Book review:- When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics by Milan Vaishnav

When Crime Pays

4/5 stars,

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” ~Jesse Unruh, American Democratic politician

Mr Unruh being a capitalist country’s politician, makes sense. But we were supposed to be better than that, were we not? After all it is after throwing off this yolk of corrupt capitalist foreign rule that we came into existence once again. But alas, that statement is more true for us than any other country in the world. Because even in America, the money that flows in politics, however much filthy, is still traceable.

This was a very interesting book to go through, on the one hand it didn’t tell me anything new. All the points, counterpoints that it provided, have been made by most citizens across this country in parlors, social gatherings, bus stops and in drunken stupors. We can all see the what and why. On the other hand, the setting and arrangement it provided, the order and statistical proofs, the live examples, give those points a good hard credible base to sit on. Which is not encouraging, we all kind of hope that our assessment “This country is going to shit” is somehow wrong. But closing one’s eyes to the truth has never been a good idea.

“India experienced the traditional state-building process in reverse order: unlike Europe, for instance, India instituted full democracy and then set about building a state. Much of the West did precisely the opposite. As a result, underdeveloped institutions have been the Achilles’ heel of Indian democracy from the outset.”
― Milan VaishnavWhen Crime Pays: Money And Muscle In Indian Politics

The stem of all the trouble,in our fledgling democracy, comes from this argument I believe. That statement alone gives a lot of what’s wrong, and how. Crime in politics, is undoubtedly prevalent because the institutions set up by our democracy for the care of its people are inefficient, haphazardly constructed, and too bureaucratically log-jammed. So, in such a scenario the advent of ‘God-Fathers’ who fill in the vacuum and act as an independent state is no surprise. And if there activities are acceptable to the public and the state is unable to rein them in, then the next logical step is to take power officially too. Of-course, an unending supply of illicit liquid funds for the politicians to run their never ending campaigns in this ‘always election mode’ country is another major factor.  But you get the point, the caste break up and its effects, reservation in politics and its impact, the book argues many such points with hard empirical data. And then dissect the arguments to get to their social causes and effects. An interesting read indeed, for an Indian at least.

Fully deserving of the 4 stars I awarded it. The book is detailed, filled with examples and on road research with a lot of statistical analysis. Though, it is true that the arguments forwarded by all of these are not entirely new, but reading them in such a well structured form is quite informative. For every Indian politics and crime enthusiast, this is quite a worthwhile book to go through and reflect. Great work by Mr. Vaishnav. Go for it and see how money makes the world turn indeed.



Book Review: Dozakhnama :- “Go to Heaven for the climate & Hell for the company…Indeed!”

Dozakhnama4/5 Stars,

“Anyone can write history. All it needs is memory. But to write a story you must have the power to dream.” ~ Rabisankar BalDozakhnama: Conversation in Hell

And this one particular dream I would love to have some day. Seriously, if hypothetically speaking I could be given a chance to drink with any two people in history, ‘Mirza Ghalib‘ and ‘Saadat Hassan Manto‘, would definitely make my top five. The attitude of these men, was something to aspire to, and that is not even speaking about the unbridled art that raged in their hearts and the experiences they have had. Ahh…the conversation would be intoxicating and the stories marvelous. Just to give you a taste, Mirza Ghalib : –

“Ham ko ma.alūm hai jannat kī haqīqat lekin

Dil ke ḳhush rakhne ko ‘ġhālib’ ye ḳhayāl achchhā hai”   ~Mirza Ghalib

And Manto Sahab  : –

“Agar aap meri kahaniyo ko bardasht nahi kar sakte to iska matlab ye hai ki ye zamana hi na-qabil-e-bardasht hai.”  ~Saadat Hassan Manto

Before starting the novel, I had humongous expectations from it, to cover these two people in any comprehensive way was impossible I knew. So, I was delighted to see that the author didn’t even go that way, he just assumed the voices of both and let them tell us what they please. Well played Mr bal, well played indeed sir.

The thing I regret, and I so wished I had known this before starting this, is that I read this in English, which lacks somewhat. I should have gone with the Hindi translation, as a non Bangla speaker experiencing it in it’s original text was not an option. The many gazals and poems, included in the text, are either in urdu script or english translated versions, no hindi or urdu converted in roman script available, so you keep gnashing your teeth and try to recall which particular sher of Ghalib or Mir Taki Mir could possibly mean this. That! was irritating. Extremely irritating.

Goodreads Blurb :- Who tells the greatest story — God or Manto? Dozakhnama: Conversations in Hell is an extraordinary novel, a biography of Manto and Ghalib and a history of Indian culture rolled into one. Exhumed from dust, Manto’s unpublished novel surfaces in Lucknow. Is it real or is it a fake? In this dastan, Manto and Ghalib converse, entwining their lives in shared dreams. The result is an intellectual journey that takes us into the people and events that shape us as a culture…..

But I couldn’t fault the story in any way. It is fiction and it is not too,  as Ghalib says in the novel ~When have stories been anything but lies? Our lives themselves are full of lies, and we ourselves created our stories. Or when Manto admits to us ~The truth doesn’t sound entertaining unless lies are added to it. So, we take the many roads Mr. Bal’s Manto takes us to, this was stories in a story in a story itself, an ‘Inception‘ of books so to speak. To experience it in it’s glory, you do have to be familiar with both these gentleman and their works however. The many anecdotes or references to their work, the ghazals will be more meaningful this way. Both of these artists, converse from their graves, telling each other and us their lives. Both were witness to a spectre of events in their lifetimes, Ghalib the mutiny of 1857 and Manto the partition of 1947. They have seen darkness and struggle in their personal lives as well, going against the stream, handling their demons like no other. To bear witness to all that is a treat indeed and in addition to that you get the philosophical musings of two thoroughly upbeat philosophers, with all their side stories. To know that time, to know their stories, to know them , to know us ….this is a pretty useful tool.

To any admirer of Urdu/Hindi/Hindustani literature I will say go for it (try the Hindi version if you could perhaps). This is definitely a must read, you will have to slog through initially perhaps, go off book and read some of Manto’s stories, some of Mirza’s Ghazals , but isn’t that the whole damn fun of it. Poetry, plots, passion, pain, woman and wine this book posses it all. So have a go at it, share the grave with these two because as Mark Twain so sagely suggested ~”Go to Heaven for the climate & Hell for the company“.

Book Review:- Confessions of a Thug :- “Thug Life!…was not what you think”

Confessions of a thug

3/5 Stars, Ahmadullah Jai Bhowanee!

“Thugs are unlike any others. No remorse seems to possess their souls. In the weariness of perpetual imprisonment one would think their imaginations and recollections of the past would be insupportable to them; but no, – they eat, drink, and sleep like others, are solicitous about their dress, ever ready to talk over the past, and would if released tomorrow, again follow their dreadful profession with a fresh zest after their temporary preclusion from it” ~ Philip Meadows Taylor, Confessions of a Thug

Was this definition, the inspiration to dub a no remorse attitude as ‘Thug Life’? I wonder. I can almost imagine a Victorian lady clutching her handkerchief in dread and excitement as she read those lines, feverishly thinking ahh! what terribly fascinating people, so full of savagery, truly devils in the flesh. And perhaps that was what Mr. Taylor intended, if history is any indication, he succeeded marvelously.

This book was first published in 1839, under the genre Non-fiction, & Crime I suppose. Is it non-fiction, many say yes many say no. Thugee as explained and displayed in the book is an issue of contention, propaganda or fact, we have many conflicting opinions. But for the sake of a review lets give Mr. Taylor our indulgence for the moment.

Goodreads Blurb :- Philip Meadows Taylor’s Confessions of a Thug (1839) is the most influential novel about India prior to Kipling’s Kim and was one of the bestselling sensation novels of the nineteenth century. In the course of a confession to a white ‘sahib’ the imprisoned Ameer Ali recounts his life as a member of the Thuggee, a secret religious cult practicing ritual mass murder and robbery. Taylor uncovered evidence of the crimes committed by bands of Thugs as a Superintendent of Police in India during the 1820s. Introducing a new standard of ethnographic realism to western fiction about India, Confessions of a Thug is a strikingly vivid, chilling and immensely readable thriller. This unique critical edition makes available a fascinating and significant work of Empire writing.  

This piece of literature is in itself a part of history, the word ‘Thug’ was made famous and adopted to general use in the west because of this novel and many of the biased stereotypes about the east were also established by this very work no doubt. The writing, is as one would expect irritatingly old school and dragging. Filled with over attention, cheap thrills and brakes one would generally see in an soap opera, but were no doubt all the rage in the early 19th century. The one thing that does lingers though, is the sheer repetitive scale of the tale, its just too long, 600 pages or so, in that annoying gentlemanly script. This, interestingly adds to the genuineness of the story, Mr.Taylor could have come up with a more sensational and less dragging tale for entertainment, the fact that he didn’t might mean some of it is true.

Thugs, 1894

Ameer ali and his thugs, were a force to be reckon with. These vile men were a scourge for the travelers, a four way mutation between a Dacoit(armed robber), a Con man, a Serial killer, and Religious zealot( I am curious as to see what the Indian cinema is going to do with this with their “Thugs of Hindustan“). The story is narrated as the name suggests through a confession by Ameer ali the thug, to the writer himself. A first hand account! of an eastern savage! the readers in London would have gone crazy. In Ameer Ali’s too inadequate defense, the thug life did choose him, literally. The story recounts his initiation in thugee (A profession ordained by the Great Kali herself) and his many expeditions to the various parts of the country in his ‘noble’ pursuit, daring many dangers and enticing his ‘bunij’ prey into oblivion. The story drags but is nonetheless interesting. Specially, when he recounts his ‘Pindaree’ days (That I did not expect). ‘Pindaree’, mounted hordes of Muslim robbers, ex soldiers, harassing kingdoms, burning and looting villages on behalf of rival lords, pillaging, raping countless persons. And then the thugee as well, duping unsuspecting travelers and then garroting(With their silk handkerchiefs no less, it’s an art! Ameer Ali would have us know) them in their sleep or distraction. The bodies vanish, no proof no crime, right, the earth swallows their sin, literally. Truly, Mr . Taylor had put forth the whole horror galore 1829 India had to offer, to turn the delicate stomachs of the powdered west. Bravo, sir, Bravo Indeed.


The truly appealing thing to me was the social structure of the thugs. Thugee cults were filled with Muslims, even though they believed themselves to be the servants of goddess Kali. Both Hindus and Muslims, working under a Jamadar (A rank given to the leader of the group) for stalking, coning and killing their prey. Shoulder to shoulder, with their rituals and superstition, their networks, their code of honor, the tension nowhere to be seen. Although, these men are shown to be vile beyond belief, psychopaths made through superstition but this union among them surprised me to no end. The realization that the story happens in 1820s, (With the Mutiny of 1857 yet to come and along with it the famous ‘divide et impera’ to poison the subcontinent forever)  came later.

The book undoubtedly stoke the Anglo pride, the inspectors shown as the champion of justice, purging the country of Thugs and Pindaris, the current rulers corrupt and complicit and hence giving legitimate reason for their occupation and rule of the unruly and backward peasants. We do have to take all this with a pinch of salt. But the historical accounts and the glimpses of the 1830’s India still felt worth it. I wanted to see more of it, much more then what it had, but a man lost in the desert must take such water as he is offered, no matter who it comes from (a quote from ‘Before They Are Hanged’ by Joe Abercrombie). 

This was exhausting, you have to stifle yawns and disdainful snorts in many places but I never went in for the excitement, I read this for the history and yes for the legend of the thugs. And to be completely honest, although tired I was not disappointed. To a curious and patient mind, this is a rewarding read. Thank you for leaving this biased inaccurate sensational but timeless piece of work Mr. Taylor.

Book Review: Into the Water : – “The real-life river Styx”

Into the Water

2.5/5 stars,  hmm…too many women,

“The things I want to remember I can’t, and the things I try so hard to forget just keep coming.”
― Paula Hawkins, Into the Water

Yeah well, that about sums up what I felt about this book. To be completely honest, I did not read ‘The girl on the train’ (I watched the movie…Yeah, sue me), it seemed an intriguing enough story, enough to warrant the reading of the second book by the same author. Should have gone for the second one on it’s individual merits, which unfortunately are not many.

Goodreads Blrurb : – In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.
Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.
But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.
And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

Mystery, was what worked for the first 55% of the book, if after those pages the story would have taken a turn and even a 5 year old child was found to be the culprit then I would not have batted an eye, that would have been totally believable. Everyone, and I do mean everyone that was introduced in the story was a potential suspect. The story so thoroughly intertwined, that you keep asking what the fudge is going on here.  But that doesn’t last. More is the pity. The story line though initially intriguing looses its appeal. You pretty much figure out where it is or could go, but the thing that really takes the sheen away is that you just couldn’t care enough. That is what sucks.

The character development was really poor I thought. I wasn’t connected or even remotely invested in any of them. Even though the story stays somewhat tragic, it never really makes you emotionally invest. The teen rage seemed stupid, the adult self pity seemed stupider (really, I don’t want to sound bitter, but there could have been a better way to make the reader connect). The characters lacked proper fleshing out, when you feel the same indifference for both the bad guy and the good guy then something is wrong. And although the setting was appropriate for a smoke and mirror story, they just couldn’t pull it off. And too many female character, all the heady thoughts of all these women, I felt that I was sitting in a kitty or tea party, with people who just had too much to say.

For a second book by a new author, the attempt is not bad but I had many expectations, and most of them weren’t fulfilled so I am disappointed. The 2.5 stars are for the first 55 % of the book. To the readers, this is okayish in my opinion, you won’t miss much if you decide not to try it but you are free to make your own judgement.

Book Review:- The Alloy of Law (Mistborn – Alloy Era #1) : – “Boy oh Boy oh Boy!”

Alloy of law

5/5 Stars,

“That hat looks ridiculous.”
“Fortunately, I can change hats,” Wayne said, “while you, sir, are stuck with that face.” ~Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law

I am definitely using that line, some day, some time, I will find an opportunity and use that line. The Mistborn series, ahhh these books! The final empire, The well.. & The hero of ages, and now this! My fantasy crazed heart could explode with gratitude for the man. Brandon Sanderson has done something so bizarre that I initially thought to be impossible, to make another totally, unbelievably, awesome fantasy series based on the world from his previous fantasy series.

The grit of the wild west, the intricately marvelous magic system, the strong background flavor of the previous series palpable in its pages and the wit & humor at an hilariously all time high. I enjoyed this immensely, oh so very much and Mr. Sanderson has yet again proved that he is an absolute master in fantasy story telling.

Goodreads Blurb : – Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

I am already a fan of Mr. Sanderson’s writing, of his awesome capacity to link the plot into knots which comes undone with a flourish at the right time, and with his brilliance of creating highly likable and enjoyable characters. All within a new timeline, The Old West Era (from 1865 – 1895 of our time) and the 300’s for the Mistborn’s new world. The brilliance of it all is just too much. As to its tone, it is obviously lighter than the Final Empire, how could it not be, the whole point of the new world was the total upheaval of the old one.

I must digress a bit here, what doubled my enjoyment of the story was Graphic Audio’s brilliant performance of it as an audiobook. They did an excellent job with the characters voices and the background score and all the little additions of gun-shots and background noises . Typically I don’t read audio-books as then I am beholden to their pace rather than my own. But here, as the book is not that big, 332 pages or 7-8 hours of audio, it was paced just right, with all the touches and brush strokes, that you just close your eyes and get lost in the world of ‘Elendel’ immediately.

And this is just the beginning, I am very much looking forward to the rest two books. The action in this book was phenomenal, with the rough machismo & wit of the wild west coupled with the oh so creative use of Mistborn magic, will always make you grin in every combat sequence. Also, the character of ‘Wayne’, he was the heart of the book, the light-hearted thief cum law man, he single-handedly made the book fun and delightful. Which is just as well because the protagonist ‘Wax’ is the troubled darkness in this dark-light duo combo. Their chemistry is spot on. And of-course the antagonist, ‘Miles’, a damn well worthy adversary, hell of a bad guy.

So, the first thing I did when I picked this up, was download the map of ‘Elendel’ , (which is absolutely brilliant btw), plugged in my headphones and got lost in a world that I dearly missed. This is the ultimate escape in a wonderful and enjoyable realm, I mean come-on, Pistols, bang-bang, and magic. Seriously, I can’t say the word brilliant enough.

So, I am off to the second one, pick this up with your eyes closed, this would be well worth it, as it has everything that you hope for in a good epic fantasy. Waist coats and bowler hats all the way my friends. To end with one of Wayne’s witty philosophical pearls about thinking only when things are simple : –

“The rest of the time, I don’t do so much thinkin’. ‘Cuz if I did, I’d go running back to where things is simple. You see?”
― Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law




Book Review: – The Bastard of Istanbul : -“An under-cooked likable mess”


3/5 Stars,

“Imagination was a dangerously captivating magic for those compelled to be realistic in life, and words could be poisonous for those destined always to be silenced.” ~Elif Shafak

Once there was, once there wasn’t…….indeed. This book is just like the Turkish dessert ‘Ashure’, a congee made with themes like ‘Humor’, ‘History’, ‘Identity crisis’ & ‘Self discovery’, ‘Nationalism’, ‘Philosophy’, ‘Depredations of the Past’, ‘Armenian- Turkish conflict’, ‘Present day reality’, ‘Family drama’, ‘Magic-realism’ and finally sprinkled with ‘the chaotic beauty of Istanbul’. All mixed together, promising a wonderful flavor, but surprisingly under-cooked, leaving you with a strange longing in the end. Back in 2006, Elif Shafak was still finding her voice in the literary world, this book is full of her probes in different directions, but in her zeal to do justice to all the issues, she fell short of doing it to many.

Goodreads Blurb :-  A novel about the tangled histories of two families. At its center is the “bastard” of the title, Asya, a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazanci family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehila, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlor and is Asya’s mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazanci sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres.

This was my second book by Elif Shafak, the first one ‘Forty Rules..‘ post dates this by 3 years. Mrs.Shafak’s propensity to distill down day-to-day life’s philosophies into rules, which took the center stage in “Forty rules of love”, can be seen in this novel too, where some of the characters make up their own little check lists to deal with the world, be it Zeliha’s ‘Rules of Prudence for an Istanbulite woman’, or Asya’s ‘Personal Manifesto of Nihilism’ or the tit-bits of survival Armanoush’s grandmother tried to instill in her. These philosophical dives into the character’s thinking should have resulted in our deep understanding and/or bonding with them, finding common ground perhaps, and although not totally unsuccessful, it lacked the effect it had in ‘Forty rules..’. The problem with character development was (one.) there are a lot of them (two.) despite her tries, she failed to sketch them all in enough detail, within the right time, even at the end of the novel I was discovering new dimensions to them (Specially Aunty Banu).

The book works because it never shies away from the fact that it’s an undecided mess. Never conceding any one theme full control of the plot, and the end chapters were a rush tying it all in a sweet little bow, achieving what exactly? I was left to wonder. This makes it confusing sometimes, one moment you are dealing with the serious issue of Armenian suffering and their search for closure for the 1915 atrocities, the next a rebellious teenager trying to scratch her identity in defiance of her past, in the third you appreciate Istanbul’s complex place in the world and its paradoxical society,  western values with eastern culture, agnostics and believers sharing the same roof, truly the mixture of all the world. I once read a quote somewhere, that if you had just one glance to give the world, gaze on Istanbul. The book though not primarily advocating this, hints heavily on it all the same.

And ahh the food, this was one quirk I enjoyed, all through the novel Turkish and Armenian cuisines have been described in all their glory. Making my stomach growl from time to time, thankfully I had a box of Lokum(Turkish delight) handy, which I popped in my mouth, pretending I was tasting all the dishes mentioned. From watching one of the author’s Ted Talks, I realized that the family dynamics of the Kazanci clan in the book is influenced from her personal experiences, which makes the novel more interesting.

Despite having its faults, I liked reading it. The story is fast paced, and though not satisfactorily resolving the central ‘Conflict’ issue, her advice to the Turks to shed their amnesia and to Armenians their victim-hood is a sound one. An enjoyable little read, which though trying to do much, ultimately fails in some. But its humor was on point, making me chuckle in the right places. So, read this, keeping your expectations in check,  and playing Johnny cash’s songs in the background, something that I am currently engaged in.

Book Review: Midnight’s Furies :- “A Deadly Legacy, Still Alive”

Midnight's Furies

3.5/5 Stars, Death Destruction Disaster

“If India wants her bloodbath, she shall have it!” Mahatma Gandhi to Archibald Wavell, 27th Aug, 1946

It is ironical that the one time, the messiah of peace & non-violence uttered words of carnage, they turned out to be prophetic beyond belief. ‘Partition’… the word has become a synonym for ‘meaningless disaster’ to Indians, and probably for the Pakistani people as well. I have read and seen books, documentaries, featurettes about the ‘Why’, ‘How’, ‘When’ & ‘Who’ of that time, trying to make sense, to find justification for the enormous loss, that both nations suffered, and found none. No apt ideology, no holy war, no past, no explanation to it all, save one, ‘Ambition & Arrogance’. That’s what doomed us.

Goodreads Blurb :- Nobody expected the liberation of India and birth of Pakistan to be so bloody — it was supposed to be an answer to the dreams of Muslims and Hindus who had been ruled by the British for centuries. Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi’s protégé and the political leader of India, believed Indians were an inherently nonviolent, peaceful people. Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was a secular lawyer, not a firebrand. But in August 1946, exactly a year before Independence, Calcutta erupted in riots. A cycle of street-fighting — targeting Hindus, then Muslims, then Sikhs — spun out of control. As the summer of 1947 approached, all three groups were heavily armed and on edge, and the British rushed to leave. Hell let loose. Trains carried Muslims west and Hindus east to their slaughter. Some of the most brutal and widespread ethnic cleansing in modern history erupted on both sides of the new border, searing a divide between India and Pakistan that remains a root cause of many evils. From jihadi terrorism to nuclear proliferation, the searing tale told in Midnight’s Furies explains all too many of the headlines we read today.

“History is written by the Victors” and so finding an impartial account of it is nigh impossible. The pages, if written with intent, can be colored any which way, So reading this book was a sobering experience like bathing in cold water. Mr.Nisid Hajari, has tried his utmost to remain neutral, to present the events ‘as is’ and be critical of them as impartially as he could. I am almost thankful that he didn’t use a lot of imaginative writing while describing the massacres. Reading about them in pure statistics was chilling enough, ten’s of thousand of women raped, many thousand children slaughtered, men cut down with indifference, like swatting flies. The Sikhs with their Jathas, The Muslims with their war cries, the Hindu RSSS with their fanaticism, trains dripping with blood and filled with body parts, utter bloodbath. Furies let loose indeed.

The book gets full marks on researching the ‘Indian follies’ for the partition, many a time, the only story told is the one critical of the British (Don’t get me wrong, the lion’s share of the blame does go to them, they were the prime mechanics of the hate that festers across the Indian subcontinent still, though Mr.Nisid Hajari has not delved into that, he has portrayed the Brits as someone who just wanted the job done.), in popular retelling the Indian leaders come across as helpless victims. Not so, though heavily influenced and burdened by the long standing policies and the departing chaos of the Raj, the Indian leaders and their vanity deserves a lot of the blame too. Nehru with his idealism, trying to be the white knight all the time. Patel with his stiffness, Gandhi with his meekness  and of-course none more than the ‘Lucifer’ of the Indian ‘Eden’….Jinnah , the vainest of them all. Each of them with their necks stiff and noses in the air. A cause that they have fought for, for so long together, forgotten in an instant, replaced with the pursuit of deluded fame and personal glory.

A considerable portion of the book is focused on the partition of ‘Punjab’ , and the ensuing riots which happened. The key players behind it all, their attitude, how the insecurities of all the communities were stoked into a fearful frenzy, to the point that they forgot that they have been living with each other for centuries, in relative peace. And it became ‘them’ or ‘us’ that quickly. It also does a good job in explaining the other’s side attitude, the friction between the two regimes has its roots in the tussle of partition. Every little spat between the founding fathers has now bloomed into a full on policy of suspicion and distrust for the two nations. The insurgency in Kashmir and the tussle for territories in the early days of independence, has been covered in quite detail, something lacking in the standard histories.

An interesting read, for any history buff or politics enthusiast, though it does read for the most part as plain History, but I found that a welcome aspect. Something, this volatile should be treated with an analytical attitude, rather than an emotional one. The later, would happen on its own, despite our best tries.