In Aleph’s delightful ‘short biography of a city’ series, the newest is about India’s Garden City, pensioner’s paradise and Silicon Valley of the East, Bangalore—Askew, written by the redoubtable T.J.S. George. These slick, handsomely produced booklets give the reader a glimpse into a city’s soul by one of its old-time denizens. George brings his journalist’s instinct to tell the story of Bangalore through its residents—his friends who are academics, scholars, writers, artists and journalists. He brings alive the many localities by walking us through its lanes and bylanes. About the neighbourhood Basavanagudi, he says: “When Mahalaxmi Tiffin Room opened in Basavanagudi in 1926, its superior khaali dosai became an instant favourite. In the 1930s, ...a students canteen opened: Vidhyarthi Bhavan. The exceptional quality of its dosais and coffee quickly won over the intellectual set”. It’s this knowing, well-worn quality of writing which makes it a delightful read.
Dara Singh dares you to a bout in the cover of Deedara—eyes alert, arms open, ready to pounce—his biography by Seema Sonik Alimchand. Written in a chatty tone, it’s the story of a farmer’s son from Punjab who goes on to tame international wrestlers like King Kong and Ray Golden. Then, Bollywood snares him and he makes a mark as the do-gooder, gentle giant. The photos catch one’s eye. There he is with Indira Gandhi, who hardly comes up to his shoulders; clasping Nehru’s hands gently; even he-man Dharmendra looks dwarfed!