HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

Hindustan Times | ByHT Team
Feb 28, 2020 08:29 PM IST

A book of recipes from Kerala, a volume on yoga and how it spread, and one that looks at the history of the musha’irah


Food, yoga, poetry and the history of the(HT Team)
Food, yoga, poetry and the history of the(HT Team)

202pp, ₹330; Niyogi Books
202pp, ₹330; Niyogi Books

Eating with History: Ancient Trade-Influenced Cuisines of Kerala is an invaluable compendium of a culinary tradition and variety of food recipes that evolved out of Kerala’s kitchens. The food trail is extensive and as varied as it can get. The proximity to the sea and the natural beauty and resources of the state – especially the fragrant spices which grew in abundance – attracted inhabitants of foreign soils and inspired them to initiate overseas trade along what was later known as the Spice Route. In a state with fish, other sea food and vegetables dominating people’s food habits, the various kinds of meats, foreign cooking techniques and exotic flavours were curried to life from foreign trade influences and became significant foods. There are numerous recipes in each foreign-influenced community in Kerala, well represented in this book in meticulous detail. These recipes were cherished by the families and handed down generations via cross-cultural interactions within Jews of the Paradesi and Malabari sects, Syrian Christians, Muslims, Anglo-Indians, Latin Catholics and others who mingled with and evolved from the local populace.
The book provides a well-researched and rich cultural history of foreign food culture, tracing how the new elements adapted to the local food traditions and evolved as a parallel line of foods, creating new textures, flavours and tastes.*


532pp, ₹999; Penguin
532pp, ₹999; Penguin

In Calcutta Yoga, Jerome Armstrong deftly weaves the multi-generational story of the first family of yoga and how they modernized the ancient practice. The saga covers four generations, the making of a city, personal friendships, and shines light on the remarkable people who transformed yoga and made it a truly global phenomenon.

Along the way, we also meet the people who founded the schools of yoga that are so well known today. Enriching the cast of characters are the internationally renowned BKS Iyengar, Mr Universe Monotosh Roy, even as the book uncovers the truth about Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga. We follow them and others from the streets of Calcutta to the United States, London, Tokyo and beyond, where they perform astounding feats and help revise Western perceptions of yoga.

Cleverly researched and enjoyably anecdotal, Calcutta Yoga gives a holistic picture of the evolution of yoga, and pays homage to yogic heroes previously lost from history, while highlighting the pivotal early role the city of Calcutta played in redefining the practice. A culmination of rigorous fieldwork and numerous interviews, this book is as much about yoga as it is about history, relationships, and human nature.*


324pp, ₹1595; Oxford
324pp, ₹1595; Oxford

Poetry of Belonging is an exploration of north-Indian Muslim identity at a time when the Indian nation state did not exist. Between 1850 and 1950, when precolonial forms of cultural traditions such as the musha’irah were undergoing deep and intricate transformations, certain Muslim voices imagined negotiated, and articulated ways of what it meant to be Muslim through new and shifting vocabularies.

Using poetry as an achive, the book traces the history of the musha’irah, the formal site of the poetic symposium, as a way of understanding public spaces through the changing economic, social, political, and technological contexts of the time. It seeks to chart the changing ideas of watan(homeland) and hub-e-watani(patriotism) in order to offer new perspectives on how Muslim intellectuals, poets, political leaders, and journalists conceived of their relationship to India while simultaneously expressing attachment to the umma or the transnational Muslim community.

The book aims to catalyse a conversation on identity and belonging, especially at a time when the question of Muslim loyalty to India has yet again emerged as a politically polarising question.*

*All copy from book flap

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