era.

The Road to Freedom: Economics and the Good Society

A major reappraisal, by the Nobel-prizewinning economist, of the relationship between capitalism and freedom.

Despite its manifest failures, the narrative of neoliberalism retains its grip on the public mind and the policies of governments all over the world. By this narrative, less regulation and more ‘animal spirits’ capitalism produces not only greater prosperity but more freedom for individuals in society – and is therefore morally better.

But, in ‘The Road to Freedom’ Stiglitz asks, whose freedom are we – should we be – thinking about? What happens when one person’s freedom comes at the expense of another’s? Should the freedoms of corporations be allowed to impinge upon those of individuals in the ways they now do?

Taking on giants of neoliberalism such as Hayek and Friedman and examining how public opinion is formed, Stiglitz reclaims the language of freedom from the right to show that far from ‘free’ – unregulated – markets promoting growth and enterprise, they in fact reduce it, lessening economic opportunities for majorities and siphoning wealth from the many to the few – both individuals and countries. He shows how neoliberal economics and its implied moral system have impacted our legal and social freedoms in surprising ways, from property and intellectual rights to education and social media.

Stiglitz’s eye, as always, is on how we might create true human flourishing which should be the great aim of our economic and social system, and offers an alternative to that prevailing today. The Road to Freedom offers a powerful re-evaluation of democracy, economics and what constitutes a good society―and provides a roadmap of how we might achieve it.

Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present

The international best-selling author explores the revolutions, past and present, that define the chaotic, polarized and unstable age in which we live.

Fareed Zakaria first warned of the threat of “illiberal democracy” two decades ago. Now comes Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present. A decade in the making, the book is based on deep research and conversations with world leaders from Emmanuel Macron to Lee Kuan Yew. In it Zakaria sets our era of populist chaos into the sweep of history.

Age of Revolutions tells the story of progress and backlash, of the rise of classical liberalism and of the many periods of rage and counter-revolution that followed seismic change. It begins with the upstart Dutch Republic, the first modern republic and techno-superpower where refugees and rebels flocked for individual liberty. That haven for liberalism was almost snuffed out by force – until Dutch ideas leapt across the English Channel in the so-called “Glorious Revolution.” Not all revolutions were so glorious, however. The French Revolution shows us the dangers of radical change that is imposed top-down. Lasting change comes bottom-up, like the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the United States, which fueled the rise of the world’s modern superpowers and gave birth to the political divides we know today. Even as Britain and America boomed, technology unsettled society and caused backlash from machine-smashing Luddites and others who felt threatened by this new world.

In the second half of the book, Zakaria details the revolutions that have convulsed our times: globalization in overdrive, digital transformation, the rise of identity politics, and the return of great power politics with a vengeful Russia and an ascendant China. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping see a world upended by liberalism – and want to turn back the clock on democracy, women’s rights, and open societies. Even more dangerous than aggression abroad is democratic decay at home. This populist and cultural backlash that has infected the West threatens the very foundations of the world that the Enlightenment built – and that we all take too easily for granted.

The book warns us that liberalism’s great strength has been freeing people from arbitrary constraints—but its great weakness has been leaving individuals isolated, to figure out for themselves what makes for a good life. This void – the hole in the heart – can all too easily be filled by tribalism, populism, and identity politics. Today’s revolutions in technology and culture can even leave people so adrift that they turn against modernity itself.

ALSO READ-Books to Expand Your Mind Before the Year Ends

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Katie Kitamura Wraps Up Another Book, Reflects on Creative Process

‘A Separation’ is about a young woman, who has agreed with her husband that it is time for them to separate. As she begins her new life, he goes missing and she reluctantly agrees to go and search for him…writes Sukant Deepak

The conversation starts with her book ‘A Separation’, and the fact that unloving can be such a tragedy for the person who stops being tender, making him/her completely empty. Well-known American author, journalist, and art critic Katie Kitamura replies that starting the book, she thought it was about the end of marriage.

“However as I finished writing it, there was a realisation that it was about grief, and in many ways death. I was interested in a character who was initially playing the part of a grieving widow and then it lead to a a space in between the face and mask, and more than the wife, it is the widow’s identity…”

‘A Separation’ is about a young woman, who has agreed with her husband that it is time for them to separate. As she begins her new life, he goes missing and she reluctantly agrees to go and search for him. She is not even sure if she wants to find him. Adrift in the wild landscape, she traces the disintegration of their relationship, and discovers she understands less than she thought about the man she used to love.

In her last, ‘intimacies’, a woman is caught between many truths. An interpreter at the International Court. She gets pulled into an explosive political controversy when she’s asked to interpret for a former president, accused of war crimes. A woman of quiet passion, she confronts power, love, and violence, both in her personal intimacies and in her work at the Court.

“The guilt of the person can be carried out by another person — it’s how when people feel something for you. Like professional mourners and how someone feels something for you. And it is in many cultures,” says the author.

But in today’s world, how relevant is an institution like the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ)? I think both these institutions are extremely important. Yes, they are flawed in a way that institutions are but I would like them to have some moral authority.

“ICJ’s recent ruling was non-binding and I want for them to succeed. I am not the person who is cheering the demise of these institutions.”

The author, who earned a PhD in American Literature from the London Consortium, and is currently an Honorary Research Fellow, there, admits that she had to unlearn academic writing to write fiction.

“Yes. It was a long process. And even now I do feel myself slipping into it, especially jargon in fiction can sometimes be a form of deflection or concealment. One thing is clear, you can only write fiction when you feel like being exposed. I do not think I have the skills of a journalist. And I make up the rules in some way when I write fiction. There are many things that are useful for a writer and it is important one writes in ways that you are not used to.”

Japan, for Kitamura, has always held a special place. Not just because her entire family and childhood memories reside there.

“It has a lot of contradictions, even aesthetically. They perceive it as minimal but if you go down a street there, it’s cluttered and there is tension. It is not all minimal and wabi-sabi. There is a lot of pleasure in the country. Yes, my first experiences of language are there and I have not lived there, so there is a strange sense of longing for me.”

Kitamura, who earlier in her life trained as a ballerina debuted as a novelist with ‘The Longshot’, which follows a former mixed martial arts star and his longtime coach over three fraught days as they prepare for his momentous comeback match, says a fight can also be existential in some ways.

“I have never been a fighter. But yes, the world becomes smaller when you prepare for the fight and then it is just the ring. You enter a different reality.”

The author admits that her style changed quite substantially, when she started writing in first person and became interested in trying to find a voice that was less concerned with a kind of riddled down style, but in conveying the movement of the mind including all the repetitions.

“And with a book that is written in third person, you have a different perspective. And in first person, it has a certain looseness to it,” asserts Kitamura, who was also at the recent Jaipur Literature Festival.

And when does she ‘know’ that the idea is ready to take shape on paper?

“Well, Hillary Mantel said that you can ruin a book by writing it at the wrong time and that is so true. The early stages of a book are delicate. I sometimes stop when I feel it is not quite ready. You do feel it is opening up at some points, but that can be found out only by writing,” concludes the author, who has just finished writing another book.

ALSO READ-Bengali Translation of ‘Stalin’s Couch’ Wins 7th Romain Rolland Book Prize

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Bengali Translation of ‘Stalin’s Couch’ Wins 7th Romain Rolland Book Prize

This year’s winning title was originally published in French as Le Divan de Staline. It was longlisted for the prestigious Goncourt Prize in 2013 and later adapted for the cinema by Fanny Ardant, with Gérard Depardieu playing Stalin. ..reports Asian Lite News

The French Institute in India, in collaboration with Apeejay Trust, announces Pankaj Kumar Chatterjee’s book “Divan Staliner”, a translation of Jean-Daniel Baltassat’s Stalin’s Couch, wins the 7th Romain Rolland Book Prize. This Bengali translation has been published by New Bharat Sahitya Kutir.

Elated about his win, translator Pankaj Kumar Chatterjee said: “I am delighted as my first translation from French into Bengali has been honoured with the Romain Rolland Book Prize. I am grateful to the French Institute in India for their support during the past two years – from arranging funds under the PAP Tagore programme to my selection as the awardee. I expect that more and more French books will be translated into Bengali. I promise to do so.”

Priti Paul, Director of Apeejay Surrendra Group said “I extend my good wishes to Pankaj Kumar Chatterjee, a very deserving winner of the Romain Rolland Prize for his exceptional Bengali translation of Jean-Daniel Baltassat’s Stalin’s Couch. It is my sincere hope that his recognition inspires more translators and publishers to continue their invaluable work in introducing the richness of French literature to Indian readers. At Oxford Bookstores, we understand the vital role that translations play in enriching the literary landscape, exploring new cultures, perspectives, and ideas, and breaking down barriers while fostering a deeper appreciation for the diverse beauty of global literature. We are delighted to support the prestigious Romain Rolland Prize, a prize which not only acknowledges the efforts of Indian translators and publishers but also nurtures a love for literature that transcends boundaries.”

This is the second time that a Bengali title has received the prestigious award, following the translation of Kamel Daoud’s Meursault, contre-enquête as “Myorso Birudhyo Saksho” by Trinanjan Chakraborty, and published in 2022 by Patra Bharati.

This year’s winning title was originally published in French as Le Divan de Staline. It was longlisted for the prestigious Goncourt Prize in 2013 and later adapted for the cinema by Fanny Ardant, with Gérard Depardieu playing Stalin. 

The story revolves around a singular episode in the life of Stalin. With three years left to live, Stalin comes to spend several days in his native Georgia, in a decadent palace in the middle of a forest. In the ducal study where he sleeps is a couch that resembles the one Freud has in London. At night, his long-time mistress, Vodieva, plays the role of a psychoanalyst. During the day a young painter, Danilov, a prodigy of social realism, waits to be received by Stalin to present to him the monument of eternity that he has designed to his glory. Insomnia, infinite questioning, infinite waiting. Stretched out on this couch, Stalin plays with the ghosts that haunt his dreams: his mother, his wife who committed suicide, his years in Siberia, and Lenin, the greatest of the lying fathers.  

Jean-Daniel Baltassat imagines the intimate life of the Soviet ruler, and far from rehabilitating Stalin as being tender and affable, portrays him as a ruthless man who evokes terror and demands submission. He approaches Stalin as a writer with a remarkable evocative power, where imagination takes over from historical truth.

Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, Counsellor for Education, Science and Culture, Embassy of France, and the Director of the French Institute in India added, “Jean-Daniel Baltassat belongs to a tradition of French writers excelling in the art of historical fiction. With the Romain Rolland Translation Prize, we aim to bring contemporary French literature to the forefront, and award the efforts made by Indian publishers and translators to make these works available in India.”The winning publisher will be invited by the French Institute in India to the Paris Book Market in May 2024 and the winning translator will be invited to the Paris Book Fair in April 2024.

Established in 2017, the Romain Rolland Book Prize awards the finest translation of a French title into any Indian language, including English. The prize aims to promote and acknowledge the efforts of Indian translators and publishers in introducing the richness of Francophone literature and thought in all its diversity to Indian readers. Ms. Priti Paul, Director, of Oxford Bookstores supports the Romain Rolland Prize through the Apeejay Trust.

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