Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review : Imagining India

To start with, am quiet puzzled by the title of the book “Imagining India” since the book is more about India’s history from 1800’s to early 2000’s than about India’s future and such being the case, I cant figure out what Mr. Nilekani had actually imagined.

Imagining India is basically a history book that explains the impact of British rule on Indians and the policies made by the Indian politicians post-independence. The book rear views the reader with a lot of interesting events and facts that tracks us back from the past and provides a gist of why we are here today. Nilekani tries to reason out why India took more than 4 decades post-independence to flourish as a booming economy and a lot of details provided are in fact a must know for every Indian citizen.

But having said that the book fails to picturize or imagines (as claimed by the title) India in the near or the far future and there has been hardly any interesting ideas for the new century that was discussed in the book. Having been a co-founder of a prestigious and a highly respected software company, one really can’t understand why he chose to be more of a historian than a visionary lamp of the future.

On the whole ‘Imagining India’ or for a more apt title ‘India and its history’ happens to be a dry book and an utter disappointment for someone who expected thought provoking predictions, informations or the likely trends about India’s future.


Dinesh said...

I think you are spot on in pointing out that the title does not match the book and the way it was advertised. I guess it's just an advertising gimmick. We as a people people don't really care about history and tend to think of history as boring, dry, full of maxims and single toned largely because that is how it was taught to us. So, the book would not have sold as much if it was named appropriately.

From the little portion of the book I read, I thought Nilekani was a serious author and he knew India's history comprehensively through personal experience and sometimes through hear say from different sources. I also liked his approach of combining economic and political history to paint a more colourful picture. I din't read through much of the book coz it wasn't as entertaining but I guess we should go through this course in History which was denied to us in school. It may create economic and political sensibilities and may make us more politically involved.

Manoj said...

Well, we ve all been trained and instructed to have a natural aversion towards history and to add to the adversity there has always been a huge dearth of genuinely good and passionate history teachers right from school level. Such being the case we have never realized the importance of history and miss out on a lot of lessons that we could learn from history.

My cousin Aravind once said that if u had the mantra to go back to the past and commit a simple action of moving a stone from one place to another such an action could actually result in massive changes in the present day scenario. Now you may think how such a simple action could make something happen, let alone change but that’s the core essence of Chaos theory or the butterfly effect which says that if u change the initial condition then the final result change completely.

When that’s the case we really do happen to be highly ignorant when it comes to realizing the significance of history. Just think about this incident that happened in 1950 when the constitution was being set my Indian government. Nehru wanted to have a unifying factor that ties up every Indian together and hence wanted Hindi as the constitutional language, which means right from our school books to our newspaper to the record books of the government had to use Hindi instead of English language. However, the DMK party was dead against such a constitutional amendment since that would lead to the destruction of Tamil language and would reduce the importance to the south Indian leaders.

With wide spread protest against such a language policy from the southern part of India, Nehru was forced to put off such a policy for another 15 years i.e until 1965 and till then a English was signed upon as the constitutional language as it was the neutral language.

Near about 6 decades later am happy such a protest took place since that’s what made us take full advantage of the post globalization era.

Dinesh said...

Ya... that piece of history is amazing....How the DMK ppl like kalaignar with obsolete ideas of language can have accidental progressive effects on us.

Another topic I read about in this book was equally compelling: How Nehru's and Indira gandhi's reigns made India one of the poorest nations in the world. I have always wanted to know why we are in shambles despite lack of political turmoil but was never given a clue to what that factor could be. There was only one tone whenever ppl talked about Indira: that she was a strong and capable leader, that she initiated nationalization of country's businesses and that it was a great achievement in itself. Only now can I realize that we are facing the brunt of such socialistic policies in the form of national institutions that are ineffective, unions that hamper the efficiency of institutions further and anti-business regulations and policies. How such mindless policies still have widespread acceptance in our country is beyond me. Anyway, this simple information is concealed so carefully by the history book authors and mistakes continue to be made. I think if truth were taught, history could be intersting and engaging and could also see pro-capitalist leaders and thinkers emerging from the educated class.

Deepa said...

manoj and! the reason for history as a subject being so widely unpopular with students is dearth of good teachers and quality text books which give the real picture...completely agree with you