The Vital Drop — Communication for Polio Eradication in India: Gitanjali Chaturvedi; Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd. B1/I-1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, New Delhi-110044.

Rs. 750.

This book explains why communication is critical for ensuring the success of public health initiatives. Since a significant outbreak of polio in the country in 2002, several innovative strategies were introduced to ensure better outreach and efficacy of the intensified pulse polio initiative. This book records the communication journey that began in 2002 through important innovations aimed at including segregated and marginalised populations, as well as a very successful mass media campaign featuring cine star Amitabh Bacchan. An important lesson learnt was that for any public health communication to be successful, it had to be data driven. At the same time, it was essential for the initiative to generate data to demonstrate its effectiveness. Communication, which was once regarded a ‘soft science’, has now evolved to the extent that it can generate data that is verifiable and drives the intervention further.

Key features of the book include the variety of communication initiatives undertaken to reach out to India’s large, diverse, segregated and mobile populations; the emphasis on evidence—both social and epidemiological—and the choices, approaches and course corrections in determining communication interventions; and the importance of sophisticated survelliance and a frontline communication network.

Taj Mahal: Giles Tillotson; Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110017. Rs. 399.

The Taj holds a secure place in the world’s collective consciousness and this book is a rigorous and vivid account of how this came to be. The author recounts the human drama behind the building, particularly the relationship between Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who lie there. Drawing on a huge range of sources from Mughal court histories to Bollywood movies, he gives a history of the Taj and its different meanings and also explores its reputation through history as a wonder of the world, its representation in art, apart from analysing the secrets of its architectural success. He describes the troubled story of its conservation and records the recent disputes about its ownership, treatment and exploitation.