Book Reviews

Pratham books
Devolution of power by V. K. SRINIVASAN

The genesis, points of jurisprudence and the law common to local self-government bodies
.2009032450021401

COURTS, PANCHAYATS AND NAGARPALIKAS — Background and Review of the Case Law: K. C. Sivaramakrishnan; Academic Foundation, 4772-73, 23 Bharat Ram Road (23 Ansari Road), Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 995.

The evolution of local self-government bodies in India through various eras — ancient, medieval, Mughal and British — has been so well documented that one should be surprised that even after six decades of independence there is less than universal recognition and wholehearted acceptance of the vital contribution these bodies can make to the socio-economic development of the country. As K.C. Sivaramakrishnan points out in his Courts, Panchayats and Nagarpalikas—Background and Review of the Case Law, despite Mahatma Gandhi’s desires to make the village Panchayat the very foundation of democracy in India, “The first draft of India’s Constitution circulated after Mahatma’s martyrdom did not include any provision for the Panchayats.” That was in spite of earlier history of recognition accorded to Panchayats by Charles Metcalfe, the Governor General in 1835, the Famine Commission Report in 1880, Lord Ripon’s Resolution of 1882, Report of Royal Commission on Decentralisation (1909), Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 and the specific entry 12 of the Provincial List in the Government of India Act 1935

FICTION

Uneven course

SUMANA MUKHERJEE

The debut collection of stories shows enough promise to make us look forward to the next…

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Next Door, Jahnavi Barua, Penguin, Rs. 250.

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A river runs through Jahnavi Barua’s debut collection of short stories. It laps at the banks of human fortitude, sneaks into empty spaces between relationships, renews the dying, revitalises the isolated. The Brahmaputra makes an appearance tim e and again in the 11 stories in Next Door, sometimes as metaphor, sometimes as memory, but most often as a matter of fact, like living and breathing.

That matter-of-factness, and the microscope Barua takes to it, recalls Rabindranath Tagore on the subject of the short story. Roughly translated, he reads: “Small lives, small hurts, rather simple and straightforward…” As she adheres to this prescription, Barua brings to her young girls, her lonely family men, a dignity and a grace that places her among an older generation of Indian writers.

Barua’s context, though, is unwaveringly contemporary, her concerns ranging from the vulnerabilities of the nuclear family to the shadows of militancy over Assam, “the fight for the motherland”, as she refers to it delicately in “Honeybees”. And though the protagonist in that story, the lovingly drawn Anupam Kalita, dies in an ambush, Barua is much more at home at, well, home. The domestic theatre is her strength, her writer’s eye picking out the daily victories, everyday meanness, with sensitivity and sympathy.

The 3 mistakes of my lifeBy Chetan Bhagat
Price: Rs95; Pages: 258
Rupa Books
What strikes you first about Chetan Bhagat’s novels is the fact that this author writes about Indians and for Indians. His characters are young, ambitious and passionate and have the same moral, social and religious dilemmas as many of the young Indians today. At the same time their context and sensibility too is unabashedly Indian. The new and the third Bhagat book, “The 3 mistakes of my life”, has all these qualities.
The setting is the city of Ahmedabad that though being urban is yet not as metropolitan as many of its metro counterparts. It retains its small town flavour in pols (colonies), traditional Indian households and small vegetarian eateries. It has the protagonist Govind with his passion and acumen for accounts and business, it has Ishan for whom cricket is the element around which his life revolves and it has Omi, a priest’s son and loyal friend who is ready for anything that his friends are game for.
The book is based on real life events. It begins in a dramatic enough fashion with Bhagat receiving an e-mail from Govind who had taken many sleeping pills and was writing to him while waiting for the deadly sleep’s embrace. Chetan was shaken enough by the incident to track the boy down to an Ahmedabad hospital. Fortunately he was still alive to tell the tale. The book is loosely based on the three mistakes Govind made in his life.What follows is a mix of cricket, religion, business, love and friendship. Govind sets up a sports shop along with his friends in the temple compound with Omi’s family’s help. The shop prospers as Ishan coaches young boys in cricket and Govind teaches maths to Ishan’s sister Vidya who also captures his heart. Ishan then meets Ali, a child master with a hyper reflex condition that makes him hit each ball for a six. Ali displays the talent which Ishan never had and Ali’s destiny becomes his own.
Enter Omi’s Bitoo mama (maternal uncle), a communal party man bent on converting the young into fighters in the name of Hinduism. Situations come to a head and Ahmedabad burns in riot fires. Omi dies saving Ali and Ishan finds out about Vidya and Govind, a betrayal he does not forgive. These events lead Govind to his death-bed and that is when he writes the email to Bhagat.
Perhaps, this is the biggest compliment an author can receive. Its not when New York Times describes him as the biggest selling English language author in the country or when he crosses the coveted two million book sales’ figure, but when someone chooses to remember him in his last minutes, that makes a writer go beyond the ordinary. After all, isn’t the purpose of all writing is to touch someone’s heart?
“The 3 mistakes of my life” is written simply and has the quality that makes one want to read the book cover to cover in one sitting. The pricing of the book is just right for the target audience – young people. This book like Bhagat’s earlier one, “One night @ call centre, too has the masala, emotion and pace to turn into a potential blockbuster.

Book Review: Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her

For the past 75 years, girls of all ages have fallen in love with Nancy Drew, the spunky teenage detective who could solve just about any mystery without batting an eye. Journalist Melanie Rehak, in her new book Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, reveals how the brainchild of a juvenile publishing giant created one of the most beloved characters in fiction.

Nancy Drew was first created by Edward Stratmeyer, founder of the Stratmeyer Syndicate, who already created many other successful fiction series for children (including The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey Twins), was working on a book series targeted at young girls when he created the teen detective. He already had hired journalist Mildred Augustine Wirt to ghostwrite another series for him and tapped her to write the first volumes of the new series. He had already developed outlines for the first five books when his publisher, Grosset and Dunlap, agreed to publish the books. But the series almost didn’t get off the ground as Stratmeyer died just twelve days after the first book was published. The Syndicate was left to Harriet Stratmeyer Adams (Edward’s daughter) to manage. Although Adams knew little about the business she managed to continue the publishing legacy started by her father.

The book was meticulously researched and provides intimate details on how Nancy Drew grew from a fictional character to cultural icon. Along the way, Ms. Rehak reveals how both Adams and Wirt contributed to the success of the series. She also reveals that the working relationship was not always rosy and spotlights both the low points as well as high points of the character’s development. The fact that both Ms. Adams and Ms. Wirt were prolific letter writers provides personal insights into the women behind the character.

The only negative aspect is Ms. Rehak’s tangential discussion of feminism and the attempt to make Nancy Drew appear to be an icon of the women’s rights movement. It’s ironic that so much emphasis is placed not only on the feminist aspects of the character as well as her creators when Nancy Drew consistently reflected more traditional values (even to the point that she was never allowed to have a love interest).

Despite the minor deviations from the overall story, this is still a fascinating insight into one the most successful publishing companies of all time. For any girl that grew up reading Nancy Drew books and wishing to be her, Girl Sleuth will be a fascinating literary adventure.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen 

About Mary-Kate and Ashley

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were born June 13, 1986, in Sherman Oaks, California. Their mother’s name is Jarnette and their father’s name is David. Although their parents are divorced now, they continue to play an active part in Mary-Kate and Ashley’s careers. The twins’ brother, Trent, is older by two years. Their sister, Elizabeth, is 3 years younger than the twins. They also have two step-brothers and a step-sister from their father’s second marriage. While Mary-Kate and Ashley appear to be identical twins, they are fraternal. Ashley is the older twin by two minutes.

By the time Mary-Kate and Ashley were 9 months old in 1987, they had joined the TV show “Full House.” The twins played the role of a girl named Michelle Tanner until 1995. By 1991, a “Talking Michelle Doll” had been released, because the twins were so popular. In 1990, the Mary-Kate and Ashley books were launched, and are still a huge success today, often listed as bestsellers in USA Today. In 1995, the companion book series to their Adventures videos began to be released under the title Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley.

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