BY SUCHITRA BEHAL
Wolf of The Plains; Conn Iggulden; Harper Collins; Rs. 395. THE name, Genghis Khan, conjures images of unmitigated blood sport. Historical lore abounds with stories of his cruelty. Little is known about his life, given that almost all accounts were destroyed or did not last. There is just one, which is the source for this stunning book.Born the second son of Yesugei, a tribal warlord, Temujin (who later calls himself Genghis) grows up in Mongolia. His father was the khan of the Wolves, a particularly ferocious tribe constantly warring with the Tartars. When Temujin was 11, his father died and his family, including his mother and a small baby, were left to starve. Much of the book is about how Temujin, his brothers and mother managed to survive in the face of extreme hardship. As he grew, Temujin built up a gang of warriors by raiding other tribes and keeping some of the men and their families alive. Temujin also realised that if the Mongols were to protect their land and their rights, they must unite. Later, with the threat of the Chinese, Temujin managed to bring some of the major tribes under his leadership. At that point he renamed himself Genghis khan of the sea grass. His bravery and military strength were so feared that most tribes eventually gave way and agreed to what he demanded. The author has brought out the growing years of Genghis, the way of life at that time and the cultural landscape in that era in a most evocative and beautiful manner. Despite some liberties with historical facts, a brilliant portrait of Genghis Khan emerges. This is the first of a series. Pick it up and wait for the next.
Black Tongue; Anjana Basu; IndiaInk; Rs. 295. MAYA'S story could have been like that of the other little girls taken into middle class Bengali households as help. In return they are given food and shelter. Maya's mother brings her to work with Amrita and her husband, a poet, who believes that if his wife can educate this child she will have done her bit for society. Amrita is enamoured of the idea; her great-grandfather was a well-known figure in Bengal. She soon notices things are missing. She accosts the girl who tells little white lies to save her skin. Eventually Amrita sends Maya away refusing to teach her for the final exam. Maya heads back home but en route witnesses a murder. Her brother Naren, a party worker, decides that this is the perfect opportunity to make a quick buck. He passes off Maya as "dead" and insists that his "sister committed suicide" because of Amrita.As Amrita hovers on the edge of a nervous breakdown, Maya decides to toe her brother's line and do his bidding to earn a tidy sum. In desperation, Amrita contacts ex-lover Paresh, now a minister's right hand. But Paresh, investigating Maya's claims, wonders if there are bigger fish involved or if Naren was acting on his own. The book examines the role of politics in communist Bengal, as well as the taboos and superstitions that still infest its society.
A Bachelor Boy; Upendra Tankha; Stellar; Rs.250. U IS a journalist. And this is his account of his life. U works for a better-known paper on Delhi's Fleet Street. Life here has its own norms and most of the inhabitants are often eccentric. U is no different and remains steadfast in his pursuit of all things free be it booze or women, both. Like the typical Indian male, he is riddled with his obsessions of getting cosy with just about anything in a skirt and, of course, hitting the bottle with unfailing regularity. His wife and child are mere appendages, who figure only to provide grief in his pursuit of happiness. Like all journalists of his time, he hits the freebie-party circuit with a vengeance and occasionally manages to pack in some work. The book is supposed to be a "hilarious" account of a journalist's life. Unfortunately, for anyone who knows what these lives are all about, it misses the point. As for the hilarity bit, I'm still looking for a good laugh.