For those reading on India, Ramachandra Guha needs no introduction. A historian and columnist he has penned several books including 'India after Gandhi' that was chosen the book of the year by many leading media houses including The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Time magazine has referred to him as “Indian democracy"s pre-eminent chronicler."
In this book, Guha says he believes India to be the most interesting country in the world. He hastens to add that this is the impartial judgement of a historian and not a passionate claim of a citizen.
In his view 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.
People featured in 'Makers of India' 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 were not only doers but able and excellent thinkers. Their writings have had significant impact on the people and the society.
A book of this nature is bound to raise few heckles on who is included and who is not. Guha is quiet candid in admitting several people who are omitted and the reasons for omission.
Subhas Chandra Bose, Vallabhbhai Patel are two who, he says, are excellent doers but not necessarily great thinkers, who have left behind significant work of their writings. Indira Gandhi, he says, was unlike her father Pandit Nehru as her speeches and writings were ghost written. He names few others including Dayanand Saraswati, Dadabhai Naoroji, Swami Vivekananda, S Radhakrishnan and Aurobindo whose influences have not transcended generations.
The hardest hitting message this book provides as Guha says, “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.
Present day politicians and intellect certainly does not go hand in hand in India. 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.