All posts filed under: Reviews

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 …

Book review – Supreme Whispers: Conversations with Judges of the Supreme Court of India (1980-89)

‘Supreme Whispers’ is the kind of book that is really hard to review. This is because the book is a result of efforts of two different people at two different points in time. George H. Gadbois Jr., a scholar of Indian law and judicial behaviour, conducted over 116 interviews with more than sixty-six judges of the Supreme Court of India, and others like senior lawyers, politicians, relatives of deceased judges and court staff. Gadbois made meticulous records of these interviews in his handwritten notes which he later typed out on a typewriter. Before passing away, he sent these notes to Abhinav Chandrachud, his student and the book’s author, after he had himself extracted a book out of them. The present book is justified by the author citing the fact that he had been granted full freedom towards the use of Gadbois’ notes by the man himself, and that Gadbois’ book barely scratched the surface on a few important details, perhaps due to the time period that it had been written in. It is with these …

Shyam Saran

Book Review: How India Sees The World from Kautilya to the 21st Century

How India Sees The World from Kautilya to the 21st Century is a part memoir, a part history and a part description about India’s foreign policy that has been shaped because of this history. Written by one of India’s foremost diplomats Shyam Saran who served as the Foreign Secretary of India between 2004 and 2006, it takes a historical worldview of India and describes the tenets of foreign policy of the country. The book is basically divided into three parts. In the first part, the author gives a historical background regarding the foreign policy and statecraft in ancient India built upon ancient texts such as the Arthashastra which he describes as undoubtedly the most important Indian treatise on statecraft. Kautilya or Chanakya was the counsellor and guide to Chandragupta Maurya, one of India’s greatest ever emperors and the founder of the Maurya Empire. The author observes that the Arthashastra dedicates quite a large section in it to foreign policy and the backdrop is highly suited to the modern, multipolar or multistate world that we are …

Book Review: 26/11 Unforgiven

जैसा कि पुस्तक का शीर्षक अपने आप मेँ अभिव्यक्त करता है कि 26/11 का बर्बरिक आतँकवादी हमला अक्षम्य है| लेखन की विधा एक कहानी की तरह है| कहानी का मुख्य पात्र एक भारतीय है जो सँवेदनशील,घोर पारिवारीक और कोमल हृदय का है| नायक के पिता की सैन्य पृष्ठभूमि उसे सेना के उस स्वरुप की अनुभूति करवाती है जो एक सामान्य नागरिक की कल्पना से परे है कि सेना के अधिकारियोँ और सैनिकोँ के बीच किस तरह का पारिवारीक सूत्र बँधा होता है| कहानी का नायक विक्रम अपने परिवार अपनी पत्नी कीर्ति और बेटी मेघा को 26/11 ताज पर हुए हमले मेँ खो देता है| विक्रम 26/11 का प्रत्यक्षदर्शी है| यह कहानी नायक के जीवन मेँ घटित इस घटना के बाद उसके भीतर चलने वाले कोहराम और उसके जीवन मे घटित घटनाओँ के बारे मेँ विस्तार से समझाती है| मूल रुप से पुस्तक अँग्रेजी मे लिखी गयी है| पुस्तक की भाषा बहुत सहज, सरल और निर्बाध गति से बहने वाले गद्य की तरह है, लेखन की शैली पाठक को कहानी के पात्र से जोडे रखती है| …

Fadnavis Years – The Game Changer

The Fadnavis Years charts the rise to political prominence of the youthful, ambitious, current Chief Minister of Maharashtra, and his governance models. It’s by first- time author Ashish Chandorkar, corporate honcho, Puneri via Indore, Calcutta and Chennai, and prolific Twitter user. Geopolitics, historicity, and socio economic pawns align differently in each century or so on Maharashtra’s chessboard, causing unplanned moves across the country. Fadnavis’ elevation was one such move, and Mr. Chandorkar tracks it from his early student days, through an ABVP tenure, to being mentored by Messrs. Mahajan and Munde for the big break. I grew up in a household directly concerned with Cooperative elements in agri processing in UP, and gaps in my personal experience are plugged in by the book. Aashish is in his elements when tracking the Maharashtra Cooperative movement, and the numerous infrastructure projects that Fadnavis actively lobbied for and won for his state. In data dense, cannily crafted sentences, Aashish writes how over 40 years, *active Govt. control replaced a market oriented sugar industry value chain with a politician …

Book Review: Railways and the Raj

It will be difficult to find a single Indian who has not had any connection with the railways in this country. Whether it is the jam packed locals of Mumbai or the long distance ‘express’ trains or the ‘toy trains’ of a picturesque hill station, there is hardly a soul for whom the railways is a stranger. For those born before 2000s summer holidays meant a train journey. Either near or far Indian families packed half their household and took their children from cities to the villages to meet their grandparents and extended family. There are many songs written with the train as the main backdrop. Railways is one of the best connect with the British Raj for those born post-Independence. Hence, a book on the railways is always a familiar territory ; something a person can relate with. Perhaps touch, see and feel the places mentioned in it. A book on an airline or on ships can seem unfamiliar to some. The author, Christian Wolmar a renowned railway historian based in the United Kingdom, …

History Of Christianity

Death of Classical Age in Rome and Violence perpetuated by Christianity

It is said that “Absolute power corrupts”. Hence the post-Roman era is typically referred to as the Dark ages, since it was the period when Christianity held absolute power, which resulted in widespread destruction and corruption of everything that it touched. However, what was it like when Christianity was struggling to acquire power ? What effect did it have during that time? These are the questions that Catherine Nixey’s book titled The Darkening Age attempts to answer. And it sheds light on some of the facts hitherto brushed under the carpet by the historians who have told the story of the triumph of Christianity based on christian sources, and thus, presented the narrative of a decadent barbarian empire which was saved by Christianity. However, this was not the case. The tale of Christianity acquiring power over Rome is one that brought great amount of sorrow to the classical world. Hence, “The Darkening Age” is an apt metaphor for those times. Early on in the book, Nixey explores the motivation of the Christians to convert the …

Sardar Patel The Man who saved India

Book Review – The Man Who Saved India

An old Hindi song from my childhood had the following memorable lyrics- अमन के दुश्मन जंग के बेटे भूल गये अब चाल ऍटम बॉम्ब से जा टकराया वीर जवाहरलाल enemies of peace, sons of war have all forgotten their moves. The brave Jawaharlal went and took atom bomb head-on More than the historical inaccuracy or the craven personal worship expressed therein, what strikes me today about this song is the sheer level of infantalization of the history in it. Lest you think this was restricted to popular culture alone, sample this line from my high-school history textbook with the picture of Mahatama Gandhi at Dandi Satyagraha- उचललेस तू मीठ मूठभर साम्राज्याचा खचला पाया (you picked up a fistful of salt and shook the foundations of the empire). Without disputing the courage and the resolution of those involved in the above-mentioned protests, this description is simply not true. Ironically, the recent trend, mostly promoted by social media, to take down important figures in India’s freedom struggle, most prominently Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, has in …