Share: Review: ‘Salam – The First ****** Nobel Laureate’ (2018)

VM has been prolifically blogging the past few days. In this piece, he reviews the book about Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate and physicist, Abdus Salam. The book traces his work as he fumbles to make a mark in Pakistan’s history and is denied it because of his religious identity. I love VM’s observation on how he could have been Pakistan’s Abdul Kalam.

South of the Border, West of the Sun

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

Title: South of the Border, West of the Sun

Author: Haruki Murakami

Translated: Philip Gabriel

Publisher: Vintage International

ISBN: 978-0-679-76739-8

Pages: 213

Source: K J Choksi Public Library, Bharuch

Rating 4/5

I first heard about Murakami’s name in 2008 while reading Hugh MacLeod’s blog, gapingvoid. He had written a book about his experience as a marathon runner called, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running“. I had looked for a book by him in libraries in Mumbai without any luck. So, it was really stunning to find this book in a library in Bharuch. I finished this book in three days flat.

The story is simple. The changes in the man’s life are complex. The feelings of a man even more so. The man, Hajime’s feeling swings were almost similar to me although Hajime seems to be more lucky with the girls. It was interesting exploring these things myself and by myself. I do not think that these explorations bear sharing here.

I do not know how different these books are in Japanesse, the original language it was written in but the English translation is pretty plain. Perhaps this is what I found beautiful in this book. It does not try to be really exquisite about everything and is a rather average telling throughout.

It was a nice catch and an interesting self-brooding read. There are other Murakami books here as well and I hope I can get my hands on them soon.

Chanakya’s Chant

Just last October, I purchased and reviewed Ashwin Sanghi’s first book, The Rozabal Line. When his latest book came out, I wanted to purchase his book but had a huge back log of books to read. Hence, I held off. In the meanwhile, I signed up for BlogAdda’s Book Review Programme as well. Sanghi’s book Chanakya’s Chant came up whilst I was in the last few pages of How Starbucks Saved My Life.

I really enjoyed reading Sanghi’s latest offering. The book has a nice balance of historical facts and fiction. It weaves these in magnificent ways to bring out the political realities of today and the life of Chanakya, 2300 years ago. The repetition of Chanakya’s chant throughout the book gets a bit weary as one reaches in the middle, but after all it is the title of the book, and one learns to skip that part when it comes. Keeping the explanation of the chant towards the end of the book was a nice touch. Overall, I really enjoyed reading the book and I have already recommended it to someone who is reading the book now. 🙂

As I have said before, the book is an inter-weaving story between the present and a time 2300 years ago. The storyline follows the rise of Chandini Gupta to the position of power in New Delhi and Chandragupta Maurya to the position of power in Pataliputra in Magadha in an India 2300 years ago. Their rise is backed by the two ‘godfathers’, Pandit Gangasagar Mishra for Chandini and Chanakya for Chandragupta.

It is towards the middle of the book that the link between how the story was progressing in the present and 2300 years ago becomes clearer. Both proteges almost have similar names – Chandini Gupta and Chandra Gupta. The story moves slowly to the centers of power, New Delhi in modern India and Pataliputra in the India from 2300 years ago. The involvement of Pakistanand China for political gains within India parallels the help taken from the fictional kingdoms of Gandhar and Kaikey which share the geographical location by Chanakya. There was nice symmetry in the stories as well. Having a man achieve power in India 2300 years ago and a woman do the same in modern India.

The storyline is filled with political tactics employed by the godfather of the protege. I am not sure many of the tactics would work in the modern world. I am also not sure if many of the suggestions suggested or used to solve modern problems are practical. It was a nice instrument to offer suggestions in governance. The book also points to the idea of being okay with a little corruption for political gains while ensuring the work gets done mindset that several people in India have. I was a little uncomfortable with that suggestion. I understand that the idea was not to portray a clean Prime Minister but rather paint a more realistic picture of the position of Prime Minister.

I think the book is well timed, fast and inspiring read. At the back cover, the book asks a question, does Chanakya’s chant succeed in modern day India? I think that is for every reader to answer for himself.