The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paperback Pickings

Families, terror, essays and Indians

in sickness and in health: the family experience of HIV/AIDS in India (Stree, Rs 185) by Premilla D’Cruz works around the lives and testimonies of several Indian men and women for an in-depth inquiry into what happens to families when husbands (and often their wives too) are infected with HIV. Using the “family studies methodology”, it focuses on both impact on the family and on caregiving. D’Cruz’s basic premise is that “HIV challenges traditional definitions of the family and concepts of normative family functioning”. This is a timely, useful and solidly researched book which could have been edited for better readability. It will interest doctors, social workers and policymakers, but might intimidate the lay reader with its academic and often rather impersonal mode of presentation.

karachi: a terror capital in the making (Rupa, Rs 195) by Wilson John is a rather grim book which makes a great many extreme, and ultimately journalistic, claims about the nefariousness of the Pakistani capital. It seeks to “peel off layers of sheen and gloss from the city that the British preferred as the capital of Pakistan” in order to “reveal the shocking truth: Karachi would be tomorrow’s Kandahar, the hub of terror”. This is a sensationalist claim made in a sensationalist, and familiar, language.

urban voice: essays from the indian subcontinent (Frog Books, Rs 150) edited by Sunil K. Poolani collects a number of essays, mostly by journalists, to illustrate the editor’s claim that “the Indian subcontinent is blessed with brilliant, world-class essayists who write in English”. These essays touch on a wide range of topical issues — communalism, investigative journalism, the sexual abuse of minors. But most of them are shoddy, superficial pieces, ridden with clichés and written in very bad prose. Perishable pieces which should have been allowed to perish, no matter how important the “issues”.

surrounded by indians (Tara, Rs 295) by Mark Mattison is an account of how a Norwegian came to love the functioning anarchy of India. For Mattison, India had meant “turbans and elephants and tea and brown people who were all pacifists but who were somehow connected with the British Army and wore jodhpurs”. But after travelling in India with wife and child, India is like “entering a circus tent” and a “colourful and fascinating bazaar”. When asked why he came to love India “in spite of its troubles”, the author is given to replying, “The people”.

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