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Since 1st March, 1999
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Young authors and reformers

the light of asia (Penguin, Rs 195) by Edwin Arnold is the reprint of an eight-book poetical rendering of the life of the Buddha, first published in 1879. Educated in Britain, Arnold (1832-1904) became a schoolmaster and came to India as principal of the Government Sanskrit College at Poona, a post he held during the 1857 uprising. He describes himself, in the preface, as 'a man who loved India and the Indian peoples': 'In the following poem I have sought, by the medium of an imaginary Buddhist votary, to depict the life and character and indicate the philosophy of that noble hero and reformer, Prince Gautama of India, the founder of Buddhism.' Arnold also wrote a life of Christ in verse.

post box no. 99 and other stories (Rupa, Rs 50) edited by Ruskin Bond is an exhilarating collection of really short stories written by Indian students in their late teens. These are the 12 prize-winning stories from the Classmate Young Author Contest 2004, in which over 40,000 students from 2,000 schools spread over 12 cities took part. The writing is, in most cases, remarkably fresh, committed and original, and an added pleasure is to read the varied profiles of the 12 writers. Their reading habits are a bit alarming though, many preferring writers like Paul Coelho, Richard Bach and Ayn Rand. 'Post Box No. 99' is a fine story on the Partition by Jyoti Iyer, which won the main prize. But the collection errs on the side of an unnecessary competitiveness by mentioning, in each of the author profiles, how the stories were ranked in the contest. Debi Talukdar's 'A Bald Man's Comb' and Jeevan Austin's 'A Precious Memory' are also excellent.

Rammohun: a study (Blue Pencil, Rs 275) by Nirmalya Bagchi is Kalyan Kumar Das's translation of a valuable piece of historical research done originally in Bengali, Rammohun Charcha. Bagchi's Rammohun is a controversial character who 'actualises his age'. Rammohun's age was one of revolution and reform, and there are important chapters in this monograph on education, the emancipation of women, sati, agrarian issues, and on Rammohun's relationship with Derozio and the Derozians, Robert Owen, Ireland and Islam. The appendices gather relevant excerpts from Owen, Crabbe Robinson's diary, and Macaulay's letters.

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