Amish is a 1974-born, IIM (Kolkata)-educated, boring banker turned happy author. The success of his debut book, The Immortals of Meluha (Book 1 of the Shiva Trilogy), encouraged him to give up a fourteen-year-old career in financial services to focus on writing. He is passionate about history, mythology and philosophy, finding beauty and meaning in all world religions. Amish’s books have sold more than 5 million copies and have been translated into over 19 languages.
Following are his current reads –
- The Greatest Ode to Lord Ram: Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas; Selections & Commentaries by Pavan K. Varma
The Ramcharitmanas is undoubtedly one of the greatest lyrical compositions in Hindi literature. Writing in the 16th century, Tulsidas chose to pen verses in Awadhi rather than Sanskrit, thus breaking with literary tradition and, importantly, making Lord Ram more relatable to the lay person. Pavan K. Varma, author of the best-selling Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker, has selected some of the most evocative stanzas – offering a succinct commentary for each – that capture the very core of the original.
While centering the philosophical aspect of the Ramcharitmanas – the immutability of the soul over the merely corporeal; the transience of worldly pleasures; the placing of wisdom above knowledge – The Greatest Ode to Lord Ram describes a devoted son, a loving sibling, a committed lover, an ideal ruler and also a human, almost bereft of divinity. Indeed, Ram is a god and a man; he is comprehensible.
Tulsi’s seminal work employs a unique poetic linguistic tool that unravels even the most profound concepts with utmost simplicity, blending philosophy with breathtaking verse. Varma’s compelling new selection and commentary achieves this effect by combining the aesthetics, romance and imagery of the original work with the unadulterated spirituality that sparkles through the conduct of a great god.
Can a state Legislature imprison a critic and summon a high Court judge to appear before it? Are religion-based personal laws above fundamental Rights? Why did the Punjab police organise a band to celebrate the defeat of the state in a case of sexual harassment? Is it legal for the government to arm untrained private citizens to participate in counter-insurgency operations? How did Parliament come to pass the first Amendment to the Constitution allowing for caste-based reservations? And why did the Supreme Court acquit a rape accused on the basis of the victims sexual history? In this book, constitutional expert Chintan Chandrachud takes us behind the scenes and tells us the stories of ten extraordinary and dramatic legal cases from the 1950s to the present day that have all but faded from public memory. Written in a lively, riveting style, this book has a cast of characters that includes the who’s who of the Indian legal system. It also paints an unexpected picture of the Indian judiciary: the Courts are not always on the right side of history or justice, and they don’t always have the last word on the matters before them. This entertaining book is an incisive look into the functioning of Indian institutions.
3. Sixteen Stormy Days: The Story of the First Amendment of the Constitution of India by Tripurdaman Singh
Sixteen Stormy Days narrates the riveting story of the First Amendment to the Constitution of India-one of the pivotal events in Indian political and constitutional history, and its first great battle of ideas. Passed in June 1951 in the face of tremendous opposition within and outside Parliament, the subject of some of independent India’s fiercest parliamentary debates, the First Amendment drastically curbed freedom of speech; enabled caste-based reservation by restricting freedom against discrimination; circumscribed the right to property and validated abolition of the zamindari system; and fashioned a special schedule of unconstitutional laws immune to judicial challenge.Enacted months before India’s inaugural election, the amendment represents the most profound changes that the Constitution has ever seen. Faced with an expansively liberal Constitution that stood in the way of nearly every major socio-economic plan in the Congress party’s manifesto, a judiciary vigorously upholding civil liberties, and a press fiercely resisting his attempt to control public discourse, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru reasserted executive supremacy, creating the constitutional architecture for repression and coercion.
What extraordinary set of events led the prime minister-who had championed the Constitution when it was passed in 1950 after three years of deliberation-to radically amend it after a mere sixteen days of debate in 1951?
Drawing on parliamentary debates, press reports, judicial pronouncements, official correspondence and existing scholarship, Sixteen Stormy Days challenges conventional wisdom on iconic figures such as Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R. Ambedkar, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel and Shyama Prasad Mookerji, and lays bare the vast gulf between the liberal promise of India’s Constitution and the authoritarian impulses of her first government.
4. The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey
In The Darkening Age, Catherine Nixey tells the little-known – and deeply shocking – story of how a militant religion deliberately tried to extinguish the teachings of the Classical world, ushering in unquestioning adherence to the ‘one true faith’. The Roman Empire had been generous in embracing and absorbing new creeds. But with the coming of Christianity, everything changed. This new faith, despite preaching peace, was violent, ruthless and intolerant. And once it became the religion of empire, its zealous adherents set about the destruction of the old gods. Their altars were upturned, their temples demolished and their statues hacked to pieces. Books, including great works of philosophy and science, were consigned to the pyre. It was an annihilation.
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Stay tuned to enjoy more such sessions on the #ReadInstead Lit fest by Juggernaut.