Two books I am going to read this year

Ian Jack wrote a compelling opinion piece in The Telegraph (Feb 13,
2011) about how books change outlooks of people. The book he was
discussing was Madhusree Mukherjee’s “Churchill’s Secret War …”
(link here The book is about the Bengal Famine
of 1943, the other book he mentioned in this connection was “Monsoon
Morning” (URL from alibris here, by Ian
Stephens, the then editor of The Statesman who first broke the news of
Bengal famine to the world. The Telegraph article I am referring to is
here, by the way

The books’ significance go beyond famines, in fact, and has wider
import on how environmental and other issues are playing today. Note
for instance, Ian Stephens’ comment on the famine, that Jack quotes,

“Death by slaughter, say in a communal riot … you of course know about
almost at once. You hear shouts, screams. Smoke from nearby buildings
on fire stings your nostrils… But famine comes quietly. Even if you’ve
been half-expecting it, there’s still no drama: nothing to hear,
almost nothing characteristic at first to see, anyway in a city like
Calcutta, notorious for its swarms of pitiable poor living in squalor
near the margins of subsistence.”

A close parallel is how there is a slow, almost insidious string of
deaths and devastation with environmental degradation (arsenic and
chromium among others, and air pollution related deaths and diseases
in the cities; just replace “famine” with “environmental pollution”).
It’d be interesting to read the books in details, perhaps revisiting
Jack’s commentary.


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