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BY VISHNU MAKHIJANI

Read about the storms that the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), India’s largest such facility, has had to weather; take a 17,000 km motorcycle ride with four gutsy women that began in Hyderabad and concluded in Cambodia after traversing six countries; and finally, let the music flow by immersing yourself in the life and times of Ajoy Chakrabarty, one of India’s most eminent vocalists.

Asian Lite Bookshelf offers an eclectic variety this weekend. Plunge in!

1. Book: Kudankulam – The Story of an Indo-Russian Nuclear Power Plant; Author: Raminder Kaur; Publisher: Oxford University Press; Pages: 374

“One of the most astounding developments of the twentieth century was how a phenomenally expensive and devastating war-time technology became pacified for national use. As with several other technologies of destruction and surveillance, nuclear power has been domesticated – in this case, in the form of electricity legitimated through consumer interest, energy security and national development. It can be surprising, even shocking to learn of what the nuclear lobby have managed to get away with in terms of human, environmental, financial and political costs, bulwarked by their special dispensation to act in the national interests,” writes Raminder Kaur, an anthropologist at the University of Sussex, in this scholarly book that has been 18-years in the making.

This is just one aspect of the storms that the Kudamkulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in the southern tip of Tamil Nadu, with an eventual installed capacity of 6,000 MW – India’s largest – has had to weather since construction began on March 31, 2002. Two units of 1,000 MW each are currently operational but their cost has spiralled from Rs 13,171 crore ($1.7 billion) to Rs 17,270 crore.

Construction of units three and four began on February 17, but these will cost Rs 39,747 crore — twice that of the first two units.

A General Framework Agreement (GFA) for setting up units five and six was signed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) with Atomstroyexport (ASE) of Russian Federation in June 2017, Parliament was informed last July.

There have been protests galore by villages and fisherfolk of the area but the Supreme Court has ruled that KNPP is in national interest.

This book is arguably the first to present all the facts about the KNPP between two covers and is a must read for both experts and the general public alike.

2. Book: Road To Mekong; Author: Piya Bahadur; Publisher: PAN; Pages: 202

“Wrestling with a 400CC motorcycle mired in the slush focuses your attention like nothing else. The back wheel of my Bajaj Dominor was skidding on the clayey road, and the adrenaline was was making me completely ignore the spectacular scenery of the valley below,” so begins Bahadur in this book about a 17,000 km 56-day adventure of a lifetime along with three other intrepid women.

It began from Hyderabad, ran along India’s east coast and through the northeast, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam along the Mekong river and on to Cambodia before returning to India through Moreh, making a stopover in New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then concluding at Hyderabad.

“While the idea of a motorcycle expedition through Southeast Asia was the stuff of dreams for any motorcycle rider, the thought that I could actually go an such an expedition seemed just a little fantastical, even to me. But then again, all ideas are fantastical, until they turn into reality,” Bahadur writes of the journey with Jai Bharati, the founder of Hyderabad’s all-women Bikerni motorcycle-riding group who had just returned from a 8,000 km Kashmir-Kanyakumari ride on a 350CC Royal Enfield Classic, along with Shilpa Balakrishnan, who had given up her corporate job for the ride and Shanthi, a constable of the Telangana Police who was part of the SHE teams established to further the security of women in Hyderabad.

Read this book and get inspired.

3. Book: Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty – seeker of the music within; Author: Shyam Banerji; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 232

When the multi-faceted Gulzar writes the foreword of a book that is endorsed by a Nobel Laureate, four Bharat Ratnas, two Padma Vibhushans and two Padma Bhushans you can be sure of a delightful treat in store. And so it is with this book on Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, for whom the music of destiny becomes divine for someone who embraces every swara that fate has placed on the scoresheet of life with gratitude, regardless of the complexities of the bandish or the composition of joys and sorrows.

“I have heard him singing Tagore. His face takes the expressions of the poet. He sings Qazi Nazrul Islam with the same passion. He has quoted Beethoven so well, saying “To play a wrong note is insignificant, but to play without passion is inexcusable’,” Gulzar writes.

In sum, Chakrabarty’s musical journey illustrates that the song of life, is a duet rendered in two voices – the voice of destiny and the voice of human effort; both the voices are equally important. Singing this song is not about both voices being in harmony, it is more about both voices singing in sync and the human voice rising to respond to the complex musical notes of destiny’s challenges and opportunities.

That’s the true sign of a genius. This is a book to be treasured!

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