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)
Indian billionaires saw their incomes surge by Rs 2,200 crore a day in 2018, and the wealthiest got wealthier as the top 1 percent of the country’s richest increased their fortune by 39 percent – but the bottom half managed to climb the ladder by a mere 3 percent, a report by Oxfam reveals.
The central government is set to present a complex and comprehensive report of its revenues and expenditures throughout the financial year in the budget address on February 1. Modi led NDA government will present the interim budget this year as elections are set to take place in April.
Narendra Modi-led NDA government is due to present its last budget on February 1, before the 2019 general elections. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who is currently in US for medical treatment, is likely to present the budget. This will be an interim budget of the NDA government.
The government has said that state-run BHEL and Libcoin are in talks to form a world class consortium to initially build 1 GWh (Gigawatt hours) lithium ion battery plant in India. The plant’s capacity will be enhanced up to 30 GWh after some time. With this, India has finally taken steps into its ene
The centre has given the green signal for regularisation of pay scales of board level executives in National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd (NHPC), North East Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), THDC India Ltd. (formerly Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Ltd.) and Satluj Jal Vidhyut Nigam Ltd. (SJV
The government has given approved the project for capacity expansion of Numaligarh Refinery from 3 MMTPA (million metric tonne per annum) to 9 MMTPA. The plan envisages setting up of crude oil pipeline from Paradip to Numaligarh and product pipeline from Numaligarh to Sil