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Paperback Pickings

What lies beneath the surface

Bastions of the believers: Madrasas and Islamic education in India (Penguin, Rs 395) by Yoginder Sikand focuses on Muslim centres of learning that are vilified by authorities today for their suspected role in supporting Islamist jihad. While conceding that madrasas impart education that is conservative and obscurantist, Sikand argues that this does not mean that they seek to encourage separatism and violence among the faithful. Significantly, the author also delves into history to show that these institutions, in fact, played a pivotal role in fostering Hindu-Muslim unity in the decades leading to Independence. This is an important book that seeks to question the dangerous trend of stereotyping India’s madrasas as centres of regression and bigotry.

Kingdom come (Harper Perennial, £4.99) by J.G. Ballard explores the dark underbelly of a seemingly “amiable” British suburb, Brooklands, which, mysteriously, “sat up and snarled, then sprang forward to kill” Stuart Pearson. Richard, his son, an unemployed advertising professional, travels to Brooklands to find out who killed his father.Stuart, according to Sergeant Mary Falconer, was shot and killed by a deranged man who opened fire in the Metro-Centre, the chic mall that dominates Brooklands’s skyline. In the course of his search though, Richard discovers that not all is how it should be in the sleepy town. A sinister truth lurks somewhere beneath the surface, something that will ultimately strip Brooklands of its claims to peace and civility. Pacy and elegant, Ballard’s work throws in a few surprises. A must read for those who enjoy quality writing.

Dollar Bahu (Penguin, Rs 150) by Sudha Murty, originally written in Kannada, has been translated into six Indian languages. This is its English avatar. The many translations are a surprise, considering the sheer banality of Murty’s work. Vinuta marries Girish, a bank clerk, and is, unsurprisingly, saddled with Gouramma, her tormenting saas. The more she tries to brush off Gouramma’s jibes, they only get worse. She is even unfairly compared to the “Dollar Bahu”, the wife of Girish’s brother who lives in America. Want to read on further? Well then. Gouramma travels to the US, has a change of heart, and realizes that money, even dollars, cannot buy love. Murty’s intentions are pious. But haven’t we got plenty of suffering bahus on the telly already?


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