Mujib, Russia and Mumbai on the bookshelf

New Delhi, June 23 (IANS)

The bookcart this week has gripping fiction and thought-provoking non-fiction. Browse with IANS…

1. Book: “Barnabas”; Written by Sangeeta Nambiar; Published by Westland; Priced at Rs.250

British India. The summer of 1942. Bombay. From the leafy lanes of Wodehouse Road, a British woman goes missing from her home. Her husband, Thomas Stanton, wants to keep the police out of the loop, and thus calls in Bombay’s first private detective, Barnabas Mehta. Barnabas, the son of a cook, has been brought up under the tutelage of his father’s employer, Francis Curtis, and thus knows the ways of the British. But that isn’t enough to solve the mystery for him. His search for Rose leads him to the bylanes of Girgaum where he finds a murder to solve and webs of deceit to traverse. Who would murder Rose so brutally? Family secrets and the workings of an evil mind — they’re all there for Barnabas Mehta to unveil!

2. Book: “Spies & Commissars: Russia and the West in the Russian Revolution”; Written by Robert Service; Published Pan Macmillan; Priced at Rs.450

In the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the Western powers were anxious to prevent the spread of Bolshevism across Europe. Lenin and Trotsky were equally anxious that the communist vision they were busy introducing in Russia should do just that. But neither side knew anything about the other. The revolution and Russia’s withdrawal from World War I had ensured a diplomatic exodus from Moscow. And the usual routes to vital information had been closed off. Into this void stepped an extraordinary collection of opportunists, journalists and spies — sometimes indeed journalists who were spies and vice-versa — who tried to infiltrate the political elite and influence foreign policy to the Bolsheviks’ advantage. Robert Service, acclaimed historian and one of the finest commentators on matters Soviet, turns his meticulous eye to this ragtag group of people and, with narrative flair and impeccable research, reveals one of the great untold stories of the 20th century.

3. Book: “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: The Unfinished Memoirs”; Written by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Fakrul Alam and Sheikh Hasina; Published by Penguin Books India; Priced at Rs.699

When Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s diaries came to light in 2004, it was an indisputably historic event. His daughter, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, had the notebooks — their pages by then brittle and discoloured — carefully transcribed and later translated from Bengali into English. Written during Rahman’s stay in the jail as a state prisoner between 1967 and 1969, they begin with his recollections of his days as a student activist in the run-up to the movement for Pakistan in the early 1940s. They cover the Bengali language movement, the first stirrings of the movement for independence and self-rule, and powerfully convey the great uncertainties as well as the great hopes that dominated the time. The last notebook ends with the events accompanying the struggle for democratic rights in 1955. This extraordinary document is not only a portrait of a nation in the making; it is written by the man who changed the course of history and led his people to freedom.

4. Book: “Once Upon a Hill”; Written by Kalpish Ratna; Published by Harper Collins India; Priced at Rs.499

How do you find something hidden in plain sight? Begin in a village named for an epidemic, witness an exorcism, and enter a labyrinth. Emerge with a mirage and meet a curious cartographer. Journey 60 million years with a turtle and a frog. Then, finally, find Gilbert Hill. The book is a plea from Kalpish Ratna to their city of Bombay. Gilbert Hill is where our past and future are gathered. Shall we revere this still point, or as seems inexorable, destroy it with our dance? The writers travel back in time to find the origin of the coastal rock, a basaltic outcrop, and tells the story of its dying present. The hill, though declared a protected zone, is under siege from nature as well as man.

Book: “Poor Little Rich Slum”; Written by Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi; Published by Westland; Priced at Rs.250

One million little Indian entrepreneurs. These are the stories of the little people who make up the big idea of Dharavi. A slum of energy, enterprise and hope. The book assembles real stories of the people for whom Dharavi in Mumbai is home and of people who are toiling to make the slum a habitable and tangible new urban heritage.