The book under review is a reprint, with a short editorial introduction, of Wickenden’s Report on the Disturbances of 1942-43. This secret document from the old files of the British Government has been published for the first time, since this ‘important’ document, accor­ding to the editor ‘remains unutilized by scholars and historians of Indian Free­dom struggle’.

Do not be misled by the title. Being tone deaf, I approached the book with trepidation and was relieved that the ‘Lu Quartet’ is no music band. It comprises four school girls—Kakoli Chakrabarty (Kalu), Malabika Majumdar (Malu), Bulbuli Sen (Bulu) and the raconteur, Tultuli Basu (Tulu)—collectively known as Gadalu or with the more grand sobriquet—The Lu Quartet.

Ranjit Lal has a charming, humorous and wacky style of writing which immediately catches the reader’s attention. His articles, especially on birds and pets have endeared him to many, including this author, who enjoys all that is written by him. I was therefore keen to read this latest book for children and I must say I was not disappointed. It is an impossible story, of course, set as it is in a grand castle in today’s India, with all the trappings of a royal habitat. One of the protagonists is a real princess, Zafira, who makes friends with ordinary girls, including a boy, from ordinary, professional families.

In any civilized society, when fathers and trusted guardians turn sexual predators,when horrific incidents of rape and sexual abuse of minors hit newspaper headlines with alarming frequency, when hospitals, schools and even school buses are not the safe havens we imagine, have we then touched rock bottom—the nadir of this kalyug? In such grim times it becomes imperative for children of every age to be aware of their personal safety, to be able to protect themselves even within the close family unit. Smitten, Ranjit Lal’s latest novel for young teenagers, dares to tackle this concern which is traditionally one of the great taboos in our society.

Pageant of India’s Past

Cultural History of India is a series of articles by some well-known historians, archaeologists and linguists. In this volume they have made a critical appre­ciation of India’s cultural life from the earliest times to the present day and packed it with information on a variety of subjects ranging from religion and philosophy to political and economic conditions in ancient and modern India.