HT Picks; New Reads

This week’s reading list includes a powerful analysis of violence and non-violence as seen through the Gandhian prism, a science fiction collection that transports readers to worlds that are strangely familiar, and the memoir of a college professor whose hand was chopped off by those who accused him of blasphemy
Non-violence as seen through the Gandhian prism, a science fiction collection, and the memoir of a gruesome incident. (HT Team)
Non-violence as seen through the Gandhian prism, a science fiction collection, and the memoir of a gruesome incident. (HT Team)
Updated on Oct 09, 2021 10:29 AM IST
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By HT Team

Gandhi’s religion of ahimsa

271pp, ₹699; Westland
271pp, ₹699; Westland

The idea of non-violence was critical to Gandhi’s worldview. He used for it the Sanskrit Term ahimsa, arguing that it was more comprehensive and capacious than ‘non-violence’.

In his powerful new analysis of violence and non-violence as seen through the Gandhian prism, Jyotirmaya Sharma argues that Gandhi acknowledged the absence of any serious tradition of non-violence in India. His uncompromising insistence on ahimsa, then, was a way of introducing non-violence as an Indian value by fabricating a tradition around it. Gandhi offered a unique interpretation of Hindu texts and philosophical practice while engaging with certain strands of European and American intellectual traditions.

Sharma maintains that past attempts to understand Gandhian non-violence remain inadequate because of the tendency to measure it on the yardstick of efficacy, in specific situations, in Gandhi’s own lifetime. More significantly, and perhaps controversially, he suggests that Gandhi’s formulation of ahimsa fails both as concept and practice, largely because of its location within the religious realm. An unintended consequence of this is that it has left the liberal–constitutional space in India bereft of the legitimate use of a powerful and desirable language of dissent in the shape of non violence.

From the author of a strikingly original and nuanced body of writing on the politics of religion and nationalism, Elusive Non Violence: The Making and Unmaking of Gandhi’s Religion of Ahimsa is a work of that could change the way we assess Gandhi’s contribution to the evolution of modern Indian thought.*

High on sci-fi

454pp, ₹699; Hachette
454pp, ₹699; Hachette

From sinister plans of xenocide to speciesists who have taken it upon themselves to Off-World those unlike them; from simulations that memorialize stories obliterated by a book-burning world to the Master Pain Merchant who is always at hand to administer a dose of long-forgotten sensations; from genetically modified Glow girls who can kill with a touch to a droid detective actively seeking out justice – this stellar volume of cutting-edge science fiction showcases, in prose and verse, 32 of the most powerful voices in the genre from the Indian subcontinent.

Taking forward the formidable task achieved to critical acclaim by the first volume of the Gollancz Book of South Asian Science fiction, the present collection masterfully transports readers to worlds strangely familiar, raises crucial questions about the place of humans in the universe, and testifies to the astonishing range and power of the imaginative mind.*

An innocent question and deadly answers

303pp, ₹599; Penguin
303pp, ₹599; Penguin

In 2010, TJ Joseph, a professor of Malayalam at Newman College, Kerala, framed an innocuous question for an internal examination that changed his life forever. Following a trumped-up charge of blasphemy, members of a radical Islamist organization set upon him in public, viciously maiming him and chopping off his right hand. His memoir told with amazing restraint and wry humour is the moving tale of his life and family as they went through hell and beyond. Here’s the extraordinary story of a man who survived dismembering only to be betrayed by his own Church. Let along stand by him, it robbed him of his livelihood and isolated him from his community, driving Joseph’s long-suffering wife to melancholia and eventual suicide. Joseph’s story is one of fortitude, will power, forgiveness and compassion told with rare wit that will make readers chuckle through their tears. This is a tale that will leave the reader seething, weeping and smiling by turns.*

*All copy from book flap.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021