Publisher: Picador India
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Ramachandra Guha says in the prologue of “India after Gandhi” that in India, history seems to end in 1947. He quotes the educationist Krishna Kumar who says that ‘for Indian children, history itself comes to an end with Partition and Independence’. As a product of the Indian education system, I couldn’t agree more with both these men and it wasn’t until I read ‘India after Gandhi’ that the magnitude of history I carry with me by way of legacy dawned on me.
‘India after Gandhi’ is a journey of Independent India- struggling to maintain its democracy, breaking apart due to enormous differences of language and religion among its people, fighting and killing within itself but always coming together again, stronger than ever. Guha in his prologue, calls India an ‘unnatural nation’, far too separated by the dimensions of language, religion and caste. So many tiny, little fragments come together as one country. Today, more than 60 years after Independence, these fragments are still together, making India probably the most diverse country in the world. Guha chronicles this journey of India towards finding its own identity, fighting its way through innumerable challenges but remaining united and strong through it all.
The book is extremely well-researched and Guha seems to have visited every possible archive in his attempt to document Indian history after 1947. He presents his facts in a bare and objective manner, making no attempt at false patriotism. Reading a 771-page history book might sound imposing, but Guha’s easy and lucid style of narration makes this task far more enjoyable than it sounds. ‘India after Gandhi’ is a fascinating story of a nation with innumerable challenges, strong characters and never-ending hope. The book makes one realize how far India has come as a nation from the pieces that remained after the colonial rule and the harrowing partition that accompanied independence. By the end of the book, one is left with a feeling of awe and wonder at the resilience of this country and its people. For all its conflicts and problems, it is wonderful how India today stands as a relatively stable democracy and has not sunk into total chaos as was predicted by many during independence.
‘India after Gandhi’ is a celebration of the survival of the Indian nation. Reading this book is like finishing a long journey- arduous but extremely exciting. It is a journey I’d recommend to each and every one.