A book on the effect of India’s lockdown, and volumes on two personalities - a forgotten freedom fighter, and an auteur of Hindi cinema -- are on this week’s list of recommended reads.(HT Team)
A book on the effect of India’s lockdown, and volumes on two personalities - a forgotten freedom fighter, and an auteur of Hindi cinema -- are on this week’s list of recommended reads.(HT Team)

HT Picks: The most interesting reads of the week

This week’s reading list features a book on a forgotten freedom fighter who also did much for immigrant rights in the US, another on a legend of Hindi cinema, and a volume on the devastation the lockdown has wreaked on India’s poor
By HT Team | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:50 PM IST

An Indian in Egypt

480pp, Rs 799; Simon & Schuster
480pp, Rs 799; Simon & Schuster

Amongst the multitudes of tombs in the City of the Dead in Cairo, there lies buried a lone Indian — an eminent scholar, writer, debonair statesman and a leader of the Indian freedom movement. Who is he? How did he get there?
For a man who used both the lectern and the pen to devastating effect in the cause of the Indian Independence movement led by the likes of Gandhi, Patel and Nehru, very little is known of Syud Hossain. Born to an aristocratic family in Calcutta, he started a career in journalism early in life and became the editor of Motilal Nehru’s nationalist newspaper, The Independent. After a brief elopement with Jawaharlal Nehru’s sister, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Hossain, under immense pressure from Motilal Nehru and Gandhi, annulled the marriage and was asked to stay away from the country for a few years. Thus began several years of exile.
Eventually, he landed in the United States where he imparted Gandhi’s message far and wide across the country. Gathering a group of Indian freedom fighters around him, he fought for India’s freedom from afar, decrying British oppression and garnering support in the United States for his cause.
Adding to his formidable list of causes, Hossain also took on the fight for Indian immigrant rights in the United States, one that successfully culminated in President Truman signing the Luce-Celler Bill into an Act in 1946. He returned to India to witness the triumph of her independence as well as the tragedy of Gandhi’s assassination. He was appointed the first ever Indian ambassador to Egypt, where he died while in service and was laid to rest in Cairo.
A Forgotten Ambassador in Cairo offers an illuminating narrative of Hossain’s life interspersed with historical details that landscapes a vivid political picture of that era. Through primary sources that include Hossain’s private papers, the British Intelligence files, letters of his friends and contemporary newspapers, NS Vinodh brilliantly brings to life a man who has been relegated far too long to the shadows of time.*


Life behind the screen

317pp, Rs 599; Simon & Schuster
317pp, Rs 599; Simon & Schuster

Guru Dutt’s filmography has some names which have long been considered as some of the best films to have ever been made in India. His masterpiece Pyaasa (1957) was featured in TIME magazine’s All-Time 100 Movies list in 2005.
His films are still celebrated and revered by viewers, critics and students of cinema the world over, not only for their technical brilliance but also for the eternal romanticism and their profound take on the emptiness of life and the shallowness of material success. He was Indian cinema’s Don Juan and Nietzsche rolled into one.
But while much has been said and written on the film-maker and his art, little is known about his life behind the screens. This richly layered account takes a deep dive into the journey of a lonesome, troubled genius who was endlessly being pulled in contrary directions throughout his life.
A child prodigy, who actually began as a dancer learning from the great Uday Shankar, an unconventional film-maker who desired commercial success without ever compromising on artistic satisfaction, a self-made entrepreneur who hated numbers yet single-handedly ran a film studio juggling the roles of a producer, director, actor, financier — all this while struggling silently with a deeply troubled personal life, at the centre of which was his tumultuous marriage with Geeta Dutt.
Guru had it all — love, family, money, fame and validation from his audience. His untimely death by suicide, that too after multiple failed attempts, had shocked the entire film industry. But what led to that fateful night when he tipped his hat and said his final goodbye?
Best-selling Bollywood biographer Yasser Usman explores the man and the myth Guru Dutt in this definitive biography of a nonconformist star, uncovering the extraordinary lives of the rich and the famous as well the incredible toll it takes on the emotional and mental health of a human being. With cameos from close friends and colleagues Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Johnny Walker, SD Burman and most significantly Dutt’s sister, noted painter Lalitha Lajmi, a short but compassionate, ambitious and ultimately tragic life reveals itself in the pages of this book.
This is a gripping, meticulously researched and moving portrait of an unfinished life — a tale of unrequited love, unresolved relationships and unmatched cinematic talent.*


The biggest crisis since Partition

240pp, Rs 399; Speaking Tiger
240pp, Rs 399; Speaking Tiger

In early 2020 the first cases of Covid-19 infection were confirmed in India,and on 24 March the country’s prime minister announced a nationwide lockdown, giving the population of over 1.3 billion just four hours’ notice. Within days, it became evident that India had plunged into its biggest humanitarian crisis since Partition. In this powerful book,Harsh Mander shows us how grave this crisis was and continues to be, and why it is the direct consequence of public policy choices that the Indian government made, particularly of imposing the world’s longest and most stringent lockdown, with the smallest relief package. The Indian state abandoned its poor and marginalized, even as it destroyed their livelihoods and pushed them to the brink of starvation. Mander brings us voices of out-of-work daily-wage and informal workers, the homeless and the destitute, all overwhelmed by hunger and dread. From the highways and overcrowded quarantine centres, he brings us stories of migrant workers who walked hundreds of kilometres to their villages or were prevented from doing so and detained. He lays bare the criminal callousness at the heart of a strategy that forced people to stay indoors in a country where tens of crores live in congested shanties or single rooms with no possibility of physical distancing, no toilets and no running water. Combining ground reports with hard data, Mander argues with great clarity and passion that India is in the middle of a humanitarian catastrophe, the effects of which will be felt for decades.*

All copy from press releases.

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Myth, relations between India and China, and reflections on the identity of an ethnic group feature on this week’s list of good reads.(HT Team)
Myth, relations between India and China, and reflections on the identity of an ethnic group feature on this week’s list of good reads.(HT Team)

HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

By hindustantimes.com
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:46 PM IST
This week’s list of compelling reads includes a collection of myth and folklore, an account of relations between India and China, and an anthology that reflects on the identity of an ethnic group displaced by Partition.
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Naipaul is not a contributor but his prickly presence can be sensed in the collection:VS Naipaul in a picture dated 9th November, 1968.(John Minihan/Getty Images)
Naipaul is not a contributor but his prickly presence can be sensed in the collection:VS Naipaul in a picture dated 9th November, 1968.(John Minihan/Getty Images)

Review: The Book of Indian Essays edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

By CP Surendran
UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:36 PM IST
Many of the well-known essays in this anthology still look and feel new.
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Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni(Courtesy the publisher)
Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni(Courtesy the publisher)

Interview: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Author, The Last Queen

By Simar Bhasin
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:27 PM IST
The author says she wanted to present Queen Jindan Kaur, regent of the Sikh empire from 1843-46, and mother of the last Maharaja, Dalip Singh, in all her complexity and humanness
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Lalitha Lajmi with Yasser Usman, author of Guru Dutt; An Unfinished Story.(Yasser Usman)
Lalitha Lajmi with Yasser Usman, author of Guru Dutt; An Unfinished Story.(Yasser Usman)

Essay: Frozen in time and memory; Conversations with Guru Dutt’s sister

By Yasser Usman
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:27 PM IST
Yasser Usman writes about Lalitha Lajmi’s contribution to his book, on the film maker.
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Over the course of his career, spanning nearly fifty years, Archer has published over 37 titles and sold over 275 million copies around the world.(Wikimedia Commons )
Over the course of his career, spanning nearly fifty years, Archer has published over 37 titles and sold over 275 million copies around the world.(Wikimedia Commons )

Jeffrey Archer returns to HarperCollins in major three-book deal

ANI, New Delhi [india]
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:17 PM IST
HarperCollins is delighted to announce a major three-book deal for World English Rights with internationally bestselling author Jeffrey Archer.
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William Shakespeare 's play Macbeth - Act I Scene III: The Three Witches. Artist: Richard Westall; engraver: Stow.(Getty Images)
William Shakespeare 's play Macbeth - Act I Scene III: The Three Witches. Artist: Richard Westall; engraver: Stow.(Getty Images)

Review: Weird by Olga Khazan

By Sankar Ray
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:09 PM IST
A semi theoretical look at weirdness that includes multiple types of outsider narratives.
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"I am a product of traditional India and its ancient wisdom, and modern India and its urban bustle. My upbringing was always an amalgamation of the two Indias, and, just as much, of East and West," the 38-year-old actor said in a statement.(Amazon)
"I am a product of traditional India and its ancient wisdom, and modern India and its urban bustle. My upbringing was always an amalgamation of the two Indias, and, just as much, of East and West," the 38-year-old actor said in a statement.(Amazon)

Priyanka Chopra Jonas' memoir 'Unfinished' to release in February

PTI, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 10:31 AM IST
Actor-producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas' long-awaited book debut, "Unfinished", will hit the bookshelves on February 9, publisher Penguin Random House India announced on Thursday.
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“The interest in the book is the result of a renewed desire to understand a U.S. that is in the midst of a civil cold war,” said Wang Wen, executive dean of Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.(Bloomberg)
“The interest in the book is the result of a renewed desire to understand a U.S. that is in the midst of a civil cold war,” said Wang Wen, executive dean of Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.(Bloomberg)

A $2,500 book on US decline is suddenly a must-read in China

Bloomberg, China
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 11:58 AM IST
After chaos engulfed the U.S. Capitol last week, some Chinese intellectuals found themselves searching for copies of an out-of-print book to make sense of events. “America Against America” forecast the U.S.’s decline due to domestic conflicts more than 30 years ago.
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A book on the effect of India’s lockdown, and volumes on two personalities - a forgotten freedom fighter, and an auteur of Hindi cinema -- are on this week’s list of recommended reads.(HT Team)
A book on the effect of India’s lockdown, and volumes on two personalities - a forgotten freedom fighter, and an auteur of Hindi cinema -- are on this week’s list of recommended reads.(HT Team)

HT Picks: The most interesting reads of the week

By HT Team | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:50 PM IST
This week’s reading list features a book on a forgotten freedom fighter who also did much for immigrant rights in the US, another on a legend of Hindi cinema, and a volume on the devastation the lockdown has wreaked on India’s poor
Close
Author Pallavi Raghavan(Courtesy HarperCollins)
Author Pallavi Raghavan(Courtesy HarperCollins)

Interview: Pallavi Raghavan, Author, Animosity at Bay: An Alternative History of the India-Pakistan Relationship

By Chintan Girish Modi | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:44 PM IST
We will have a calmer relationship with our history if we understand that the past cannot be used to justify and perpetuate the grievances of the present
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Another taut courtroom drama: A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, starring Montgomery Clift as Michael Logan and Brian Aherne as Willy Robertson.(Corbis via Getty Images)
Another taut courtroom drama: A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, starring Montgomery Clift as Michael Logan and Brian Aherne as Willy Robertson.(Corbis via Getty Images)

Review: A Time for Mercy by John Grisham

By Percy Bharucha | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:40 PM IST
In A Time for Mercy, John Grisham looks at the fundamental questions behind the motives to murder while chronicling the impact of race on the system of justice
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MS Subbulakshmi’s rendition did much to popularise the Venkatesa Suprabhatam.(HT Photo)
MS Subbulakshmi’s rendition did much to popularise the Venkatesa Suprabhatam.(HT Photo)

Review: Venkatesa Suprabhatam by Venkatesh Parthasarathy

By Rahul Jayaram | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:53 PM IST
This book on Venkatesa Suprabhatam, a famous morning prayer, gives us a close reading of the text, the discourses that inform it, its influence, and its many meanings
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“Mowgli’s story is so intriguing because it allows us to see a human child from the perspective of other species,’ says Alter, author of Feral Dreams: Mowgli & His Mothers.
“Mowgli’s story is so intriguing because it allows us to see a human child from the perspective of other species,’ says Alter, author of Feral Dreams: Mowgli & His Mothers.

A retelling of Jungle Book without the colonial baggage

By Paramita Ghosh | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 08:44 PM IST
Stephen Alter sets the Rudyard Kipling classic in a newly independent India, and has Mowgli, renamed Daniel, working at MIT.
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Death is inevitable, and yet passing over needn’t come as a surprise or scary chapter, as we’ve learnt from the 2017 film Coco.(IMAGE COURTESY PIXAR)
Death is inevitable, and yet passing over needn’t come as a surprise or scary chapter, as we’ve learnt from the 2017 film Coco.(IMAGE COURTESY PIXAR)

In a new book, insightful thoughts on readying for life’s final exam

By Dipanjan Sinha | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:36 PM IST
Arun Shourie’s Preparing: For Death offers advice on last days, and explores the end as an opportunity to move on rather than an occasion to fear.
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Siddhartha Lal at the roll-out of the first bike from the Oragadam plant in Tamil Nadu.(Photo courtesy Eicher Motors)
Siddhartha Lal at the roll-out of the first bike from the Oragadam plant in Tamil Nadu.(Photo courtesy Eicher Motors)

The Enfield journey: A new book explores a bumpy ride into history

By Paramita Ghosh | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:19 PM IST
Amrit Raj’s Indian Icon: A Cult Called Royal Enfield takes a look at the challenges and deft moves that have gone into building the motorcycle brand.
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