Ramchandra Guha’s Makers of Modern India Review

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The Padma Bhushan winner and highly acclaimed author of India After Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha , is back with his next - ‘Makers of Modern India’ which is a rich and comprehensive repository of India’s political traditions. Ramachandra Guha is a well known historian and columnist based in Bangalore. His last book 'India after Gandhi' has been chosen the book of the year by many leading media houses like The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Time magazine has referred to him as “Indian democracy’s pre-eminent chronicler.” He has taught at the universities of Yale, Stanford, and Oslo, and at the Indian Institute of Science. His other acclaimed books are The Unquiet Woods and A Corner of a Foreign Field.

In his new book ‘The Makers of Modern India’ he profiles nineteen Indians whose ideas had a defining impact on the formation and evolution of our republic and presents rare and compelling excerpts from their writings and speeches.

 

According to Guha, what makes India interesting is not just the size of the country or its population or even its diversity... it’s actually the fact that India is simultaneously undergoing five dramatic transformations – the urban revolution, the industrial revolution, the national revolution, the democratic revolution, and the social revolution.

The men and women featured in this book are people who have lived through these revolutions and have played their role in shaping it. What is unique about these people are that they not only influential political activists they also wrote with eloquence, authority and deliberation about the most interesting country in the world. Their writings had significant impact on the people and the society. This book highlights little-known aspects of major figures in Indian history like Tagore and Nehru; it also rehabilitates thinkers who have been unjustly forgotten, such as Tarabai Shinde and Hamid Dalwai.

The writings are at times complementary to each other, and at other times contradictory and the topics include religion, caste, gender, language, nationalism, colonialism, democracy, secularism and the economy – covering pretty much everything that is of major importance. People included in this book are Subhas Chandra Bose, Vallabhbhai Patel, Indira Gandhi, Dayanand Saraswati, Dadabhai Naoroji, Swami Vivekananda, S Radhakrishnan and some more. Probably the most impactful message in the book is, in Guha’s words, “The tradition that this book has showcased is dead. No politician now alive can think or write in an original way or even interesting fashion about the direction Indian society and politics is or should be taking.” Sad state of affairs but true state of affairs.

This book is worth a read to understand the rich repository of wisdom and knowledge we had that shaped our history and made us a unique and resilient nation.

 

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