A few links from today’s Hindu Magazine and literary review.
Last year, a few weeks after the Mumbai attacks in November, a Bill which had been sitting around in a Standing Committee since 2006 was hastily passed, without much debate in parliament. The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 seeks to give teeth to existing laws on information technology and cyberspace. Last month, shortly before Mr. Raja began his second stint, the Department of IT posted on the Internet the results of its labours in drafting rules for this Act. Since the devil is in the details, the import of the Act resides in the rules. These are still at the draft stage, you are invited to send your comments to the Government of India, which does this feedback exercise to show how democratic it is. http://www.mit.gov.in/ default.aspx?id=969.
Charming is an inadequate word for the essays the book contains — elaborate, cultured, sympathetic and educated assessments of Churchill and Roosevelt, Chaim Weizmann and Einstein, Aldous Huxley and Virginia Woolf. Berlin’s own intellect, sensitivity and knowledge is the life blood of these essays but it is unobtrusive, almost unseen; there is no attempt to push the self into the picture. There is no “lopping off the heads of the tall poppies”, no deliberate attempt to look for weakness. Instead there is an affectionate effort to decipher genius and in so doing, praise it; the driving force is redemption, not condemnation. As the introduction says: “Like Hamlet he stands amazed at what a piece of work is a man; unlike Hamlet he delights in man.”
First, the good news. This is a crackling good yarn, a murder mystery that moves at a rapid pace, is peopled with ingenious characters and at its centre, holds a story that in turn, holds the reader’s interest all through.
Next, the story; without spoilers. The gold of the protagonists’ regrets is a Nazi cache, a German war chest, evil gold, death gold, ill-begotten gold, but of course. The ingots, worth all of £30 million, is what a certain S.C. Bose was carrying with him on what was to be the leader’s last war-time sortie, on the flight that crashed in the fetid jungles on the Indo-Burma border.
And where there is gold, there has to be greed and greedy people; here, a trio makes off with the gleaming bars that came from Nazi coffers and was intended to re-infuse fresh blood into the war against those who ruled India.
Years on, the trio is stalked by a mysterious killer, a man of method, great economy of emotion and movement, deadly of intent and virtually unstoppable. Attempting to stop him are characters from Etteth’s earlier book The Village of Widows, DCP Anna Khan, the improbable Demon Cop, and her companion, Jay Samorin, profiler of crime nonpareil, the man who keeps a couple of fossas (Madagascar hunting cats for those who may not know, which includes most of us) as domesticated pet cats. As the story unwinds, we meet with a motley cast that includes a pair of lesbians, some dwarves and suchlike, and criss-cross briskly across Shan country in Myanmar, Delhi, Rishikesh, Kashmir, Dehra Dun, to end up in a private estate near Palghat, Kerala.
Take a look!