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BETWEEN THE LINES

The News: A User’s Manual By Alain de Botton, Hamish Hamilton, Rs 699

Alain de Botton’s interesting book can be said to explore the realm of meta-news as it exposes what lies behind the various news stories and photographic images that beguile us every morning. The author points out the rarely-pondered anomaly — that while news insists that we see, above all else, it rarely trains its eyes on itself. Journalists skilfully conceal their craft so that readers are led to believe that what they are being treated to are just facts without embellishment. The insidious process of news-making hides the often highly distinctive priorities of the news agents at work on the one hand, and on the other, anaesthetizes the reader so that he can be as moved, or unmoved, by, say, the birth of the royal baby as by the death of children in Kinshasa. By revealing the mechanics of news creation, De Botton seeks to de-familiarize the reader so that they wake up to their media-induced indifference to events and start reading between the lines.

BABY STEPS

Of Mothers and Others: Stories, Essays, Poems Edited by Jaishree Misra, Zubaan, Rs 495

This book is filled with morning sickness, ultrasounds, mewling infants, and mothers in every possible state — expecting, delivering, lactating, weeping, and, in general, being astounded by the miracle of childbirth. Since this is a ‘feminist’ book, it is firmly placed in the mother’s body, and we get to hear about uterine contractions and leaking breasts in great detail. All of this is for a noble purpose — Shabana Azmi talks in the Foreword of her dedication to the cause of saving children and mothers and how this anthology is a “small step in the right direction”.

LIVING ART

Habib Tanvir: Towards an Inclusive Theatre By Anjum Katyal, Sage, Rs 650

Habib Tanvir is often identified now with his most well-known production, Charandas Chor, while the rest of his life and works is forgotten. Anjum Katyal tries to dispel this collective amnesia by analysing his works, tracing their influences, and connecting them with events in the dramatist’s life. Tanvir had developed an early interest in the way the Chhattisgarhi people of his native Raipur expressed themselves culturally — through songs, colourful rituals and performances. In his college days, he took to leftist ideals, which drew him still closer to the life of the people. The experience of his years abroad taught Tanvir to reappraise local traditions, and when he started his company, Naya Theatre, he included a sizeable number of Chhattisgarhi performers in it. The photographs of the man who incorporated India’s oral traditions in the theatrical space add to the book’s value.

WHAT REMAINS

Residue By Nitasha Kaul, Rupa, Rs 500

Kashmir, Berlin, Bengal — all such broken lands are brought together in this novel. The ‘residue’ in the title refers to significant intangibles like faith, love, memory, which survive partitions. The theme has been done to death and this book’s Leon Ali (named after Trotsky) merely adds another star to the gallery of divided desis like Gogol Ganguli.