July 12, 2014

The Reading List

For the week of 12 July

Understanding Power

If you ever wondered how Indian politics became dirty then Nayantara Sahgal’s Indira Gandhi: Tryst with Power is the book for you. There are passages in the book that could sound true for many things that happened during the 10-year UPA regime. Things such as by-passing the Parliament to make new laws, the infamous retrospective law, amending the Constitution, continuing to be a socialist face while her Party and government went in the opposite direction, appointing yes-men as Governors and even President of India there is nothing that the prima-donna of Indian politics didn’t leave behind as a legacy. If you thought that politics or politicians were bad today, then you the real Mrs. Gandhi’s antics will leave you scratching your head in disbelief. 
Penguin Books India 

One would also think that Pandit Nehru ‘prepared’ his daughter but reading Ms. Sahgal’s book you get an idea that even her own father was clueless when it came it deconstructing Indira Gandhi. There is hardly little doubt that India moved away from freedom under her leadership and I’m savoring every single page of this extremely well written book. What makes the book better is the access that Ms. Sahgal had to not just her cousin but also the letters that the family, namely her mother, Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Pandit Nehru, exchanged. The letters, some as early as the time when Mrs. Gandhi was a teenager, give an insight into the subject’s personality and temperament that resulted in the only inevitable outcome - authoritarianism. The author is an ardent admirer of her Uncle and perhaps that explains the rather tongue-in-cheek word play in the subtitle of the book.  Click to explore more.

Be Kind Rewind

Remember how your parents told you to be kind? Well, seems like being kind is, in fact, what a lasting relationship comes down to. Driven by the alarming rate with which married couples were divorcing in 1970s US, social scientists started studying the impact this would have on children of broken homes by observing couples to determine the ingredients of a healthy, lasting relationship. Emily Esfahani Smith’s Masters of Love from The Atlantic is a great read that tells us how in the end it’s basic kindness and generosity towards your spouse that determines the longevity of any relationship. The piece follows the research of John Gottman, one of the psychologists who started studying couples four decades ago, and talks about how the physiology of a couple and the level of their emotional response to their partner speaks volumes about the state of a relationship.

Even if long pieces don’t excite you, this one’s worth reading. Great pay off.  Came across this piece from a friend’s FB timeline and was worth every second spent. Click to read the entire piece. 

Of Storms and Windows

Although I’m not a big fan of poetry, I do enjoy accidental discoveries. Internet could be best described in the words of Varun Grover, writer, lyricist, stand-up comic and the inventor of words such as Womaniya, as that thing that lead to that thing which lead to that thing. I was paraphrasing but you get the idea that the best thing about the Net is how you unexpectedly hit upon something good. I was reading an interview of serial memoirist Mary Karr and she mentioned Howard Nemerov’s poetry and so, one thing lead to another…

Storm Windows
By Howard Nemerov

People are putting up storm windows now,  

Or were, this morning, until the heavy rain
Drove them indoors. So, coming home at noon,
I saw storm windows lying on the ground,
Frame-full of rain; through the water and glass
I saw the crushed grass, how it seemed to stream
Away in lines like seaweed on the tide
Or blades of wheat leaning under the wind.
The ripple and splash of rain on the blurred glass
Seemed that it briefly said, as I walked by,
Something I should have liked to say to you,
Something ... the dry grass bent under the pane
    Brimful of bouncing water ... something of
A swaying clarity which blindly echoes
This lonely afternoon of memories
And missed desires, while the wintry rain
(Unspeakable, the distance in the mind!)
Runs on the standing windows and away.

The Reading List is an update about the books, articles and stuff on the Internet that Gautam Chintamani read through the week that went by. 


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