HT Picks: A take on Austen, a study of violence, and a detective novel

The most interesting books of the week

books Updated: Nov 10, 2017 18:16 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times
Upinder Singh,non-violence,short story
The latest good reads.(HT Team)


Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru helped create the myth of a non-violent ancient India while building a modern independence movement on the principle of non-violence (ahimsa); But this myth obscures a troubled and complex heritage: a long struggle to reconcile the ethics of non-violence with the need to use violence to rule. Upinder Singh documents the dynamic tension between violence and non-violence in ancient Indian political thought and practice over twelve hundred years.

Political Violence in Ancient India looks at representations of kingship and political violence in epics, religious texts, political treatises, plays, poems inscriptions and art from 600 BCE to 600 CE. As kings controlled their realms, fought battles, and meted out justice, intellectuals debated the boundary between the force required to sustain power and the excess that led to tyranny and oppression. Duty (dharma) and renunciation were important in this discussion, as were punishment, war, forest tribes, and the royal hunt. Singh reveals a range of perspectives that defy rigid religious categorization. Buddhists, Jainas, and even the pacifist Maurya emperor Ashoka recognized that absolute non-violence was impossible for kings.

By 600CE religious thinkers, political theorists and poets had justified and aestheticised political violence to a great extent. Nevertheless questions, doubt, and dissent remained. These debates are as important for understanding political ideas in the ancient world as for thinking about the problem of political violence in our own time.*

Heiress and society doyenne Kamila Mughal is humiliated when her brother’s best friend snubs her to marry a social climbing nobody. Roya discovers that her fiancé has been cheating on her and ends up on a blind date on her wedding day. Beautiful young widow Saira has mourned her husband but feels she may finally be ready to start following her own desires.

Inspired by Jane Austen and set in contemporary Pakistan, Austenistan is a collection of romantic, uplifting, witty, and sometimes heartbreaking love stories which pay homage to the world’s favourite author in their own uniquely local way. *

At Botswana’s No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi are intrigued by the troubling dismissal of an employee at a thriving local business. The ladies proceed with investigations as they are inclined to do – with Mma Makutsi’s customary vigour, and Mma Ramotswe’s rather more subtle caution.

While Mma Makutsi’s focus, as self-appointed Principal Investigating Officer, is firmly on the case, Mma Ramotswe’s attention is diverted by personal matters. Not only has her disgraced ex-husband reappeared in town, but she has stumbled on an unsettling family secret of her own – one that might threaten what she holds closest to her heart.

As Precious contemplates this painful possibility, she must draw on her strength and compassion. And for both Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe, the wide words of their mentor Clovis Andersen – ‘the needle swings in confusing ways’ – have never been more prescient.*

*All copy from book flap

First Published: Nov 10, 2017 17:54 IST