It is a battle that has been called “the Stalingrad of the East”, but a more accurate description might be“India’s forgotten battle of World War II”. The Battle of Kohima, which was fought between British/Imperial and Japanese troops during 4 April through 6 June of 1944, according to author Mmhonlümo Kikon, “shaped world history”. It marked the end of Japan’s effort to invade India and join forces with the Indian independence forces against the British Raj. Kohima, Kikon writes, “saved the British empire and the Allied forces from defeat and brought them out from the jaws of death into an uncertain glory carved into their history books.”

Of all the Indian epics, the Ramayana is the best- known: Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, is banished from his kingdom by a jealous stepmother. His wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana choose to accompany him. During the exile, Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. With the help of Hanuman and a “monkey” army, he defeats Ravana and gets Sita back. It is not a happily-ever-after for Rama though. Questions arise about her chastity given the time she was held in captivity by Ravana. As an ideal king who cares for public opinion, Rama chooses to let her go.

Four people at a Hyderabad newspaper publishing company drop dead from heart attacks on the same day. It’s not impossible that people could have heart attacks on the same day, but the timing seems suspicious to the police, namely the lead investigator, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mona Ramteke. This is the lead-in of Aditya Sinha’s mystery, Death in the Deccan, a fun and quirky whodunnit that at times could also be used as a cardiology and toxicology primer. 

Knowledge is power. This is a statement often made to reinforce the relentless pursuit of data, information and know-how to get ahead in business and technology. Scholarship or studiousness is seen as a virtue that can give one an edge over the others in the face of tough competition. With such a celebration of knowledge, it appears that anything can be legitimized if it is connected with knowledge creation or dissemination. In The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge, Joshua Ehrlich examines a much stronger, to the point of being literal, historical connection between knowledge and power. 

The northeast Indian state of Assam has had a complex history. As independence loomed, Assam was a large British province, bordering the fellow British colony of Burma and covering a large segment of India’s northeast. Today’s Assam is much smaller: First Partition cut Assam off from the rest of India, with just a tiny “chicken neck” of land connecting the state with India proper. Then decades of tension between the Assamese and minority groups led to new states being created from within its borders: Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram, to name a few.

The venerable Charles Allen left perhaps his most contentious subject for his last (and posthumously-published) book. The Aryans: The Search for a People, a Place and a Myth is a wide-ranging discourse on history, science, archaeology, linguistics, the history of all four, interleaved with commentary on some two centuries of highly-objectionable politics and political discourse: he opens with a chapter titled: “The Rise and Fall of Superman: Aryanism and the Swastika”.

When the Kurinji Blooms, Rajam Krishnan, Uma Narayanan (trans), Prema Seetharam (trens) (Orient BlackSwan, September 2023)
When the Kurinji Blooms, Rajam Krishnan, Uma Narayanan (trans), Prema Seetharam (trans) (Orient BlackSwan, September 2023)

Kurinjithen, literally honey of the kurinji flower, is a timeless poem in prose that transports you to the lush Nilgiris where this beautiful blue flower grows wild and to the land of the Badagas who inhabit these hills. It is also Rajam Krishnan’s eulogy to a vanished world and way of life. Once in twelve years when the kurinji blooms in these hills, bees store the honey of the kurinji in combs in rock crevices and on branches of trees. When the Kurinji Blooms narrates the family saga of three generations of Badagas who have for long remained untouched by modernity. Then, as the winds of commerce and change invade their tranquil and sheltered lives, innocence and harmony are replaced by conflict and tragedy that herald new beginnings.