Book Reviews

Book Review: Koh-i-Noor

Koh-i-noor by William Dalrymple

I just finished William Dalrymple‘s “Koh-i-Noor“, a history of the world’s most famous diamond, co-authored with Anita Anand.

I’ve been fascinated by the jewel known as the Mountain of Fire, and so found the book quite a gripping read. The side stories of people who wore, guarded or were involved with the Koh-i-Noor over the years made for interesting entertainment.


Book Review: Cutting For Stone

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

Near the beginning there’s this quote:

“Life is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.”

I enjoyed “Cutting For Stone” just a little extra – for two unique reasons. One, because I’m a surgeon. Two, because the author is from my medical school.

A very good writer remembers those easy-to-forget feelings, fears and uncomfortable points of view s/he held during carefree youth, and dredges them up to adorn fictional characters with.


Book Review: Why Scams are Here to Stay

Why Scams Are Here To Stay

This is a book that will make you sad.

Look, I’m a die-hard optimist. I can see the good in (almost) everything. And even then, I struggle to find a positive perspective on pervasive corruption of the order and magnitude revealed in N.Ram‘s book, “Why Scams Are Here To Stay: Understanding Political Corruption in India.

Coming from the investigative journalist who spearheaded the (then) biggest expose of political corruption in India, unleashing a media blitz over the mid-80s Bofors Howitzer payoff scandal, this account carries the weight, authority and credibiity of a true expert.

One who has studied corruption in all its dirty facets, seen its reflection in multiple mirrors, been horrified by its many distorted images… and has come to terms with its versatility, ubiquity, and even (reluctantly admirable) creativity.

And so I feel disappointed and discouraged as I plow through one chapter after another, listening to tales of systematized and endemic corruption that cuts across party and regional lines.

Corruption that unifies itself in only a pervasive rape of a nation’s wealth and resources to the detriment of the masses, and with an irresistible seductiveness that eventually seems to lure everyone who falls within its tempting ambit – just like anything with mass is sucked into a blackhole!

Of course, there are a few ‘good eggs‘ who try to swim against the powerful current.

But the sloth and lethargy of investigative agencies and the inertia of a slow-moving judiciary process that defers any judgment over crimes of corruption by years, if not decades, eventually wears them down.

It’s heart-wrenching to see the final segment of the Bofor’s incident sub-titled: “But what good came of it at last?” A philosophical author’s fatalist tone of resignation and acceptance is summed up in the poignant phrase that ends his chapter:

“And that was that.”

Even after factoring in (to my best ability) the author’s socialist leaning and political affiliations, this is still a dismal, depressing account. There’s no arguing against data. And the data compiled by Mr.Ram is as convincing as it is soul-crushing.

“Journalistic investigation had done virtually all it could, proved its case in the court of public opinion, and made a worthwhile difference to politics by bringing the issue of grand corruption to the fore.”

But what then?

I finished reading the book, not with a tinge of optimistic anticipation for the future, but a dull disgust for the present, and the past. And that notwithstanding the suggested “solution” (under nine broad heads).

Will this frank, detailed and piercing account of the evil of corruption in our politics, our society, our lives change anything?

I’d like to hope it will. Though I’m not sure it’s even possible. And to a die-hard optimist, that’s an intolerable position I must learn to come to terms with.

It will take time. And maybe I won’t. Ever.

Because, still, stirring deep beneath the realism and pragmatism is an undying glimmer of a powerful feeling called… HOPE.

Why Scams Are Here To Stay


Book Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden

My sense of humor, to put it charitably, is perverse.

For instance, I’ve watched the Ashton Kutcher film “Dude, Where’s My Car” four times – and laugh like a madman at ever so many situations I think are hilarious… where my spouse of more “normal” humor will, at best, smile – or, more often, wince!

So when I read a book where, midway through the story, I find myself at this condemned building in Sweden where lived…

  • an American potter (who’s convinced the CIA are out to find and destroy him)
  • two Swedish brothers (one of whom doesn’t officially exist!)
  • an angry young woman (who protests her father’s refusal of a bank loan to fund General Noriega’s revolution)
  • an escaped South African refugee (who is being sought by two angry Mossad agents), and
  • three Chinese girls with poor judgement

…alongside a 3 mega-ton nuclear bombwell, my funny bone just tingles madly!


Book Review: The Fox

The Fox by Frederick Forsyth

The Master is still at the top of his Game!

‘The Fox’ is Frederick Forsyth‘s latest novel and a worthy descendant in the rich lineage of thriller/spy classics the author is known for.

A fast-moving tale of a teen hacking prodigy, and how his skills might be deployed with devastating impact in today’s computer-controlled world, it has all the elements of a FF novel – counter-espionage, political intrigue, international plots, ruthless assassins, and high-stakes drama.

And his art at weaving a gripping story hasn’t dimmed over the years.

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