India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy
by Ramachandra Guha
This is one of the most inspiring and the best books I have read.
I remember studying History in school and it was always till 1947. After India had won its independence, we switched to Civics. India After Gandhi covers that phase in India’s History between 1947 till the 90s, when our generation was born.
In fact, this book should be taught in schools. We know about the various dynasties that ruled our country, even before there was an India. And we know of the people who were at the forefront of the Indian Freedom Struggle. But sadly, not many of us know who were at the forefront in upholding the notion of “India” and its democratic principles in spite of being written off by foreign media at the end of every decade.
It took the strength and determination of a lot of people to give India its geographical boundaries and its principles. This book is about those people and of the difficult circumstances under which these principles were held.
This book is an epic adventure and that is because of its content and the way it has been written. You will not feel like you are reading History, but are travelling through time and space and will not be able to keep the book down once you have begun. In fact, the only reason why I am not giving this book 5-stars is because, at 800 pages, it is still not comprehensive enough.
I wish there were more details about this era of our nation.
Kudos to Ramachandra Guha.
Love and Longing in Bombay
This is the first Vikram Chandra book I have read and is a collection of short stories. Somehow the reference to the city was not there as much as I was hoping in these stories but the characters are very well etched out and the stories are very engaging. Vikarm Chandra delves deep into the emotions of the people and he makes the characters come alive. In fact, one can feel the emotions within oneself after the stories are over.
I plan to read more of his books in the future.
The Great Indian Novel
However, all three books are extremely different and yet brilliant.
Shashi Tharoor takes characters from the Indian epic The Mahabharata and places them in the period from India’s freedom struggle till the 80s. So you have Ganga Datta who replaces Gandhi in the freedom struggle and Dhritarashtra (the blind king) replacing Nehru (who himself was known as a blind idealist). All the major characters of the Mahabharata are transplanted in the Indian history as Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Indira Gandhi, etc.
The story is told through the narrator Ved Vyas (author of The Mahabharata and a veteran politician in this book) as he tells Ganapathi to write his story. The book is beautifully written and the format is one that captures the imagination through some really nice prose. After all, who would think of using characters of an epic and supplant them in a nation’s history, bringing them to life and making them flawed human beings.
I would have liked to add more to my NYC Diary, but I think some stories are better kept personal. I am still in my jet lag phase and miss the city quite a lot. I think I will adjust back soon. 🙂
Also, I am spending the monsoons for the first time at home in the last 15 years or so and it feels good. 🙂 Here are some books which are perfect with a cup of tea and an evening at home when its raining outside.
Night Train at Deoli: And Other Stories
This book by Ruskin Bond took me back to my school days. Ruskin Bond writes with a certain passion which is unseen is most of the books about India. Even though I think the language is too simple, I loved most of the stories. But this book is for students still in school and learning the nuances of English language or for people just looking for some really touching stories. The way Ruskin Bond describes Garhwal, one is transported to hills during the monsoon.
This book was a journey back in time. 🙂
Interpreter of Maladies
Most of the stories are about the characters’ emotional turmoil and internal conflicts. Some of the stories are nostalgic while some are really touching. The stories are simple and it is in fact amazing as to how the characters are etched out beautifully in a few pages.
The Inheritance of Loss
It is slightly easier to review a novel than a book of short stories. I suppose I will get better. 🙂
This is the first book from the mother-daughter stable (Anita-Kiran Desai) which I have read. I think most books by Indian authors which go on to get international recognition focus more on the characters than the central story. This book is no different.
The backdrop for this book is the Gorkhaland insurgency and the consequences the individuals have to face.
The characters are well portrayed and one can feel the loss all of them are going through- the loss of love for Sai, the longing felt by the cook for his son who is in the US trying to get a green card and cleaning dishes till then and the son’s longing to go back to his home.
The book does not take sides as to who is right in the Gorkhaland issue but tells the story of those whose lives are disrupted by it. Kiran Desai has painted the Himalayas and the surroundings beautifully and one can get lost in the world she creates with her words.