Publisher: Rupa Publications
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Ironical enough that I read this book on 2nd October, Mahatma’s birthday. To speak about the book I will say it tells the truth. All this while, the most fascinating feature of Chetan Bhagat’s books has been their titles. After starting with the tale of what one should not do at IIT he has travelled a long way. And as his latest non-fiction opens up the way he looks and sees the country, the readers also cannot help but go through their own opinions.
Presenting mainly a collection of his essays and speeches on issues relevant with the country’s present socio-economic and political scenario Bhagat does a decent job. In simple prose, he discusses quite elaborately all those problems which the country faces today. And this being the favourite dinner-table conversation of every Indian family, Bhagat gets his share of ‘atta boy’.
India, our beloved country, is strong in its head count yet it has not held Bapu’s name very high since his death sixty four years ago. At this point the ‘it’ should be changed with a ‘we’ agreeing to what Bhagat has correctly written in the book, not everything (actually nothing) can be changed by blaming the mascots of all vices which happen in this country, yes I mean our politicians. Since it is Gandhi’s birthday I will linger a little more to the thought with which the paragraph started. Few years ago a Bollywood movie recreated the essence of Gandhi and his non-violence. With commendable acting and a bone of humour what made ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ a great hit was that missing wisdom of the great old man, who is probably miles away from our inner-self. Pulling less important issues like spitting on your neighbour’s wall, before our sight the film gave a feeling of learning and consequent accomplishment as we headed home from the multiplexes. But, what after that? Lessons revised but what about action? It is so sad that we never miss to text our friends on Independence Day, utilizing free message packs, after safely what the day is actually about. Hence, as Bhagat says, we need change, deeply-rooted change, one which raises a storm and then puts things back in place.
Years ago, before the British arrived in their merchant ships and decided to stay back and rule, our country used to be run under kingship. In fact the entire saga of medieval Indian History deals with dynasties. Bhagat correctly points the fact that the same picture has resurrected in the current political scenario of the country. From Naxal-affected states to a population rigged by inflation, farmer suicides, corruption and the inertness of the government, quasi-government or similar entities towards them have received his due attention in the book. The feudal behaviour of bigger companies who almost have conquered the market setting their reign in every field of industries, remotely related to one another, disparate in fact, is hilarious. The bitter truth embedded beneath this wry humour is the immense plight of those hapless people who once used to nourish the population with their sweat and toil and are now dealing with immeasurable misery. The commoners in the country are a sad lot. With increasing number of scams, sad judgements in cases like the Bhopal gas tragedy, German Bakery case and many of that category, not only ridicules the legal system but also maligns the very sovereignty of it. Bhagat knows it all and he writes them neatly. The divides in the nation have set their gnawing teeth deep down and heal is required sooner than later to turn things to the brighter side. The education is also not shining a lot. As Bhagat justifies perfectly, the history lessons on Byzantine Empire given in the sixth grade are alright but the kids need education for having the right attitude of a democratic children. The largest democracy of the world has become dangerously hollow and it trolls itself. In times like these only the deserving should get the foremost priority. Like doctors are meant to do surgeries, only people with a profound knowledge of politics and civics get to stand at the other end of ballot boxes in their claim to run the nation. The torch bearers of tomorrow need an awakening on this else a now sleeping nation will be dead in the years to come.
The book ends with two little stories which in their hidden pun match beautifully with the theme it deals with. Literarily speaking, perhaps a little more wit would have made this more enjoyable, especially when Bhagat has proved his skill when it comes to this flavour in his previous books. The contradiction between nerds and ‘lerds ‘ was a new way of telling the age-old clash between Science and Liberal arts. As he correctly says we cannot live without one and think without the other. But from the author of the brilliant column which depicted how women, in spite of lacking the ability to make hot phulkas can make a family happy and a help a country to shine, we expect a little more. Lucid in prose and style the book reminds all the maladies which the country suffers from. Truth he says by writing that we need a leader of the right mindedness to make us sail through this. A leader, perhaps a teacher, who will make us learn what all we have forgotten while meeting our selfish needs. And then years later when Danny Boyle makes a film on the country again, hopefully the Oscars will choose it not because of the clichéd theme of ‘poverty sells’ but because it shows the growth of a loving nation which rejoices the oriental family values as everybody develops within a big happy one. Then again hope without actions is a futile word. Now that young India knows what it wants, it is the time to act.