Sunday, June 29, 2008
This week, my choice of the book for the blog is India Revisited: conversations on contemporary India (OUP, 2008)written by Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian scholar who suffered imprisonment in his country. The author converses with 27 leading Indian personalities –social scientists, journalists, activists, artists, and sportspersons – to gain an understanding of contemporary Indian society. According to the author, something more than economic wealth, political power, and technological ambition is needed to combat corruption, poverty, and inequality in India.
Presented in an informal conversational style, the book appears to offer lessons to aspiring authors, with book-ideas on modern India. Here, I will mention some of the author’s interviewees, and the subjects (each interviewee also deals with a specific subject) with which some of us are interested.
The author is conscious of the limitations of this kind of book. He admits that India is too complex to be understood in a narrow frame of one or two conversations. Yet, does the book capture the spirit of India as it promises? In the introduction, the author says India is distancing itself from Gandhi’s principles. He also says that Indians have paid a high price for the survival of democracy in India. Although the author may not agree, some would say that distancing from Gandhian principles itself has been part of this high price. Had not we distanced themselves from Gandhian principles (at least some of them, which are out of tune with the modern ethos), it is difficult to imagine whether we would have survived as a democracy.
The author’s interviews with Soli Sorabji ( Indian Constitution: Strengths and weaknesses), T.N.Madan (Critiquing secularism), D.L.Sheth (caste in Modern India), T.R.Andhyarujina (Role of Parsis in Modern India), Mushirul Hasan (challenges to Islam in India), Nivedita Menon (the woman question), Vandana Shiva (fighting indiscriminate globalization) Sonal Mansingh (Indian classical dance as a Genre), Mrinal Sen (Filming India), Prabhash Joshi (Cricket as an Indian Game) are some samples from this book, though I feel all the 27 interviews need to be read with equal interest and curiosity. This interview with the author also profiles him.