Sunday, August 9, 2009

India after Gandhi

India after Gandhi is a book trying to put together the history of India post-independence. An incredible book about an incredible nation. The history and the staggering numbers amaze you, shock you, disgust you, anger you, move you and make you believe. Different perspectives are offered and descriptions are vivid.

Some really amazing parts -
India was never expected to make it through as one united nation. One such opinion pre-independence was presented by Sir John Strachey - a member of Governor General's council.

Scotland is more like Spain than Bengal is like Punjab...
..there is not, and never was an India, or even any country of India possessing, according to any European ideas, any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious.
There was no Indian nation or country in the past; nor would there be one in the future. Strachey thought it "conceivable that national sympathies may arise in particular Indian countries but
that they should ever extend to India generally, that men of Punjab, Bengal, the North-western Provinces, and Madras should ever feel that they belong to one Indian nation, is impossible.

Well, fuck you Sir John Strachey.

After 1947, there have been many Western writers prophesying the doom of India as a united nation.
Rober Dahl - That India "could sustain democratic institution seems, on the face of it, highly improbable.
British journalist Don Taylor in 1969 after 2 decades of unity and Independence -
they key question remains: can India remain in one piece - or will it fragemnt?... when one looks at this vast country and its 524 million people, the 15 major languages in use, the conflicting religions, the many races, it seems incredible that one nation could ever emerge.
It is difficult to even encompass this country in the mind- the great Himalaya, the wide Indo-Gangetic plain burnt by the sun and savaged by the fierce monsoon rains, the green flooded delta of the east, the great cities like Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. It does not, often seem like one country. And yet there is a resilience about India which seems an assurance of survival. There is something which can only be described as an Indian spirit.

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