Holiday book pile: Kasab and Gandhi

Updated: Dec 31, 2010, 10:10 AM IST

New Delhi: Enjoy an exciting mix of fact and fiction in your book cart this holiday weekend -- whether it`s about power women, Pakistani terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab or recreating Mahatma Gandhi through his grandchildren.

Book: ‘Forgotten’; Written by Bilkees I. Latif; Priced at Rs.225; Published by Penguin-India

This is a book about six powerful women, whose lives inspire down the ages.

Donna Juliana, a devout Catholic of Portuguese descent, whose influence in the court of the Mughal prince Shah Alam, later Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar I, was so strong, that the Dutch, Portuguese and the British frequently sought her help to get an audience with the emperor.

The poetry of the beautiful court poet, singer, song writer and warrior Mahlaqa Bai Chanda was largely ignored by critics for nearly two centuries after her death. At a time when few women could read and write, Mahlaqa received an elaborate education, compiling her first collection of poetry.

One also reads about Chand Sultana, the Ismaili Muslim warrior-princess who defended Ahmadnagar against the Mughal forces, and of two queens of the Deccan, Rudramma Devi and Hayat Bakshi Begum, who exemplified the ability of women rulers to govern well.

The author also remembers Radha Bai, a courageous Brahmin child-widow whose lifelong search to call someone her own touched all those she encountered.

Book: ‘Kasab: The Face of 26/11’; Written by Rommel Rodrigues; Published by Penguin-India; Priced Rs.299

The Nov 26, 2008, terror attacks jolted Mumbai like never before. Even as they mourned, the residents of `Maximum City` demanded answers. In return, the accounts of the investigation, government rhetoric, newspaper reports, television features, books and even a film were sketchy at best.

Meanwhile, the courts continued with their prosecution of Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist. The narrative follows Kasab through the bylanes of Pakistani villages and cities as he made his way towards Pakistan-administered Kashmir; the dense forests where the terrorist-training camps are situated; the Indian vessel he and the others hijacked en route to Mumbai`s shores and to his capture and incarceration.

Book: "Way Beyond the Three Rs: India`s Education Challenge in the 21st Century"; Written by Y.S. Rajan; Published by Penguin India; Price: Rs.250

Education of their children is of paramount importance to all Indian parents. The country fetes its successful students: from Class 10 board toppers and those who `crack the IIT JEE` to those who clear the civil services examination. About 70 percent of students (in villages, towns and cities) have to make do with inferior schooling. Only 10 percent of those aged 18-21 are enrolled in college.

The book examines a gamut of issues involved in India`s efforts to educate its young people and the work required to fix schools, vocational training centres, colleges and universities.

Book: ‘Catching Up With Gandhi’; Written by Graham Turner; Published by Penguin India; Price: Rs.350

In a world governed by money, how does one recapture the essence and unveil the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi - the man who believed in simple living but whose face is now, ironically, on every Indian bank note? The book recreates Gandhi, the legacy, in company with two of Gandhi`s grandchildren, Rajmohan Gandhi in India and Ela Gandhi in South Africa.

The author stood in the modest courtroom in Ahmedabad where Gandhi was found guilty of sedition by the Raj and ventured into prisons to which Gandhi was so often consigned. Turner walked along the beach at Juhu where the Mahatma went to recuperate, and talked with Rajmohan at Birla House in New Delhi where his grandfather was assassinated.

Book: ‘Deewar’, Written by Vinay Lal; Published by HarperCollins-India; Price: Rs.250

The 1975 film ‘Deewaar’, one of the most iconic and influential works of superstar Amitabh Bachchan, has been, to borrow a line from the film itself, the `lambi race ka ghoda`, enjoying a nearly unrivalled popularity in the long history of Hindi cinema.

Its remarkable plot, crisp dialogues and epic narrative structure, revolving around two brothers whose paths diverge and lead to a fatal collision, have endeared it to millions.

The book is a study of ‘Deewaar’ and how the film lends itself to much more complex readings than is commonly imagined. Examining it in the context of the history of Hindi cinema, the migrations from the hinterland to the city and the political and socio-economic climate of the early 1970s.