India After Gandhi – A Review

India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A magisterial account of the pains, the struggles, the humiliations, and the glories of the world’s largest and least likely democracy, Ramachandra Guha’s India After Gandhi is a breathtaking chronicle of the brutal conflicts that have rocked a giant nation and the extraordinary factors that have held it together. An intricately researched and elegantly written epic history peopled with larger-than-life characters, it is the work of a major scholar at the peak of his abilities.

In my opinion, Ramachandra Guha has done India a big service by writing this book, and by writing it well. Sixty years about a mammoth country! He has done a great job condensing his detailed research (the constitution, newspapers, biographies, personal notes of politicians, and even the campaign slogans used to get votes) and presenting it in readable bite-sized chapters.

If you’ve picked up this book, I suggest you go in with an open mind. Forget what your grandparents told you about Nehru, or what your parents told you about the emergency period. The author doesn’t stick to the timeline. Neither does he lament about opportunistic political alliances, corruption and poverty. He talks about the ideals this country was founded upon, and the aspirations of the founding fathers and the people.

We rarely stop and wonder how India is holding it all together despite the differences in religion, language, class and caste. But this book shows how India has proven that it’s bigger than all its differences, time and again.

India after Gandhi exposes the country’s wounds but, at the same time, gives you a lot of hope about the future.

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