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Ram Advani

From Inside the Steel Frame

From Inside the Steel Frame by Ashok Pandey

Despite its distinct colonial legacy and imperial overtones, the Indian Administrative Service has encompassed the country’s vast expanse within its administrative structure, responding to the needs of the young republic. Often flawed and inadequate, the IAS as an institution, however, has integrated India with its fabled steel frame offering cohesion and order to a land known for chaos and a million mutinies. Directly, descending from the British masters’ Indian Civil Service, the IAS, the country’s highest administrative ties, has evolved over the decades being alive to the impulses and aspirations of the nation. At times when the political leadership has failed and floundered, the executive has steadfastly navigated the boat through choppy patches.

The Mountain of Shiva

The Mountain of Shiva by Karan Singh

Set in pre-militancy Kashmir, his only novel till date takes the reader on an exhilarating journey to the snowclad peaks of the Himalayas, lakes and chinar forests. It’s a time much before militancy and security barricades disrupted the carnival mood in the Valley. Ashok, a corporate honcho, holidaying Srinagar, discovers his old flame Sheila as the newly-wed bride of his school friend Ramesh, in Kashmir for their honeymoon. The love triangle takes an abrupt turn with Ashok discovering a guru in Shiva’s mountains and following him along the Himalayan ridges.  This is a story one can finish in a single sitting and feels like reading all over again.

Through an engaging story of friendship, love and misunderstandings between the three principal characters, Dr Karan Singh takes us on a spiritual journey. Guided by the wise presence of Maharaj, the hero Ashok discovers true wisdom and the path to Lord Shiva. One of the wisest lines in this book reads: ‘Outer crises are always the reflection of inner conflicts.’ When Ashok moves beyond these conflicts, he awakens his kundalini and finds Lord Shiva.

The Best of TEL

Starting amidst uncertainties, with a question mark looming over the next issue, The Equator Line, (better known by its acronym TEL) has moved on to occupy a space that one has always felt for, but never knew existed. Only in its third year, the quarterly is about a world within ours but undiscovered until recently. TEL is now more than a way of life – it’s about fond smells from the street-corner shops, primetime noises of evening television, about a time left behind long ago. The lone DD days. Growing up watching the Amitabh Bachchan movies. TEL is about knowing how our lives have changed, surreptitiously, inexorably, under the spell of new technology. It’s not so much about stunning you with blaze flashes of information shrapnel as opening a window to a brave new world you have known about but never really appraised. If the magazine is different, it is in its tonal quality, the way it looks at the world around us.

Meetings with Remarkable Women

A new book from Dr Karan Singh in nearly a decade, Meetings with Remarkable Women, is the renowned author’s journey back to early life. In this magnificently produced coffee-table book enriched by rare photographs and paintings, Dr Singh recounts his meetings with 27 eminent women personalities from around the world. Among them are Edwina Mountbatten, Helen Keller, Eleleanor Roosevelt, Indira Gandhi, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Maharani Gayatri Devi, Rukmini Devi Arundale, Nadine Gordimer and the Mother of Sri Auroville. A fascinating spread of historical characters, who lit up the socio-political scene of India down the decades, the book offers valuable insights into many phases of Indian history. In short, a must read book.

Life and Times of Unborn Kamla

Life and times of Unborn Kamla

Life and times of Unborn Kamla is about a war that has been going on in our homes for quite some time now. And its consequences are more terrible than those of the wars we have actually fought with our neighbours. Almost every minute a girl is being killed somewhere in India – either in her mother’s womb or outside. That is 700,000 girls every year! And every day about 200 young women are being forced into prostitution around the country. Human trafficking is the world’s third most profitable business. Sex determination or sex selective abortion by unethical medical professionals is a US $ 244 million industry today. The book captures the crucible of the crisis and points to the serious consequences of large parts of India being afflicted by the ‘girl famine’.

Peacocks Among the Tamarind Trees

An intense panic gripped her as she waited in the arrivals hall of the Julius Nyerere International Airport at Dar es Salaam. She wasn’t at all sure she had done the right thing by accepting the position as a doctor at one of the clinics in Tanzania. The burden of responsibility to prove something to the world rested heavily on her shoulders, and she could almost feel its weight pressing down on her as she still looked up and stood erect, bold and brave, a single woman in the throng of men. She needed to show everyone, including herself, that she could do this; that the incident in Toronto didn’t mean she wasn’t competent….

Harappa The Lure of Soma

At the zenith of its power and prosperity, Harappa is a highly refined urban conglomerate in the Indus Valley, visited by trade caravans and travellers from faraway lands. The city’s sense of organisation, its mastery of technology, economic wellbeing, and above all, its possession of Soma, inevitably bring enemy troops to its door. For the drought-stricken, impoverished neighbours, Harappa is the land of fulfilment. Indeed, Soma is the basis of life, a measure against which the power of a state could be judged….

My Iron Wings

The burst of the coolies’ busy shouts and a lazy rejoinder from the crows perched on the overhead beams of the platform merged into a strange welcome, as the Madras-Howrah Mail chugged into the station, bringing me home. From the window, I saw the familiar scene of the men in their fiery red kurtas and white dhotis, jumping into the compartments of the moving train. Howrah Station had not changed a bit. Like Appa. Change, for him, was compromise, and therefore, a weakness.

The late morning light bathed the Howrah Bridge, which straddled the river, paving the way for what I dreaded at the moment – meeting Appa at the end of yet another failed trip. The outstretched arms of the bridge dominating the skyline were like an assurance, a source of comfort, before I faced his sharp barbs….

Riot Widows

Ravaged by successive riots, the terms of life in a shantytown are dictated by its women who lead a widowed existence since their men are locked up in prison on murder charges. In the despondency and squalor of the dingy lanes, Nafsan is hope, the idea of another day.

She radically departs from the rebel-woman stereotype in her dare to aim high without rejecting the reality of her circumstances. The beautiful medical student with the ambition to earn greater recognition and respectability, however, is ruggedly loyal to the festering slum where she belongs…

The Brotherhood

The homeless woman lay under a tree relaxing in the steady, comforting breeze that blew away the tedium of a hot day. All was still and quiet and she was dropping off to sleep when, through the corner of her eye, she caught a quick movement in the bushes. Alarmed, she sat up.

The sun had set a few minutes ago and she peered through the dusk trying to figure out if it was a wild animal. To her surprise, it was a man crawling through the hedge. He moved fast and with ease through the thick shrubs despite the heavy rucksack on his back. He reached behind a cluster of bushes, lay very still on the grass and looked intently at something with a pair of binoculars…..

Onam on the Yamuna Banks by KRG Nair

Krishnan Namboodiri had three sons. The second – Brahmadattan – was the most promising of them. A budding poet, his understanding of the finer points of Kathakali was perfect. The Namboodiris of Naduvam Mana in Chalakudy were highly respected. The young Brahmadattan’s fame, as a critic-connoisseur of classical dance, added lustre to the family’s reputation.

“Excuse me, Aniyan, where is the Namboodiri home?” strangers would ask a boy at the bus stop. “We have come from Thriprayar to invite Brahmadattan to our Kathakali festival,” the group leader said. Proud of being the famous man’s neighbour, the boy would probably escort the outsiders to the doorsteps of the Namboodiri home…..

The Kitty Buddha by Rohit Trilokekar

Have you ever wondered, you know, when you look at the stars and the moon in the night sky, have you ever wondered how all of this is happening? Have you wanted to know with a burning desire what exactly it is you were born into? Do you believe in magic? If you do, then this story is for you. This is my story. This is what happened to me in the year 1932. Ok. Maybe not 1932. Look, the point here is I don’t really care when it happened. The point here is the magic. Real magic. The magician’s magic is not really magic after all. A sleight of hand here and the eye that sees, deceived. Real magic is what happens when you believe there are pixies under mushrooms. Ok. I get it. You probably think I’m crazy just about right now…..

Garden of Fools by Robert Hutchison

As he stood at dawn on the bluff overlooking the Jumna River,the stench of death rising off the riverbank, Proby Cautley realised that at last he had found his mission in life. He was thirty-six, an engineer, and he had lived in India all his adult life. It was the first Sunday of March 1838, God’s day, but God was nowhere present on the landscape before him: not his God, nor any other as far as he could determine.

Beneath him, on the banks of the Jumna, he counted three-score and twelve bodies – twice the number of his years – mostly the aged and the young, women and children, relatively few men….

Freedom’s Mother by Anisul Hoque

One war often merges into another. One lonely journey subsumes the anger of a million footsteps. When Safia Begum walked out of the New Eskaton mansion in the middle of the night with her young son, to protest her husband’s second marriage, she had no idea the war in her inner courtyard would one day merge with her land’s bloody battle for freedom.

Anisul Hoque’s Freedom’s Mother traces the invisible link between a gutsy woman’s rebellion and a people’s fight for independence…