I’m sensing a pattern this year …. I keep picking up these books that have this huge hype and hoopla around them, get disappointed and feel bad about leaving them unfinished. This is one more added to that alarmingly fast growing list. But having read quite a sizable portion, I’m going to go ahead and review it anyway. To prevent myself from ranting away without control I am going to just put it down as 3 points
1. History does not begin and end with Akbar and Ashoka
The first essay is good since it outlines the history of argumentative tradition in India. But that is it. He then continues to refer to the first essay in all the essays that follow. Every other historical reference he makes is either Akbar or Ashoka. Out of some 1000s of kings who ruled India across history, he talks about only 2. For someone who knows even a little history, it is boring.
2. Culture does not begin and end with Bengal
This should have been “The Argumentative Bengali” ! Why add “Writings on Indian culture” with the title when all we have is pages and pages of Tagore followed by Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Aparna Sen, etc. ? Do not mislead the readers so !!
3. The overwhelming bias in the writing
Numerous essays are devoted to the critique of a political party’s ideology. First of all, I would expect the scholarly work of an academic to be objective.Even if he is going to take sides so blatantly, equating donations made by NRIs to “religious fundamentalism” is taking it a bit too far and it speaks to a deep seated bias.
Bottomline : Do not fall prey to the hype like I did – just skip it !