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Author Archive

The Blue SweaterThe Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacqueline was bitten by the philanthropy bug even when she was quite young. The book is about her experiences, primarily in East Africa. The book describes how empowering women to borrow to run the businesses that they run to sustain themselves and to teach them about why it is important to return the loan helps the society at large. She has illustrated many of the success stories and also the failures that she faced in the process.

The biggest difference in the way she operates is that she does not dole out grants, but gives out loans and ensures that the people put it to good use and also return it.

A nice book to get insight into the state of affairs in Africa.

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Narendra Modi: The Man, The TimesNarendra Modi: The Man, The Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A journalist by profession, the author has stitched together a book on the most “hated”, “maligned” man today in India.

The key take away from the book is nothing different from what many perceive him to be autocratic, authoritative, manipulative, ambitious, hard working and many others. The only word that seems to be missing is megalomaniac. For all the negative adjectives heaped on him Modi seems to shrug off this tag.

The book kind of presents the rise and rise of Mr. Modi. The book has been written before Mr. Modi took over as the Prime Minister and hence it stops at saying that Mr. Modi is aiming to be the Prime Minister of India soon.

The book is decently balanced and is not completely biased although the admirers of Mr. Modi will tend to say that it does not highlight as much of his achievements as it does of his negatives.

A decent read to try and understand the most “hated”/”maligned” man in India today.

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The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the UnthinkableThe Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A nice book on environmental damage that we facing today and its consequences. The theme throughout the book is about how the present day novelists do not indulge fantasy and specifically fantasy with regards to natural disasters. (Note that he says that fantasy and science fictions are classified as such and not as novels per se) He says this is one of the reasons why people are not ready to acknowledge the precipice of natural disasters which are to occur because of the global warming.

His push seems to be to the authors to weave the global warming, the disasters expected due it and the solutions, if any, for it in their novels so that the world starts seeing and accepting the disaster they are headed towards. He admits “mea culpa”.

The reading of his encounter with the lone tornado to hit New Delhi and his forays into the Andaman and Nicobar immediately after the Tsunami of 2004 is worth reading. They are extremely evocative of the events.

A good read in these days when we are still refusing accept the disasters are waiting to happen. He says that if we do not change our ways then the future will call this “Age of Derangement” when the humans lost their sense and lived in a world of their own fantasy.

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Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-PrinceArjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince by Anuja Chandramouli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rerendering of Mahabharata with a little emphasis on the exploits of Arjuna.

Even though this may be the umpteenth time that one is reading the Mahabharatha, it will turn out to be a good read. While nothing new may be gleaned in terms of the incidents or story, it is a pleasant read.

The book starts with the great grandson, Janamajeya, of Arjuna wanting to learn about his exploits from Veda Vyasa. Vyasa asks him to listen to the exploits from Vaishampayana his disciple. It starts with the birth of the Pandavas and Kauravas and traces through to the time Arjuna disappears amongst the hills of the Himalayas on their path to heaven after having made Parikshit the king of Hastinapur.

A good read.

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Around India in 80 TrainsAround India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A travelogue by a person born and brought up in England. The author decides to go around India in trains. Her goal is to traverse the length and breadth of India in trains. She looks for her Passepartout and finds one in an atheist Norwegian.

Both set off on their journey. The initial adjustment takes a while even though they travel by A/C two tier (considered one of the better modes of travel in the Indian Railways). They encounter the callousness of the Indian Railways booking agent, but repeated encounters endears them to the booking agent.

They experience the rush hour of the Mumbai locals. (At places the author has taken liberty to state that a local from Parel to CST had a crushing crowd in the evening. This is just not possible as that is the time that people are returning from CST and the rush would be on the trains coming from CST and not going to CST.) Some such liberties do not spoil the tenor of the books even for readers who are used to traveling in the Indian Railways.

She has kept the book limited to the experiences in the trains and has not ventured into describing the places that she visited. It is to be noted that the narration gives the impression that they traveled to some places just to increase the count of the trains and not to actually visit the places.

They encounter various types of people who intrude into their lives and also expose their lives to them during the train journeys.

She has an epiphany at Puri where she is not allowed to enter the Jagannath temple as she is with a foreigner and because she holds a British passport. This makes her reconcile with the atheist Passepartout and she herself starts tilting towards becoming an atheist.

Driven by the above experience and having heard from others her journey culminates with a 10 day Vipassana session at Hyderabad.

A nice read. Not something that should put off adventurous travelers from taking the Indian Railways.

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Byculla to BangkokByculla to Bangkok by Hussain Zaidi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another good book by Hussain Zaidi.

This book covers three main gangs and one gang partially. It covers the D company partially since many of the other gangs overlap with this one. The first one is the BRA gang of Arun Gawli, Rama Naik from the Dagdi Chawl, and Babu Reshim. The second is the gang of brothers involving Amar Naik and Ashwin Naik from Byculla. The third is the Chotta Rajan Gang from Tilak Nagar area.

There are mention of other gangs, but they are not as elaborate as these three or even as elaborate as the D Company.

After reading the book it saddens the heart to see so much violence and so much corruption in our country which is supposed to be one of the peaceful ones. One shudders how a violent country would be if this is the state of affairs.

It will be great to see a book of his in chronological order combining all his books about the Mumbai Mafia.

A good read for the fans of Hussain Zaidi and for those who wish to understand the Mumbai Mafia.

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Fun in Devlok: OmnibusFun in Devlok: Omnibus by Devdutt Pattanaik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A nice set of stories to be, as usual different from the normal mythological twist, one can now say with the Pattanaik twist.

Introduces a set of gods like Indra, Yama, Kama, Shiva and others to the children. The stories have been blended with the current state of affairs so that the children can related to them. It is meant for the upper middle class where the children go to school, do their homework, their parents take them to parties etc. And probably these are the ones who would read this book too.

A nice bedtime read for the children.

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Best of Thakazhi S. PillaiBest of Thakazhi S. Pillai by K.M. George
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A nice set of short stories which bring out the details and idiosyncrasies of Kerala and Keralites. Not all the stories are very good but overall the book works well.

Many of the stories are about the impact of floods on the normal life of the farmers and to appreciate it read the foreword which sets the background for the stories, unless you are familiar with farming in Kerala.

The stories are based on the caste system, the generation gap, the apathy, the traditions and many other facets of Kerala.

A good read.

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Exploring the Practice of AntifragilityExploring the Practice of Antifragility by Sinan Si Alhir

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book is a a summary of discussion between people from various background on Anti-Fragility.

My take away from the book is an understanding of the Anti-Fragility as defined by Nassim Taleb. Nassim defines Fragility as the property of the system to break down when subject to unexpected stress.
Nassim defines Robustness as the property of the system to continue functioning ignoring the unexpected stress.
Nassim defines Anti-Fragility as the property of the system to not only continue functioning when subject to unexpected stress, but also learns from the event and is better prepared so that the next time the event is no longer unexpected.

While the extreme interpretation of the book maybe construed as Artificial Intelligence, it is not necessarily only that. A system which includes human could be considered Anti-Fragile if the humans and system reacts well to unexpected events and the humans is prepare the system to better face the next time the event recurs.

A decent reads. Better if one reads the Anti-Fragility book before reading this to better appreciate what the discussion is all about.

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One Part WomanOne Part Woman by Perumal Murugan [பெருமாள் முருகன்]

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book became famous thanks to the protests by various Hindu communities. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perumal… for details.

The book is about a couple who fail to conceive a child even after 12 years of marriage. They have done everything to appease the various Gods that different people have recommended. They are the butt of the jokes in their social circle. There is pressure on the man to remarry, but he refuses to do so.

As a last ditch attempt the two mothers ask the girl to go to the festival at the Madhorubhagan (One Part Woman) temple. On the last day of the festival it is believed that all the men become Gods and any woman can sleep with any one they want to. (It is possible a custom designed by the men so that they get a chance to sleep with the women they want). The husband does not give his permission for her to do so. He is furious that the two women even came up with such an idea.

The lady’s brother who is a close friend of the man talks to the man and on the sly tells his sister that her husband has given the OK.

The story ends in suspense as the lady wanders near about the temple on the day of the festival and the man comes to his wife’s house to find that it is locked. He assumes that she has slept with someone else and goes off in a furious state back to his village.

The author has left it to the imagination of the reader to determine the ending.

The book as such meanders repeatedly around the theme of the two of them being poked at in various occasions, but it is not a bad read.

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