HT Picks; New Reads - Hindustan Times
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HT Picks; New Reads

ByHT Team
Jul 28, 2023 05:46 PM IST

This week’s reading list includes a retelling of the story of how the princely states joined India, a “memory history” of the Tibetan struggle, and a selection of the best literary short fiction written by Indians

Patel, Menon and the integration of princely India

This week’s pick of good reads includes a retelling of the story of how the princely states joined India, a “memory history” of the Tibetan struggle, and an anthology of the best short fiction written by Indians (HT Team)
This week’s pick of good reads includes a retelling of the story of how the princely states joined India, a “memory history” of the Tibetan struggle, and an anthology of the best short fiction written by Indians (HT Team)

360pp, ₹799; Juggernaut (John Zubrzycki’s marvellous retelling of the story of how the princely states were coaxed, coerced or bludgeoned into joining India.)
360pp, ₹799; Juggernaut (John Zubrzycki’s marvellous retelling of the story of how the princely states were coaxed, coerced or bludgeoned into joining India.)

On 25 July 1947, India’s last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, stood before the Chamber of Princes to deliver his career’s most important speech. He had just three weeks to convince over 550 princely states – some the size of Britain, some so small that cartographers had trouble locating them – to become part of a free India. The alternative was unthinkable – the fragmentation of the subcontinent into dozens of autocratic fiefdoms. This is the beginning of John Zubrzycki’s marvellous retelling of the story of how the princely states were coaxed, coerced or bludgeoned into joining India.Zubrzycki expertly juggles a fascinating cast of characters: Mountbatten, who grasped the complexity of the states problem far too late; Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the pragmatic, tough minded politician and patriot, who employed both fury and charm to get his way; his deputy, VP Menon, the cigars moking civil servant and tireless master strategist, regarded by some as “the real architect” of integration; Jawaharlal Nehru, who made no secret of his contempt for the princely order; Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who assiduously wooed wavering princes to his side; and finally, an array of bejewelled rulers, grappling with the challenge of a lifetime.What Patel and Menon described as a “bloodless revolution” was anything but. Zubrzycki also looks at how Pakistan dealt with the princely states that fell to its lot and takes the Indian story into the 1970s when an imperious Indira Gandhi delivered the final blow to the princely order.*

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Tibet in War and Peace

962pp, ₹1299; Penguin (Using the accounts of resistance fighters, secret agents, peasants and beggars to form a “memory history” of the Tibetan struggle.)
962pp, ₹1299; Penguin (Using the accounts of resistance fighters, secret agents, peasants and beggars to form a “memory history” of the Tibetan struggle.)

Jamyang Norbu has taken the stories of “forgotten” Tibetans – resistance fighters, secret agents, soldiers, peasants, merchants, even street beggars – and skillfully worked their myriad accounts into a single glorious “memory history” of the Tibetan struggle. He uses recollections from his own childhood to ease the reader into an immersive understanding of the complexity of Tibet’s modern history: the Chinese invasion, the uprisings in Kham and Amdo, the formation of the Four Rivers Six Ranges Resistance Force, the March ’59 Lhasa Uprising, the CIA supported Air Operations, the Nyemo peasant Uprising of 68/69 and the Mustang Guerilla Force in northern Nepal, where Norbu later served.He writes of leaving home to drive tractors at refugee settlements, educate refugee children, produce plays at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, and collect intelligence for the Tibetan Office of Research and Analysis (TORA) and for France’s External Intelligence Agency (SDECE). He uses these anecdotes not so much as autobiography but as a framing device to recount the lives, deeds and, too often, tragedies of the many Tibetans he encountered and befriended throughout his life – nearly all of whom played vital roles in shaping the recent history of their country but whose contributions are still unsung and forgotten. Jamyang Norbu’s lifelong commitment to collecting and orchestrating the “echoes” of these many forgotten voices from the past has resulted in a lyrical, learned and compassionate book that could well be described as the prose epic of the Tibetan freedom struggle.*

An anthology of short fiction

528pp, ₹999; Aleph (A selection of the finest literary short fiction written by Indian writers.)
528pp, ₹999; Aleph (A selection of the finest literary short fiction written by Indian writers.)

The Greatest Indian Stories Ever Told is a selection of some of the finest literary short fiction written by Indian writers since the genre came into being in the country in the late nineteenth century. Including early masters of the form, contemporary stars, as well as brilliant writers who came of age in the twenty-first century, this anthology takes in its sweep stories from the various regions, languages, and literatures of India. These authors are some of the most feted in the annals of Indian literature and have, between them, won virtually every major literary prize on offer — including the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Jnanpith Award, the Sahitya Akademi Award, and numerous state, national, and international honours.*

*All copy from book flap.

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