Of life in the Indian Army, rediscovering Delhi's stepwells, Indian stories from America (IANS Books This Weekend)
New Delhi, Sep 20 (IANS) What’s life like in the Indian Army? Beyond the medals and awe, there’s a lot of sweat and grime – and back room politics. You can read about this in a new book.
You may also read about how ‘baolis’ or step wells met the water requirements of the residents of the capitals that rose and fell in what is now the National Capital Territory of Delhi; and finally, absorb some dark, but also playful and funny stories, about Indian migrants, predominantly Malayalis, in America.
The IANS Bookshelf offers a varied collection this weekend.
1. Book: The Bugle Calls; Authors: Naresh Rastogi & Kiran Doshi; Publisher: Tranqebar; Pages: 272; Price: Rs 599.
This book is a joint effort of Lt. Col. Naresh Rastogi (retd), who provided reams and reams of material, and Kiran Doshi, lately of the Indian Foreign Service who put it together. The result is a book that boldly goes beyond other works of this genre.
For instance, why was Rastogi not recommended for a Higher Command Course that would have got him a Brigadier’s star and possibly more? Because, the author says, he stopped saluting a senior officer!
Two soldiers had gone missing from his unit that was stationed along the border with Pakistan. They were later traced but there were differences between Rastogi and his brigade commander on the punishment to be meted out to them.
“That was stupid of me. One doesn’t differ openly on anything with a man who is shortly going to write one’s annual character report or performance assessment – not if the man is the very opposite of an officer and a gentleman. I actually did much worse than differ with him. I stopped saluting him smartly,” Rastogi writes.
His chances of making Brigadier vanishing, Rastogi opted for voluntary retirement “after four years of rigorous training and then twenty four years of active duty” but asked by his wife what he would do with his life if he had it all over again, he replied: “I would join the army.”
Such is the stuff the Indian Army men are made of.
2. Book: Delhi Heritage – Top 10 Baolis; Vikramjit Singh Rooprai; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 174; Price: Rs 399
Since the beginning of civilisation, humans have tried to hold water for their consumption. In India, techniques to source and store water have evolved from the Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro to modern dams and reservoirs. In the last 1,500 years people in South Asia have refined their ways of accessing subterranean water by extending the utility of wells. In some parts of the sub-continent, wells and tanks were constructed separately yet connected by a window. These structures became popular by many names – among them baoli, or simply stepwell in English.
While selecting the 10 baolis for this book, Rooprai, a young heritage enthusiast and photographer, investigated major factors like accessibility to visitors, cleanliness of the water, cleanliness of the surroundings, usage, size, shape and the age of the structures.
“Baolis were not just sources of water, but also served as important community sites. Almost all baolis and tanks had a place of worship attached to them,” Rooprai writes.
The book is the first in the Delhi Heritage Top 10 series, a comprehensive guide to the city’s heritage icons and architectural gems.
3. Book: The Juvenile Immigrant; Author: Namrata Verghese; Publisher: Speaking Tiger; Pages: 169; Price: Rs 399.
At an airport, a mother on her way home to India fears the impact of racial profiling on her young daughter. But after emerging unscathed from the security booth, the girl vanishes into thin air. Who can the mother turn to for help?
Back in his village to meet a prospective bride, a man is forced to confront uncomfortable memories from his childhood. Will he agree to the arranged marriage or does he long for something more?
These and the 18 other stories evoke interior dramas of dislocation, racism, mental illness, marriage and infidelity with surprising twists of humour, pathos and pessimism.
They even make you wonder whether immigration is worth the effort.