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HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

The reading list this week includes a study of the cartoons on the chief architect of the Indian constitution, a new work from one of our foremost novelists, and a history of the first Indian cricket team

books Updated: Jun 01, 2019 09:34 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times
cartoons,caste,cobras
A study of cartoons on a prominent historical figure, a novel from one of our best novelists, and a history of the earliest Indian cricket team - all that on our list of interesting reads this week. (HT Team)


NO LAUGHING MATTER; THE AMBEDKAR CARTOONS 1932-1956; EDITED AND SELECTED BY UNNAMATI SYAMA SUNDAR

405pp, Rs 599; Navayana

In 2012, the inclusion of a 1949 cartoon by Shankar showing Jawaharlal Nehru whipping a snail-borne BR Ambedkar in a school textbook, evoked dalit protest, and a savarna counter on the grounds of artistic freedom. Scholar and cartoonist Unnamati Syama Sundar then undertook an archival survey of cartoons on Ambedkar in the English language press. The result, a collection of over a hundred cartoons from India’s leading publications, drawn by Shankar, Enver Ahmed and RK Laxman, among others, lays bare the perverse and thoughtless hostility Ambedkar often contended with. The incisional commentary woven around each cartoon offers a veritable biography of a man historically wronged.


GUN ISLAND BY AMITAV GHOSH

289pp, Rs 699; Penguin

On a visit to his birthplace, Kolkata, a Brooklyn-based dealer in rare books finds his life becoming entangled with an ancient legend about the goddess of snakes, Manasa Devi. While visiting a temple, deep within the vast mangrove forests of Bengal, he has a disturbing encounter with the most feared, and revered, of Indian snakes, a king cobra. This is followed by a series of increasingly uncanny episodes that seem to dissolve the borders of the human and non-human.
Peopled with a diverse cast of characters and set in places that range from the Sundarbans to Los Angeles and Venice, this is a story about a world in which creatures and beings of every kind have been torn loose from their accustomed homes by the catastrophic processes of displacement that are now unfolding across the Earth, at an ever-increasing pace. It is also a story about a man whose faith in the world is restored by two remarkable women.


CRICKET COUNTRY; THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE FIRST ALL INDIA TEAM BY PRASHANT KIDAMBI

453pp, Rs 699; Penguin

On the morning of 6 May 1911, a large crowd gathered at Bombay’s Ballard Pier. They were there to bid farewell to a motley group of sixteen Indian men who were about to undertake a historic voyage to London. The persons whom the crowd cheered that sultry Saturday morning were members of the first All-India cricket team.
Conceived by an unlikely coalition of imperial and Indian elites, it took twelve years and three failed attempts before an ‘Indian’ cricket team made its debut on the playing fields of imperial Britain in the blazing coronation summer of 1911.
This a capacious tale with an improbable cast of characters set against the backdrop of revolutionary protest and princely intrigue. The captain of the Indian team was nineteen-year-old Bhupinder Singh, the embattled Maharaja of Patiala. The other cricketers were selected on the basis of their religious identity. Most remarkable, for the day, was the presence in the side of two Dalits: The Palwankar brothers, Baloo and Shivram.
Drawing on an unparalleled range of original archival sources, Cricket Country is the untold story of how the idea of India was fashioned on the cricket pitch in the high noon of empire.

First Published: May 31, 2019 17:13 IST