The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paperback Pickings

Saints and lesser mortals

Lesser Breeds (HarperCollins, Rs 395) by Nayantara Sahgal moves with polished ease from the Akbarabad of 1932 to post-Sixties New York, tracing the winding ways in the lives of characters grappling with the reality and the concept of non-violence in their political and personal lives. The surface glitter of the narrative, the lucently picked out details of landscape, architecture, furniture and behaviour are at least as fascinating as the growth of Nurullah, an English teacher, into self-understanding in a journey that began with the effort to understand the relevance of non-violence.

Mother teresa: the final verdict (Meteor, Rs 295) by Aroup Chatterjee belongs to the Christopher Hitchens school of Teresa bashing. It is heartily hostile, more than 400 pages of sincerely committed, righteously angered research by a Calcuttan who discovered how big Teresa was outside India only when he went to the West for the first time. He gets to the root of the mystery: “There would be no Mother Teresa without malcolm Muggeridge.” His fury would find a chord in many Calcuttans’ hearts, more for the painstaking care with which he unpicks the strands of various films and accounts that reinforce the picture of Calcutta abroad as the city of slums and unspeakable poverty and disease. Polemics has one big advantage: it sells like saints’ relics.


The Complete Mastermind (Penguin, Rs 395) compiles questions from the quiz show which is the sole remaining bastion in an age when quizzing has been usurped by Kaun Banega Crorepati and its money-minting clones. From the esoteric — British moths, Scottish history — to the obvious — 20th century English literature, First World War, questions on the special subjects and their answers are informative and challenging.

Jihadis in Jammu and Kashmir: A Portrait Gallery (Sage, Rs 380) by K.Santhanam, Sreedhar, Sudhir Saxena and Manish, all from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, is a particularly useful addition to the growing material on terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. The succinct history of the jihadi movement in the region in Part I of the book is followed by the main body of the work, which comprises a database. The names of 31 tanzeems, their objectives, sponsors, leadership, focus areas and histories of action, are listed in meticulous detail. Complete with the tales of mergers and separations, this is a necessary reference book for anyone interested in what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir today.

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