All posts filed under: Reviews

She’s awake, but not those in power.

Review of Swapan Dasgupta book, “Awakening Bharat Mata” Swapan Dasgupta emerged as a refreshing public face on TV about  15 years ago. His was the first English voice to make the political Right respectable. He spoke for the Right as a needed counter to the Left, rather than endorsing the BJP or RSS. I was instantly a fan. I thought of him to be in the mould of William Buckley of the New Republic, as much for his stance as for his way with words. He was also different because he could never be rushed into outraging. He always waited till it was his turn and then, scarcely raising his signature husky voice, delivered his points laced with delightful put-downs. It was a pleasure to see him routinely twit the easily angered Mani Shankar Aiyar on the weekly NDTV show, ‘Politically Incorrect’. That was not an easy task, because Aiyar was the Channel’s house pet and was always fondly cued to deliver his invectives. Strangely, Dasgupta’s writing has not, until now, gone beyond articles and …

Book Review : Savarkar Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883-1924

A curious conspiracy of silence entombs the memory of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. His name is not generally known, his work lies neglected and unexamined, his thoughts are superciliously labeled and pre-emptively dismissed as ‘communal’. The intellectual dishonesty of a cabalistic few has deprived several generations of Indians any critical acquaintance with the life and times of a man who has played a significant role in modern Indian history. What is it about Savarkar that makes him so “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”? Just what makes some of our academics and historians so queasy as to effectively reduce him to the status of a bogeyman, sans examination? Dr Vikram Sampath asks these questions of himself and sets out to answer them dispassionately and methodically in a magisterial two-volume biography of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, arguably the most controversial Indian in modern sub-continental political history. Dr Sampath’s approach is to throw a powerful beam of sunlight onto each aspect of Savarkar’s life that has hitherto remained unexcavated, and present everything that comes out in the critical, disinfective …

Book Reviews: Caste & Trust As Social Capital For The Indian Entrepreneur

At a time when there is much churn among enterprise start-ups due to a variety of ecosystem challenges and there is a variety of material on actions to deal with these challenges, these two books are about the one ecosystem challenge that is intangible but is critical to building a sustainable enterprise. That is Trust. Vaidyanathan’s book is about existing social capital that is the envelope for, what one could call embedded trust, i.e., trust emerging from organic and nurtured relationships. While there are many forms of social capital, Vaidyanathan’s focus is about caste as social capital. Enterprise clusters described in the book are caste-based where entrepreneurship developed because of existing caste network support. Many cluster members were actually agriculturists and did not have more than a high school education. So growth happened within clusters once promoters drew in more from their community towards expanding enterprises within the cluster. Clusters developed in some cases as a result of opening of the economy in the 1990s as well and not just because of the need to …

Navayug Ke Dashavatar – India’s Glorious Years Animated

India today seems to be a country with a history, but not a past. While we are largely familiar with what has happened in the last century or so, a lot of what has gone before that eludes us in our history books, our literature and arts, and in our collective consciousness. Like most Indians, the members of Ithihasika also grew up gleaning the missing pieces from their grandparents, parents, and of course the ubiquitous Amar Chitra Kathas. They can now be described as a modern era Uncle Pai, the creator of Amar Chitra Katha, recounting the stories of Indic heroes in animated form. Two years ago Ithihasika made a basic animation movie on Shivaji Maharaj with a paltry budget of $400 to solicit donations for a museum of Indian history to be built by Indophile Francois Gautier in Pune. The production team expected 1000 views for the movie, and today they are euphoric at the 5.6 million views it has had without a marketing budget. A thumping endorsement that spurred them on. Ithihasika’s latest …

Book Review: ‘The Sabarimala Confusion: Menstruation Across Cultures: A Historical Perspective’ By Nithin Sridhar

The whole issue of menstruation and related matters came to the fore during the recent Supreme Court Judgement which allowed women of the reproductive age to enter the sacred hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala in the state of Kerala. The self branded liberal intellectuals viewed this judgement as a step towards the ‘empowerment’ and ‘emancipation’ of Hindu women. Women, especially those hailing from Kerala itself showed great resentment towards this judgement and initiated the ‘Ready to Wait’ Movement which was a clear indication that the Hindu women of the menstruating age had patience to visit the Sabarimala Temple after crossing this stage. There were a lot of misconceptions- many of them deliberately generated by the so called liberals about the Hindu view of menstruation and the entire issue of Sabarimala Temple Entry came to be linked to menstruation alone. Against the background of such rampant misconceptions Sri Nithin Sridhar’s book titled ‘Menstruation Across Cultures: A Historical Perspective’ has been published at the opportune moment to give a fitting reply to the wrong ideas …

Book Review: Londonistan

As Britain becomes more multi-cultural and more heterogeneous a society, it has also had to face a most unfortunate consequence of this intermingling. People – immigrants – who have turned against their motherland. The London terrorist attacks of 2005 brought this problem to the forefront for much of Britain – “The realization that British boys would want to murder their fellow citizens was bad enough.” What some have perceived as a lax and permissive attitude among the intelligentsia to the sprouting of Islamic fundamentalism has led to the coinage of a pejoration: “Londonistan” – “a mocking play on the names of such state sponsors of terrorism as Afghanistan”, and the despair that London itself has become “the major European center for the promotion, recruitment and financing of Islamic terror and extremism.” This book, then, is a scathing look at the players that have led to, in the author’s view, a surrender to the forces of Islamic fundamentalism in Britain. In the author’s view, and backed by considerable data, such a pejoration – the term ‘Londonistan’ …

The Tashkent Files – A Review

One of the sad narratives of the modern India is that of a ‘disconnect’ – the disconnect between what most know instinctively as the reality and what is presented as part of a faux narrative in textbooks, public discussions, etc. This disconnect is visible at many levels in Indian discourse. One of them, undoubtedly, is history telling and it is also one of the most glaring one. What we know as ‘common knowledge’ in history has been willfully omitted from historiography and what is taught in history textbooks doesn’t really reconcile with what most common folks grow up knowing about those facts.  Several scholars, authors, public intellectuals including Dr. Meenakshi Jain, Sanjeev Sanjyal, Rajiv Malhotra, Arun Shourie, etc., have publicly talked about this ‘disconnect’ in their scholarly works as well as in public discourse. Vivek Agnihotri’s recently released film The Tashkent Files attempts to bridge that very disconnect on the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri through the popular art form of cinema and does it really well. Independent India’s second Prime Minister Sri Lal Bahadur …

The Tashkent Files

Do you know: Who founded the National Dairy Development Board that started Operation Flood? This move made India not only self-sufficient in milk production but also the largest producer of milk in the world, thereby leading to socio-economic development of the rural public. Who started the green revolution to make our nation self-reliant in food production? Who raised the morale of the armed forces after the debacle against China in 1962? Who shared a birthday with Mahatma Gandhi? Who gave us the slogan “Jai Jawan! Jai Kisan!”? Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri The second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri was a simple person and a dedicated leader. His tenure as Prime Minister was from 9th June 1964 until his death on 11th January 1966, which is barely 19 months. Shastri was a short man but as they say “good things come in small packages” In the short duration of his stint Shastri ji achieved many things that are having a lasting impact on the development of our nation. A simpleton by nature and lifestyle …

Flight Of Deities: A Tale Of Dharmic Resistance

प्रतिष्ठायां सुराणां तु देवतार्चानुकीर्तनं | देवयज्ञोत्सवं चापि बन्धनाद्येन मुच्यते || One must know the true nature and power of divine murthys while consecrating them; By worshipping such images through utsavas and yajnas, one obtains liberation from this world – Matsya Purana Meenakshi Jain’s latest book “Flight of Deities and Rebirth of Temples, Episodes from Indian History” is an extraordinary narration of an unfortunate part of Hindu history. It documents the struggle and, in some cases, survival of Bharata’s splendid temples and their revered deities. It is the product of a painstaking effort on the part of the author to gather information from primary sources and observation of the remnants of the heroic struggle of the Hindu community to protect their temples and murthys in the wake of centuries of attacks by Islamic invaders and other non-dharmic civilizations. By covering every part of the country, the author highlights how the problem of iconoclasm affected every nook and corner of this great civilization and brings forth an interesting truth about how a common zeal and belief bound …

Book Review – Draupadi by Sai Swaroopa Iyer

“Guru Patni must be having the same grief as mine; I do not want her to suffer the way I have suffered. Release Him.” With these words, the queen ( Sai garu, I should say Samragni right) releases the man who murdered her sons. Yes, it the mother Draupadi who thought of the grief of another mother when her kids were killed in cold blood. Perhaps, the most complex and the most intriguing person of Mahabharatha is Empress Draupadi. The lady who was brought up with a dream of being the darling wife of the best Archer of the world had to be the wife of 5 brothers. The lady who did the Abhibrudha snana and got her hair tied while Veda mantras were being recited after the RajaSuya Yagna, was dragged by the same hair into a royal court and an attempt was made to disrobe her. That lady who had thousands of servants at her disposal had been a hairdresser during the agnata vasa. That lady who could have made a maid a queen …