Tuesday, July 07, 2009

India after Gandhi

Finished reading "India after Gandhi" by Ramachandra Guha last month. The book is a pretty good sketch of the Indian political scene from the pre-independence days to early 2000s. The book was quite a fast read which I think is a huge achievement considering the topic and my disinclination to big non-fiction books.

The book pretty much divides the 1940 - 2000 time period into decades and deals with each individually. There is very little repetition of stuff covered in earlier chapters which could be a problem for someone completely new to this area, but for a book this ambitious that is probably the only practical solution; even without the appendices and acknowledgements, the book has about 800 pages of reading material.

I really loved the first three fourths of it and got to learn a lot of stuff that I didn't know before. The last part, however was a letdown. Post 90s is covered by chapters on distinct topics rather than the chronological order followed in the rest of the book. Although the author seems to have done so deliberately, I think a slightly more chronological ordering would have helped. My another problem with this period was that it seemed to just glance over several topics rather than providing a more detailed analysis. It is quite possible that being from this decade, I know more about the issues and hence expect to seem them all tied up neatly with the rest of the political history but when the author mentions in the preface that there is not a lot known about several local Indian leaders (like MGR) who have influenced people in areas as big as several european coutries, I expected the book to cover these lesser known important people in greater detail.

Nevertheless, I was quite impressed with the book and strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Indian history, post independence.

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