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Paperback Pickings

Games, sacred and profane

POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND THE POLICE IN INDIA (Sage, Rs 350) by K.S. Subramania is a former IPS officer’s take on a highly topical issue. To understand the nature of political violence, the author contends, one has to begin at the beginning — with the origins of the ‘Indian State’ based on the colonial and the Nehruvian models. The independent Indian State has always been fraught with ‘political violence’. Subramanian uses this term in two specific senses in this study: “It refers to violence that calls for a political response from the State authorities rather than a police response...[it also] implies that in a situation of large-scale institutional malfunctioning, politics acquires an appetite for all spaces, both public and private. Thus, all violence becomes political, in a sense.” This doublebind not only complicates the nature of political violence in India, it also makes the task of the keepers of law and order formidably difficult. In subsequent chapters, Subramanian looks at police reforms, the role of the central paramilitary forces, as also the potentially evil nexus between police, political parties and the government (increasingly threatening West Bengal and Gujarat). The function of the police is discussed not just in terms of their administrative duties but also as protectors of human rights (the Northeast is a case in point) and arbiters of social justice (police intervention in violence against the other backward classes). The arguments are reinforced by statistics and an extensive bibliography.

JOKER IN THE PACK (Orient, Rs 195) by Ritesh Sharma and Neeraj Pahlajani comes with the self-descriptive subtitle, “An irreverent view of life at IIMs”. Written by two IIM alumni, this is a racy, entertaining tale of dreaming big and reaching the impossible, told with panache, in a been-there-done-that tone. This is the story of Shekhar Verma’s journey from his Delhi home, in a locality marked by “a lavish sprinkling of well-meaning middle-class uncles and aunties as far as the eye could see”, to Carlton Towers at 235, Lexington Avenue, New York. In between comes Shekhar’s stint at the enormously competitive world of the IIMs, followed by his struggles in the big bad world after B-school. This is a “tongue-in-cheek” story with “a bit of raw truth”, intended to “whet the appetite of those aspiring”, to make the veterans nostalgic. And some of them a bit angry too!

YOUNG WISDEN: A NEW FAN’S GUIDE TO CRICKET (Penguin, Rs 395) by Tim de Lisleis intended for young readers. It doubles up as an introductory volume to the game and its history, and a comprehensive reference book that would guide the ‘new fans’ through the “ins and outs of cricket”. Did you know about the four choices a batsman has to make' The five best qualities a fast bowler needs' The strengths and weaknesses of the 10 Test teams' The best time of the day to ask for an autograph' This book not only unravels such mysteries but reveals much more. There are life stories of cricketing legends, a plethora of amazing facts, anecdotes, and, most importantly, priceless pictures of past and the present stars of the game.

THE FICTION COLLECTION: TWENTY YEARS OF PENGUIN INDIA, VOLUMES 1 AND 2 (Penguin, Rs 395 each) include excerpts from some of the best works of fiction that has come out of this publishing house in the past two decades. Both English language and vernacular authors find place in this miscellany. Sunil Gangopadhyay, Saadat Hasan Manto and Satyajit Ray appear alongside Mulk Raj Anand, Yann Martel, Gita Mehta and R.K. Narayan. The selections are too abrupt for a sustained reading pleasure.


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