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Paperback Pickings

Musings on energy

Faces in the Water (Puffin, Rs 199) by Ranjit Lal centres round the magic well in the Diwanchand farmhouse that has always provided the family with water having curative powers. Although generations of Diwanchands owe their good health to the well, discussions about the prized well have been something of a taboo in the family. When 15-year-old Gurmi visits the family estate and ventures to the site of the well despite prohibitions, he begins to discover why everybody had been reluctant to talk about it. As he peers down into the waters, the ghostly faces of three pretty girls stare back at him. So begins the adventure that will reveal a murky family truth. Funny and entertaining, the novel also has a serious message. Behind all the merriment is the condemnation of a society that places a premium on the male child and so can do away with the daughters without a twinge of regret. Young adults, especially boys, will learn a lesson or two from this book.

Folk Folklore and Folkloristics: Interpretations of Society and Folklore (Mitram, Rs 700) edited by Bikas Chakraborti is a scholarly book that wears its learning lightly. The essays on a variety to topics related to folk art — from the music of the bauls, the Gambhira festival of North Bengal, the tradition of bratakatha to ghosts in Bengali folk narratives — are on the whole unencumbered by the stilted academic jargon that so often characterizes writings of these kind. There are also essays on folklorists such as Praphulladatta Goswami and on collectors of folktales such as Gurusaday Dutt. The only puzzling feature of the book is its exclusive focus on Bengal, if one discounts the lone essay on Telugu folklore. Surely, in a vast country like India, folklore is not limited to Bengal, or to Andhra Pradesh, for that matter?

The Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy (Westland, Rs 295) by Vijay Nagaswami is a self-help book that teaches readers the art of nurturing their marriages. According to Nagaswami, reclaiming a marriage gone wrong must always be a 50-50 effort of the two partners involved, hence the book’s title. The author provides various case studies to analyse the different problems that crop up in long-term marriages. Although one’s troubles are always unique, the examples can help readers have a general idea of the common forms of marital discord. To Nagaswami’s credit, his advices sound practical, heartfelt and not over-the-top. This book may well become a popular wedding anniversary gift, as the author hopes.

The Upside Down book of Nuclear Power (HarperCollins, Rs 250) by Saurav Jha intends to arm readers with authoritative knowledge about that mysterious topic, nuclear power, which is often at the centre of heated debates, but about which actually very little is known. Jha accomplishes the almost impossible feat of writing a book on nuclear power that is not soporific. The epigraphs to the chapters are witty and humorous, and help enliven the book. (Sample this: “Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it” from Terry Pratchett’s The Last Continent comes at the beginning of the chapter, “A Geographical Interlude”.) Jha’s “musings on energy” will surely provide renewed fuel to many gathering storms over teacups.

The Complete Family Medicine Book (Orient, Rs 395) by P.C. Dandiya, J.S. Bapna and G. Khilnani is a useful book that can make amateur doctors of the readers. The nature of drugs, their dosage and effects have been given in detail, and common diseases have been explained. This can easily become the bible of hypochondriacs.


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