At The Stroke Of Midnight On August A New Nation Was Born It Has Major Languages And , Distinct Dialects It Has Over A Billion Individuals Of Every Ethnic Extraction Known To Humanity It Has A Population That Is Percent Illiterate, But Also One Of The Worlds Largest Pools Of Trained Scientists And Engineers Its Ageless Civilization Is The Birthplace Of Four Major Religions, A Dozen Different Traditions Of Classical Dance, And Ways Of Cooking A Potato Shashi Tharoors INDIA Is A Fascinating Portrait Of One Of The Worlds Most Interesting Countriesits Politics, Its Mentality, And Its Cultural Riches But It Is Also An Eloquent Argument For The Importance Of India To The Future Of America And The Industrialized World With The Energy And Erudition That Distinguished His Prize Winning Novels, Tharoor Points Out That Indians Account For A Sixth Of The Worlds Population And Their Choices Will Resonate Throughout The Globe He Deals With This Vast Theme In A Work Of Remarkable Depth And Startling Originality, Combining Elements Of Political Scholarship, Personal Reflection, Memoir, Fiction, And Polemic, All Illuminated In Vivid And Compelling Prose Pongalswamy said, When I was a kid, I used to hear my father and his friends discussing two topics cricket and politics I liked cricket But I could never make head or tail of politics Now, that I have attained my father s then age, I find myself talking with my friends two topics cricket and politics Ah Politics India s biggest timepass Switch to any news channel It will be the politicians and their archaic views will be the talking points In order to have a wholesome understanding of what is happening in the present, we need to understand the past And that s why I have developed a keen interest in the political history of post independent India Tharoor s India From Midnight to Millennium is an effort in that line.But a bit disappointing, I would say What this book lacks is a structure , a theme It reads like a mess resulting from information diarrhea Tharoor s well read, well travelled, cultured intellect is evident in each page, but also it presents his confused opinions vacillating between nationalistic optimism and west bound cynicism The non linear depiction of political history also demands a good deal of prior knowledge, that might induce yawn in a novice reader No, No I am not suggesting the book is avoidable Some of Tharoor s hard hitting criticisms as well as constructive optimism are really impressive But, I would strongly suggest to read Guha s India after Gandhi, before you attempt this one. India from Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond by Shashi Tharoor was, in many ways, disappointing It is not the overall readability of the book, or of the topics covered or of the beauty of the language used but it is the lack of expected depth of the book which gives that impression And especially when its title makes one assume that it must cover the whole of Independent India s history.No one can deny that Mr Tharoor remains a narrator without much parallel among the modern political observers of India However, one could see only a few instances elaborated as the only ones which defined the period under consideration Plainly speaking, too much of information and anecdotes have been provided on a handful of topics This gives the book a handsome superficial width, but a depth as thin as a sheet although not quite the alternate pronunciation.At one instance he narrates an anecdote to hint at the success of affirmative action for removal of caste disparities in Kerala The narrative gets almost an entire chapter on caste Apparently, it happened to be one of national prominence as the all important author was personally involved A lot of similar issues abound the book.A good book, if you are fond of one liners But for them, I would rather read The Great Indian Novel by the same author.Recommended for people with less interest in the depth of political affairs, as they will at least find something in the political discourse which is interesting It still remains a book, which might invoke some interest in the disinterested.Not Recommended There is hardly anything new for people who have been reading books of this genre for a long time Not an advisable read for those in search of information.Good one liners and remarks make the book light and enjoyable That provides the extra 0.5 in my ratings. It has been over a decade since Shashi Tharoor had written this book, the book seems to work in bits and pieces, Hard hitting in places but does not sustain the flow.Divided Pluralism is the backbone of the novel rather than pluralism a degree of modern day cynicism is also added, he makes a vivid account of some of the problems concerning the country and is very apprehensive about the Indian Parliamentry structure of which he is a part More has been stressed on the Emergency era than any other period,throughout the book the cons dominate over the pro s.The book can be read for those who want to acquaint themselves about the author and read a diplomatic view on the subject. Tharoor, a gifted writer, takes us on tour of India s economy, politics, caste system and religious beliefs in the post Gandhi period.He conveys the message of India s harmonious pluralism while simultaneously expressing his understandable cynicism towards Hinduism and Indira Gandhi Most of his insights are very accurate for this vibrant country with multiple dichotomies However, certain chapters are presented as an auto biography personal beliefs versus an objective analysis of India s future prospects.He fails to fully describe solutions to India s political and economic issues Most NRIs can relate very well to this book myself included , but preaching about India s shortcomings without providing possible resolutions render it a weak summary Nevertheless, Tharoor s literary style is unique and well constructed use of words make it a worthwhile read. I ve mixed feelings about this book Shashi Tharoor definitely has a great flair for the English language But his wordiness verbosity in this book can sometimes be just annoying While I did note down some of the anecdotes or authors that Shashi Tharoor pointed out, I didn t really find any original ideas It felt like a hodgepodge of liberal and patriotic ideas written in a sophisticated manner Don t get me wrong, I do agree with his sentiments But I just feel a little let down since the book didn t really challenge any of my preconceived notions or perspectives The book serves as a nice summary of Indian politics over the last few decades He does cite several authors and analysts whose work might be interesting I intend to check that out The chapter with Charlis was heart warming Overall, a decent read. This is one of the best books I ve read about India I had been meaning to read something on post independence India for a long time and this book did not disappoint The author makes a great case for democracy, pluralism and unity in diversity , while at the same time explaining how India has evolved to its current state since independence Roots of many things in Indian politics, society, economy, etc which my generation takes for granted, are elucidated in a way that even an outsider can understand His objective and balanced analysis of democracy especially the democracy in India , of Nehru Gandhi dynasty and their impact, Emergency, liberalisation of economy, etc makes the book a delight to read. Shashi Tharoor the man with the foreign accent, the snob who called us economy class travellers cattle class, a pseudo secular who seemed totally out of touch with India and Indians Maybe he could write a biting, irreverent satire like The Great Indian Novel but did he really know India s history, society and politics I thought he was a one book wonder too.Then in the past couple of years, due to friends and critics recommendations, I read Riot which was on the communal tensions in the early 1990s and An Era of Darkness on the British Raj and finally India From Midnight to the Millenium This irreverent man revers truth and can write with empathy And he knows far than he lets on This book is part memoir, part commentary on India 50 Some parts were absolutely beautiful and the chapter on his memories of Untouchability as a child is one of the best short stories that I have ever read In characteristic style, Tharoor spares neither the socialists nor the communal forces And what makes this book such a delight was that Tharoor digs deep and tries to understand the reasons behind each of our failings This is not a quick fix superficial work and I would place it at par with the popular India Unbound The Social and Economic Revolution from Independence to the Global Information Age.His recent books have not been up to the mark and unfortunately, we have lost a superb author because of his joining politics. If India would ve been a living lady, this book would ve been her personal diary I gave 5 stars to this book I only do this with those books which change my life Forget about all the information and knowledge that you would derive out of this masterpiece, the real gist of it lies in the astute observational inferences which goes a mile further by not only giving a realistic picture of India and its evolution, but also by explaining the reason behind it Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now that time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom With these words, our country woke up to freedom and with freedom, a whole new direction and dreams with a diefied guide none other than Mr Nehru But the principle error in diefying a human being or an organisation INC for that matter is that the very act of dissent becomes sacrilegious It has often been observed that bad experiences teach wrong lessons and in this case it was India s perception of capitalistic traders turning into rulers colonialism which pushed it towards the embrace of soviet model of socialism Our leaders could only see the equitable distribution of jobs , food and prosperity but they turned a blind eye towards excessive controls, overegualtion and parochialism of the ideology 40 years of continued socialistic practises created an India which was unheard of in the ancient historical and mythological books, a corrupt immoral society which only desired to have power and pelf Let s see how did this happen.The basic assumption of socialism is that government holds the interest of its people above everything and based on that logic it should ve control over all the major components of an economy which includes sectors like mining, petroleum etc Now whatsoever minuscule amount of private entrepreneurship which was mushrooming was nipped in the bud under stupid regulatory rules like , to produce and reinvest their profits they had to seek permission of the government Rather than focusing on self improvement and innovation, government offices became new temples for the entrepreneurs, officials became the gods and wishes were of licenses and quotas In time, as Indian culture has always been an epitome of, we endured We realised that rather spending energy on creative endeavours, it s easier to gratify the needs of government officials as well as democrats Unfortunately, decades of practise in managing government has led to a severe decline in creative energies of Indian population as it lost the very importance, utility and relevance.It may seem to one that our country is doomed now and there s no hope and some would even say that s the popular opinion even among the natives Is it so Plenty of tomes can be found on how congress should ve proceeded but that is something we came upon after the post mortem didn t we If only there was a pre mortem maybe the course of the history of our country would ve had spanned out differently But there is one thing that congress did which it hardly gets credit for It represented a multi cultural India united and even proud of the diversity but as we know that it is an unfortunate weakness of a democracy that it cannot specify the time period in which it can deliver on to the promises to every community which eventually leads to the disenchantment of democracy and engenders sectarianism Since then, or less, it has always been about which community is moving forward and at which community s expense Religious fundamentalism has taken its roots and is fostering at an alarming rate An interesting interpretation of Hinduism is enunciated by Mr Tharoor in this book which says that Hinduism is the only religion in the world, which has not claimed to be the only path to attain salvation, doesn t consider itself to be infallible and establishes the concept of dualism that encapsulates life in a circle Now to quote the rainbow parts, since all the dirt has already been amply described, of the India since independence What we really miss out on, as we are really not looking for it, is that while we continuously focus on what could or should ve been done when there was time or opportunity but we really did endure that Despite of all the negativities that impeded our growth emergency, corruption, politicisation etc we have still remained a shining star in the subcontinent, even though our shine kept flickering now and then but it remained there Literacy, self sufficiency in case of food, private entrepreneurship are some of the major highlights post liberalisation which has brought India onto the global map and there are various ways in which we can continue these series of miracles But in my personal opinion, the best method is through education be it social awareness, giving a fillip to creative forces of the natives, sex education and what not Nothing works better than education What we can really do is that work on the nuances of education by edifying people as to what consists of education and how really can it help and this includes examples like spreading awareness regarding certain laws like women cannot be kept in jails after sunset and can only be arrested by a woman officer, financial literacy like helping people to open up Demat accounts and start through safe trading in government bonds then stock markets, educating people in tax laws like capital bonds which can save capital gain tax upto 50 lac Hope is a toxic intoxication they say, but I relate it to an elixir named felix felesis mentioned in Harry Potter which means liquid luck Our country is rapidly changing from a place where Anything is possible to be imbibed by people unfortunately even the bad habits of intoxication to a place where People cannot be trusted with their own freedom I cannot provide you with any statistical data but just a humble apprehension that if we fail to take action now, our posterity won t be kind towards us Especially with the current pace of intolerance that is growing Someone has rightfully said Mr Tharoor History is its own revenge How Don t worry, our posterity will let us know The book starts off well enough Mr Tharoor talks about the India after independence and it s gradual transformation until the emergency in a simple way With many anecdotes to support his statements But somewhere after the first third the first half of the book, it starts to become theory commentary rather than an analysis The personal anecdotes in the first part, lend it an authenticity and a certain level of personal engagement that is absolutely missing in the second half Perhaps indicative of how the author himself has become a mere spectator in the workings of his country having moved abroad Expat Indians are guilty of sermonising about the ways of India While it is true that there multiple problems that plague our country, moving away makes us view the goings on in the country with rather tinted glasses and that is exactly what Mr Tharoor is guilty of And it is perhaps the reason that this commentary is just reflective of his nostalgia for and of India that results in continual repetition of statements and excessively verbose chapters in the second half And also why he tries to deal with multiple subjects which he only manages to scratch the surface of and never quite go into depth unlike in the beginning of the book That being said, I must add that reading this book, almost two decades after it was written, which has seen Mr Tharoor return to India and his joining the Indian National Congress was quite amusing The man joins the very party that he declares responsible in this book for much of India s stagnation What is worse, is his hypocrisy in now standing by and saying nothing as his party whitewashes the legacy of the very person he is most critical of Mrs Indira Gandhi Unlike the reviews featured in the cover, there is little that is insightful or informative in this book It may, however, slightly improve your vocabulary.
Shashi Tharoor is a member of the Indian Parliament from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala He previously served as the United Nations Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information and as the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs.He is also a prolific author, columnist, journalist and a human rights advocate.He has served on the Board of Overseers of the Fle
- 389 pages
- India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond
- Shashi Tharoor
- 02 March 2019 Shashi Tharoor