HT Picks; New Reads
This week’s list of interesting reads includes a satire on the Indian publishing scene, insights from the career trajectory of an atypical bureaucrat, and a critique of the illiberal forces that dominate our lives
In the goldfish bowl
It is the book launch of Best in Show: The Peacock Book of Indo-Anglian Fiction and John Nair, managing editor, Peacock India, is throwing the grandest party of his life. The whole of literary India is in attendance. All the literary greats are here: the Seths, the Roys, the Chaudhuris, among many, many others. And into this haloed gathering walks Nair’s old friend, Ritwik Ray, the slightly off kilter bard of Patna, with a new novel in hand: Godse Chowk. Mayhem ensues. Set in the goldfish bowl of the New Delhi publishing world, The Time of the Peacock provides an accurate yet compassionate reading of the Indian literary scene – both bhasha and metropolitan.*
Parameswaran Iyer, former Secretary to the Government of India, is best known for leading the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship programme, which became the world’s largest sanitation revolution But Iyer is not your typical bureaucrat. With a far from usual career combining two distinguished tenures in the government and an eventful stint outside it, he likes to describe himself as an uncommon ‘Insider-outsider-Insider’. In Method in the Madness, he reflects on the unique path he chose – from cracking the IAS to becoming a globe-trotting World Bank technocrat, to playing the role of a coach to his professional tennis-playing children, to finally returning to India and implementing the SBM. Written with humour and wisdom, this is an inspiring read full of key management insights, practical career advice, and valuable life lessons that will resonate with readers across age groups and professions.*
The violent heart of Indian politics
The Law of Force is a searing critique of the illiberal and violent forces that continue to dominate our everyday life and politics. These forces began to make themselves felt in the 1980s and 1990s – regional movements, the empowerment of lower caste communities but also Hindu nationalism – and reflected, among many other things, a deeply illiberal underside of Indian politics. Theirs was a language of deprivations and anger, and a politics of passion claiming to represent hitherto voiceless majorities. This language of strength was not based on a commitment to the values of the Constitution but, rather, a belief in popular sovereignty the moral right of electoral majorities, and violence as a legitimate expression of political will. In this book, Hansen discusses the discrepancy between the liberal language of rights in the Constitution and the largely illiberal and often violent ways in which the ‘force of law’ is visited upon non-elite Indians by the country’s police powers. He argues that a new and intensified sense of intimacy and hurt have facilitated the rise of a popular politics of passion and action that in turn has made public violence and the mobilization of public anger into some of the most effective means of political expression in the country. These sentiments and techniques of what Hensen calls ‘the law of force’ have been honed and perfected by the Hindu nationalist movement over the past decades.*
*All copy from book flap.