HT Picks; New Reads
How to be human
I want a poem like thick tropical rain./ Dense green spatter of syllables,/ Drumbeat consonants, fertile with meaning./ Sudden. Short. Unforgettable./ Afterwards, jungle silence./ I want a poem like a Russian circus;/ You should know it has been trained./ No ordinary everyday poem could leap like that,/ No quotidian poem could shimmer, spangle, exult like that…/
Wondering poems, wise poems. Fierce poems and playful poems. Poems about everyday things and uncommon things. Poems of isolation and fellowship; about loving and leaving, finding and losing and finding again. Jerry Pinto’s second collection of poetry sparkles and soothes; in words that always ring true, it shows us what it means to be human, and how to be human. In his verse, as in his prose, Pinto is a writer to come home to.*
On the superstar
Superstar Rajinikanth defies all conventional analyses – no one has reigned supreme for as long as he has in the world of Indian cinema. With over 150 films under his belt, many of them blockbusters, he still plays the hero at 70, and the devotion of his legions of fans has not waned during the 40-odd years of his stardom.
In a state that saw the Dravidian self respect movement propagate atheism, fans worship his cutouts and bathe them with milk and beer, as if he were their god. In a society famous for its pride in its language, it is curious that a Kannadiga whose family hails from Maharashtra, an outsider, should emerge as a thalaivar or leader. With the death of the charismatic J Jayalalithaa, a former actor and M Karunanidhi, who was a scriptwriter for films – leaders of the AIADMK AND DMK respectively (the two main Dravidian political parties that have been ruling Tamil Nadu for more than 60 years) Rajnikanths’ fans believed there was a political vacuum that only he could fill. Ultimately, however, the superstar withdrew from the political arena citing health concerns. The fans were hugely disappointed but understanding. With their continuing support and excitement for the next Rajini starrer he remains a giant in the field of entertainment.
Rajnikanth: A Life is the best account yet of the man who was born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad – once a coolie and a bus conductor in Bangalore and now virtually a god in Tamil Nadu.*
A journey along the Brahmaputra
The Brahmaputra is by some margin the largest river in India. After its confluence with the Ganga in Bangladesh, it becomes the largest in Asia.
In The Braided River, journalist Samrat Choudhury sets out to follow its braided course from the edge of Tibet where it enters India down to where it meets the Ganga at a spot marked by the biggest red light district in Bangladesh. Along the way, he meets suspicious Indian spies, gets packed off on the back of a cement truck by soldiers, visit a shelter home for baby rhino and elephant orphans in Kaziranga, and hops from river island to riverside town meeting the locals. The tales of these encounters spice up a story that weaves in the history of the emergence of the border between India and China in Arunachal Pradesh, the formation of the Assamese identity – a matter of great contemporary relevance owing to the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act – and the ecological challenges posed by proposed dams.
This is a genre-bending book that touches upon several hot-button issues – environmental, military and political – as it blends travel, memoir and history with the present.*
*All copy from book flap and press releases