The cover page of this book has a quote from the Financial Times calling it “A magisterial work”. There is really no better way to describe this book. Its only after I started reading it did I realize just how many awards it has won and it completely deserves each and every one of them.
Usually I use a image of the cover from Goodreads but here I have used a photo I clicked just to give you guys an idea of what you are in for 🙂 That is 900+ pages of history there. It is intimidating but the entire book has an almost storytelling like quality so take my word for it, it is not a tough read at all.
The prologue “Unnatural Nation” makes for a great read since it outlines all the doomsday predictions made by analysts and experts throughout history. They have all written with the utmost conviction that India, as a nation, will disintegrate as there is no common thread to hold her together. The prologue ends with “… why is there an India at all?” , a question the book seeks to answer.
After that it is a sweeping account of India’s post-independence history that is really awe-inspiring. It is tough to try and fit all this into a single book because each part can lend itself to volumes. Despite that, every event has got equal importance which I can imagine must have been a tough balancing act. The list of references alone runs to over a 100 pages so that gives us an idea of the kind of research that has gone into this book.
The secessionist movements in the North-East are usually not covered by books as much as Khalistan but this one does justice and honestly, this is the first time I read about many of the leaders who led these movements.
As always I love the little anecdotes that are peppered throughout the book. For instance, it seems the King of Bhopal wanted Sardar Patel to extend the deadline for signing the Instrument of Accession by 10 days i.e, after 15th August. When Patel said that he could not make any exceptions, it seems Mountbatten intervened and offered to the King that if the Instrument was signed on 14th August, he would keep it under lock and key and give it to Patel after the 25th. Voila problem solved ! 🙂
The epilogue “Why India Survives” has these wonderful lines
This is a must-read book irrespective of whether you are a student of history or not. I don’t think there can be a better way to understand India’s post-independence history with all its ups and downs.
The author ends his acknowledgements with
My greatest debt, as expressed in the dedication, is to the always interesting and occasionally exasperating Indians with whom I am privileged to share a home
Hear ! hear !! 🙂