Monday, October 01, 2007

The Great Indian Novel

That's right. It is the famous book by Shashi Tharoor I am talking about. I know it's a bit late to review that book on this blog, but what can I do? I bought myself a copy just a week ago, and finished reading it just a couple of hours ago. But, I can say this confidently. I regret having taken so long to read a book that is so delightfully irreverent and astonishingly well-informed. Now, where do I start? Before I say anything else, let me state that I always knew that Tharoor was a prolific writer. But, this one exceeded my expectations. To cut a long story short, I loved the book. There were many things that I liked about the book. The first, and most important: the treatment of the fictional Gangaji, (the real-life Gandhi) as a master tactician, an expert politician, and sometimes, a biased moralist. The portrayal must have ruffled quite a few Congress feathers when it was first published. It makes me wonder if the current generation of Congress-walahs have even read the book. After all, Tharoor does not exactly flatter them by labelling their 'Goddess Indira' as Priya Duryodhani. Or is the allusion too subtle for the videshi mind of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to grasp? Do the apologists of the Dynasty even have the brains required to understand Tharoor's satire? I highly doubt they do. For if they had, they would not have nominated him as India's candidate for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations. Congratulations Mr. Tharoor! You have made your point quite clearly.

The second positive aspect, perhaps as important as the first is our beloved first Prime Minister as Dritarashtra. Oh yes, Dritarashtra was blind, literally. That is not his fault. But, Nehru was blind in the metaphorical sense. And, as Tharoor puts it, chose to see the world as he wanted to see it and not as it really was. The analogy, I must say, is quite apt. The references to Draupadi Mokrasi puzzled me, until the very end. Until about an hour after I finished the book. The brilliance of it all hit me on the face as suddenly as a flash of sunlight in a dull, dreary day. Draupadi Mokrasi is precisely that, De-mocracy!! Wow!

Anyway, with that, I will end this eulogy of Tharoor and his book. I do, however, have something to say about Nita's latest blogpost. She has finally completed an incomplete post on NRIs and dollar-earning desis. It was published, if I remember right, way back in October 2006. Wow Nita! Your posts certainly have a long gestation period. Her objections to Rashmi Bansal's article on Rediff are certainly valid. When I first read the said article a year ago, I wasn't as offended as Nita. In fact, I even questioned her defensiveness. But today, I bear testimony to the fact that attitudes evolve. I am just as bugged as Nita by the way Bansal portrays all Indians working abroad as those who are not good enough to make it to top-of-the-rung institutions in India.

Secondly, Nita's feelings about nostalgia are quite valid too. Not everyone feels the need to wax eloquent about crowded sabzi mandis and traffic jams and mum's cooking. We must accept that some people are decidedly happier in their First-World homes with 52-inch televisions and three cars. That doesn't mean they are not Indian. Why do we, as Indians, feel the need to be so judgemental about those who choose to make a foreign land their home despite what Bansal calls cold reception? Do they not have the right to choose the way they want to live? Do we seriously think our NRI cousins or American-born nephews are out to make us jealous and plant diffidence and wistfulness in our desi heads? If we do, we are simply too naive for the world...and lack greatly in entrepreneurship and confidence. If some of us want to chase dollar dreams, so be it? Why is the rest of the world so bothered about that? We may or not may not be good Indians, but we are certainly successful and happy, albeit in an alien land.

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