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Gibbons, Ganga and green wars

Book Bazaar
Bahar Dutt at the launch of Green Wars

Clips on animals, discussion on green issues and some “breaking news” — journalist Bahar Dutt’s book launch packed in all that and more. Her debut book Green Wars (Harper Collins India, Rs 250) was launched in Calcutta at the British Council Library on August 20.

“The book does not read like a debut attempt. It is so beautifully written,” said Sujata Sen, director (east India), British Council, in a conversation with the author after the launch.

Bahar said while the book took off from personal experiences, after a point she decided she had to go beyond just reporting what she saw. “I did not want the stories to come down to just two-minute reports. I needed to write a book to get to the depth of the issue.”

A believer in the innate goodness of nature and the environment, Bahar shared some of her work experiences through visual clips. From her work with snake charmers to her first meeting with former UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, Bahar’s accounts kept the audience engrossed.

Her book is on gibbons, orangutans and a forest officer who fought for justice. She has also discussed policies and debunked the EKC (Environmental Kuznets curve), a hypothetical relationship between environmental quality and economic development. Her book is replete with environmental and economic issues, including problems with dams built on the Ganga.

There are softer and more personal elements too, like how she helped a gibbon find a mate at Delhi zoo.

Rekha Shetty launches Innovation Sutra at Story

Corporate doctor

The teachings of the Buddha and how that motivated an investment banker in Manhattan to get back on his feet after his world came crashing down forms the plot of “corporate doctor” Rekha Shetty’s new novel Innovation Sutra (Penguin Books India, Rs 250). The book was launched at Story, the bookstore on Elgin Road recently.

The author of titles like Innovate Happily and The Happiness Quotient, Shetty used a presentation and narrated short stories on the Buddha to speak about her latest book as well as chalk out a route to professional success.

“Play politics to make everyone happy, do the opposite of what everyone is doing, look at the opposite of conventional wisdom,” were some of her tips. She also pointed out some cardinal principles of Buddhism and how they were more alive in countries like Sri Lanka and Japan than in India.

Innovation Sutra makes you look at everyday instances. It is proved that giving is very good for health. Who you are is much more important than what you have. Unless people are happy they cannot innovate,” said the author.

Rekha Sarin and Rajan Kapoor launch their book Chai — The Experience of Indian Tea at The Park

Tea time

Tea is instant wisdom — just add water.

Author Rekha Sarin and photographer Rajan Kapoor gathered such wisdom and more as they set out to explore tea plantations across India while researching their book Chai — The Experience of Indian Tea (Niyogi Books, Rs 1,995). And one thing that both say they have acquired in the process is a memory of taste.

“Tea is a temperamental plant. It responds only to the environment. Every culture has its own association with tea, be it the Japanese, Chinese, Bhutanese, Europeans or Indians. Of them the association with Indians is most diverse, simply because different regions in India have taken to tea in a different manner,” said Sarin, who has written the text for the book. She went on to talk of her travels to Assam, Darjeeling, Dooars, Terai, Nilgiris and coastal Western Ghats, and Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh.

Kapoor, through whose lens we see the book, talked of the enormity of the subject and how planning helped little during execution. “I’ve been travelling to China for the last 25 years on business. I’ve always been fascinated by their tea ceremony. In India the culture of tea has a colonial touch with its own charms. When I went to Guwahati to take photographs of tea plantations, I didn’t know that the land would be flat... no slopes. But I needed a top view! So I climbed one of the trees, perched myself on a branch and took the picture!” he revealed as the audience tried hard not to giggle.

The duo were addressing a gathering at The Park that included prominent Calcutta faces like Bickram Ghosh, Sharbari Dutta, Nayantara Palchoudhuri and Arun Singh, the chairman of the Indian Tea Association.

While Ghosh described tea as “beautifully blessed with bubbling beauty”, Singh recounted that tea was the only industry where 50 per cent of the labour force were women, doesn’t cause pollution and can be grown in the remotest parts of the country.

Palchoudhuri, a fourth-generation tea planter based in Bengal, is hopeful that this picture book might get GenY interested in the tea industry.

“I’m worried that quite a few tea estate owners are moving away from the business. That is principally because the next generation of tea planters in Bengal is not interested in the rich heritage of tea. It is not just about running the business, you have to be emotionally involved. I hope youngsters will read this book and think of innovative methods to revive tea plantations in the state,” she said.

The book has a few titbits on the history of tea. Dwarkanath Tagore, Rabindranath’s grandfather, was one of the nine founding directors of the Bengal Tea Association. Tea was first discovered in China by emperor Shen Nung in 2737 BC.

The book also chronicles the brew’s journey from China to Japan, Europe, India, America, West Asia and other parts of the world. There are also chapters dedicated to how tea tasters work with clinical precision and the influence of the colonial era in the way of life at the tea gardens.