Reviews of the books from and on Soutasia

Encyclopaedia of Sri Lanka
by CA Gunawardena
Sterling, New Delhi, 2003
pp xi+324, INR 900
ISBN 81 207 2536 0

With over 1100 entries, including more than 350 on important people, this encyclopaedia provides an expansive background on Sri Lanka's history, geography, economy, cultures and leading personalities. The variety encompasses information on the Automobile Association of Ceylon to the zoological gardens of Dehiwela. Gunawardena, a former journalist and Sri Lankan civil servant, also offers details on the main participants in Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict, with information updated till June 2002. Also included in the book is a brief bibliography of major works on Sri Lanka, as well as lengthy entries on some key literary figures, such as a complete list of Sinhala novelist Martin Wickramasinghe's publications.

Himalayan Vignettes
by Kekoo Naoroji
Himalayan Club, Bombay, 2003
pp 236, no recommended price
ISBN 1 890206 60 1

In the 1950s, before the era of Himalayan trekking and climbing, Indian outdoor enthusiast Kekoo Naoroji traversed many of the trails and mountainsides that would later gain fame as popular trekking routes. Naoroji's trips into the pristine terrain of Sikkim and Garhwal's uninhabited reaches were pioneering for subsequent generations of Himalayan trekkers and climbers, though the government of Nepal rejected Naoroji's initial requests for access to that country's mountains. This book, produced to coffee-table specifications by the Himalayan Club of Bombay, of which Naoroji is a past-president and now an honorary member, presents hundreds of his photographs of the Indian Himalayan taken over the course of his years of trekking and includes excerpts from his 1958 Sikkim travel diary.

Born in Bigutar, Nepal: Socio-economic Relationship of a Brahmin-Bhujel Village, 1971-2001
by Peter Hodge Prindle
Ratna Pustak Bhandar, Kathmandu, 2002
pp 190, no recommended price
ISBN 99933 0 326 7

The village of Bigutar, in Nepal's eastern mid-hill district of Okhaldhunga, is primarily inhabited by brahmins and Bhujels. The brahmins are believed to have migrated into the town in the 19th century encouraged by the Nepali government as it consolidated its hold on the land, and they held the Bhujels of Bigutar in a relationship of feudal bondage until the state abolished slavery in 1926. In this work, a researcher draws on three decades of field work in Bigutar to analyse relationships both within the village and among the peoples of the surrounding countryside, as well as to contextualise social change in Bigutar within Nepal's broader economic and political shifts.

Ageless Mind and Spirit: Faces and Voices from the World of India's Elderly
Photographs by Samar Jodha, Research by Vijay Jodha
Neovision, New Delhi, 2002
pp 324, no recommended price
ISBN 81 88249 00 9

Collected in this handsomely produced book are more than 150 portraits of and vignettes on elderly Indians of myriad backgrounds, from the famous to the everyman. As the Jodhas note, while numerous scholarly studies have delved into geriatric issues in India, the results have not typically been made available to lay audiences. This volume is an effort to bridge that divide by making the stories of India's elderly "accessible and appealing to a non-specialist audience". In addition to profiles of the people featured in the photoessay, there is a brief write-up by Harvard public policy professor Martha Alter Chen on widowhood and ageing, as well as a foreword by the Dalai Lama.

The Armed Forces of Pakistan
By Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema
OUP, Karachi, 2003
pp 240, PKR 325
ISBN 0 19 579839 2

Pakistan's military has played a prominent role in the country's politics, more than the military has in any of its neighbours. In this work, a defence affairs analyst surveys the primary components of the Pakistani military and considers the country's response to the forces of militarisation, secularisation and religious conservatism, as well as recent developments of military significance, such as nuclearisation and the US-led war in Afghanistan. The author also evaluates the state of Pakistan's military at the beginning of the 21st century and its social and political roles in the country.

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Himal Southasian