Ramachandra Guha's Blog

January 6, 2015

Book Review of “Capital: The Eruption of Delhi”, Rana Dasgupta, Penguin Press.


I


The novelist and critic U. R. Ananthamurthy once said that India lives simultaneously in the twelfth and the twenty-first centuries. He might have added: and all the centuries in-between.


No city better exemplifies Ananthamurthy’s maxim than the country’s capital, Delhi. The three port cities of Chennai, Kolkata, and Mumbai were given shape by the British in the 18th and 19th centuries. On the other hand, Delhi, whi...

 •  flag
0 comments
1 like · like  • 
Published on January 06, 2015 05:10 • 67 views

January 4, 2015

Some twenty years ago, a friend from Mumbai and I were discussing how women were treated in our cities. We both agreed that women were most unsafe in New Delhi, where the hostility to them took both verbal and physical forms. In Kolkata, Chennai, and Ahmedabad, women were rarely abused or attacked in public, so long as they conformed to certain roles. They had to dress and act demurely, in keeping with what was recognized as Bengali or Tamil or Gujarati culture.


My friend and I congratulated...

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on January 04, 2015 04:43 • 34 views

December 27, 2014

Wives of famous men do not always get their due from historians and biographers. Lincoln, Lenin, Churchill, De Gaulle, Lee Kuan Yew— the women they married and whose sacrifices enabled their work are scarcely known to posterity. What is true of politicians is usually true of writers as well. We read and admire Kalidasa, Goethe, Dickens, Balzac and Manto—but what do we know of their wives? And do we care?


This column is about a man whose work and life have been unjustly obscured by the (just) f...

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on December 27, 2014 01:29 • 21 views

December 6, 2014

Commissions of enquiry are often the stock-in-trade of governments to defuse crises and buy themselves time’. Thus writes the historian Gyanesh Kudaisya, in an excellent introduction to a new edition of the Report of the States Reorganization Commission, first published in 1955.


The States Reorganization Commission (hereafter SRC) was set up in response to persistent demands that colonial provincial boundaries be redrawn on the basis of language. It had three members: the jurist S. Fazl Ali,...

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on December 06, 2014 20:29 • 65 views

November 28, 2014

I write this on a day when the front page of the newspaper reports that a Cabinet Minister has visited Rajasthan to consult an astrologer. Meanwhile, a back page photograph in the same paper shows the most powerful man in cricket preparing to enter a famous and well endowed temple in Kerala.


The Cabinet Minister in question has recently faced criticism in the press for her (mis)handling of her Ministry. And, it seems, some criticism from her party too—once in sole charge, she now has two Minis...

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on November 28, 2014 20:20 • 29 views

November 15, 2014

In an important essay published some years ago, Sunil Khilnani argued that ‘Nehru was a politician without religious faith, but in possession of the deepest moral sense. He tried to develop a morality without the fall-back of religion, and while having to act under the compulsions of wielding power.’


That Nehru was sceptical of religion is widely believed. Khilnani begins his essay with a letter written by Nehru to Gandhi in 1933, where he stated: ‘Religion is not familiar ground for me, and a...

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on November 15, 2014 08:24 • 35 views

November 9, 2014

There is a rich literature on how the culture of modern cities has been nourished by immigrants from other countries. Books have been written on how American writers (from Ernest Hemingway and Richard Wright on to James Baldwin and Edmund White) did some of their best work in Paris. Other books explain how London was made less insular by talented individuals fleeing Hitler and Stalin—such as the writers Arthur Koestler, Sebastian Haffner, and George Mikes; the historians E. H. Gombrich and Er...

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on November 09, 2014 08:12 • 26 views

October 12, 2014

The best biography of Vallabhbhai Patel was written by Rajmohan Gandhi. Based on full access to Patel’s own papers, it is a rich account of his life and struggles, set against the context of the historical forces which shaped them.


Rajmohan Gandhi’s Patel: A Life, was first published in March 1991. The preface, written in April 1990, begins thus: ‘The establishment of independent India derived legitimacy and power, broadly speaking, from the exertions of three men, Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. But...

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on October 12, 2014 08:27 • 107 views

September 28, 2014

In April this year I was in Houston, which has a large Indian community. I had dinner with a group of NRIs, and we spoke about the 16th General Elections. I was told a hundred college students and professionals from Houston had gone to India to campaign. How many for the Bharatiya Janata Party, I asked. At least ninety, said my hosts, adding, most likely ninety-nine.


For at least two decades now, the BJP and its sister organizations have worked actively among Indians in North America. NRIs hav...

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on September 28, 2014 08:18 • 37 views

August 9, 2014

In her recent book Green Wars, the environmental journalist Bahar Dutt writes: ‘The editor of a leading media house, everytime I pitched a green story, would invariably complain: “Environmentalism is stalling growth; all I am interested in is double-digit growth for this country”’.


The idea that environmental protection and economic progress are at odds is widely held among India’s elite. It is shared by newspaper editors, economists, businessmen, and, not least, politicians. The free-market...

 •  flag
0 comments
1 like · like  • 
Published on August 09, 2014 05:37 • 151 views

Ramachandra Guha's Blog

Ramachandra Guha
Ramachandra Guha isn't a Goodreads Author (yet), but he does have a blog, so here are some recent posts imported from his feed.
Follow Ramachandra Guha's blog with rss.