HT Picks; New Reads
A legend even during her own lifetime
Akhtari Bai Faizabadi, or Begum Akhtar as she was better known, was a legend even during her own lifetime, and one of the last great singers from the tawaif community. Akhtari documents her eventful life and her music though essays and reminiscences by some of her closest friends and associates, and by people who knew her work deeply – such as Bismillah Khan, Lata Mangeshkar and Shubha Mudgal, among others. The volume also includes a long conversation between Acharya Kailash Chandra Dev Brihaspati and Begum Akhtar, and interviews with her disciples Shanti Hiranand and Rita Ganguly.A bestseller in the original Hindi – and now available in English for the first time – this is a book to treasure for all of Begum Akhtar’s fans and lovers of music.*
The miracle of possession
With two cows and four mouths to feed, Nareshan can barely make ends meet selling milk to the inhabitants of Karuthupuzha. This is, until his daughter, Sarasu, is possessed by the demon-god, Chaathan. Now, the faithful form all over Karuthupuzha and beyond visit Nareshan with money and gifts to receive Chaathan’s blessings. The sceptics of the town, meanwhile, believe that Nareshan is fooling everyone to make money. However, when one of the leading sceptics in town, Dasappan, member of the Communist Party, rationalist and atheist, loses his mind after loudly proclaiming that Chaathan is a farce, the people’s belief in a divine power residing in Sarasu in reinforced. With the number of the faithful only growing as each day passes, Nareshan realizes that his daughter’s possession might be the best thing to have happened to him. When the rich widow Ponnamma comes to his house to seek help from Chaathan for her son, Nanu, the fate of Nareshan and his family is to change forever. In The Oracle of Karuthupuzha, Manu Bhattathiri revisits the town of Karuthupuzha that was immortalized The Town That Laughed and Savithri’s Special Room and Other Stories.*
A Diplomat Looks Back
More than three decades later, the Tiananmen Square incident refuses to be forgotten. The events that occurred in the summer of 1989 would not only set the course for China’s politics but would also redefine its relationship with the world. China’s message was clear: it remained committed to market-oriented reform, but it would not tolerate any challenge to the supremacy of the Chinese Communist Party. In return for economic prosperity, the Chinese have surrendered some rights to the state. A democratic future seems far away.
Vijay Gokhale, then a young diplomat serving in Beijing, was a witness to the drama that unfolded in Tiananmen Square. This unique account brings an Indian perspective on a seminal event in China’s history that the Chinese government has been eager to have the world forget.*
All text from book flap.