My Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik

Devdutt Pattanaik is a writer whose books I love to read because he interprets puranas in their modern sense. It makes sense to me. It sometimes makes better sense than their traditional interpretation as I have heard.

My Gita is Pattanaik’s interpretation of the Gita. He begins the book by stating that the poem is not to be read from start to finish as one would a book or a poem today. He suggests that the wisdom is scattered throughout the verses of the Gita. Traditionally, the Gita would be expounded by a Guru to his disciple by teaching him only the relevant sections with explanations. Not the whole poem in the form it is read today.

Accordingly, Pattanaik’s book is arranged in a scheme such that the Hindu philosophy expounded in the Gita could be more clearly grasped and better understood.

The book is a tiring read. I have read various voluminous books like Radhakrishnan on the Upanishads and even his Dhammapada. I have even read Pattanaik’s earlier books but none have tired me so. It’s difficult to keep up with a thread of thinking in the book. This made my reading progress slow and tiring as I found it hard to grasp concepts.

The way to overcome this difficulty is to skim through the book quickly the first time to get a basic idea before reading the book understanding the depth of the book. The book is a complete guide to the Gita with context, several interpretations offered including alternative versions but finally is Pattanaik’s interpretation of the Gita.

Book Review: Governance and the Sclerosis That has set in

I haven’t read non-fiction as a genre for quite some time. Picking up Sidin Vadukut’s book recently re-ignited my interest in the genre. I have also been working up an interest in learning about recent Indian history. Books about this era starting from post-liberalization have now been emerging for quite some time now.

Arun Shourie is one of the authors who has written about India’s post-liberalization era. He was also a cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government. He covers three broad areas in this book – bureaucracy, environment and immigration. He shows through examples how the thinking within the government is not directed at solving the issue at hand but in ensuring that one is not held responsible for any errors in the resolution of such issues.

To be sure, some of these issues are complex. He also faces the same difficulty that his predecessors had in resolving the issues at hand. He tends to defend the delay caused during his own regime in the various Ministries whilst not really defending the actions taken by his predecessors in the same Ministries.

The book, otherwise, is a wonderful collection of reflection and insight into the working and the thinking inside the Government towards the end of the twentieth century and that in transition from the license raj to liberalisation. It is also a pretty breezy read despite being a book that cites a lot of correspondence and timelines to back up his assertions and observations, which are few, short and sometimes satirical to drive the point through.

Strangely, there were a lot of Arun Shourie interviews that got aired around the time I was reading this book. Again getting access to the government will hopefully push him to write more books that will help Indian citizens understand the issues with more clarity and depth.

Book Review: Revolution Highway by Dilip Simeon

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on June 25, 2013 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Some time back, I had acquired the habit of writing down reviews of the book that I had recently read. The practice lost steam as I got caught up in the desire to read more. Writing a review gives pause for consideration for a book that has passed through one’s life. It is with these thoughts that I pick up the practice again.

A membership with the British Library in Mumbai gave me access to this book called Revolution Highway. It is written by labour historian Dilip Simeon. The book is a work of fiction that considers the 1960s and the 1970s India and the rush of ideas and idealism that flowed through India at the time. The time witnessed the sprouting of the Naxalite movement in the extreme left of the political spectrum and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the extreme right of the political spectrum. The book concentrates on the revolution that the Naxalite movement bred, the brief belief in the Revolution followed by disillusionment.

I read the book in a unique juncture in my life as well. It was a moment when I heard of the left movement within Bombay in the early 1960s and 1970s. I too went through a phase of disillusionment and have now emerged with a more balanced viewpoint of politics than what I had earlier.

Given this back drop, I found the book a fascinating read. It gives one an insightful reading of the history of the Indian Left given the world situation. It provides and reveals aspects of India’s own revolutionaries and how they get intertwined with the Revolutionaries who struggled in the pre-Independence era. Other than the world histories it has several asides that seem to stand alone and do not fully integrate with the story line. They seem like stand alone pieces of non-fiction inserted into a work of fiction. It provides some very insightful critique of the Left struggle. I especially enjoyed the criticisms leveled at the Left by Rathin, a character in the book. The interspersed bits of world history might have served as a better back drop if they were briefer.