by Anuradha Goyal
396 Book Reviews
380 Authors
109 Publishers
35 Author Interviews

 

Kamadeva – The God of Desire by Anuja Chandramouli

God of DesireIt’s the era of revival and re-interpretation of Indian history and mythology. Young authors are reading the scriptures, reading commentaries on them and then re-writing the epics or the stories thereof – adding their own interpretations, means and the contemporary contexts. Kamadeva – the God of Desire, makes a special appearance in our epics. He makes an appearance whenever the higher Gods need his help and after that he seems to be living happily with his wife in Amravati. Not many of us have heard his story in isolation. So this was quite a tempting book to pick up.

Anuja has picked all the episodes in Puranas and Itinhaas where Kamadeva made an appearance and weaved it into a lovely story. Story obviously begins with the birth of Kamadeva to Brahma and the curse that is born with him that he would die at the hands of Shiva whom the author chooses to call ‘The Destroyer’ throughout the book. Continue reading


Indian Art by Vidya Dehejia

Introduction to Indian ArtBooks on Indian Art are mainly written for scholars in the academic world and that kind of makes them inaccessible to the general public. In my opinion this is also a reason why most of us do not understand and hence appreciate the rich aesthetic traditions of ancient India. There is a strong need to bridge the gap between scholarly knowledge and what the layperson needs to know about Indian Art and how it evolved over a period of time.

In this textbook styled book, author Prof Vidya Dehejia – a well know art historian, tries to bridge the gap to a large extent. Taking the reader chronologically through the long history of India or Indian subcontinent, she gives a glimpse of the vast spectrum that can be explored with ample aid of pictures that help the reader visualize what the author explains. Its a journey of Indian Art through the ages.  Continue reading


My Beautiful Shadow by Radhika Jha

Radhika JhaBeginning at a high note, the book settles into a monotone of brands and finally scatters all over the place, split and directionless. I started reading the book with an interest to get an insight into Japanese culture that for me is a bit of mystery. Author bio said she has spent 6 years in Japan and that I thought must have given her good insights. Alas, author never went beyond the surface.

In the beginning the protagonist tells ‘ Why is Japan so safe…it is because of the neighbors. They are your police, your judges and your jailors. But most of all, they are your teachers. What keeps us following the rules is the shame we feel if we are caught disobeying our teachers…combination of teacher-policeman is inescapable.’ I looked forward to such cultural nuances, but then the protagonist took me to all possible brand stores and her monotone became boring. Even if clothes are big obsession for women, I am not sure if it enjoyable to read about innumerable shopping trips that hardly have any variety. Continue reading


Billion Dollar Painter – The Triumph and Tragedy of Thomas Kinkade by G. Eric Kuskey

Thomas KinkadeThomas Kinkade apparently is a household name in America and we might have seen his work in Hallmark greeting cards and other merchandize. He was probably one of the rare artists who made billions of dollars from his painting while he was still alive. This is a memoir written by his friend and colleague who worked with him in last 16 years of his life.

It is a typical American story. A team of businessmen finds something to sell – in this case Thomas Kinkade’s paintings. They go ahead and build an empire selling his paintings, bringing in innovations like mechanical replication of paintings on canvas and finding as many avenues to sell his art as possible. They create the branding, the myth and the aura around paintings and the painter. They sell his paintings in original and in copies in all possible sizes. They invite people to open dedicated galleries. They license the art to other companies for use on things like calendars, greeting cards and other merchandize. Continue reading


Death and Dying Edited by Sudhir Kakar

Boundaries of ConsciousnessDeath – a reality that we know nothing about. We all would get there, someday, that is all we know. None of us have the first or even second hand experience of what happens when a human being dies. Every religion has its own take on death and one’s journey towards death. Religions are divided on re-birth but they all agree that not everything dies with the body, there is something that remains beyond the body. What is that – is a matter of another disagreement.

In this anthology various scholars – psychoanalysts talk about death, the process of dying, the mourning and its relevance, transfer of physical signs from one person to another, the near death experiences and the communication between the dead and the alive. Each essay deals with one or more aspects of death. I liked the first two chapters that mention various cases of near death experiences and of weird experiences people had about people who were about to die or were already dead. Continue reading


A musician author on translating Kalidasa

Kalidasa Translation

Dr Srinivas Reddy is scholar of languages and literature and teaches Indian Classical Music. I read his translation of Kalidasa’s Malavikagnimitram and that led to this small conversation with him.

Tell us something about you. Where did you grow up, what did you study and what do you do for living?

I was born in Andhra Pradesh and raised in the US, mostly in New England. I started studying medicine when I was young but wanted to play music instead and pursued that for many years in San Francisco. Later I decided to do my PhD in South Asian languages and literatures at UC Berkeley. Now I’m a professor of Indian classical music and literature at IIT Gandhinagar in Gujarat.

Continue reading


Simian by Vikram Balagopal

Vikram BalagopalWhen this graphic novel came to me for review with the back cover informing that it is the story of Ramayana & Mahabharata, my first thoughts were – is this a new version of Amar Chitra Katha? I wondered if I should expect a new angle or a new interpretation of the well read, well analyzed epics or would it be just be the new in-vogue medium? I flipped the pages and saw no colors and wondered if it going to be monotonous to look at just black and white images for the whole book. And guess what – author and publisher have not even put the page numbers so either you count yourself or keep guessing. I am still not sure why page numbers were not put.

Anyway the story starts with a dialogue between Bhim of Mahabharata and Hanuman of Ramayana – who are both sons of the wind god and hence brothers separated by two epics. The Vol 1 and 2 that I have is primarily the Hanuman’s story of Ramayana – it starts from the point when he met Ram and goes on till he came back from his first trip to Lanka. Continue reading


Who wrote the BhagwadaGita? By Meghnad Desai

Who wrote the BhagwadaGitaBhagwad Gita is a sacred text for a large section of humanity and a mystery for the almost anyone who has either heard of it or read it. Scholars of the last couple of centuries have worked on it – trying to understand it, write commentaries on it, bring out its relevance to the current realities and to understand its historicity.

Meghnad Desai in this small book tries to reverse engineer the book. He tries to find out who actually wrote Gita – was it Ved Vyas the author to whom Mahabharata is attributed or was it an independent author who wrote it and the text was later made a part of the epic Mahabharata. Once he concludes that it was an independent text, he goes on to explore if it has a single or a multiple authorship? He tries to explain the disjointed nature of the philosophies in the text some of which even look contradictory. He refers to the similar works that have been done by both Indian and European scholars in trying to figure out Continue reading


Moving to Goa by Katharina Kakar

Katharina KakarThis book was on my reading list since the day I moved to Goa this January. Reading it after living here for 7 months was probably the best time to read it. I could relate to all that Katharina had to say about Goan–Migrant relationship having experienced it first hand. I had visited some of the places she mentioned in her book and got a list of places to be visited in the non-touristy part of Goa. Perfect timing as always.

So, Katharina and her husband Sudhir Kakar who is also a famous author moved to Goa about a decade ago settling down in a small village in South Goa. She begins the books by narrating the circumstances of their moving and how Goa chose them rather than they choosing Goa to live (I so connected with this phrase, for cities including Goa have been choosing me for sometime now). She then goes on to talk about the known and not so known aspects of Goa. Continue reading


The Last King in India – Wajid Ali Shah by Rosie Llewellyn-Jones

Rosie Llewellyn-JonesBiographies of historical figures stitched together using the material that is available with a bit of imagination acting as a thread can be very interesting – as they leave some gaps open to interpretation for the reader. As you read you add the bits you know about the figure – mostly what you have heard about them from popular perception or read in school text books and it can be a heady mix of known facts and myths and legends surrounding the figure. I expected that a lot in Wajid Ali Shah’s biography – for he comes from an era that was well documented and he was the last of his kinds.

Rosie writes primarily from the British accounts of Wajid Ali Shah. The book starts on a not so great note. By second chapter I was lost in names and dates – there were just too many of them and the king himself was literally absent from these chapter that means around 30% of the book. A detailed account of his mother’s journey to England, Continue reading