Book: India Now and in Transition
Author: Atul K. Thakur
Publications: Niyogi Books
Price: Rs 595
A diverse group of bright minds come together in India Now and in Transition and offer a collective enquiry into possible futures of the country taking off from contemporary contexts. There are 37 insightful essays in the book and many shine, though some could have been further polished. However, the line-up could be a compelling enough reason to pick up a copy. Eminent names such as Ramachandra Guha, Shashi Tharoor, Robin Jeffrey, Jayati Ghosh, Wajahat Habibullah, Vinod Rai explore politics and governance, economics and development, security and foreign policy, society and culture; and, language and literature. It isn’t usual for those in the mainstream, as it were, to make an academic inquiry into themes like cinema, money trail in sports, censorship in India, English poetry and novels in India among others. These are the essays which make the book stand out.
The book opens with Guha’s essay where he asks a simple question — who is India’s greatest leader after Mahatma Gandhi? Rashid Kidwai puts some perspective on Congress and its Ideological Dilemma in a brilliant fashion. But Chandrahas Choudhury’s essay on Narendra Modi felt like an opportunity missed — it could have explored Modi’s prime ministership in a better light. Likewise, TSR Subramanian’s piece on corruption does not say anything new. However, Champaran-based journalist Abhay Mohan Jha has written a remarkable piece on the changing paradigms of mofussil India; the essays on subaltern voices and multiple identities were great reads too. Unfortunately, the piece on India cinema, though a nice read, focussed only on Bollywood. What does not work, and is a weakpoint of an otherwise strong anthology, is the essay on the Indian news media’s numbers game — presenting too many numbers in prose without easing a reader into the context of the digital model is a bad idea.
Overall, the book is a languid, stimulating read. A definite pick-up for those interested in politics and culture. Or even if you simply enjoy sifting through opinion pieces in newspapers!