Thursday, January 3, 2013

India after Gandhi - Ramachandra Guha

Cover of the Indian Edition
India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy written by Ramachandra Guha. I would just like to thank the author for this great piece of Literature. It has given immense faith to me in Indian Democracy and its eccentric ways. It is a must read for everyone.

I've read books since I was a kid, a journey from Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys to the Classic Fiction of Jules Verne & H.G. Wells, to the fantasy of J.K Rowling and Tolkien, but India after Gandhi was my first venture into the uncharted waters of non-fiction. If it were to normal circumstances I wouldn't have ever come across this book. A lot of credit goes to PurpleLeap, a foe to the student fraternity of BBDGEI, who organized a Blogmaster contest and awarded me with a Gift Voucher of Flipkart to buy an Apple Ipod.

Uninterested in music I browsed through the site and decided to buy books, and bought all the box-sets and collections, and with them I also carelessly bought this book. I wondered if I would ever read whole of this book, which seems an epic of 900 pages.

As I started reading the Prologue of this book, it was literally a moment of awakening. In the opening few pages Guha explains why India is a peculiar nation, why it is an exception to most of the notions of a country. The ideas and facts presented are known to nearly every aware Indian, but when you observe them in the light of comparisons  with Europe, America, Africa and other Asian countries, it really makes you feel proud about India. Every page of this books fills the mind with nostalgia.

Guha brings about the best in everyone from the society in this book, the freedom fighter turned politicians are depicted as the founding fathers of the nation. The ICS servicemen who were the perpetrators in the crime of helping an Imperial power enslave their own motherland are also glorified for their services after freedom, which was necessary to bind the different states, with their own culture, language, and glorious history into a single Union of India. He really turns the post-independence India into some adventurous world, just like the Middle Earth. The first general elections after Independence is termed as the biggest gamble in the history of the world. He celebrates the democracy throughout the book, not only in India, but also in Indian National Congress, the largest political party.

The most important thing to note is that even though the writer has researched so much about the entire subject, covering every library, archive and second bookshop from Allahabad to Alabama, from Calcutta to Cambridge, he never seems to present his own point of views in his book, rather every statement of the book is cited with a number of reliable sources, to guarantee that none of it is a figment his own imagination.

Guha presents everything in a manner that makes you become excited as you continue reading about the particular topic. He captivates the reader with such fine details, that things about India, which people hardly notice today, seem like a testimony to its principles of Secularism, Unity in Diversity. The steel plant of Bhilai, where Russians, befriended Indians. More importantly, Gujaratis, Andhras and Biharis worked together and experienced the feeling of what it means to belong to a country, that is India.

The books covers nearly everything, from the greatness of Nehru, to his demise with the failure of his foreign policy with the India-China war. How Indira Gandhi, tried all her in might to breakdown the democracy to turn into a one leader worship state, but finally understood the values and morals that his father had defended all through his life. It also covers the history of various secessionist movements which are also seen in positive light, how they were also representing the aspirations of millions and slowly merged with the Indian state to consolidate its unity.

The book is a treat to everyone who wants to find more about India. A must read for anyone who has political aspirations. It describes all the political ideologies that were tried and tested in our country, whether its communism or socialism, or politics based on Hinduism, caste, language, division etc. Every aspect of politics in Indian history is covered, the history of Maoists, Naxalites.

I guess this book has been acknowledged more in the west, than in our own country, but I don't think any attempt to pen-down the post-Independence history of our country could be more successful in its task.

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