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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Paperback Pickings

Sleepless in Chennai

Through the Eagle’s Eye (Published by the author, Rs100) by M.B. Lal has all the ingredients for a perfect fairytale. Mary and her boyfriend, Nakul, embark on a strange mission — to discover the secret code with the help of which the residents of a particular colony communicate with birds and animals. The two lovers choose an even stranger carrier, an eagle-flown aerial chariot under the command of an ape. This unusual tryst includes visits to “mile-deep craters, forbidden terraces and even the viceroy’s palace”, all for the sake of breaking the secret code. However, Lal’s claim that his work is meant not only for the young but the old as well is quite fantastic, just like some of the events described in the book.

Conflict and other stories (Frog, Rs 250) by Shubham Gupta is touchingly dedicated to Kendo Jethu who “left for the heavenly abode years back”. Gupta’s stories delve into the myriad aspects of life and love. For some reason, most of Gupta’s stories are set in Chennai. In “All Men Are Not Thugs”, a wily conman relieves the protagonist of his wallet in a crowded bus, while “Dress Conceals, Nature Reveals”— a story about camouflaged dacoits fooling a group of nitwitted policemen in a jungle — would have definitely brought a smile on Veerappan’s face. In “Two Half Pegs of Whisky”, Gupta reminisces about his days in a seedy bar in Chennai. Surely Kendo Jethu would not have approved of that.

Endless Rain (Penguin, Rs 295) by Meena Arora Nayak takes a look at ordinary people trying to get on with their lives in a state torn by strife. Ali, a young Kashmiri, is at odds with the world around him. His hatred for Ayesha, his sister, is bound to an “unspeakable” secret that the two have shared since childhood. Then, at the age of eleven, Ali’s family is struck by a tragedy, and even as the young boy tries to grapple with this situation, he realizes that somehow, his pain is but a reflection of the larger calamity that has befallen his beloved Valley.

Healthy Thinking (Wisdom Tree, Rs 125) by Tom Mulholland is “TV’s attitude doctor’s” take on how to think in a healthy way. Ominously, this one is dedicated to Dr Mike Cox “who took his own life after years of battling his own thoughts”. Now that’s just one of the reasons to stay away from the trash that Dr Mulholland writes.

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