Thursday, May 17, 2007

India after Gandhi

Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it.
---Oscar Wilde

Last few books I read (or am presently reading) have all revolved around history. It all started with Ram Guha's interesting and exciting account of Indian Cricket's history. Then I moved on to Suketu Mehta's bestseller, Maximum City (which, revolves around Bombay's past, present and in pages to come, probably future).

The next big one on my list is historian Ramachandra Guha's "India After Gandhi", history of contemporary(!) India, or rather, history of the largest democracy in the world.

History in school text-books ends on August 15th 1947 (or January 26th, 1950). Guha's book starts history-logging from that day onwards. I am sure this part of history will be as interesting as that of pre-independence and great freedom struggle. I am sure I want to know what exactly was the reason for the Emergency rule, how all the big leaders like Nehru, Patel, Ambedkar, Indira Gandhi, JP Narayan, YB Chavan, et al handle the reigns of the country after independence, etc. etc.

Guha's language is fluent and gripping. His command over English is commendable and overall every piece written by him is enjoyable and thought provoking. At the same time, his writings are easy-reads, not indulging into complexities beyond the reach of the reader (and we say history is never straight-forward!). Traditionally, history has been a rather boring subject, demanding chronological details, involving drub details of places and personalities involved and what not. At least that's the impression I remember from my school days.

History needs to be rewritten many times; for it is changing the present day in and day out. So far as school text books are concerned, that's precisely what's lacking and needs to be addressed. Now that I am out of school, I guess I can enjoy history books better (for there are no exams!).

To cut the long (hi)story short, I am looking forward to reading this book on history... and yes, let me have a go at modifying the quote by the great poet Oscal Wilde,
Any fool can read history, but it takes a genius to write it.
Some pointers: Past Perfect | DNA's story on book launch in Bombay | Amit Chaudhuri's review | The Force is with us


Nandan said...

(Hi, did not see comments section for post titled '46' - so writing my comment here.) Agree completely with the observations you've made regarding Maugham's insights and observations. 'A writer's notebook' written much later by him also provides with some more interesting insights.

Ajit said...

By mistake I had disabled the comments for "46". Anyway, bhaa. po. ;-)

Anonymous said...

nice post. gandhi was inspired greatly by the gita. you can read about it at