Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: India after Gandhi

Boy o boy whaddabook!! Take a bow Mr.Guha and his team :)

There are two reasons why i wanted to read this book:

1. Big Fan of History: I've always believed that history should be studied for the attitude, mental strength of the people involved and for the causes that lead to extraordinary events in world history. Unfortunately our textbooks preach only events and when things happened than why they happened.

2. The need to know what happened after 1947 (where our school textbooks stop) till say 1998 when i starting knowing things myself (Vevaram therinja vayasu)

Ram Guha gives a balanced view on most of the mercurial events pertaining to Independent India. He covers almost all regions of the country including Kashmir Issue, Kerala/Bengal Communist story, Naxalite problem, Language based Dravidian politics, Emergency, Riots, Nagas Issue, Indo-Pak, Sino-India ties and the inevitable Nehru Gandhi family.

Living in a generation of constant outrage against the Gandhi family and peevish Modituva politics, it was important for us to know why the Nehru-Gandhi family took center stage in the first place. Moving from a Kashmiri Brahmin Pandit, erudite scholar, freedom fighter, consensus builder, Mass leader, face of the nation, beleaguered and withered leader, Nehru has seen it all. Ram Guha covers most of these crucial later half of Nehru’s life. April/May 1964 events provide a peculiarly poignant coda to the life of nehru’s illustrious career. With so many administrators but not leaders around, Kamraj found a sense of elegance and charisma with Indira, which powered her way to the top job.

As you read, you find a lot of similarities between Modi and Indira. Both are authoritative people who keep servile leaders at their positions of responsibilities and play the card of growth and governance. Both have their share of baggage with Gujarat Riots and Emergency. Despite having efficient leaders, these two leaders possess unparalleled charisma and populist opinion among their party members. Decision making gets centralized and is thrust upon individuals rather than them voting for a custodian of people's rights.

I feel sorry for Lal Bahadur Shastri and Rajiv Gandhi. Both visionaries in their own league, but couldn’t extend their prowess due to their untimely deaths. Also for J.P.Narayan and Rajaji for their experience and wisdom, but couldn’t take up active roles due to old age. Sheik Abdullah, a man who wanted to uphold the interests of the people of Kashmir, has succumbed to the political leadership of India and Pakistan and the mantle is now carried forward by his son Farooq and grandson Omar. We've moved away from a nation which casts its vote to a nation which votes its caste.

It is exhilarating to read the story of a nation with religious fanaticism, language barriers, regional feuds, population explosion, food shortages, inflation and still managed to progress due to some bold and practical decisions.

Overall, this book is an enriching experience for those who want to know the India story and its slow crawl to become what it is today.

1 comment:

Alagappan said...

It was an interesting book. I never was able to complete it though. :(