Perennial classics and undiscovered gems that articulate the diversities and dichotomies of the nation
Ashish Mehta | August 28, 2015 | New Delhi
In the beginning, as usual, was the word.
In 1904, when Mohandas Gandhi boarded the train for Natal for what would have been just another dreary journey, his new friend Henry Polak thrust a slim volume in his hands. “The book was impossible to lay aside, once I had begun it. It gripped me,” Gandhi was to write later, describing “the magic spell of the book”. He instantly resolved “to change my life in accordance with the ideals of the book”. John Ruskin’s Unto This Last changed not only Gandhi’s life but the very foundations of the Indian freedom movement.
For Gandhi, and his contemporaries, books and pamphlets, ranging from ancient scriptures to obscure 19th century tracts, provided the template that helped them make sense of the project they were undertaking. But for those books, the idea of India would have been different, however marginally.
In turn, the founding fathers of the nation and others after them went on to pen their inspirations and aspirations, completing a ‘virtuous cycle’ and forging a veritable canon for us. Undeniably, the books of the founding fathers of our nation and the works of the likes of Premchand and Dinkar inspired countless people to join the freedom movement. In this Independence Day special edition, we present our pickings from the canon.
If not an attempt at a canon-in-the-making, this exercise can also be seen as the ubiquitous journalistic trick of ‘listicles’ – The Five Books That Best Capture India. But, then, as the literary theoretician Umberto Eco puts it, “The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible.” (Take, for instance, Gandhi’s own bookish listicle: “Three moderns have left a deep impress on my life and captivated me: Raychandbhai by his living contact; Tolstoy by his book, The Kingdom of God Is Within You; and Ruskin by his Unto This Last.”)
When not one but two senior editors, both baptized in the JP movement, spoke the same words on different occasions – that “you must read X to understand India” (X being Gora plus Ghare Baire for one and Raag Darbari for the other), we thought it would be worthwhile to make a master list of readings that make the idea of India comprehensible. We turned to some of the most discerning readers of our times to name roughly five (or more, or less) books that they think best explain India – and have played a part in defining it, too. We are grateful to them.
Who knows what it will lead to when one day, out of an understandable readerly enthusiasm, someone will thrust one of these tomes in the hands of a weary traveller and say “you must read this”?
(Inputs by Geetanjali Minhas, Puja Bhattacharjee, Swati Chandra, Shivani Gaurav Chaturvedi and Yoshika Sangal)
Hailing the Maharashtra government for introducing a bill to amend the Insecticide Act, 1968, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India has called the amendments ‘very focussed’ and urged the state to expand their scope to address other challenges. The bill, introduced in the a
`Garba of Gujarat` has been inscribed in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of Humanity by UNESCO, under the provisions of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage during the 18th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of t
Since its inception, Citizen Financial Cyber Fraud Reporting and Management System has witnessed more than 12.77 lakh complaints registered (till November 15, 2023), and has saved more than Rs. 930 crore in more than 3.80 lakh complaints. This was stated by minister of state for home affair
Impacts and implications of Climate Change Vulnerability in the Himalayan Region and ways of creating ‘Climate Resilient Development in Indian Himalayan Region by making mountain communities green and resilient were discussed the side event hosted at the India pavilion at the UN Climate Conference CO
Air pollution in Delhi has been in headlines, as every year in recent times. Mumbai too has suffered from air pollution, despite being a coastal city. Apart from many other metros such as Bangalore and Kolkata, tier-I and -II cities and rural areas also have high pollution levels. Every year reports and st
The central government will provide free food grains to about 81.35 crore beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for a period of five years with effect from January 1, 2024, the cabinet decided on Wednesday. Terming it as a “historic decision”, a