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Making News, Breaking News, Her Own Way

Abhishek Kumar
Media Hive News Network, March 15, 2012

Book: Making News, Breaking News, Her Own Way
Authors: Latika Padgaonkar & Shubha Singh

Publisher: Westland Books; 2012
Length: 330 pages

The award ceremony of this year Media Foundation's Chameli Devi Jain Award saw the release of a book written by past winners of the award, “Making News, Breaking News, Her Own Way”.

The book is about the lives and work of some of the most outstanding women journalists of our time who redefined and gave a whole new meaning to what constitutes news, in terms of values and themes.

Like any other profession, journalism was also a male bastion. When women started entering this trade, there were defined boundaries that they could not cross. But things changed over a period of time and this book showcases the work of women journalists in a very good manner.

The book -- which is authored by two senior journalists and columnists, Latika Padgaonkar and Shubha Singh -- covers a range of issues like political corruption, financial scams and caste massacres by leading women journalists like Tavleen Singh, Barkha Dutt, Sevanti Ninan, Madhu Kishwar and many others.

“If people reading my stories can come away feeling a little more informed or concerned…I will feel like I've done my job,” said Tehelka magazine's Tusha Mittal while accepting this year's Chameli Devi Jain Award. She won the award for her empathetic writings about the sufferings of innocent tribals caught between Maoists and security forces in the conflict zone of West Bengal.

The are many other stories that have great human interest and will appeal to a wide range of readers as the book traces the history of women in the media, from the days of such pathbreakers as Prabha Dutt and Usha Rai, to the present day.

(Media Hive has a mass communication & journalism books listing section. Click)

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Riots and After in Mumbai...

Abhishek Kumar
Media Hive News Network, March 04, 2012

Book: Riots and After in Mumbai: Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation
Author: Meena Menon

Publisher: SAGE Publications
Price: Rs. 595
Length: 280 pages

Bad memories of the riots that rocked Mumbai in 1992-93 came back last week as Meena Menon, Deputy Editor and Deputy Chief of Bureau of The Hindu, rolled out her book Riots and After in Mumbai: Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation.

Menon, who was a beat reporter then, provides a synoptic record of events in Mumbai, focusing essentially on the history of riots in the city

She has not just factually chronicled the riots but also painstakingly revealed the human stories behind them.

The author uses a novel approach, combining historical records from the pre-Independence era (1893–1945) and personal interviews of both Muslims and Hindus living in the city. It also looks into the political manipulations that ordinary people of both communities alike are subjected to by the ruling powers and political parties.

The former Supreme Court of India judge, Justice BN Srikrishna, who headed the Inquiry Committee set up to probe Mumbai riots released the book. “No riot can continue for 15 days in one phase and yet another 15 days in the second phase without the state being in cahoots with the perpetrators. Saying this would be stating the obvious. Many people have labelled me ‘anti-Hindu' for what I did,” Srikrishna said at the launch speech.

One must read the book from the perspective of someone who has witnessed the riots from close quarters.

(Media Hive has a mass communication & journalism books listing section. Click)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope....

Abhishek Kumar
Media Hive News Network, Feb 15, 2012

Book: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
Author: Katherine Boo

Publisher: Penguin India
Price: Rs. 499
Length: 254 pages

After four years of research, Katherine Boo, a prize-winning American journalist, has written her first book about life in a Mumbai slum.

Boo and her translators followed the daily lives of two families and several individuals living at a slum called Annawadi. They documented their work with notes, video recordings and photographs. The book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, is an astonishing work of narrative journalism that reads like a novel but stands firm in its commitment to the facts.

Describing about the book, New York Times, said an outsider gives voice to slumdogs. About Boo, the paper said, unlike many journalists Katherine Boo aspires to invisibility. She hates publicity and talks about herself with about as much ease as someone trying to wriggle from a thicket — stopping, pausing, retracing her sentences and looking for a better way out. In her new book, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity,” the word “I” doesn’t appear until an author’s note on page 247, and by then it’s a little jarring.

Joseph Lelyveld, a former executive editor of The New York Times who has written extensively about India, wrote that “Beautiful Forevers” is “the best piece of reporting to come out of India in a half century at least” and compared it to another groundbreaking book about poverty, George Orwell’s “Road to Wigan Pier.”

Journalist details Islamic revolutions in new book

Manish Kumar
Media Hive News Network, Nov 1, 2011

Book: Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World
Author: Robin Wright

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2011
Price: $15
Length: 320 pages

A decade after the 9/11 attacks, Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World is a groundbreaking book which takes readers deep into rebellions against both autocrats and extremists that are redefining politics, culture, and security threats across the Islamic world.

The author,Robin Wright, is a journalist based in Washington. In recent years she has traveled extensively in the Muslim world, and this book chronicles some of the dramatic changes that have recently occurred in the Arab nations.

Wright pulls together a wide range of topics. Some are as serious as Neda, the young woman shot during Iran's post-election street demonstrations two years ago. Some are as fun as the Axis of Evil comedy tours by American Muslim stand-up comedians.

The author documents the momentous events that transpired in Tunisia and Egypt that resulted in regime change in those two states several months ago.
She begins with Tunisia, where the self-immolation of fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi inspired his angry fellow citizens to oust President Ben Ali in what is now referred to as "The Jasmine Revolution." Just a few weeks later, bloggers and activists in Egypt used Facebook and Twitter to organize protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak. Similar protests broke out in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Yemen, and other countries.

She details the role that the Obama Administration played in the ouster of Mubarak, and how the White House began to talk about the need for “an orderly transition” in Egypt as the protests in Cairo began to grow.

Robin Wright has reported from more than a 140 countries on six continents for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, TIME magazine, The Sunday Times of London, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the International Herald Tribune and others.

Her other books include, Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East, The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran, Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam, Flashpoints: Promise and Peril in a New World, and In the Name of God: The Khomeini Decade.

Bollywood has come alive in First Day, First Show

Abhishek Kumar
Media Hive News Network, Aug 2, 2011

Book: First Day First Show
Author: Anupama Chopra

Publisher: Penguin Books
Price: Rs. 499; Year: 2011

Bollywood has come alive in print. There are many innovative books throwing meaningful light on the evolution of mainstream cinema. But film critic and journalist Anupama Chopra describes her anthology of film writings, “First Day, First Show”, as a “ringside view” of the industry.

Chopra’s deep understanding of Hindi cinema reflects in her collection of writings bound together in her latest book, First Day First Show.

“I thought putting the articles together would create an interesting snapshot of modern Bollywood. I wanted to study how far the industry has come in the last 20 years,” Chopra told a news agencies about her newly relased book.

In the book, one can come across some interesting trivia – like when Kareena Kapoor felt she was the ‘most hated person’ around, and the fact that Yash Chopra had signed on Saif Ali Khan for Parampara only when the actor’s then-wife Amrita Singh stood guarantor for his behaviour!

Chopra takes the readers of First Day First Show into the lives of the stars and into the struggles of those who never make it to centre stage; she lets us participate in the making of legendary hits like Sholay and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and also the hard-won successes of independent film-makers.

The foreword of the book is written by Sharukh Khan

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Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights

Manish Kumar
Media Hive News Network, July 3, 2011

Book: Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights
Edited by: Robert W McChesney & Victor Pickard

Publisher: New Press
Pages: 400

Price: $19.95 (paperback); Year: 2011

Celebrated media analysts Robert W. McChesney and Victor Pickard have assembled 32 illuminating pieces on the crisis in journalism in their book Will the Last Reporter Please Turn out the Lights.

There are essays on the crisis of journalism in the United States, written by leading scholars, journalists, activists and policymakers. Contributors include Altercation blogger Eric Alterman, former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie, political correspondent John Nichols and the internet guru Clay Shirky.

The book addresses topics ranging from content mills and the rise of “citizen journalism” to social justice in the media and conservative investigative journalism.

Sure to become the essential guide to the journalism crisis, Will the Last Reporter Please Turn out the Lights is both a primer on the news media today and a chronicle of a key historical moment in the transformation of the press.

Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of several books on the media, including the award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy.

Victor Pickard is an assistant professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. His research on the politics and history of media has been published widely in anthologies and scholarly journals. He lives in New York City.

(Media Hive has a mass communication & journalism books listing section. Click)

The Manager's Guide to Social Media

Manish Kumar
Media Hive News Network

Book: The Manager's Guide to Social Media
Author: Scott Klososky

Publisher: McGraw-Hill, 2010
Pages: 208

Price: $17

Scott Klososky, the CEO of, has written a comprehensive book for managers to navigate and leverage social media. The book, "The Manager's Guide to Social Media" , gets mystery out of social technologies. Although its target readers are managers, yet anyone who works in the digital age will benefit from generous doses of common-sense advice, explanations and tips.
This book also provides great in-sight into managing virtual teams with the use of social technologies for all ages and demographics you’re likely to encounter.
Not only this book talks about management and what managers NEED to know to keep productive and competitive but it also connects the use of social technologies with the product focused and people (HR, management, collaboration, performance) elements too.
Thousands of applications exist, and new ones show up daily. How can you stay on top of this high-tech deluge? Social technology expert Scott Klososky details the answer.

The following quote in the introduction set the tone for the entire book:
"What might appear as wasting time to one manager could be recognized as valuable investments being made by an employee in nurturing his or her network to another. There are solutions to all this complexity, and we'll make the world of social tech simpler for you. And that's a promise!"

SACHIN - Genius Unplugged

Manish Kumar
Media Hive News Network

Book: SACHIN - Genius Unplugged
Author: Suresh Menon

Publisher:Krabmedia And Westland
Pages: 160

Price: Rs 599

Famous cricket writer Peter Roebuck once said, "Whenever I feel low I only need to remind myself how privileged I am to be writing on the game in the Tendulkar era". Cut to 2011, SACHIN: Genius Unplugged -- a book edited by veteran cricket journalist Suresh Menon which has a compilation of 18 gripping essays by luminaries including Roebuck -- has hit the market recently. Though it is famously said about Tendulkar that he is easy to watch, difficult to bowl to and impossible to write about, yet the book -- launched just nine days ahead of the recently concluded World Cup -- is divine and refreshing.

Apart from Roebuck, other essays in the book are from Menon himself, R Mohan, Harsha Bhogle, Greg Baum, Gideon Haigh,Sanjay Manjrekar, Kumble and Dravid etc.

The introduction is written by Muttiah Muralitharan — the man who is to cherry what Tendulkar is to willow.

“By fourteen, he had created expectations and had already started matching them. It was to set the patter for an astonishing career,” Bhogle writes in his essay.

While praising the little master, Manjrekar also lauded Ramakant Achrekar’s coaching of Tendulkar in his formative years: “And thank God there was Achrekar around for Tendulkar. I shudder to think what today’s coaches, obsessed with the mechanics of cricket and intent on complicating a simple game, would have done with Tendulkar.”

The 18 different essays have varied viewpoints in the same book. Some seek to answer Tendulkar’s role in the team, there are comparisons with Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Viv Richards and many more things. In a sentence, the book is a treat to cricket lovers.
(Media Hive has a mass communication & journalism books listing section. Click)

A journalistic approach to cover Indian cinema

Media Hive News Network
March 18, 2011

Book: Indian Cinema: The Faces Behind The Masks
Anil Saari
Publisher:Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi
ISBN: 9780198070085
Price: Rs 495

Chatty and informal, the book "Indian Cinema: The Faces Behind The Masks" opens a window to the life and work of some of the legendary figures in Indian cinema. This collection of interviews and articles by Journalist, poet and dramatist, Anil Saari (written in the 1980s and 1990s) bears the mark of his genius as an inteviewer and columnist. The book, which is edited by journalist and film critic Saibal Chatterjee, was released last week.

It includes conversations and articles on not only the leading ladies and men of Indian cinema but also lyricists, script writers, directors, film distributors, and censor board officials. From golden era greats like Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar to leading ladies like Waheeda Rehman, Nargis, Rekha, and Shabana Azmi to megastars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Mammootty, to present-day movie moguls like Gulzar, Yash Chopra, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Nana Patekar, and Subhash Ghaithe range of this compilation is breathtaking.
Journalist, poet, and dramatist, Anil Saari (1945-2005) was one of the earliest and most distinguished film critics in India. As a critic, Saari possessed the special ability to unravel the real personality of the stars behind the shadow of stardom.
It captures a crucial period of change in Indian cinema, from the 1970s to the mid-1990s.
Interestingly, the last part of this volume includes three pieces that provide a retrospective of the 1980s, summing up the highs and lows of that eventful decade in Indian cinema.
(Media Hive has a mass communication & journalism books listing section. Click)

Understand role of public relations in media

Media Hive News Network
March 2, 2011

Book: Effective Public Relations and Media Strategy
C V Narasimha Reddi
Publisher:PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd., (M-97, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110001)
Pages: 536
Price: Rs 350

As public relations' intention is to create goodwill for the company, it is but natural to meet not only stakeholders, but also opinion leaders, media persons, etc.

In the field of media, journalism appears on forefront, but the backstage people — the advertisers and marketing professionals, the PR people and lobbyists have their own valuable roles to play. Journalism, Advertising, and Public Relations have traditionally been seen as an integrated discipline in this field.

The book,"Effective Public Relations and Media Strategy", which is written in an easy to understand language, aims at not only equipping the reader with the necessary tools for building a career in public relations but also assisting him or her in becoming an effective Public Relations Manager.
The book strives to cater to the different areas of public relations such as public relations in banks, tourism, NGOs, public transport, municipal government, media, and global public relations.

The author, Narasimha Reddi, compresses within the covers of a single volume his many decades of teaching and professional experience. He gives a masterly exposition of the theory and best practices of the profession. Divided into five parts, the book gives a clear analysis of the multi-dimensional aspects of public relations and communication, practices, and the different public relations media.

The book gives Seven Case Studies that reflect employee relations, media relations, customer relations, and crisis management. These would greatly help students know the practical aspects of public relations.The book is primarily intended as a text for students of Public Relations, Journalism, Mass Communication, and Advertising.

In addition, it should be of great benefit to the teaching community and public relations practitioners. The book is useful to professional journalists as well. Reporters could learn a few things and beware of many others — specially from the chapter on media strategy with sub-sections, beginning with how to write a good press release to organising a successful press conference.
(Media Hive has a mass communication & journalism books listing section. Click)

News 2.0 Can journalism survive the Internet?

Media Hive News Network
Feb 14, 2011

Book: News 2.0 Can journalism survive the Internet?
Martin Hirst
ISBN: 9781742370576
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (Australian Pub: November 2010)
Price: $45.00

Technology has transformed the media and the practice of journalism. Martin Hirst, the associate professor in journalism at Auckland University of Technology, has investigated the implications of the new media explosion and the way news is now gathered and consumed around the world.

His book "News 2.0 Can journalism survive the Internet?" bridges the gap between theory and practice to present an integrated approach to journalism that redefines the profession. It is an interesting new technology book.

There have never been so many ways of producing news and news-like content. From podcasts, to YouTube, blogs and the phenomenal popularity of social media like -- Facebook, Twitter, Orkut-- seismic shifts are underway in global media. The book have case studies of recent events, such as the Twitter revolution that has seen many stories spread across the world before any paid journalists even arrive at the scene.

The basis for this book is the ongoing debate about the survival of professional journalism with the world wide explosion of amateur bloggers and writers. The book expands on the debate by pushing the point of view that there will always be the need for the professional journalist.

However, Hirst’s main argument is that these readily accessible technologies don’t make you a journalist and that there is still, and always will be, a need for trained, professional reporters.

Media Law and Ethics

Media Hive News Network
Jan 25, 2011

Book: Media Law and Ethics (2 volumes, reprinted 2011)
Edited by:
Kiran Prasad
Publish: B.R. Publishing Corporation, New delhi (e-mail:
Price: Rs 1,500 (set)

There are many books on media law and communication ethics, but today journalism and communication studies are being transformed by new media and communication convergence. This book tries to unravel the complication and updates the curriculum on communication regulations.This book is designed keeping in mind the UGC Core Curriculum for the course Media Law and Ethics offered at the Masters Degree for students of Journalism, Mass Communication, Electronic Media, Public Relations and Advertising Studies in the IndianUniversities.

Every journalist and journalism student - from the traditional print media to the modern convergent media - should know the legal and ethical aspects of publishing a story. There are two main aspects of media regulations: 1) media laws about the publication of a story which may relate to libel and defamation; and 2) media laws about permissible comments on legal proceedings which include contempt of court. A journalist must also make ethical choices about each story apart from its possible legal implications. This book examines not only the laws governing the media but also ethical issues in everyday journalism

The chapters in the book have focused on the existing challenges in communication regulations and also throw light on the emerging ethical concerns in the global media environment.

Kiran Prasad Kiran Prasad is Associate Professor in Communication and Journalism, Sri Padmavati Mahila University, Tirupati. She was Commonwealth Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of Leeds, UK and Canadian Studies Research Fellow at the School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. A prolific writer and well-known Indian communication philosopher, she has published over 100 research papers. She can be reached at;

(Media Hive has a mass communication & journalism books listing section. Click)

How to Become a Good Journalist a perfect guide to young journos

Book: How to Become a Good Journalist

Author: Raza Elahi

Publisher: Atlantic Publisher

Price: Rs 75 (paperback); Rs 250 (hardbind)

To buy the book, e-mail at

Reviewed by: Sanjay Singh

Becoming a good journalist is the dream of a large number of students, who want to make a mark in this field. Catering the budding journalists with a quality book, New Delhi-based publisher Atlantic Publishers & Distributors has recently launched How to Become a Good Journalist.

Written in a simple language by Raza Elahi, a journalist having spent more than a decade in numerous newspapers including, Khaleej Times, The Economic Times and The Pioneer, the book covers all the aspects of making of a newspaper/magazine whether it is news selection, news writing, reporting, editing, page-making or deadline pressure.
Based on content, style and insight by redefining and expanding journalistic expertise, the book merits appreciation from a layman to uninitiated to acclaimed journalists. The writer’s expression on the nitty-gritty of desk job and journalistic ethos reflect his unequivocal understanding of the art of journalism, besides, his magnanimity of sharing experience and knowledge for the benefit of one and all without any malice or egoistic extrapolation.

Besides discussing art of interviewing, nuances of feature writing and importance of 5Ws and IH of a news copy, Raza Elahi has selected around 200 words/expressions and listed their correct usages. The author has also picked up raw copies of reporters and edited them in the chapter ABC of Editing.

The chapter Headline Hunter takes the students through interesting aspects of headlines. Besides enhancing the journalistic skills of media students, the book also refreshes the skill-set of those already in the profession.

Many media faculty members often complain that many students aspiring to be journalists do not have good command of English and lack the basic skills needed to write simple and readable stories. How to Become a Good Journalist issurely the book those teachers would love to recommend to the students. It is a perfect guide to young journos.

Through a network of around 250 distributors in India, Atlantic Publishers has made the How to Become a Good Journalist available in almost all the part of the country. It can also be ordered online

(Sanjay Singh is a senior online journalist)

(Media Hive has a mass communication & journalism books listing section. Click)

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Lets communicate for development

Media Hive News Network
Jan 6, 2011

Book: Communication for Development (2 volumes, reprinted 2011)
Kiran Prasad
Publisher: B R World of Books, New delhi (e-mail:

Keeping in mind the UGC core curriculum for the course 'communication for development' offered at the Masters Degree for students of journalism, mass communication, electronic media, visual communication, public relations and advertising studies, Kiran Prasad’s book Communication for Development (in 2 volumes, 2009) has been reprinted this year.

Kiran Prasad is professor of communication and journalism at Sri Padmavati Mahila University, Tirupati, and has authhored 18 books.

The first volume of the book Understanding Development Communication links theory, policy and the practice of communication for development. This volume discusses various theories of development communication followed by communication for rural development and social movements, the use of information and communication technologies in development from the early SITE experiment to the Internet. This volume integrates theory and praxis with a distinct focus on India in moving development communication to empowerment communication.

The second volume of the book Advanced Development Communication links theory, policy and action on several thrust areas of development communication including women’s empowerment, health communication, family welfare and population communication, environmental communication, the digital divide, political economy, and development communication ethics. It raises several fundamental questions on development communication policy for furthering research and action studies to improve the quality of life of people in the developing world.

The interdisciplinary scope of the book makes it an ideal text for a wide range of disciplines including communication, journalism, electronic media studies, development studies, sociology, social work, extension studies, rural development, population studies and social policy.

Kiran Prasad was Commonwealth Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of Leeds, UK and Canadian Studies Research Fellow at the School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. A prolific writer and well-known Indian communication philosopher, she has published over 100 research papers. She can be reached at;

Saint George of journalism

Book: First Draft
BG Verghese
Publisher: Westland
Price: Rs 695

Reviewed by: Hari Jaisingh

BG Verghese belongs to that endangered species of editors who are liberal, knowledgeable, ethical, logical, fearless, objective and committed to the freedom of press and democratic principles. He is neither saleable nor purchasable and is invariably guided by his conscience in matters of public and national importance. He has a development-oriented outlook which enables him to see problems of poverty, development, governance and democratic practices in a larger perspective. This is what makes him relevant and much sought-after person beyond his coveted editorship of Hindustan Times and Indian Express.

Though Verghese’s voluminous book under review is not autobiographical, it talks about his roots in Kerala, family background, his marriage to Jamila (a lifetime inspiration), his induction in journalism and varied professional and public assignments. This book also talks about his stint as Information Advisor to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, enriching his insight into the functioning of the Government and the burning problems that the country had faced from time to time.

I had the privilege of working as Resident Editor of Indian Express in Ahmedabad and Mumbai during a certain period Verghese was at the helm of the newspaper in New Delhi. This silken thread of association has helped me evolve myself professionally. George, as colleagues in the Express would address him, is a super human being and highly professional Editor who would take pains in the grooming of youngsters without throwing his weight around. A Gandhian to the core, the legendary press baron Ramnath Goenka would often say of the author affectionately “George is a saint. And saints should be in the Vatican.”

Saintly person Verghese has been in his personal conduct, but professionally he has always been fair and objective. Certain matters, of course, he would weigh on the touchstone of high ethical and moral standards as perceived by him, as he did on the question of Sikkim when Parliament adopted a constitutional amendment bill, making it an associate State of India. Verghese was then Editor of Hindustan Times. On August 30, 1973, he came out with a powerful editorial, “Kanchenjunga, Here we come”, which questioned the Indira Gandhi Government’s “shotgun marriage” and stated: “If it is not outright annexation, it comes close to it.”

Sikkim, along with some other sensitive political issues, built up areas of tension between the Editor and the management. Though, according to the author, “KK Birla was pleased with the all-round progress of the paper, I later learnt, unhappy with the Sikkim editorials, which had appeared while he was abroad, he had been cosying up to the Congress and Sanjay Gandhi, and hankered after a Congress parliamentary nomination.”

I would not wish to get into the details of the whole episode and the termination of Verghese’s services. The author has truthfully captured the entire episode going up to the Press Council of India and the Delhi High Court.

Here it’s interesting to note that Mrs Gandhi, as Prime Minister, had specially sought the services of Verghese as her Press Secretary in the PMO. The author provides an interesting insight into some of the crucial domestic as well as international happenings during that period. He says that amid varied pressing matters like food crisis, American PL-480 and aid package, rupee devaluation pressure, factionalism within the Congress, among others, the Prime Minister “turned inwards” and like Joan of Arc (one of her heroines) began to listen to her “inner voice”. She also became increasingly suspicious and aloof and “somewhat more radically populist”. The author says: “By the time the Emergency was declared in 1975, it was hard to disagree with the quip that Mrs Gandhi’s socialism was a little left of self-interest”.

In any case, Verghese’s stature in the PMO grew considerably as he wrote a perspective policy concept, “Mandate for change”. This paper even prompted Morarji Desai to tell LK Jha, “I see Verghese is more than Indira’s Press Secretary. But I like some of his ideas.”

After PMO, Verghese had his stints with Hindustan Times and Indian Express — and later as professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. He has arrested in his writings some of the interesting and explosive phases of Indian politics — from the Congress regimes to JP’s ‘Total Revolution’ call and the intricacies of the subsequent coalition era. Each subsequent chapter is captivating and informative with relevant accounts of new players and intrigues.

As for the glittering media world in today’s information age, I would like to quote a few observations which reflect the existing realities: “Editors are in decline and the lack of editorial control is a reason for the some of the weaknesses described. Some leading papers have even abolished the post of editor, leaving page editors to be directed by the management, which is primarily concerned with the bottom line and patronage. Deals have been struck with business houses and political interests, the spoils being shared all along the line. There are exceptions, of course, and some of the best writing and coverage is superior to what there are earlier. But the average is sorely disappointing.”

Verghese’s book, of course, goes beyond the range of the glittering media. Its reach is wider, touching the ground realities of the common man, misplaced priorities and wayward functioning of leaders. One may or may not agree with some of his observations, but it must be acknowledged that he is honest and true to his convictions throughout his illuminating account of the “making of modern India”. Our social scientists, economic advisors, politicians of all shades and opinions, journalists and the new breed of half-baked press barons would find Verghese’s “witness” to the evolution of the Indian polity “a greater work” in providing the right lessons for the making of the India of our dreams.

This is a highly informative book that provides a mirror on yesterday’s India and simultaneously gives certain pointers for a healthy growth of the media and the polity.

(The reviewer is former editor, The Tribune)

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A writer’s prayer, halfway answered

Book: Mentor: A Memoir
Tom Grimes
Publisher:Tin House Books
Pages: 242

Reviewed by: Dwight Garner

Every serious fiction writer, published or unpublished, has a pile of horror stories about trying to get his or her work out into the world. The funny ones are told in bars. The ones that aren’t funny — the ones that may never be funny — are told only to therapists or to the insides of medicine cabinets.

Tom Grimes’s new book, “Mentor,” is ostensibly about Frank Conroy, the gifted memoirist (“Stop-Time”) and novelist (“Body and Soul”) who was the longtime director of the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. Conroy, who died in 2005, was a major force in Mr. Grimes’s life: mentor, father figure, drinking buddy, close friend.

What “Mentor” is really about, though, is the slow-motion derailment of Mr. Grimes’s own once promising literary career, a process that took his pride before it took his sanity. This is a book about striding up to the brink of success, only to have success disembowel you with a dull steak knife, bow, and then skip away, cackling.

Mr. Grimes, now in his mid-50s, is the author of five novels. He directs the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Texas State University. In “Mentor” he flashes back two decades to when he was broke and living with his wife in Key West, Fla. He worked as a waiter when he wasn’t working on his fiction. Eventually he applied to a few writing schools, and got only rejections.

A telephone call from Conroy changed his life. “I never call anyone,” Conroy told him, “but I’ve read your manuscript.” Within a few months Mr. Grimes was teaching alongside Conroy in Iowa. To the envy and dismay of other writers at the prestigious workshop, he became the “golden boy,” the one who could do no wrong in Conroy’s eyes.

“If you want, you can have the best agent in America tomorrow,” Conroy told him. “I’ll call her in the morning, if you want me to.” That agent was Conroy’s own, Candida Donadio, the woman who had sold Philip Roth’s “Goodbye, Columbus” and Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22.”

Conroy’s praise was cool water poured atop Mr. Grimes’s hot insecurities, creating steam. He was all too aware of his own limitations. About his first novel, written before he got to Iowa, Mr. Grimes admits: “I imitated authors. On Monday, I sounded like Vonnegut, who, on Tuesday, became Nabokov, who, on Wednesday, became Toni Morrison, who, on Thursday, became Philip Roth.”

But now Mr. Grimes had finished his big new book, a Don DeLillo-ish novel about baseball that would eventually be titled “Season’s End.” He signed with Ms. Donadio’s agency. Roger Straus, the longtime head of the distinguished publishing house Farrar, Straus & Giroux, told Conroy he wanted to buy it. Mr. Grimes was on the road — or about to be.
Then the wheels began to come off. Ms. Donadio passed Mr. Grimes off to someone else in her agency. Straus gave Mr. Grimes’s novel to an editor in house, who was far less enthusiastic. Still, a small bidding war that included Farrar, Straus erupted for “Season’s End.”

Mr. Grimes, forced to choose a publisher on the spot, took Conroy’s advice and went with another respected house — Little, Brown, which made a higher offer (a very healthy $42,000) — rather than with Farrar, Straus, which he’d revered since he was young.

His editor at Little, Brown soon left, however, orphaning his book. He and Conroy had trouble attracting jacket blurbs from big names. (Norman Mailer declined, writing Conroy: “Every other day there’s a new genius on the block. It’s too hard to keep up.”) An early review in Publisher’s Weekly was brutally negative.

There were some upbeat signs. People magazine took Mr. Grimes’s photograph. But “Season’s End” was marketed as a baseball book rather than a literary one, Mr. Grimes writes ruefully, and got lost in a pile of other baseball books. His book tour was tiny. The New York Times didn’t devote a major review to the novel (though it did give it 140 words in the “Books in Brief” column in The New York Times Book Review). It barely sold. It did not go into paperback. Essentially, it vanished.

“The book did change my life, not by telling me who I am, but by not telling me,” Mr. Grimes writes. “Its failure left me unfinished.” At Conroy’s urging, he began a new novel. When publishers saw sections of it, Mr. Grimes writes, “responses were swift and identical: no.” He was left to complete a novel no one wanted.

Feeling he’d betrayed his ideals by going for a bigger check and not signing with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and with his new writing going badly, Mr. Grimes began to crack up. He had delusions, fearing he was being chased by the F.B.I. for breaking a lease many years earlier. He became afraid to use the mail, lest the F.B.I. get his return address and track him down.

Mr. Grimes got help and put his life back together. His friendship with Conroy, described well here, sustained him, even if one gets the sense that Conroy’s blind allegiance and bursting enthusiasm probably hurt more than helped. “My ambition,” Mr. Grimes admits, “was larger than my talent.”

Mentor” is a harrowing book but not always an impressive one. There are plenty of stray details about Conroy — he liked “Law & Order,” he seemed to eat only hamburgers — but this book isn’t close to a full portrait. “Like all of us, Frank was a mosaic” is a typical vague utterance. It’s not an especially complicated picture of Mr. Grimes’s life, either.
This book’s tone is often wet and therapized. “I arrived fatherless; I departed a son,” Mr. Grimes writes about Iowa and Conroy. And, later: “I’m not ungrateful for all I have. I simply don’t know how to love it because I don’t know how to love me.”

I cringed but couldn’t put “Mentor” down. Alongside his own downward-spiraling narrative, Mr. Grimes packs this story with book world gossip, the way you stud a leg of lamb with garlic before sticking it in the oven. At one point Mailer gives Mr. Grimes some macho, if baffling, book tour advice: “You have to eat eggs on the road.”

He tells the story of being invited to a cocktail party at the home of L. Rust Hills, the influential former literary editor at Esquire. Mr. Hills pulls him aside and offers him a quid pro quo. “So, you teach my book” — a volume called “Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular” — “and I read your stuff,” Mr. Hills says. “O.K.? That’s how it works. Make sense?"

Don’t give this forthright and bewildered book to the would-be writer in your life. It might make him or her climb a tall tree and leap from it. You don’t need that on your hands. In any case, I suspect many aspiring writers will find it on their own, and read it between the cracks in their fingers.


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Hitch a ride

Book: Hitch-22
Christopher Hitchens
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Pages: 422
Price: Rs 599

Reviewed by: Sanjay Sipahimalani

A look at the index of author, journalist and polemicist Christopher Hitchens’ memoir is enough to convey that the man wants you to know he’s rubbed shoulders with the famous and infamous, been friends with the who’s who, and travelled to more countries than you can point to on an atlas. Famous for his shift from the Trotskyite Left to the American right and his abrasive opinions on a variety of subjects from Mother Teresa to the non-existence of the Almighty, his Hitch-22 is a capacious volume that unpacks an incident-filled life.

He tells us that quite early in life, when dealing with a schoolyard bully, he discovered that words can be weapons. An insight gilded later by the observation that “if you can give a decent speech in public or cut any kind of figure on the podium, then you need never dine or sleep alone”.His style can be prolix, not to mention allusive, as though the pen is hurrying up to put on to paper all that his mind teems with.

Those who seek the outspokenness that he is famous for will not be disappointed. There are broadsides against figures such as Gore Vidal and Susan Sontag, as well as assertions such as “the Nobel Prize is a huge bore and fraud”; “I neither know nor care anything about sports”; and “Cuban socialism was too much like a boarding school in one way and too much like a church in another”.

It was at Oxford that Hitchens’ interest in the Left Movement was awakened, and there are several passages dealing with his interactions with the International Socialists: the debates, the meetings, the conversions. Here, too, Hitchens was to make two of the friends he still swears by, Martin Amis and James Fenton.

He also confesses his dalliance with bisexuality, claiming to have slept with two men who later went on to become members of the Thatcher cabinet. That the two remain unnamed is one of the rare instances of restraint in the book.

In 1981, Hitchens moved to New York, writing for The Nation and other publications, and this awakened a deep love for the United States, made official by his receiving citizenship two decades later. With a convert’s zeal, he spends several paragraphs describing his passport. After the events of 9/11, he swore “a sort of oath to remain coldly furious until those hateful forces had been brought to a most strict and merciless account”. This, among other things, meant renouncing his Left credentials as well as supporting the second Gulf War, something that drew howls of protest from his former compatriots.

His coterie of comrades remains impressive, something he draws attention to time and again. (In fact, the words “my dear friend” recur more often than one can count.) Salman Rushdie is another close ally, whose defence he sprang to immediately after the fatwa, which also made him reinforce what he stands for: “In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humour, the individual, and the defense of free expression. Plus, of course, friendship…”

A Freudian would observe that much of Hitchens’ self-regard and indeed his thick skin arose from his close relationship with his mother, Yvonne, who, by her son’s warm and moving account, was a sparkling, supportive personality. (She was tragically to commit suicide while in Athens.) It was Yvonne who once proclaimed, “If there’s an upper class in this country, Christopher is going to be in it” — words that bring to mind the statement of one of Hitchens’ heroes, George Orwell: “I belong to the lower-upper-middle class”.

Much later, Hitchens was also to discover that she had kept her Jewish ancestry secret.
Though he may like to give the impression that his life is a constant round of parties, friends and alcohol, it’s clear that he’s an extremely hard worker. As he writes, “on average I produce at least a thousand words of printable copy every day, and sometimes more. I have never missed a deadline. I give a class or a lecture or a seminar perhaps four times a month and have never been late for an engagement”.

The title Hitch-22 refers to a state of ‘doubleness’ that Hitchens says he inhabits — for example, fighting for workers’ rights in the morning and attending a long, drunken Notting Hill lunch in the afternoon. As he writes, “What I hope to do now is give some idea of what it is like to fight on two fronts at once, to try and keep opposing ideas alive in the same mind, even occasionally to show two faces at the same time.” Whatever else you may say about him — and people say a lot — there’s no denying that he pours himself into whatever takes his fancy, and marshals all arguments possible against what doesn’t.

Courtesy: DNA

A photographer’s journey

Book: Dayanita Singh
It contains a selection of over a 100 of Dayanita Singh's published and unpublished photographs

Reviewed by: Himanshu Bhagat

Owning an actual photo print by the kind of photographers who show their works in galleries is beyond the means of most people. If seeing their work in magazines occasionally doesn’t satisfy you, the next best thing is to invest in a coffee-table book of their photographs.

Fans of the well-known and well-regarded photographer Dayanita Singh have just such an opportunity in a recently released book titled, simply Dayanita Singh. It contains a selection of over a 100 of her published and unpublished photographs. The selection covers a broad time span—the earliest photos were taken in 1989 and the most recent in 2009—and is accompanied by illuminating essays by the photo critic Aveek Sen and Lounge columnist Sunil Khilnani. Their prefatory pieces before each series of images rise to the challenge of complementing them—providing context, as well as throwing light on the photos, their subjects and the photographer.

The retrospective format of the book then is a treat for the serious student, as well as someone who just likes Singh’s work, for it allows them to see how her practice has evolved over the past two decades, transitioning towards the end, for example, from black and white to colour photography.

The photos immediately strike as being uniformly of a superior quality, which is only natural given that they have been selected from a much larger body of high-grade work—right from the first set of lyrical images of girls who live in a cloistered ashram along the bank of the Ganga in Banaras ( titled, I Am as I Am), to the final set of enigmatic and meditative photos on the transformative effect of darkness on the everyday world around us (Dream Villa).

As the book illustrates, Singh’s work has become more experimental over the years. The black and white photos of the ashram girls and those of her friend, the eunuch Mona in Delhi, appear positively conventional when seen alongside the final two sets which have been shot in colour—the blue-hued industrial landscapes (The Blue Book) and Dream Villa.

Apparent in her oeuvre is a consistent push to try out something new and take risks—from one set of images to the next, there is a linear trend of increasing complexity in the interplay of elements that make an image, and also an increasing ambiguity. These make a greater demand on the viewer, a demand that is mostly rewarded. Along with the eye is the steadily increasing role of the mind’s eye—in both taking the photo and looking at it, be it Jawaharlal Nehru’s preserved jackets suspended from coat hangers; surgical rubber gloves hanging from window grills; or the famous image of the young girl lying face down on the bed. The risk-taking is most obvious in Dream Villa, the last set of photos, which consists of variously tinted shots of a seemingly random assortment of subjects, all of which engage with the effect of artificial light on its surroundings after sundown.

The power of the images, and their ability to move, inform and illuminate, make Dayanita Singh worth its price; additionally, on offer here is a chance to see just how a first-rate artist has, over the years, been taking chances and trying out new things. It is, in this sense too, a voyeur’s delight.

Courtesy: Mint

Missing: Half The Story, Journalism As If Gender Matters

Edited: Kalpana Sharma
Pages: 296
Price: Rs 395

Gender, as this book says, has been ‘mainstreamed’ with remarkable success over the last few decades. From being a little used word — and then used mostly with reference to objects in certain languages, such as French, or Hindi — it has taken over much of public discourse,forced changes in public policy and become a separate field of study and research in universities.

This collection of essays looks more closely at some of the political and social developments in India through the prism of gender and the way in which media has reacted to news about women. Or, as some essays point out, failed to react.

This is an important exercise, of course, because media is often discriminatory not only in its language but also in what it considers ‘newsworthy’. However, there seems to be a slight disconnect between what the book seeks to do and the way it is structured.

The opening essay begins with suicide, and one naturally assumes that it is going to critique the way in which media covers suicides, particularly of women. But it discusses women in general — their status at the beginning of human society, and how patriarchy became the oppressive force through which all aspects of women’s lives are controlled. While such an education is probably necessary, one cannot help wondering: for whom?

The next essay critiques narrow definitions of gender, starting with athlete Cater Semenya’s ordeal, and closer home, Santhi Soundarajan’s suicide attempt after she failed a gender test.

The third essay goes back to discussing women’s movements, from Sappho to the Therigatha nuns to modern feminist organisations like Stree Sangathan. Their struggles against dowry are discussed, as well as recent successes like the Domestic Violence Act.

The fourth essay lists some common gender insensitive phrases used by the media and suggests alternatives. Naturally, one is led to believe that this is basically a book targeted at journalists and media students.

If that is the case, such essays are not likely to engage the average journalist, unless he or she already happens to be a committed feminist. Too much space is devoted to discussing the women’s movement and not enough to the daily issues of reportage and editing —issues that journalists might identify with, before they can see what they are doing wrong from a gender perspective.

Besides, the arguments are spread thin over too wide a canvas. There is also some repetition of arguments and quotations. For instance both the first and second essay quote the same sentence attributed to Simone de Beauvoir.

The rest of the essays all deal more specifically with the way Indian media responded to any given women’s issue. Sameera Khan’s essay on violence against women and the way mainstream newspapers have been reporting it is insightful and put together with examples, so that she does not seem to be talking only of concepts but also something that involves the current crop of journalists much more directly.

Kalpana Sharma’s essay on toilets and forests and their significance for women is another incisive piece, as is Ammu Joseph’s ‘Disaster, Conflicts and Gender’.

Reports from magazines like Tehelka or websites like India Togeher that have been chosen for their gendered focus are also powerful — not just for their content but also because they serve as a reminder that there are women’s perspectives to every major news event.

They remind us of facts that too many of us — even journalists and feminists — tend to forget. For instance: “The National Commission for Women estimating… a pair of bullocks works 1,064 hours, a man 1,212 hours, a woman works 3,845 hours in a year”. Or that, “in Pune’s Ruby Hall clinic… 78 patients had triple drug therapy (for HIV/AIDS), only seven of whom were women”.

This book touches on issues journalists must look at as they go about documenting our world, and points at ways to right the gender imbalance in media coverage. However, it might have helped if the introductory essays were less peppered with jargon that might
intimidate the average reader.

Courtesy: DNA

Letters from Palestine

Author: Kenneth Ring and Ghassan Abdullah
Wheatmark, 2010

Reviewed by: Stuart Littlewood

I seldom read books from cover to cover. But when Kenneth Ring sent me his Letters from Palestine with a note saying "Here's my baby," I couldn’t put it down. Ken presents a collection of personal stories from Palestinians, inside and outside the occupied territories, that provide penetrating insights - sometimes harrowing, sometimes funny, always fascinating - into their daily lives and thoughts. It would not surprise me if, in time, these accounts became inscribed in Palestinian folklore.

They reveal the Palestinians' strength of character so well. For these are among the world's most civilised and sophisticated people. They have withstood 90 years of betrayal and humiliation, and still they bubble with humour and friendship, thanks to their resilience and a gritty determination to overcome the collective and individual tragedies inflicted on them.

The thirty whose voices are heard in the letters they write to their American friend, are a wonderfully varied group.

One young lady says that, for her, the adeyat phalastin (question of Palestine) is the ultimate fight for humanity and justice. "And being Palestinian reminds me every day that justice and human rights can never be taken for granted. Because, in theory, every person is entitled to equality and his or her rights. In reality they are a privilege a select few enjoy."

A young Palestinian-American woman visiting family members in Birzeit comments: "Despite the occupation, Palestinians still remain some of the most educated people in the Arab world. They sit at the checkpoint if they can't make it to school and read their books, or have class right there if their teacher happens to be around...”

She tells how “the majority of the students I worked with at the camp had a parent or a sibling in jail. One boy's father was shot by Israeli soldiers right in front of his eyes. Many of the children wore pictures of dead loved ones or of martyrs around their necks or on their shirts. It was a constant part of their lives."

Fareed, a peace activist, challenges Israel’s claims that the clamp-down on Palestinian movement is in response to the new Hamas-led government. “The reality is that Israel first established its system of permits and closures in 1991, and we have been living under these difficult conditions ever since."

The first-hand accounts of terrified families trying to survive the horror and devastation unleashed by Israel on the Gaza Strip in December 2008 are very powerful indeed. As Ken himself reminds us, “by the time it was over nearly seven thousand Gazans had either been killed or wounded, and Gaza itself had been largely reduced to smoke, burning phosphorous, and rubble”.

The book’s hard message is softened by the many threads of humour. "In spite of the terrible hardship, you still won't find people sleeping on pavements like in New York or London," says Ghassan. "So we guess we still have a long way to go before we become an advanced society."

He observes that Israel is losing the demographic war with the Palestinians. “What do you expect people locked up in their homes to do, especially when the power is cut off by the Israeli Army and no TV?”

I laughed out loud at Ghassan's pithy jokes and found myself cheering Manar's exploits, which she reported to her university chums back home in the US. But then I was brought down to earth with a jolt by Ramzy Baraud's heartbreaking account of how his freedom-fighter father, ill and prevented by the Israelis from leaving Gaza for treatment, died there alone, cut off from his family.

Discovering that two of Ken's contributors were friends of mine was a wonderful surprise. Jiries Canavati (I call him George) was a survivor of the infamous 40-day siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002. It is a gripping story of great courage. In the end they had to surrender, but the eyes of the world were on the Church by then.

George was lucky. Many who came out of the Church alive were deported. The Israelis put him on a blacklist. "So I can't leave Bethlehem now. I can't move anywhere. Bethlehem is like a big jail, and that's it... I am a Christian, but there were both Muslims and Christians together in the siege. The relationship became very friendly. We respect ourselves, we respect each other, and we love each other. And they said, now the Church of the Nativity is the most important place and very special for us because this place protected all of us."

George has very recently set up an organisation called Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans, which promotes small craft workshops. Ken won't mind, I'm sure, if I give this brave man's new venture a plug by mentioning the link: 

The second courageous friend is that young Gazan photo-journalist Mohammed Omer. Sheer professionalism, and a determination to tell the unvarnished truth about Gaza to the western world, earned him the coveted Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2008 while he was still only 23. He received the award in London and went on a speaking tour of European capitals. On the way home to his family in Gaza he was detained and brutally beaten up by Israeli border and security thugs at the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan, and hospitalized with severe injuries. In the book Mo tells the shocking story in his own words.

Perhaps Mo's darkest hour - and he must have had many in his young life - was in January 2009 at the height of Israel's vicious blitzkrieg on Gaza's civilians. He wrote to me: "I have been in Holland the past few weeks in hospital, with high fever and following up Gaza's appalling situations. My family have been under very awful situations, but today I managed to get hold of them finally and they are all alive. Some damages around, but that doesn't matter as long as they are alive. I have been so worried and also sad to lose some of my friends who are journalists and others were injured... shame on the international community to allow this to happen."

Yes indeed, shame on the international community which, 18 months later, has still done nothing to resolve the situation and actually rewards the lawless Israeli regime while it continues air strikes and threatens to repeat the atrocities.

Ken writes from a humanistic standpoint, as befits a professor of psychology. He treats those he meets with sensitivity and respect. His great affection for them shines through at all times.

And I like the way he came to the task almost by accident, as I did, after reading a book by a remarkable peace activist. It changed his life completely, he says.

Palestinians have been stripped of nearly everything - their lands, water resources, possessions, dignity, quality of life - and are left with only their education (which the Israelis do their damnedest to disrupt) and their culture. Women value education, pursue it energetically and hold down responsible jobs. I think their influence would surprise westerners.

This is not to say that the menfolk neglect their education. On the contrary. Palestine’s strangulated economy is full of well-qualified men. But it is right that many of Ken’s contributors are female. Despite decades of deprivation and hardship the rich Palestinian-Arab culture survives. The women, with their resourcefulness and strong sense of family, have seen to it and injected it with an indomitable spirit.

Letters from Palestine will put you through the emotional wringer – you’ll share the laughter, pride, helplessness, despair, anger and even the camaraderie. It is written with a pleasant light touch while providing an accurate portrayal of the plight of the Palestinians.

The picture painted by Kenneth Ring and his friends is, of course, seriously at odds with the one invented and broadcast by the propagandists in Tel Aviv and their hirelings in the US and British governments. Anyone who has been to the occupied Holy Land knows that Letters from Palestine speaks the truth.

And Ken’s being Jewish makes the book all the more remarkable. I see it as one of the few beacons of decency in a swamp of deceit, and I would like one day to shake him by the hand.

I understand that proceeds from the book are to be split between the Atfaluna School for the Deaf in Gaza, where Ken sponsors a child, and civil society NGOs in the West Bank with which co-author Ghassan Abdullah is associated. God and Allah bless you, Kenneth Ring, for your gift to better understanding.

Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit He contributed this article to


Songs of Blood & Sword - A Daughter's Memoirs

Author: Fatima Bhutto
Penguin Books Pvt. India Ltd
Rs 699

Reviewed by: Nirupama Subramanian, The Hindu

The date was October 17, 2007. I was in Karachi to report for The Hindu on Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan the next day from her self-imposed exile after striking a deal with General Pervez Musharraf. Through the day busloads of people were pouring into Karachi for the welcome rally. In Dharavi-like Lyari, a traditional Pakistan People's Party stronghold, there was singing and dancing. After a while, I headed towards 70 Clifton, the historic house that Benazir's father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto built, where an entirely different song was playing.

The huge house looked gloomy. I was led in through a large hall to a smaller sitting room, where I met the serious-looking Fatima Bhutto, daughter of Benazir's brother Mir Murtaza, and his (Murtaza's ) widow Ghinwa. Murtaza was shot dead outside this very house on September 20, 1996. Throughout our conversation, both Bhuttos pointedly referred to Benazir as “Mrs. Zardari.”

Fatima was the quieter of the two, letting the Lebanese-born Ghinwa do most of the talking. But she described the people pouring into Karachi that day as “rent-a-crowd”, contrasting this with the spontaneity of the welcome Benazir got on her first homecoming in 1986. Benazir was a second-time Prime Minister when her brother was killed, and Ghinwa and Fatima said they wanted her to “at least take moral responsibility” for the killing.

Two months after her return (in 2007), Benazir herself was killed. Her young niece has made sure that in the hagiographic haze over her aunt since her assassination, the story of Mir Murtaza's controversial death during his sister's watch as Prime Minister will not be forgotten.

Songs of Blood and Sword by Fatima Bhutto is a profound love story, and a tribute to Murtaza by a daughter who adored him to bits. It is the immensely sad story of a woman's futile search for closure to the violent death of her father. It is the tragic story of the Bhuttos, whose political aspirations were always at odds with that of the “establishment”, seen by their supporters as the main reason behind four untimely deaths in that family. It is a book that seeks to blame Zardari for Murtaza's killing. And, it is a bitter, angry and unforgiving condemnation of Benazir, seeing all events through the unique prism of the author's love for Murtaza and her dislike, bordering on hatred, of her aunt.

This has led to some problematic and questionably-evidenced assertions in the book. One such is Fatima's conclusion that Mir Murtaza's decision to set up an armed resistance group called ‘Al Zulfikar' against Zia's dictatorship was spurred on by his father from his jail cell; predictably, this has been contested by other members of the Bhutto family. Even though Fatima maintains she does not believe in dynasty, the subtext of her book, oddly, is that Murtaza was the rightful heir to the Bhutto legacy.

The value of the book is that it is perhaps the first about Murtaza and provides a good glimpse of his life, although it does not give much detail about his politics or about the shadowy ‘Al Zulfikar' group that he and his brother set up to fight Zia. It places on record some of the correspondence between Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the second of his four children, giving fresh insights into the life and personality of the founding leader of the Pakistan People's Party. Fatima writes freely of the political rivalry between her father and his sister, describing how her grandmother Nusrat balanced her love for both, but eventually blames Benazir for Murtaza's death. Daniel Lak of the BBC, who was an accidental witness to Nusrat's terrible grief at losing Murtaza, 12 years after Shahnawaz, told me it was one of the most unbearable things he ever saw in Pakistan, describing her wailing as “animal cries.”

While an Alzheimer-stricken Nusrat may not remember anything now, her granddaughter's vivid account of the events of the day her father was shot dead is both chilling and moving. The poignant story of the frantic and unsuccessful efforts a 14-year-old girl made to reach her aunt, the Prime Minister, on the telephone, and her futile hope — as she waited in the hospital — that her father would emerge alive from the operating theatre lays open the wound of loss, as if it all happened just yesterday.
A commission of inquiry found that Murtaza's killing was a pre-meditated murder by the Karachi police on orders from “the highest level of government.” Zardari and the police officers who stood charged in the case have been acquitted. Fatima points out that on becoming President, Zardari appointed one of those police officers as Intelligence Bureau chief. All in all, this deeply personal and autobiographical book, written with a child's love, anger and helplessness, leaves the reader saddened for both the author and her country.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Braking News & Broken News

Braking news
Sunetra Choudhury
Hachette, Rs 350, Pages 310

Broken News
Amrita Tripathi
Tranquebar, Rs 200, Pages 232

Reviewed by: Poonam Saxena, Hindustan Times

What are the stereotypes that immediately come to mind when you think of TV news journalists?

1. They lead crazy, high-pressure, stressful lives. They inhale adrenaline instead of oxygen. They don’t have time to die, forget bonding with family and friends.
2. They are ambitious, aggressive and will do anything (well, almost) to get a good story on primetime TV.

Well, guess what? A large part of all this is apparently quite true — and we have it from the TV journos themselves, in two brand new books: Braking News and Broken News (no, I swear I haven’t made up these names).

Braking News is a racy, readable account of a jaw-dropping journey that Sunetra Choudhury (NDTV 24x7) and her colleague Naghma (NDTV India) undertook in the scorching summer of 2009, two months before the general elections. Aboard a big red bus (the NDTV Election Bus), the two girls (along with a small crew), travelled all over India, hunting for election stories, home-cooked meals and clean loos with single-minded determination, braving all manner of odds — from rat-infested hotels to Naxalite landmines — and incidentally, managing to have the time of their lives.

Though Braking News does quick little cameos of political leaders and also indulges in a bit of political analysis (mandatory, since the book is about election reportage, I suppose), the book really comes alive in its candid depiction of the reporting process itself.

The punishing deadlines, the intense pressure of finding ‘sexy’ stories every day (Lalu Prasad is always ‘sexy,’ Mayawati less so, though there is a rather, er, sexy story about her in the book), the periodic crises during the journey (when the author cheerfully admits to turning into a shrieking banshee), the niggling inter-personal tensions — it all adds up to a fun read. Thankfully, Sunetra doesn’t make heavy weather of it.
Instead, she recounts the 15,000-mile (gulp!) journey with self-deprecating humour and a take-it-or-leave-it-we-are-like-this-only attitude.

Broken News, on the other hand, is a novel. Set in Delhi, it’s about a TV news anchor hurtling towards a breakdown with a kind of unstoppable inevitability. Broken love affairs, competitive colleagues, gnawing insecurity, office politics, brittle friendships — M’s (our prima donna heroine) world is full of tension.

And M makes sure that you, the reader, knows that every step of the way. Frankly, there are moments when you want to give old M a bit of a shake — come on, you want to tell her, get a reality check. You’re on a small TV screen, not plastered on billboards that can be spotted from outer space.

But plenty of people, I imagine, often wonder what goes on behind the TV news channels that they watch so regularly. They’ve seen the anchors, fully made up, trademark jacket and discreet necklace thingie in place — but what are these anchors really like? Are their lives glamorously hectic or are they just hyper creatures, addicted to their 15 minutes of fame every evening, always courting the possibility of a burnout? And what’s their work really like? What happens behind the scenes?

For TV professionals and insiders, there’s nothing particularly mysterious about all this (that #^%*# screwed up my bulletin again?) but for outsiders, it could be a world they would love to peep into. If you’re one of those, read on.

Courtesy: Hindustan Times

How to Become a Good Journalist a perfect guide to young journos

Book: How to Become a Good Journalist

Author: Raza Elahi

Publisher: Atlantic Publisher

Price: Rs 75 (paperback); Rs 250 (hardbind)

To buy the book, e-mail at

Reviewed by: Sanjay Singh

Becoming a good journalist is the dream of a large number of students, who want to make a mark in this field. Catering the budding journalists with a quality book, New Delhi-based publisher Atlantic Publishers & Distributors has recently launched How to Become a Good Journalist.

Written in a simple language by Raza Elahi, a journalist having spent more than a decade in numerous newspapers including, Khaleej Times, The Economic Times and The Pioneer, the book covers all the aspects of making of a newspaper/magazine whether it is news selection, news writing, reporting, editing, page-making or deadline pressure.
Based on content, style and insight by redefining and expanding journalistic expertise, the book merits appreciation from a layman to uninitiated to acclaimed journalists. The writer’s expression on the nitty-gritty of desk job and journalistic ethos reflect his unequivocal understanding of the art of journalism, besides, his magnanimity of sharing experience and knowledge for the benefit of one and all without any malice or egoistic extrapolation.

Besides discussing art of interviewing, nuances of feature writing and importance of 5Ws and IH of a news copy, Raza Elahi has selected around 200 words/expressions and listed their correct usages. The author has also picked up raw copies of reporters and edited them in the chapter ABC of Editing.

The chapter Headline Hunter takes the students through interesting aspects of headlines. Besides enhancing the journalistic skills of media students, the book also refreshes the skill-set of those already in the profession.

Many media faculty members often complain that many students aspiring to be journalists do not have good command of English and lack the basic skills needed to write simple and readable stories. How to Become a Good Journalist issurely the book those teachers would love to recommend to the students. It is a perfect guide to young journos.

Through a network of around 250 distributors in India, Atlantic Publishers has made the How to Become a Good Journalist available in almost all the part of the country. It can also be ordered online

(Sanjay Singh is a senior online journalist)

Other Book Reviews:

Nuances of Journalistic Writings
(Author: Raza Elahi)

TV News Writing Made Easy for Newcomers
(Author:Ravi M Khanna)

Beyond the Lines: An Autobiography
(Authors:Kuldip Nayar)

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