Book Reviews

25. In the Bloody Footprints of Ghengis Khan;  By Jeffrey Taylor; Published by JR books, Greenland Street London

 The author of this book is an American, settled down in Russia and married to a Russian lady. He is fluent in Russian and fairly at ease with Mandarin. The book describes a gripping and at times dangerous 7,200-mile overland journey through some of the planet's most remote and challenging terrain such as parts of Russia between Black and Caspian Seas, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang province of China. His account highlights the new culture and the strife developing in these regions. He is perhaps at his best, describing the suppression of Uighur people at the hand of Chinese Government and explains why this region has the potential to tend to violence.
Sometimes, his descriptions become rather overstretched and boring and I never understood how he always somehow found only girls and women to talk to him  or to guide him, all over his journeys to these strange lands, suspecting that he had some unknown sponsors, about whom. he does not talk at all. My grade 3/5. 

24.China Inside Out: 10 Irreversible Trends Reshaping China and its Relationship with the World

Author of this book, Bill Dodson is a graduate of Cornell University. He writes and advices on China-business and -economics issues to western companies interested in investing in China.He is a columnist on China economics and industry issues for the China Economic Review and a frequent speaker on economics and investment trends in China. He also writes in his blog  about everyday life in China and the social and economic issues faced by the people. 

In this book, he discusses 10 major issues that are facing people in China, which he names as The rise of Generation w(eb), The anxious class, A tale of two countries, No in my backyard, With the appetite of a dragon, China 24/7, China at your services, The global sugar daddy, Hot pot nation and In the shadow of the emperors. The topics, which he covers include, net censorship and effectiveness, anxieties of middle class, residential certificate called HUKOU and its effect on population migrations to cities, pollution issues and so onMany of the realities are stark and worrisome  no doubt. An excellent and informative book. Worth reading for  anyone interested in this country. My grade 4/5

 23. Dating the era of Lord Ram ; By. Mr. Pushkar Bhatnagar;  Published by M/S Rupa & Co.

I read this book with interest, as the subject as well as methodology of dating is quite novel. According to Mr. Bhatnagar, in the 'Valmiki Ramayana' , the positions of various planets at the time of birth of Lord Ram are mentioned with reference to background stars or Nakshtras by the author. Mr. Bhatnagar uses a commercially available computer software to generate the sky view at various dates in B.C. Era and has come to the conclusion that the date of birth of Lord Ram, works out to be 10 January 5114 B.C. He has further tried to date other chronological events in Lord Rama's life using same software.

I must appreciate Mr. Bhatanagar, for his pain staking efforts. But after reading this book, my first reaction was that there is something wrong with this book. It took me quite some time to figure it out. These are my observations.

1.All star charts , including computer software are drawn for a particular Epoch of time. We currently use Epoch 2000 as our reference. If proper Epoch is not used, the star positions may be all wrong. However I presume here that Mr. Bhatnagar must have taken proper care to use an Epoch pertaining to the dates under consideration.

2. I have another software called 'Cartes du ciel' on my computer. This software is also capable of generating the sky view on any given date. I tried to generate the sky view on 10-1-BC 5114. Unfortunately the view I obtained, did not match with the slides generated by Mr. Bhatnagar. I however do not consider this of great significance, as I am not sure about accuracy of this software around this back date. But an important point must be noted. In such kind of astronomical dating, accuracy of computer software is of paramount importance. I would very much like to know, whether software used by Mr. Bhatanagar was certified to be accurate at such back dates by any independent expert. Otherwise this whole exercise turns out to be nothing.
3. Assuming that all these aspects have been looked into by Mr. Bhatnagar, I certainly agree with him that the given planetary positions did occur in this year (As per Gregorian calender presently in use).
4. The present Hindu calender is called Luni-solar as it refers to positions of Sun as well as moon. This calender is based on a Book called 'Surya Siddhanta' written around 1000A.D. When Sun transits to a point on the Ecliptic which is exactly 180 degrees away from the Star 'Chitra' , it is assumed that it enters the 'Mesha' Rashi and the next new moon day is called the 'Chaitra Pratipada'. 'Chaitra shukla navami' would be the ninth day from here. However this system of denoting first day of 'Chaitra' has no relevance when we are talking of 5000B.C.
In addition, there are currently two popular hindu calenders . According to Shalivahan calender. First day of a new month occurs on a new moon day. Whereas according to Vikram calender the month ends on Full moon day. Unfortunately both these systems were adopted around 67 AD and therefore have no relevance at 5000B.C. We have no information about the calender system followed around this date and any effort to pin point “chaitra shukla navami' may not be necessarily accurate enough.

5. Due to precession of earth around it's axis, all the stars in the sky, rotate around the earth. One such rotation occurs in about 25000 years. Since this is very slow for humans, we do not notice it. The Hindu traditional calender is sidereal. Which means that the points of references are stars or 'Nakshatras'. The events on earth, such as Spring equinox, therefore get shifted in the calender. The genius of Late Bal Gangadhar Tilak had realized this fact. In his classic book 'Orion' he has discussed the effect of this precession of earth on our Hindu civilizations .According to him, an effort was always made to have the new year's day around spring eqinox. During Mahabharata period therefore, the spring equinox occurred when the Sun was in the “Mrugashirsha' Nakshatra .The first month of the year was 'Margashirsha' or 'Agrahayana'. The spring equinox later shifted to 'Krittika' nakshatra with a corresponding change in the first month of the year. The present basis of our calender is 'Surya Sidhanta' written in 1000 A.D. Around this time the spring equinox must have occured when the Sun was in 'Mesha' nakshatra. Today it is common knowledge that spring equinox occurs when the Sun is in 'Revati' nakshatra.

I therefore feel that with this kind of unstable time keeping system, to pin point date of any event such as birth of Lord Rama would be only a shot in the dark and has really no scientific basis.
6. Now I come to most glaring error in this book. Mr. Bhatnagar suggests on page 43 that our traditional Hindu calender has existed in the same form since the days of Ramayan. As discussed above, this is far from truth. He further goes on and relates the seasons with the calender months (as these are at present for e.g. Chaitra and Vasant Ritu). If Lord Ram was born 7000 years back,due to precession of earth, the spring equinox must have occurred when the Sun was in 'Ardra' nakshatra. The month of 'Chaitra' would therefore would surely have had a totally different 'ritu' associated with it.

7. Mr. Bhatnagar quotes several 'Shlokas' from the 'Valmiki Ramayana' to establish these relationships between calender months and 'Ritu'. These most surprisingly are as per present calender. This is something impossible, if this book was written 7000 years back. The only conclusion that can therefore be drawn is that the relevant 'shlokas' were introduced by some poet around 1000 A.D. This raises a question mark over authenticity of the entire text of 'Valmiki Ramayana'.

8. Also on page 43 of the book, Mr. Bhatnagar has given a chart according to which, around year, 5000 B.C., Spring equinox or beginning of the 'Vasant ritu' would have occurred in the months of December or January of the Gregorian calender. It is a common knowledge that Gregorian civil calender is based on the assumption that Spring equinox occurs around 21st March only. This error has probably arisen because of the basic wrong assumption that Hindu sidereal calender is not affected by Precession of Earth and the Gregorian Calender is affected.
In conclusion, I must add that this book is a result of considerable research and hard work. Mr. Bhatnagar deserves full credit for this and we can say that Lord Rama was born 7000 years back subject to authenticity of the text of 'Valmiki Ramayana'.

22. The Heart of the World, A journey in Tibet's Lost Paradise: BY Ian Baker; Published by Penguin Books

This is an amazing book. The author is a Buddhist Scholar and also a real life mountaineer and explorer, which makes him really the best person for exploration of Tibet,s hidden lands around Yarlung Tsangpo or Bramhaputra river, just before it reaches India. In each chapter, author quotes extensively from ancient Tibetan Neyigs or guides to sacred places in form of scrolls, describing journey of Guru Padmasambhava to those places 1200 years back. (Many such Neyigs were destroyed by Chinese in cultural revolution) and from the books of Nineteenth century British explorers like Kinthup, Captain Bailey, Kingdon Ward and Lord Cawder and finally embarks upon describing details of his own expeditions and his thoughts. Well versed with Buddhist philosophy and Tantric Buddhism mysteries, author is able to look at all physical hardships and enchanting experiences during the expeditions from a neutral and non connected view point.
In addition to many minor expeditions to Tibet, in intervening intervals, the author was part of three major expeditions in April 1993, July 1995 and October 1998. This book describes all the three expeditions in great details. The first expedition in the upper gorge of the river was an exploratory foray. Starting from Gyala village, author trekked up to Pemakochung Monastery , secret pass of Dakinis and the valley of the white crystals, which itself was no mean feat, and finally came to realize that continuing along the gorge was impossible as the gorge was getting narrower and narrower.
In the second expedition of 1995, starting from Pomi village on banks of Po Tsangpo river, the author went on a Buddhist pilgrimage trek to Kundu Dorsempotrang mountain right on the India-Tibet border. This mountain is supposed to hold the key to the inner gorge of the Bramhaputra river. He finds no key but realizes that finding no key is the key as per Buddhist thoughts.
In 1998, author leaves for the final pilgrimage to the hidden gorge of the Brahmaputra just before the Great bend. Starting from Trulung village near Po Tsangpo river, he travels to hidden 5 mile gorge, via Yumi, Tsachu, Bayu,Azadem, and Tsodem to reach the Rainbow falls first discovered by Kingdon Ward. Continuing further along the mountain ridge and decending towards river at several points, the author finally succeeds to locate the hidden fall of Brahmaputra, described by the Guru Padmasambava 1200 years back and which has eluded almost everyone else.
Tibetan texts describe a Beyul or a paradise behind this fall, which one can approach through a secret door; Author manages to locate an oval opening in the wall next to the falls, which is almost impossible to approach because of steep shear edges along the gorge.
It is a fantastic story, told in a lucid and captivating style. I would have preferred normal maps of the expeditions in the book, instead of the mythical maps created by author. I created my own maps on Google earth, along with the reading of the book. I would recommend to anyone, who wants to read this book to do this. The book can be enjoyed to a great more degree with help from Google Earth, because of the confusion in the reader's mind about the unfamiliar terrain.
Great book to read and posses. My grade 4/5 
12 February 2012
21. A short Walk in the Hindu Kush By Eric Newby; Lonely Planet Publications

This (1958) book can be considered as a classic travel adventure book. It describes a journey undertaken by the author, who later became the travel editor of 'Observer', along with his friend Hugh Carless from British foreign service with very little training and inadequate supplies to a remote border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan to climb a 20,000 feet high mountain called 'Mir Samir'.
The author, who fought in the second world war and also escaped from a POW camp, is employed by British Fashion industry and hates it and feels restless. He asks his old friend to accompany him on this seemingly impossible mountain-climbing expedition in the wild and remote Hindu Kush, in north-eastern Afghanistan. His friend agrees and they just go. Both of them had no previous experience of any climbing and do a 4 day crash course in Wells to learn the basics.
The author has a style which is funny, flowing and sometimes almost becomes self derogatory as he projects his inadequacies. He is just too good, when he describes the people he met there and their quirks. His narrations of the mountain ranges, rivers, meadows and villages, which he sees on the way are just superb. After reading him, I could almost visualize as if I have been there in the Panjshir valley and Nuristan proper with him. As an example, I quote here, what he describes after reaching more than 19000 feet on Mir Samir mountain.
The view was colossal. Below us on every side mountains surged away it seemed forever; we looked down on glaciers and snow-covered peaks that perhaps no one has ever seen before, except from the air.”

Though, Eric Newby has made his expedition to Nuristan look very simple, the historical references given by him prove that he might have been a novice as a climber, but had studied the country, its history and geography very well before hand and was well prepared for the tough task in hand.
It is truly a classic book on travel adventure. My grade 4/5.
5 February 2012

20. Walking The Gobi –Book Review, Author:-Helen Thayer, Published By :- The Mountaineers Books, Seattle, USA
 In year 2001, 63-year-old Helen Thayer and her 74 years old husband Bill walked across the Gobi desert on an unbelievable epic journey of 1600 miles only with two camels. There was no support crew, two-way radio or any sponsors. This book is the travelogue of this fascinating real life adventure. The Gobi desert spreads across northern border of China with Mongolia. This region, where day-time summer temperature exceed  120 deg Fahrenheit, could be described as one of the most inhospitable, harshest and life-threatening places on surface of our planet.
 The book reads like a top class thriller with author’s encounters with sandstorms, scorpions, snakes and wolves. The couple, strays into China and on return is arrested and interrogated by Mongolian border police. They narrowly escape, couple of dangerous encounters with smugglers operating across borders. To top it all, they loose almost all of their precious water rations, when one of the camels refuses to move along, sits down and rolls on his back from side to side. A chance discovery of a foul tasting, salty water lake on fifth day of their ordeal really saves them from certain death.
 What makes this book different is the fact that it is written with a woman’s point of view. She frets about the animal carcasses they see on their way. She really loves the Mongolian culture and also the warm welcome and hospitability of Mongolians. She is distressed with the poverty and plight of nomadic people she meets on her way. Even then, she very much appreciates the mental strength and the connections these nomadic people have with their land. She thoroughly enjoys their hospitability even when the food offered is unpalatable to her.
 Helen is very authentic and vivid in her narrations. However, she can make the reader laugh when she describes her antics to avoid food offered to her by the nomads. A truly outstanding and remarkable author and her equally fascinating book.  It may be worthwhile to quote here what she feels about the desert and its people.
 “Although the harshness of the desert sometimes climbs beyond human endurance, a deep feeling of tranquility floods our senses as we allow ourselves to become part of the earth, wind, sand and dust that surrounds us. We can never conquer the elements; we can only experience them as a visitor, knowing that after we have passed, the desert will continue its ways both gentle and violent long after we are gone. It takes time to understand the special freedom that comes when we join hands with Mother Nature and follow her lead. The increasing weariness and outward struggle is made
easier when we are at peace with our surroundings and at one with our creator.”
 26th June 2008

19.The Indochina Chronicles, Author:- Phil Karber, Published by:- Marshall Cavendish International, Singapore
This is a travelogue of a 4000 miles journey, undertaken by the author along with his English friend, Simon Redington. Starting from Jinghong in China’s Yunnan Province, the duo traveled down south along the great Mekong river through Laos, Cambodia and then finally Vietnam.  From here, they traveled north again through Vietnam to reach their final destination, Hanoi.
Phil was born in Arkansas USA. After several misdemeanor arrests and warnings for possession of alcohol in his teens, police finally put him in jail. The judge gave him an option of joining US army instead of serious jail time. He opted for US army and was eventually posted in Indochina region. Much later in his life, his wife Joellen, who is a reproductive health expert, was offered a job in Vietnam and Phil moved to Hanoi. This background  and the fact that he was one from that generation, who were outraged and saddened because of the trauma of the Vietnam war, makes him an expert on this region of the world.
 Mekong River is one of the great rivers of the world. Originating from Tibet, it flows through China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The History and Geography of this region is so intimately connected with the river that a journey on this waterway leads you to a deeper understanding of this once terribly troubled region. Phil describes his tale of this journey with poignancy, human-interest stories, drama and vivid descriptions of places and people with touch of history and anecdotes, wherever relevant.
 During second half of his journey, Phil is accompanied in many places by local Vietnam heroes, who have their own tales of horror. He also travels with a US war veteran, who has settled down in Vietnam and lives with his former foes to build a better life for future. His narrations of ill famous tiger cages as well as horrific US bombings in the Khe San area are extremely vivid.
 In all his narrations, Phil comes on top, when describing natural beauty of a place. Some of his descriptions are so poignant and beautiful that one feels that he is reading a poem. In all, a fascinating and unforgettable book, which is a pleasure to read.
 14th June 2008

18.Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim; Author: - David Sedaris; Published by: - Back Bay Books, Little, Brown and Co.

I selected this book for reading because it was   # 1 national best-seller and was claimed to be hilarious. Given the fact that Mr. Sedaris is a confirmed homosexual, I found that many of his essays are just a poor justification of his homosexuality. Not only that, some of his stories( The Girl Next Door,  Chicken in the Henhouse) make you think that he may be a lurking pedophile under cover of his homosexuality.

This book consists of twenty-seven short essays mainly about Sedaris family. Except for his younger brother Paul, all other Sedaris kids appear to be nutty and wacky. His younger sister hunts for food in garbage and collects human tooth. When their mother kicks them out of the house for few hours, they devise a scheme in which their youngest sister is made to lie down on road so that some car would run over her and they can return home. If one wants to call these episodes as funny then there is nothing to add really.

To give credit to the author, some of his earlier stories, in which he appears as a young boy, are quite amusing. In particular, his observations about his mother are quite funny. However, after that comes the story ‘Full House’, in which David Sedaris clearly indicates his inclinations when he makes one of his classmates sit naked on his lap for having lost in gambling. I found this and few other stories like ‘Blood Work’ quite repulsive and nauseating.

I had to literally force myself to finish this book and at the end, I was in full agreement with David’s father when he threw David out of his house in the story ‘Hejira’. I would not recommend this book to any one. My Grade 1/5

17. Envy of the Gods by John Prevas, Published by De Capo Press (Perseus Books) . An enthralling description of  the greatest campaign of the  history . The author describes Alexander’s campaigns across Asia in great details. His narrative about last days of Alexander is the best. Interesting book for history buffs like me. My grade 3/5 

16.Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795-1989 by Bruce A. Elleman, Published by Routledge. 
Author reviews Chinese war doctrines and strategies during this period. I was particularly interested in the chapter on Sine-Indian war 1062. Author puts forward a hypotheses that last three wars fought by China. with India, Russia and Vietnam were essentially to prove her supremacy over Russia. My grade 3/5 

15. Himalayan Passage by Jeremy Schmidt, Published by The Mountaineers/ Seattle. 
The author along with his wife and another couple envisage a plan to go round Himalayas on bicycles , starting from Lhasa- Kailash- Xinjiang- Pakistan- India and back to Lhasa. Needless to say, plan does not work and he ends up traveling in bits and pieces around Himalayas  and that too mostly by trucks and buses. Jeremy is no mountaineer. He is a nature lover. His descriptions of Himalayas touch almost poetic levels. He looses his passport on China-Pakistan border. This episode is described so well in the book. Thoroughly enjoyable book.   My grade 3/5

14. The Khyber Pass- A history of Empire & Invasion By Paddy Docherty, Published by Union Square Press
You do not realize that this one is a history book till you actually start reading it. The author has adopted a very interesting approach in this book. Khyber Pass between Pakistan and Afghanistan borders is the focal point of this book as the name suggests. Mr Docherty takes the readers through pages of history of surrounding regions from 600 BCE to present day Pakistan. He narrates many anecdotes on the way, making the book very interesting. I just loved this book. Must read. My grade 4/5 

13.Chasing the Monk’s Shadow by Mishi  Saran published by Penguin Books, India
Authors travelogue in footsteps of  Xuanzang, a  seventh century Chinese monk who traveled from China to India. The travel by itself is very bold and daring adventure for an India born girl. The travelogue however lacks any deep insight and has become a log of journey. My grade 3/5 

12. Somanatha, The Many Voices of History by Romilla Thapar published by Penguin Books, India
An exquisite book with clear & independent line of thinking. Throws new light on Somanatha temple History. My grade 4/5
11. A Land so Strange by Andres Resendez published by Perseus Books
10. Down Under by Bill Bryson published by Black Swan
9. Travels with a Tangerine by Tim Mackintosh Smith Published by Picador
8. Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski published by Penguin 
 7. Conversations with sacred mountains by Laurence j. Brahm published by Marshall cavendish  
 6. Uunder the dragon- A  journey through Burma by Rory Maclean, published by Tauris parke paperbacks

5. Hitching Rides with Buddha,Author:- Will Ferguson,Published by:-Canongate, N.Y. 10003
 Will Ferguson spent first two years of his stay in Japan, teaching English in High Schools on the remote Amakusa Islands. The highlight of the year there was the Faculty Cherry Blossom Viewing parties. In one of these parties, when he was drunker than usual, the author announced to his fellow teachers that he was going to hitch hike to follow the Cherry Blossom front all the way to Hokkaido, at the northern end of Japan. What is surprising is that he actually carried out his intention and traveled from Cape Sata on Kyushu Island, which is the southern tip of Japan, to Cape Soya, the northern tip of Hokkaido Island. We never realize because of the Cartographic projection, that Japan is a very large country. Stretching almost three thousand kilometers, north to south. The cherry trees or Sakura blossoms do not happen simultaneously all over the country. They start from south and go all the way to north.

This book is his travelogue of this novel journey. Will Ferguson is a very witty and humorous writer. This book therefore is great fun to read.  Such travelogues are essentially about people and in this case Japanese people. Some of the personalities he met on his way bring out the finest things as well as funny idiosyncrasies of people of Japan and create a lasting impression on the reader. He encountered many people on his way staring from teachers, professors, women executives and even a former American POW. He even was arrested for traffic rules violations, only to be let off with warning. His narration about ‘Bridges of Heaven’ is particularly quite hilarious.
The book presents a true picture of Japan at grass roots level. A very nice book to read.
 24 May 2008
4. River of white nights by Jeffrey Taylor
This is the story of an intrepid journey in an arrow shaped, seventeen by five foot inflatable raft of canvas and rubber with five hundred pounds of load and a four-horse power motor across river LENA in Siberia. Starting from ‘Ust-Kut’ near Lake Baikal in Russia, the author along with his Muscovite guide Vadim Alekseyev, traveled up to ‘Tiksi’ situated in the mouth of this river on Laptev Sea well north of Arctic Circle in the Republic of Sakha. He could complete this journey only because of the remarkable qualities of Nadim, whom the author describes as a 37 year old man , Beefy –shouldered, with a pig iron grip and piercing blue –eyed gaze of a fanatic and a formal dentist. Later on, the author finds out that Nadim is a veteran of Afghanistan war and had narrowly escaped death there.
  The foremost explorers of this land were Cossacks, original equestrian warriors of Russia’s lawless southern steppes. A spirited people of Slavic and Scythian blood, they had set up most of the towns and villages in this land. They traded reindeer and bear skins with original nomadic tribes of the region such as Yakuts and Evanks. Jeffrey Tayler's  journey up the Lena - a river closed to the world during the Soviet era - takes him through some of Siberia's wildest and most hauntingly beautiful regions and bringst him into contact with many groups of isolated villagers from places like Nyuya, Yakutsk, Sangar,Zhigansk,Dzhardzhan and Siktyakh. . These people survive in this region - now a wild frontier that lives off the diamond trade - cut off from the world by lack of roads, neglected by the Russian government and prey to alcoholism. Their untold stories form the focus of the book, set against the backdrop of Tayler's descriptions of incredibly harsh weather conditions and his adventures in negotiating permission to travel in the region with Russian authorities and then navigating the Lena to its mouth.
  It is a fascinating journey down a wilderness river, through one of most unknown regions on earth. This runs alongside a great insight into Russian history spanning from Ivan the terrible to Putin today. It makes you realize, how little we know about life in the former Soviet Union today.
  An American by birth, Jeffrey Taylor and his Russian wife have settled down in Moscow. This perhaps induced him to undertake such a hazardous journey. A fascinating book to read.
  26th March 2008
3. Pioneer of Silk Road by  Annabel Walker
In the National Museum, New Delhi, there is a gallery named as ‘Central Asian Antiquities’ which displays some 600 choicest exhibits mainly from China’s Xinjiang province which was known earlier as ‘Chinese Turkestan’. The Museum proudly claims that these exhibits were excavated by Sir Aurel Stein, the foremost, amongst the archaeological explorers of the early 20th century, during three major expeditions during 1900-01, 1906-08 and 1913-16.
 This book is the story of life of Sir Aurel Stein. He was born in Budapest, Hungary and was the youngest son of his parents. His brother, who was much elder to him and his maternal uncle, groomed him and influenced his education so as to prepare him for a scholarly career in a university. He however, opted for a job in British India. Right from his childhood, he had a fascination for Central Asia and wanted to travel in the footsteps of ‘Alexander the Great’. His job in India introduced him to ancient Indian culture and he became interested in ‘Gandhar’ influence on early Buddhist culture. He felt that this ancient culture must have influenced the ancient silk route towns in China and organized almost single handedly three major archeological expeditions in western china around great deserts of ‘Takalamakan’, ‘Lop-Nor’ and ‘Gobi’. He discovered large number of artifacts, silk banners- books and wooden Frescos in this area. His name became almost legendary in his times.
 In all Stein marched some 25000 miles across Central Asia, often in appalling conditions. He was festooned with international Honours but to the Chinese he was an imperialist villain who systematically robbed them of their history.
 In this remarkable book, the author, Annabel walker, unfolds the remarkable story of an outwardly shy person whose lifetime of single-minded dedication revealed to the world the glories of the ancient Silk Road.
 13th  February , 2008
2. Small wonder by  Barbara Kingsolver
In all her essays, where the setting may vary from Grand Canyon to her back yard Garden, and where the subjects could vary from her teen age daughter to forests of Mexico, Barbara Kingsolver remains the staunch environmentalist. She firmly believes that most of our problems originate from our excessive consumption of earth's resources. Trained as a biologists and a microbiologist, she can explain the damage being caused to plants and animals by genetic modifications very effectively. She is pained by reducing forest cover, ground water and almost everything that was provided by mother nature.
Sometimes grave, occasionally hilarious and persuasive to the maximum, this book is a wonderful examination of the people we seem to be and what we might make of ourselves.
She claims that she is a scientist who thinks it wise to enter the doors of creation not with a lion tamer's whip and chair, but with the reverence humankind has traditionally summoned for entering places of worship.
A delightful and eye opening book of essays with feminine touch.
26December 2007
1. Out of Eden by  Stephan Oppenheimer
It is generally accepted that human race originated somewhere in Africa. However, would you believe that all non- African humans have originated from one single exodus out of Africa with India being their first destination? Or, ancestors of all Asians, Europeans, Americans and Australians lived on the beaches of Indian Sub-continent once, before their subsequent migrations to other parts of world?
 Stephen Oppenheimer, a renowned geneticist from U.K, has come out with this theory of human migrations with convincing genetic research to back him. According to him, out of Africa humans followed a beach trail from Yemen to India. Here they branched off with one beach trail going all along east Asia to Indonesian archipelago and finally to Australia. Another trail went towards China and another one to Central Asia along Indus river valley. From Central Asia and China, humans eventually migrated to Europe and Americas.
 However, the greatest calamity ever, faced by human race during history of their existence on earth, fell on the humans who had decided to settle down in Indian Sub-continent, when around 74000 years back a Volcano erupted at ‘Toba’ on Sumatra Island. This eruption was so massive that the volcanic ash, which fell over and covered entire Indian sub-continent, was few meters thick. This ash cover completely annihilated and wiped out all living humans on the Indian sub-continent. After a long duration of time, reverse migrations to India took place from Malay Peninsula and Central Asia. This very well explains the genetic differences between Indians from north and south, whose ancestors came from different parts of the world. This also explains the mystery as to why genetic groups of many Indians match with those of Europeans and Central Asians on one hand and with those of Malay, East Asians and Australians on the other hand.
 Instead of usual alphabetical nomenclatures given to genetic groups, as most geneticists do, Stephan Oppenheimer has given these groups names after considering their regional predominance. He calls ‘Y Chromosome’ determined genetic groups with names like Cain, Krishna, Polo and Russlan. On maternal or ‘Mitochondrial DNA’ groups, he calls the Grand Grand mothers of all of us with names such as Manju, Nasreen, Rohni and Europa. This makes the reading  very comfortable and easy to understand.
 The book is a revolutionary account that is both scholarly and entertaining, a remarkable picture of the Kinship of all humans.
 13 January 2008

No comments:

Post a Comment