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Review

Books of May 2009

Ladakh – Crossroads of High Asia
– Zanet Rizvi

It was more like a text-book. I am not complaining. I knew it was going to be like a text-book even when I bought it. I bought it in Leh on my very first day because I wanted to read facts about Ladakh, its people, its customs, its art and its history – something more than I had already read on Wikipedia. Sometimes I get crazy about knowing as much as I can about certain things – Ladakh happened to be one of them. And what better joy than to read about Ladakh, while there?

The book was dry and the author lacked humor but the purpose was served. I skipped some sections – mainly the dope on all the ancient rulers and the separate descriptions of each Gonpa. At the end of it, I got to know more about Ladakh than what just looking around would have made possible.

Indian Memsahib – the untold story of a bureaucrat’s wife
– Suchita Malik

After returning from Leh, I picked up this small less-than-200-pages novel from the newly extended (and charming) terminal 1D of the Delhi airport while waiting there for my Bhubaneswar flight (it was a six hours long wait btw). The novel sucked big time. This is Suchita’s first novel. I hope she never writes again.

The worst part was that I thought it was a fiction when I picked it up. As I was reading it, I had this obvious feeling that the main protagonist – the wife of an honest and all that IAS officer – was loosely based on the writer herself. It was only when I read the last holy line of the book that I realized that the entire dry impassive novel was simply a non-inspiring and pointless autobiography.

Frankly speaking this book doesn’t deserve a review at all. The only good take-away I would say is that I have learnt how not to write a book – if I ever write one.

A journy in Ladakh
-Andrew Harvey

I had picked it up along with the text-book on Ladakh from the same book-shop in Leh. While I bored myself with facts, it was Neelabh who enjoyed reading it all the time that we were there in Ladakh. I started it off only some time last week I guess and I finished reading it today evening itself. Now this book was good. It didn’t have as many facts as that text-book but who needed more facts anyway? 😛

This one was like a compilation of diary entries – and it made for a good cheerful reading. It started off as a pure travelogue. I enjoyed seeing Ladakh from the author’s eyes. The beginning was very readable – his first experience of this high-altitude glistening desert – of the silence that the place bestows upon one and all and similar such new experiences. After about a hundred and fifty pages, his writing shifted towards the Tibetan Buddhism philosophy and that continued till the end. This made me feel heavy and brought down my reading speed. Many a times I give up on philosophy and teachings and preachings and all of that. I could have almost given up on this one too (and some of you might) but I think somewhere the author never crossed the line of killing his readers with jaroorat-se-jyaada gyan.

Now that I have finished reading it, I know something about Buddhism – a lot more than I had known before. I am happy that I got  to learn all this with Ladakh as a consistent background. I suddenly feel more attached to Ladakh.

The Britannica Guide to The Islamic World – Religion, history, and the future
-introduction by Ziauddin Sardar

This is the book that I picked up from Oxford on Saturday (where I also found a blogger in Bhubaneswar for the first time). From Buddhism to Islam – the world of readers is ever-flowing, fresh and wide, isn’t it? This sudden liking towards reading appears to be a chronic ailment. I want to read and read and read some more – till I am dead. I have only read the introduction by Ziauddin Sardar so far. Given my slow speed of reading, this book shall keep me busy at least till I return from Chennai next Tuesday. Let’s see what I learn about the Islamic World given that I don’t know much about this world for sure.

Happy reading everyone. Gee, I sound like an idiot at times. 😛

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