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Mumbai high on weekend book shelf

Posted on Oct 20, 11:16AM | IANS

Books on the shelf this week take a leaf out of real life. And Mumbai with its contradictions wins...Browse with IANS.

1.Book: "Sethji"; Written by Shobhaa De; Published by Penguin-Books India; Price: Rs.250

"Sethji" provides penetrating insights into the complex innards of contemporary politics in India.

Written with sly humour and the characteristic De flair for storytelling, "Sethji" takes you where no other political novel has before - into the depraved centre of Delhi's power hungry salons, where lives are traded and deals brokered - ruthlessly, efficiently and crudely.

Sethji heads ABSP, a crucial coalition partner in the government. Shrewd, devious and an inveterate fighter, he is a man who refuses to play by any moral codes or lose a single battle.

Easing his way is Amrita, his ravishing and aloof daughter-in-law who guards her own secrets. But when two of the country's most powerful men team up to challenge Sethji, the wily old politician has to fight the deadliest battle of his life - a battle in which he must stake everything.

The one person he is forced to trust is Amrita, a woman who gives nothing away, not even to Sethji.

2.Book: "Ministry of Hurt Sentiments"; Written by Altaf Tyrewala; Published by Harper Collins-India; Price: Rs.299

From the author of "No God in Sight" comes another genre-bending work of literary consequence.

The book which parodies the political and social establishments of Mumbai stitches on its canvas the quixotic forces of the city that is simultaneously dislocated and organised.

Tyrewala finds an analogy for every Mumbai stereotype and parable in every true-life situations and describes them in unrhymed verses like rap poetry. The Dalit scavenger, the murderous mob, a limbless beggar aroused with desire, the property dealer, the scheming salesman and the intrepid underworld dons inhabit his book with their bleak lines - delivered like sonnets.

The book captures the spirit of a city that has been besieged and comes up trumps.

3. Book: "In Search of Oneness"; Written by Moosa Raza; Published by Penguin Books India; Price: Rs.399

This free-flowing narrative illuminates the journey of the author, a devout Muslim, through sacred books and holy men of all religions - starting with his own - in search of a personal God and faith, and his coming upon the Bhagavad Gita.

Examining commentaries on this text, from Sankara to Abdur Rahman Chishti, alongside some renderings of the Quran here, Moosa Raza finds many common threads: summoning God through sadhana or dhikr; reaching God through daan or giving and the service of the destitute; and seeking ecstacy through self-mastery, detachment, and surrender.

These original observations are illuminated by his encounters with people practising these values, like his ailing school teacher who felt God was always been beside him or his friend, a senior civil servant, trusting in Allah's providence, kept an open home for the poor and homeless.

Through these experiences and his own striving, Raza celebrates the oneness and the power of faith and spirituality, showing a path for other seekers.

4.Book: "The Wave Rider"; Written by Ajit Balakrishnan; Published Pan Macmillan; Price: Rs.599

In 1995, Ajit Balakrishnan is quietly experimenting with the new and fascinating technologies of the Internet when the dot-com fever grips the world. Venture capitalists, investment bankers and lawyers pound at the doors of his tiny office in a low-rent area of Mumbai, urging him to take his company public on New York's NASDAQ stock market.

Balakrishnan sets out on this enterprise, a path that takes him through the world's financial centres of London, Hamburg, New York, Boston and San Francisco.

This story recounts how he battles adversaries many times his size; fends off avaricious lawyers who try to extort money through class action suits in the tough courts of lower Manhattan; rebuffs investment bankers who try to engineer the sale of his company; and tries to make sense of a world where technology and business models change every few months.

5.Book: "Bengal The Cold Weather, 1873: A Dream of Edward Lear in India"; Written by Joe Roberts; Price: Rs.195

Looking in the long glass, 61-year-old Lear can't believe he has become so old. The timid Lear has learned to bear his lack of beauty; he no longer seeks physical love.

Lear is ashamed of his epileptic condition, 'the demon' that has pursued him all his life, and he keeps it secret with the help of his Albanian servant, Giorgio.

The pair journey through Bengal to Calcutta where the landscape painter and nonsense poet (servant) has been invited to pass the Christmas holiday with the Viceroy, Lord Northbrook.

The tropical landscape seems both alien and hauntingly familiar. The people Lear meets are almost as otherworldly as he is: a feverish hotelier, a scholarly Raja, a giant minstrel. When they reach Calcutta and find themselves among the upper social strata of the Raj, even among old friends, Lear cannot relax for a moment - the demon could ruin everything.

The book is funny, sad and disturbing in equal measure, its atmosphere comic and Gothic. This is the first novel by the English travel writer Joe Roberts who wrote about Calcutta in the best-selling "Abdul's Taxi to Kalighat".