In this, the most sweeping, powerful and enthralling of their books, the authors of such worldwide best sellers as ls Paris Burning?, Or I'll Dress You in Mourning, and O Jerusalem! have re-created the majestic and tumultuous end of an era, when 400,000,000 people, one fifth of all humanity, claimed their freedom from the greatest empire history has ever known—only to find that the price of freedom was partition, war, riots and murder.
Their subject is the eclipse of the British Raj and the birth of an independent India and Pakistan; the violent transformation of that fabled India—the land of maharajas with their palaces, vices, jewels and harems,-their gold-caparisoned elephants and their glittering private armies; the India of KipIing’s army, with its centuries of legendary heroism, its skirmishes along the Khyber Pass of the Northwest Frontier against the fiercest warriors on the globe, the Pathans, its young British officers commanding troops of a dozen races and religions and castes; the India of tiger hunts and pigsticking, of polo and memsahibs, of dazzling-balls and luxurious clubs; the India of astrologers and sadhus, holy men and strange customs; the India that was the heart and soul of an empire—into the new India of Gandhi and Nehru, precursor of the Third World.
Their story begins in London on New Year's Day of 1947, when a black Austin brings to the door of 10 Downing Street the man Prime Minister Clement Attlee had selected for the task of cutting England's ties to her proudest possession, her Indian Raj. The choice could not have been more ironic. It fell -on Lord Louis Mountbatten, the great-grandson of Queen Victoria, the empress in whose name the empire had been assembled. The story ends just over a year later, at Allahabad, India, on February 12, 1948, as a man leans from a steam boat to pour into the Ganges the ashes of India's murdered liberator, Mahatma Gandhi. Between those dates the world had changed. An age, the Age of Imperialism, had passed and another had begun. An independent India had been born on a day cursed by the stars; the largest Moslem nation in the world, Pakistan, had come into existence; ten million people had been uprooted and perhaps a quarter of a miIIion killed in the greatest migration in history.
At the center of their narrative are major figures of a drama: Nehru, the sensitive politician who prepared for greatness as India's prime minister in a British jail; Jinnah, a Moslem who drank, ate pork and rarely entered a mosque, yet who led 45 million Moslems to nationhood, proclaiming “We shall have lndia divided or lndia destroyed"; Mountbatten drawing up the plans for India's division, predicting as he did so that one day the Indians would “bitterly regret the decision they are about to take”; Gandhi, the gentle prophet of a revolution, who stirred the masses of the most populous area on earth without raising his voice, and humbled the British empire by refusing all nourishment except water and bicarbonate of soda.
Weaving together the lives of people great and small, of statesmen, revolutionaries, politicians, ordinary men and women caught up in the triumph and tragedy of a world in upheaval, Collins and Lapierre have illuminated one of the great dramas of our time. Theirs is a book that brims over with pathos, human tragedy, heroism, excitement, conveying the fever pitch of those hot, terrible, dusty days when an age ended and the soul of a nation found utterance at last. They take the reader from the frenzied debates in the imperial grandeur of the Viceroy’s palace to villages destroyed by massacres and riots; from the sordid slums of Calcutta to the funeral ghats of the Holy City of Benares; from the palaces of bewildered maharajas to the baking roads on which millions of refugees sought a new destiny; from the garden in which Gandhi pledged a fast unto death to bring his countrymen back to reason to the bazaars in which his assassins searched for the weapons with which to kill him; from Delhi's jubilant celebrations of independence to the cruel awakening of a divided subcontinent. . . .
Dominique Lapierre was born in Châtelaillon-Plage, Charente-Maritime, France. At the age of thirteen, he travelled to America with his father who was a diplomat (Consul General of France). He attended the Jesuit school in New Orleans and became a paper boy for the "New Orleans Item". He developed interests in travelling, writing and cars and later traveled across the United States as a young man.
In the early 1950s Lapierre was conscripted into the French army. After one year in a tank regiment, he was transferred to SHAPE headquarters to serve as an interpreter. There he met a young American Army corporal, Larry Collins, a Yale graduate and draftee. They became instant friends. When Collins was discharged he was offered a job with Procter & Gamble. Two days before reporting to work, the United Press offered him a job as caption writer at their Paris office, for much less money than offered by Procter & Gamble. Collins accepted the offer and was soon picked up by Newsweek to be their correspondent in the Middle East. When Lapierre was discharged, he found work as a reporter for the magazine Paris Match. Several years later they decided to join forces to tell a big story which would appeal to both French and anglophone audiences. Their first bestseller Is Paris Burning? sold close to ten million copies in thirty languages. In this book they mixed the modern technique of investigation journalism with the classical methods of historical research.
After that they spent four years in Jerusalem to reconstruct the birth of the State of Israel for the book O Jerusalem!. Lapierre is proud that after spending a great deal of time in Jerusalem he knows each alley, square, street, and building in the Holy City intimately.
Two of Lapierre's books – Is Paris Burning? (co-written with Larry Collins) and City of Joy – have been made into films. Lapierre and Collins wrote several other books together before Collins' death in 2005.
Lapierre speaks fluent Bengali.
He was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian award in the 2008 Republic Day honours list.
A highly biased book which masquerades as non-fiction but actually reads like sensational fiction.It was an international bestseller and any readers from outside the subcontinent are likely to get a very misleading picture.
If one wants to read an objective and impartial analysis of the events that led to Indian independence and the creation of Pakistan,one should stay away from this book.If one wants merely to be entertained,then,this book will do.
Readers in Pakistan may find it particularly off-putting as it gives a very negative portrayal of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and essentially is an argument against partition.
The book looks at events through the eyes of Lord Mountbatten,India's last viceroy.He is the good guy as far as the authors are concerned,and "must save India from itself." The British were a race that "God had destined to rule the Indians" and had acquired India "naturally."
The authors use the mass communal slaughter that was taking place at the time as a device to keep the tension building.They relate how a canal ran red with blood and the description of the killings is very graphic.It is lots of scenes like this which helped to turn the book into a huge bestseller.
My distaste for this book notwithstanding,I acknowledge that the authors possess good storytelling skills.A colourful chapter describes the lavish lifestyles of Indian Maharajas as the fate of the princely states hung in the balance.
I read this book several years ago,it kept me turning the pages.But looking back I don't remember it fondly because of its very obvious bias.
Very rarely comes a defining moment that changes history to the extent of being un-recognizable and very rarely comes a book that changes your life, perceptions and everything that you presumed to be true once and for all. Independence of India was the defining moment in modern India and this book by the author duo Dominique Lappierre and Larry Collins on the before and after-math of the same is the defining book in my life.
Honestly speaking, not even the most lauding words of mine can do justice to this beautiful, poignant and soul-stirring historical documentary cum novel in which we glide through the charming yet terrifying history of our own nation during the period of 1939-49, stupefied, terrorized and wide-eyed in awe and chill, as the author duo take us on a once-in-a-lifetime kind of ride that is bound to change our very perceptions of history, beliefs and ideologies regarding the very country and society that we inhabit. Frankly, never has a single book amazed and intrigued me so much, while being so educative and informative.
The most astounding achievement of this book is that it rips out the aura of myths that have agglomerated around our political figures associated with the freedom movement, and humanizes each and every one of them, while being totally neutral, and being absolutely honest with the facts.
Every Indian has grown up on a staple of myths and legends associated with our freedom fighters. These fables have a tendency to sweep history in very broad strokes, ignoring much and instead forcing us into believing generalised facts such as those about all Britishers/foreigners being diabolic, all freedom fighters being pious to the hilt and many others. Well, be rest assured that this book will end up ripping out each of those notions and burning them to cinders.
Another fascinating aspect of this book is its characterization of Mahatma Gandhi, so real yet surreal at times. It shows you in clear light, the real essence of being the father of a nation. It shows you what it meant to be one M.K.Gandhi. You are bound to bow in humility and fall in love with this mahatma, whether you have read good or bad or nothing about him before.
The other facets of the Indian independence story like the Kashmir problem and the issue of princely states have also been dealt in a very detailed manner too and are wonderful read on their own accord themselves.
There is also a very horrifying and realistic account of the tragedy of partition and its bloody aftermath. Through this piece, the author-duo have delved into some of the darker sides of the prominent figures of that era and the whole populace as a whole. This portion is the most gut-wrenching one and you are left to wonder in amazement at the sheer magnitude of craziness and horror of the whole episode. One gets to know why this is the one deep blemish that has stained the minds of every subsequent generation on the both sides of the border.
This book is recommended for anyone interested in knowing our freedom fighters, freedom movement, the Raj, the Maharajas and the Mahatma very substantially, if not wholly or in full measure. Above all, this is recommended for every Indian who wants a tryst with the quandary that is INDIA.
[ Lastly, I am sorry if I ended up writing a eulogy instead of an honest critical review, but such is the place of this book in my life, that it is almost impossible for me to view it in a critical way. ]
The saga of the Indian subcontinent’s independence from Britain and the creation of the states of India and Pakistan told through a collection of interrelated stories about major events and important figures that influenced the independence movement
A case of interesting history writing that doesn’t present events in the dry, matter-of-fact chronological order (although the semblance of chronology have to be and is maintained in the narrative) as we find in usual history books. This makes it an accessible book for new readers.
All qualities counted, however, there is a big problem with the perspective. This book comes off as portraying the functioning and benevolent British Raj that sadly and unfortunately had to go due to extenuating circumstances.
The consensus among historians puts much blame on the short-sightedness of the last British Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, and the fake urgency he created (for his personal reasons) to “get over with it” by prematurely taking the decision to partition the country. This urgency to finish the job as quickly as possible led to decisions that ripped apart the social fabric of the country, echoes of which are still heard in contemporary Indo-Pak relations.
This book in the most part is written by using Mountbatten’s archives and his direct interviews. Not surprising, then, that he comes across as a helpless and powerless spectator who could do nothing in the face of consummate madness, rioting, killing, raping, and plundering that swept the Indian society on the eve of Partition/independence and continued into many months. Lord Mountbatten is almost absolved of making a terrible blunder whose consequences his administration was unprepared to deal with, even though he himself later admitted to the historian Stanley Wolpert, confessing, “I fucked it up”.
Mahatma Gandhi gets good coverage as he deserves. He was the only major politician to see through the horrors of Partition and the bloodshed it would unleash. No one listened to his warnings; Jinnah turned a deaf ear, Nehru-Patel duo were eager to see British go and rule an independent country; but all of them were in for a rude shock when rioting and killing on a large scale ensued as soon as Partition and independence were formally announced.
This is a terribly difficult book to rate. One the one hand, it will give the reader a profound sense of the tragedy of Indian partition upon independence in 1947. Ten million people were displaced in the border crossings that followed the creation of India and Pakistan. The loss of life is epic and extraordinary, and any who read it will quickly realize that members of all religious groups (in this case, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus) are capable of horrific violence, as well as heroic acts of self-sacrifice. The book is over 500 pages long and covers only one year - there is no mistaking how high and how vast the stakes are as one works through it. And the portrait of Gandhi is truly spectacular.
On the other hand, the authors were clearly Anglophiles enamored of the last British Viceroy in India, Lord Mountbatten. Though they acknowledge a few of his epic mistakes, several bits of history are conveniently left out - such as the fact that the British largely created and fostered the animosities that led to pre- and post- partition violence (by promoting Sikhs, Ismailis, and Hindus as imperial agents and severely disenfranchising and terrorizing Muslims - representatives of the waning Mughal empire that the Brits conquered in order to take India- within a climate of extreme disparity.) One possible reason for this lack of crucial details: the authors want the readers to believe that the violence of partition, and partition itself, was largely the fault of Muhammad Ali Jinnah - the political force behind the creation of Pakistan.
The authors depict Jinnah as absolutist in his ego-maniacal need to be the father of a new nation, rather than acknowledge the validity of his concerns: that Muslims would never be treated equally in a majority-Hindu independent India and might come to suffer even worse than they did under the British. Perhaps this is also the reason why they scarcely mention B.R. Ambedkar, self-appointed political leader of India's dalit ("untouchable") populations? Ambedkar - one of the authors of the Constitution - also feared the fate of that community in an independent India and converted to Buddhism on his deathbed as an act of symbolic resistance to Hindu-majority rule.
If one is looking for a gripping narrative, however, this book is certainly it. The authors delve deeply into orientalist lore to depict the exploits of the maharajas (princely rulers of various territories who had their sovereignty revoked upon independence in 1947 and their titles and privileges rescinded 25 years later), and are not shy about including salacious - often stomach-churning and horrifying - stories. Indians - even Gandhi, at points - come off looking like a pretty debilitated bunch and certainly not fit for self-rule. Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, this book is still the best-selling account of Indian independence.
History's most grandiose accomplishments have the most banal of origins
Freedom at midnight gives a comprehensive account of the last year of the crown rule in India and the rigid dichotomy between the 2 major religions viz. Hindu and Muslim ( written as 'Moslem' in the book) who not only molested and oppressed their counterparts blatantly but also killed each other with sadistic fury in their quest for independence ( Swaraj ). This was, in essence, the dichotomy between the fathers of the two nations that formed after the Partition of British India. Mahatma Gandhi was antagonistic to partition while Jinnah wanted a separate Muslim nation at all costs.
The quartet of Jinnah, Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel ( Iron man of India), along with Lord Mountbatten were the decision-makers for India's fate, which, to the chagrin of all Hindu leaders, was a 'Partition'. Later, Mountbatten described this partition as "sheer madness".
The book also recounts Mountbatten's diplomacy and his art of administration. It also gives an account of the Crown Rule in India: a race destined to govern, subdue and continue their futile existence ( It was definitely futile from an Indian point of view since it is very clear that the economic situation of the colonies was actually worsened by the experience of British Colonialism).
Moreover, the book also touches on the regal life of the Maharajas and their recognition of the 'Paramountcy' of the Viceroy in order to continue their autonomy inside their states and allow the British to continue their violence and racism and deprive India of its funds.
I would say this book is a must-read for someone who wants to know about the events around the Partition; a reign that ruled India for decades and whose policies and governance can still be seen in our very country.
In a nutshell, British Raj in India can be described as history's most grandiose accomplishment that had the most banal of origins. The book culminates with the death and funeral of the father of the world's largest democracy, none other than MK Gandhi.
Until I read Freedom at Midnight, I really had no desire to visit the Indian subcontinent. Now, I really want to visit India and, if it were safe to do so, visit Pakistan. What a remarkable story these authors tell. So many great passages to read and note. Some humorous, some factual, some tragic:
Three centuries of ruling India had its impact on the men and women who came to work and rule. The authors point out that getting young men to come to the “Jewel in the Crown” to make a name or a fortune was easy before WWI and hard after:
The descriptions of the background of Mountbatten, Nehru, Patel are excellent. Gandhi is just as I see him in the eponymous movie. Jinnah is given short shrift, painted in a poor light. Of course, Jinnah was the catalyst for the split “India partitioned or India destroyed”. Partitioning the country was a massive job that the demagogues didn’t appreciate just how much work had to be done. Mountbatten did:
Some of the most moving and poignant vignettes are about the Indian Army as partition approaches:
The Sikh, Hindu and Moslem components of the Indian Army all gave heartfelt farewells to their comrades who would be moving to their respective countries at partition. Here is one example:
The ruling elites all thought that independence and partition would cool the tempers of the people. Only Gandhi had a clue what would really happen:
As partition approaches, various groups take extreme measures to ethnically cleanse their area. There are bad guys on every side. Criminal gangs also find it useful to scare their competition out of the territory. Warning—very graphic!
India at transition is truly an awesome entity that will have to be managed when the British Raj departs:
A main theme of the authors is the sheer size and breadth of the British Empire at its peak as the Age of Imperialism is about to come to an end:
The scenes after partition are just too terrible to show here. Many tragic stories. 5 Stars Must read.
The best book ever written on the birth of Pakistan as a nation. If you watch the movie Gandhi, and read this book, you have pretty much got the history of the time covered and a good understanding of the politics of the time. Millions of people died when Hindus marched from the north and Muslims marched to the north. Some years ago, I had an Pakistani friend who showed a group of us some photos of his old school. "MY God," our mutual Indian friend exclaimed, "That school building is my family home!" Virtually overnight, millions just picked up what they could carry and migrated either north or south depending on their religion. Houses were abandoned on both sides and empty homes were claimed quickly by anyone opportunistic enough. This account of the events leading up to partition, and the subsequent creation of a new nation, holds nothing back. It was very upsetting in part, graphic descriptions of the violence. Loving citizens who were once neighbours, turned on each other instantly. Massacres were common. India and Pakistan are still political foes, I for one, wish partition never happened. It seems a terrible waste of life, the country is better of united as one.
Written by an American and another French "journalist," yet it reads like Dan Brown(with better grasp on the English language). Never have I come across a book about the history of India, that is so unapologetically colonial in it's nature. I read it because my teacher told me that I would be "amused" by it. And amused I was with the arrogance with which the prose is written and the misrepresentation of history has been perpetrated through these pages.
The writer's use cliched, colonial terms such as "God-obsessed India." Really? Are the authors really unaware of the vast number of people who were killed in 17th and 18th century England because of differences of "sects" of a religion. When I read the first chapter's title, I assumed it to be ironic, never realizing that irony is something that would not be found in this 700 pages of pure garbage. If I wanted a history lesson as tainted by colonial lenses I would have probably read any number of history books written during the Raj. I am sure that the dead(thank god!) spirits of some of the ruthless war criminals, and human rights violators of the British Empire would find solace in reading this book.
The deification of Mountbatten, is beyond appalling. He is portrayed as the "dominant Englishman. The one man that took charge and gave Indian "wussies" the business about what's right for them. Nehru is "almost" like him, but not quite. Brings to mind Dr. Homi Bhabha's quote about British view on Indian men, "almost white, but not quite." His "glorious" family line is given as a the reason of his dominating demeanor and his "coolness." Of-course that can't be matched by a "sparrow" like Gandhi. And, Jinnah, oh well he is to blame for everything. He is the evil spirit that ruined India and interfered with the British plan make a nation as glorious as the little isle on the western border of Europe. Oh these stupid Indians, would they ever understand what mistake they have made my refusing the British rule?!
The obvious racial undertone gets a new height when the authors bring forth idiotic and almost dead Aryan invasion theory to explain why Punjabis are a "marshal" race, as opposed to the "small and dark Bengalis" who are "mere Asiatics." I am sure that it has nothing to do with that Bengal is where most of the protest movements started from. Because anything good that comes out of India, well it has to be influenced by the higher race, even in ancient times.
More sickening than anything is the author's obvious misrepresentation of Churchill. He is elevated to the holiest of holy levels, while Attlee is diminished in the eyes of the reader. Attlee whose reform would go on to prove to be fruitful for England, is shown as just another weak and meek bureaucrat. Oh the good old days of whimsical Churchill and his racial pride. Oh the good old days, when he would wage his war against the Nazis to free Germans, while he kept the Indian masses enslaved. Maybe the author needs to do some research and maybe read "Churchill's Secret War." The authors paint the aristocratic, pompous, arrogant fat man in a light that far exceeds any propaganda papers.
The authors definitely have it against any common man that dares to rise up the ranks. After all bureaucrats and military generals, and all those people are supposed to come from a royal background such as Mountbatten's and Churchill's. Authors proudly mention Mountbatten's link to the Czars, one of the worst dictators in the history of the world, to establish his credibility. And of course he authors are displeased with the mousy looking socialist, Attlee. And Gandhi, oh he is just another eunuch madman. The only Indian people worth praising are the corrupt Maharajas, who were put into place, forthe most part, by the Raj. The corrupt, docile and ruthless Maharajas, who fashioned themselves after he Sun King of France. Oh yes these are the "Aryan" blooded, true heroes, and not those dirty, dark Bengalis.
The authors misrepresent Indian women and their role in Indian society, the same way British empire had done so. Of-course I recommend reading "Orientalism" by Edward Said, which will make the reader of this book question if the authors were being paid by the empire itself to write this craptastic fantasy fiction. Oh the Indian women, all bare breasted and in Harems to be used by their Maharajas. Oh the female revolutionary leaders, vanish back in oblivion. And of-course take Subhas Bose with you. After all, he was a dirty Bengali, not a part of the "Aryan" race.
I am surprised that a French and an American is so faithful to the British empire. But, then again, that explains a lot about the current world affairs.
This is a highly readable look at one pivotal year in the history of India: 1947, the year that marked the end of British rule and the partition of the subcontinent into two new nations, India and Pakistan. As an introduction to the topic it is hard to beat, but readers need to be aware of several limitations:
1. It was written in 1975. All of the main players were dead with the exception of Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy.
2. It was written in 1975. India and Pakistan were both hard at work rewriting their own histories and much archival data was impossible to find.
3. Over four prior book collaborations,Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre honed a winning formula for accessible, page-turning popular histories: focus on a narrow, dramatic moment in time, using a restricted point of view. In Freedom at Midnight they do this superbly: the back story is filled in with just enough detail for comprehension, the focus is on just five key players, and the narrative pacing is nothing short of breathtaking.
4. Collins and Lapierre hit the historians' mother lode with unprecedented access to the papers and person of Louis Mountbatten; fortuitously, since he would be murdered by IRA terrorists just four years later. The 30 hours of interviews and thousands of pages of private diaries and notes the authors sifted through give this history a special inside look as seen by the man who, more than anyone, shaped the final outcome. The authors have done plenty of primary research and interviewing with staff and family of other players, but there is no doubt that Mountbatten is front and center in this narrative and that the book occasionally veers towards hagiography.
Because of these limitations this book is a place to start, not the place to stop in any serious study of South Asia, but reviewers who have suggested that the authors are apologists for the British are dead wrong. Collins and Lapierre make it clear that the British did a great deal of damage, both before and during the final year (click through to the full review to read quotes). There were also many, many stories not told by this book and key players who were missing from the narrative, but that is the limitation of this type of history. Jinnah does come off rather badly, but again, access to archival material was somewhat limited when the authors were penning this account, Jinnah himself was dead (in 1948), and his personality meant that most of his thoughts were carried to the grave.
When people talk about a book that deals with the freedom and partition of India, somehow this one comes to the mind of everybody. There are reasons. Written like some kind of shabby romance that became a tragedy with darkly comic tone, this soap opera of a book is one of the juiciest pieces of research work that one can read, as far as that particular subject is concerned. Too bad that the authors had decided to make this a drama, with the Viceroy Mountbatten as its tragic hero, and time as the villain. It is absolutely trashy in terms of focus, as it deals with rape of millions of Hindu & Sikh women and destruction of pornographic records almost in the same breath. It is incredibly callous in its complete disregard of misfortune that fell upon Hindus of Eastern Bengal. Above all, it keeps on parroting that the a power that had ruled India in all senses had no idea what kind of fate was going to befall upon the millions of people who had only one stake in this affair— staying alive! What this well-written trash tries to hide beneath its eloquence is very simple. It was the British who had created an exactly similar mess in Palestine. They had done so with the simple objective of ensuring that the place they leave remain perpetually cancerous. Exactly same model had been followed for sub-continent. The process by which we succeeded in remaining free, is a saga that is richer and bigger than the sordid pulp produced here. Perhaps it would be captured by someone someday. And I'm quite sure that the author would not be someone looking at some British aristocrat (or their Nehruvian acolytes) with swooning eyes. This book is eminently readable. It's probably the most easily readable book on the subject, which explains the insane amount of popularity it had enjoyed and still enjoys. But, it makes a travesty of history. Above all, it renders one of the bloodiest mismanagements in the history of mankind in such sepia-tinted prose that things look really romantic, or atmost tragic. In reality, it was a crime. In reality, the perpetrators have still not been punished. In reality, millions of women and children are yet to be avenged. Someday some author with spine will tell their story. That would be the real thing. This... is rubbish.
This is the first book I always recommend to anyone wanting to understand India better. It covers the six months prior to and six months after 8/15/47, when India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain. So basically it starts with the decision to "Quit India" -- a decision made so suddenly and brazenly and devoid of conscience in its execution as to totally boggle the mind (and we still bear the fruits today, witness what's going on in Pakistan). And it ends with the assassination of Gandhi. It opens with a full description of all the scriptural and other sacred referents involved in a Brahmin man heading out to the fields to take a dump in the early morning. Nothing is as it would seem to an outsider in India. After reading this book, you begin to be something other than a total outsider.
Oh dear. This book gets high marks from many reviewers for its easy reading, and whilst there are some nice rhetorical flourishes, they become overused to the point of cliche (if I never see the words 'Queen Victoria's great-grandson' again it will be too soon). If you want to read a romanticised hagiography of Mountbatten, or, if I'm being charitable, a version of the liberation of India as seen through Mountbatten's eyes: read this. If you want to read something that really gets to the heart of the enormous complexities of British rule in India, the Indian liberation movement, the key characters on all sides, and the results of partition (including present day legacies): read Michael French's excellent 'Liberty or Death'.
This is a well-researched, easy-to-read, even page-turning, history of the last days of the British Raj in 1947/8, the ill-handled partition creating an independent India and Pakistan, and the last days and assassination of Mohandas Gandhi. I thoroughly enjoyed it, being strongly moved by many of the events portrayed.
If one isn't fond of non-fiction, I would suggest trying this one. Beautifully written to make stories from around the period of independence sound like a collection of creative short stories. Towards the long side, but worth the time. I learnt a lot about the independence struggle that I didn't know earlier. Feels like a TV series about that era.
ठीक उसी प्रकार, तत्कालीन परिस्थितियों को ध्यान में रखते हुए, और इसे आधुनिक अर्थो में लेते हुए, जब पूरा देश लीग और कांग्रेस की खींचातानी में दर्द से बिलबिला रहा था, और धार्मिक-दंगो की आग में झुलस रहा था, तब भारत-भूमि पर विष्णुजी के ग्यारहवें अवतार के रूप में एक पुरुष, क्षमा कीजियेगा, महापुरुष का आगमन होता है, जिसने ठीक उसी प्रकार जैसे भगवान शिव ने मानव जाति की रक्षा के लिए देवासुर समुद्र-मंथन में निकले विष को स्वयम पी लिया था, उस महापुरुष ने भारत को आज़ादी देने जैसे दुरूह व लगभग असम्भव काम को अपने हाथ मे लिया- उस महापुरुष का नाम था- लॉर्ड माउंटबैटन। . इस औपन्यासिक इतिहास को पढ़ने के बाद मैं सोच रहा था कि अगर इसकी शुरुआत उपरोक्त शब्दों से हुई होती तो निश्चित ही ये और चटकीला लगता। . किताब तो है ये इतिहास की लेकिन इसमें केवल पाँच या छः व्यक्तियों पर फोकस किया गया है। लॉर्ड माउंटबैटन को भारत की आज़ादी का हीरो माना गया है, एडविना माउन्टबैटन हीरोइन है, गांधी जी साइड हीरो है, नेहरू और पटेल पात्र-कलाकार है जबकि जिन्ना को विलेन बनाया गया है। किताब लिखने में बड़ा भयंकर शोध किया गया है- मुख्य रूप से तत्कालीन भारतीय रियासतो के राजाओं की अय्याशियों का जबरदस्त वर्णन है, विभाजन के दौरान हुए हैवानियत और दरिन्दगी के नंगे नाच का चित्रात्मक प्रदर्शन है, और गांधी जी की हत्या की पूरी प्लानिंग बताई गई है, इसके अलावा जो सबसे मुख्य बात है वो यह कि पुरी किताब में बस माउन्टबैटन का ही जलवा है। . माउंटबैटन की नौ-सैन्य उपलब्धियां, उनके मेडल्स व उपाधियां, उनकी वाक-पटुता, उनकी वशीकरण क्षमता,उनकी प्रसाशनिक दक्षता, उनकी दयामयी देवी जैसी पत्नी एडविना, उनके कुत्ते, उनका ब्रिटिश राजघराने से ताल्लुक, उनका राजकीय रहन-सहन और उनके द्वारा दी गयी आलीशान पार्टियां- इन सबका विशद वर्णन है- यदि आप लॉर्ड माउंटबैटन नामक महापुरुष के बारे में जानना चाहते हैं तो यह किताब जरूर पढ़ें। . एक जगह जिक्र है किताब में कि जब सितम्बर1947 में दिल्ली और पंजाब में दंगे अपनी पराकाष्ठा पर ���े, और लॉर्ड माउंटबैटन देश के प्रथम गवर्नर जनरल के रूप मे शिमला में आराम फरमा रहे थे, तभी एक रात वी पी मेनन का फोन आता है और वह लॉर्ड माउंटबैटन से कहते है कि, "दिल्ली में समस्याएं बढ़ रही है; राजधानी खतरे में है, आपको तुरंत वापस आना चाहिए" इस पर कुछ देर तो लॉर्ड माउंटबैटन ना-नुकर करते है और कहते हैं कि मैं बाद में आऊंगा, मैंने तो देश उसके कर्णधारों के हाथ मे छोड़ ही दिया है, फिर भी वी पी मेनन आखिरी बार कहते है कि ,"अगर आप 24 घण्टे के भीतर नही आ सकते,तो फिर आने की जहमत उठाने की कोई जरूरत नही, तब तक हम भारत को खो चुके होंगे" तब लार्ड माउंटबैटन जवाब देते हैं," वी पी, यू आर एन ओल्ड स्वाइन, यू हैव परसुअडेड मी." और जैसा कि वर्णित है किताब में, उसके बाद माउंटबैटन आते है, तुरंत आपातकालीन समिति का गठन कर के धड़ा-धड़ फैसले लेते है और स्थिति को काबू में लाते है, जब कि ये और बात है कि हजारों लोग तब तक मर चुके होते है, और सिलसिला बदस्तूर जारी रहता है। इस बात को तब जानने वाले केवल पाँच लोग थे- माउंटबैटन, नेहरू, पटेल, मेनन और एम. ओ. मथाई। खुद माउंटबैटन के अनुसार (जैसा कि किताब में लिखा है) कहा था कि यह बात प्रकाशित नही की जाएगी कि फैसले उनके दिमाग से लिये गए, बल्कि दिमाग नेहरू और पटेल का ही दिखाया जाएगा और माउंटबैटन केवल संवैधानिक मुखिया के तौर पर उन फैसलों के क्रियान्वयन हेतु आदेश जारी करेंगे। . लेकिन उनका एक बीबीसी इंटरविव जो 30 अक्टूबर1975 को Listner पत्रिका में छपा था, उसमे माउंटबैटन ने खुद ही अपनी बड़ाई हाँकी है कि कैसे देश को आज़ादी के बाद उन्होंने कैसे टेक ओवर किया था नेहरू एवम पटेल की मिन्नतों पर। वाह! . एम ओ मथाई ने अपनी किताब The Reminiscences of The Nehru Age में इस घटना का जिक्र करते हुए लिखा है कि वी पी मेनन ने 4 सितम्बर 1947 को शिमला फोन किया तो था लेकिन नेहरू और पटेल को संज्ञान में न लेते हुए। यह भी लिखा है कि वी पी मेनन नेहरू के शुरुआती विरोधियों में से एक थे। खैर, फोन करने के बाद अलसुबह वह मथाई से मिले और निवेदन किया कि किसी तरह नेहरू को राजी करें। नेहरू और पटेल दोनों वी पी मेनन से इस बात पर सख्त नाराज थे, लेकिन अब चूंकि गवर्नर जनरल शिमला से चल चुके थे तो उनको दिल्ली पहुँचते ही उन्हें असमंजस में डालना उचित नही था। इस प्रकार तीनो के सम्मिलित प्रयास से प्रशाषनिक गतिविधियों में तेजी आई- Freedom at Midnight में इसका अकेला श्रेय लॉर्ड माउंटबैटन को देना कहां तक उचित है? . मथाई ने अपनी किताब में यह भी जिक्र किया है कि 1969 में और 14 सितम्बर 1976 को माउंटबैटन ने इस बात को स्वीकारा है कि मेनन ने उन्हें दिग्भ्रमित किया था और परिस्थितियों को बढ़ा-चढ़ाकर बयान किया था, इसके अलावा यह भी ध्यान देने योग्य है कि दिल्ली और पंजाब मिलाकर ही भारत नही बन जाता है। लेकिन फिर भी बीबीसी को इंटरविव देते समय हमारे प्रथम गवर्नर जनरल और अंतिम वायसराय आखिर आत्म-मुग्ध हो ही गए और निष्कपटता व सत्यवादिता को ताक पर रखकर आत्म-प्रवंचना के शिकार बन गए। . माउंटबैटन पदवियाँ, उपाधियां प्राप्त करने के लिए अति महत्वकांक्षी थे, फोटोज़ खिंचवाने का, सुर्खियों में रहने का उन्हें शौक था। इंडिया आने से पहले वह "विस्काउंट" थे, आजादी की शाम उनका रैंक "अर्ल" का हो गया, उसके बाद गवर्नर जनरल बनाये जाने के बाद उन्होंने स्वयं नेहरू की सिफारिश के जरिए ब्रिटेन के महाराजा से "मरकिस" की पदवी पाने की कोशिश की- दुर्भाग्यवश महाराज द्वारा उस सिफारिश पर ध्यान नही दिया गया, नेहरू ने कोशिश थी। माउंटबैटन ने खुद अपने बारे में लगभग कुछ नहीं लिखा है, लेकिन अन्य लेखकों को अपनी महानता लिखने के लिए प्रेरित किया है। खुद इस किताब को लिखने के लिए उन्होंने लेखकद्वै को तीस घण्टे का र��कॉर्डेड इंटरविव दिया था। . 22 मार्च 1947 की माउंटबैटन भारत आये , 15 अगस्त 1947 को भारत एक आजाद मुल्क था, इस अवधि में आजादी देने की प्रक्रिया में जो तेजी से कार्य हुआ, यह एक खास बात है वाइसराय के शाषन-काल की, लेकिन इसका भी पूरा श्रेय माउंटबैटन को नही दिया जा सकता, नेहरू, पटेल एवम अन्य नेताओं (जिन्ना को छोड़कर) की भी भागीदारी थी-लेकिन किताब इस बात का पुरजोर समर्थन करती है जैसे माउंटबैटन ही सबकुछ थे। आजादी देना मजबूरी हो चुकी थी- अंतरार्ष्ट्रीय दबाव, ब्रिटेन में सत्ता परिवर्तन और द्वितीय विश्वयुद्ध के बाद ब्रिटेन की मरणासन्न अर्थव्यवस्था के कारण- विंस्टन चर्चिल तब भी भारत को आजादी देने के विरोध में थे- जब तक यह क्लियर नही हो गया कि भारत कॉमनवेल्थ की सदस्यता में बना रहेगा। . देश की आजादी के बारे में मेरा जो मानना है, और हो सकता है बहुत सारे लोग मेरी राय से सहमत हो, एवं गीतकार शकील बदायूनी ने चार लाइनों में बहुत अच्छे से व्यक्त किया है-
"हमने सदियों में ये आज़ादी की नेमत पाई है सैकडों कुरबानियां दे कर ये दौलत पाई है मुस्कुराकर खाई हैं सीनों पे अपने गोलियां कितने वीरानों जो गुजरे हैं तो जन्नत पाई है।"
"गोलियां भी खाई है" और "वीरानों से भी गुजरे है"- भीष्म साहनी ने एक पतली सी किताब लिखी है "जलियावाला बाग" जो नेशनल बुक ट्रस्ट से छपी थी, 6 या 7 साल हो गए उसे पढ़े हुए- जिस तरह से उन्होंने जनरल डायर की हैवानियत का चित्रांकन किया है, आज भी मुझे याद है। कितने लोग अंग्रेजो की लाठियों से मर गए, कितनों को गोली मार दी गयी, फांसी पर लटका दिया गया, जेलों में कितनी मौतें हो गयी- इन सब का सही-सही आँकड़ा कही नही है शायद। शशि थरूर ने अपनी पुस्तक "अंधकार काल- भारत मे ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य" के अध्याय-5 में लिखा है कि, "... ब्रिटेन द्वारा क्रूरता पूर्वक लागू की गई आर्थिक नीतियों के कारण 'राज' के दौरान 30 से 35 मिलियन भारतीय भूख से अनावश्यक ही मृत्यु को प्राप्त हुए। अकाल की विभीषिका के दौरान लाखो टन गेहूँ का भारत से निर्यात किया जाता था।" वि��ाजन के दौरान लगभग 14.5 मिलियन लोग विस्थापित हुए और 1 मिलियन से ज्यादा लोग दंगों में मारे गए- सम्मिलित रूप से देखा जाए तो ऐसी त्रासदी का सामना शायद ही दुनिया के किसी देश को करना पड़ा हो। . तो इस प्रकार, अगर कोई लेखक,व्यक्ति या समूह आजादी का सेहरा किसी एक आदमी के सर बांधने की कोशिश करता है तो देश की आजादी के लिए अन्य लोगो द्वारा बहाए गए उनके हर एक खून के कतरे के साथ नाइंसाफी करता है। आजादी अनेक लोगो के सम्मिलित प्रयासों का परिणाम है। कुछ लोग जो लाइमलाइट में थे या आजादी तक और उसके बाद भी जिये, आज हम उनको ज्यादा जानते है, मानते है, महान बताते है, पर बहुत से लोग ऐसे है जो आजादी की हसरत दिल मे लिए हुए दुनिया से रुखसत हो गए- उनके योगदान को बनिस्बत कम आंकना बेमानी होगी। चाहे किसी के पसंदीदा माउंटबेटन हो या गांधी, चाहे नेहरू हो या पटेल। . "Freedom at Midnight" जिस लेखन शैली में लिखी गयी है, वो मुझे अच्छी लगी, ग्रिपिंग है, और लास्ट तक पढ़ने को मजबूर करती है, किताब के कुछ भाग जैसे राजाओं की अय्याशियां और गांधीजी की हत्या की प्लानिंग और उसके बाद के घटनाक्रम इन सब चीजों के वर्णन में अच्छा शोध किया गया है, रोचक वर्णन है,किन्तु जब मैं इसके बारे में समग्र रूप से सोचता हूँ तो लगता है ये पुस्तक साम्राज्यवादी खिड़की से झांकते हुए एवम लार्ड माउंटबैटन को माध्यम बनाकर अंग्रेजो की "जातीय वरीयता" तथा "प्रबुद्ध निरंकुशता" की समर्थक लगती है। जय हिन्द!!
A fascinating, very readable history of the 1947 partition which split India and resulted in the overnight formation of the present India’s borders and the separate countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh, By humanizing the main characters involved, (Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten) and by including descriptions of what may seem bizarre and exotic to Westerners such as extremely extravagant lifestyles of Maharajahs it reads like an novel. Although most may know that the partition caused obscene and bloody massacres between Hindus, Moslems and Sikhs, the ferocity is beyond imagination. Also when the Punjab was split between India and Pakistan, there was the steady stream of 5 million Hindus and Sikh refugees travelling south mostly on foot and another approximately 5 million Moslems attempting to go north into Pakistan. Most had forsaken homes, businesses and belongings to save themselves from vengeful mobs. Much has been said about how the British Raj and Mountbatten’s role in India had been whitewashed. The British, after ruling India in a paternalistic manner were impatient to leave and Mountbatten decided to make the partition occur in a single day in a rush to go home. The borders were penciled in by another English man who had not seen India and agonized about his creation. Jinnah is demonized for his insistence on a separate Pakistan for the Moslems. A worried Nehru is shown in a sympathetic manner. The strange and sickly little Gandhi is given heroic status. He seemed the only major voice calling for the British to leave and was saddened about the slaughter he predicted partition would bring. He inspired a calming presence during rioting. A superb introduction to events which lead to the modern nation of India, but one should read other histories for some contradictory accounts. They will unlikely be as informative or as interesting to read. Although we know something of the innumerable tragedies during a single year covered in this book, the author’s still managed to build up a lot of suspense in this powerful story.
It is rare for me to read a non fiction. But fortunately I chose a good book to read.
Freedom at midnight, captures India on two occasions. One, her independence, one of the best moments in her history. Two, the partition, probably the worst time in her history.
Narration:- The author has a distinct advantage which ironically is a disadvantage as well. He gets an outside perspective of India, allowing him to criticise without having to feel obligated to justify any act or man. It is also a disadvantage because he ends up making several assumtions which are incorrect.
For the most part the narration is very engaging, urging the readers to read on. When it is not engaging however, it is not so because bad narration but because the subject becomes so brutal and horrifying. Even after 60 odd years, the recollection of some of the events is truly sickening, even to those of my generation who have never experienced the anguish the men and women at that time suffered.
Perspective The perspective of this book is both fascinating and appalling. The author does not hesitate to criticise the Maharajas of India and Indian national leaders. However he also often paints Mountbattion in a favourable light. The one Englishman who thought only the good of India and guided her journey. Which is anything but true. Perhaps because Mountbatton is one of the main source of this book, he has attained a status of a man who made everything possible without making any mistakes.
The author however, succeeds because of the little incidents he manages to present in an engaging way. For example, how the line of partition was actually drawn and by whom. I can say with utmost certainty that no text book contains this information and nor will it. When reading about these little things, one begins to understand more about the partition than what is generally understood.
However the author does make several incorrect claims. He makes references to two nation theory which has already been set aside as inaccurate. The British also come off as a great set of people. A sane voice amidst the chaos of religious clashes. However the author cleverly forgets how they flared the differences between religions in India when it suited them. The partition of Bengal, the famine of Bengal hardly make an appearance. He also makes references to the 'Aryan Invasion Theory' which has been proven incorrect more than once.
Overall, it is a book that is worth reading. Recommended to people who love history.
There are enough reviews about the content of this book. I will provide my reactions
1. I usually do not buy books, preferring to borrow from a library. I took this one from the library, but after reading it I ordered a copy for myself. 2. It is a history book, encapsulating the one year in which India was made, unmade, and then remade. If my history books had been written by La pierre and Collins, I would have never taken up engineering 3. Painstaking research usually results in unreadable material. But this one is different. Scores of anecdotes, hundreds of facts, a thousand pages, all woven into one fantastic tale. 4. I am happy at the generation I am living in, but after reading this book, it made me wonder whether I have missed the most epoch making time of my country, well any country for that matter. 5. The thought that I knew the horrors of partition. I was wrong then, I know now. 6. Ordering the other 2 books of the authors
I loved this book! I learned so much about Gandhi and the history of India. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writers list so many interesting details about the characters. It is unlike any historic account of events. I highly recommend it!
The composition of this book is such that you won't find it difficult to read through the pages, and the authors have weaved it with simple, yet strong literature. The way they have covered the whole period of Independence in over 650 pages is commendable, considering the fact that they have covered almost all the important events.
The book boasts of an exhaustive research done in the library of Mountbatten, over dinners and back in India, which gives an impression that the book is true to the events and emotions of the era.
But sadly, this is a book that tries to justify Britain's occupancy of India, trying to put with an utmost subtlety that the Britishers had no bad intentions and they did nothing but help India grow and become a better nation.
As you read, you'll find a great deal is written about Mahatma Gandhi, the "dejected bird" of Mountbatten, Nehru, the handsome Indian who is incredibly fascinated by the Mountbattens, Jinnah, the only guy who is shown in the bad light, and Patel, well... Let's just say he exists.
The book is just a manuscript to put forth Britain as the wise and better, quoting Rudyard Kipling, who says that Indians better be ruled by Britishers, and heavily quoting Churchill, who has been depicted as a "guy too important to be in a book on India".
At one point, the book talks of "millions of cattle who ate all the food that could have used to feed the Indian masses" but ignorantly decides to skip the tale of the famines caused by the Raj, that killed more Indians than Jews killed by Hitler.
The "rich indulgence of Indian kings" has been quoted in great detail, while the atrocities on Indian wealth and citizens by the British have been ignored.
The sad demise of young Britishers who died in India has been subjected to all the love, but not a drop of ink been wasted for the millions of Indians, who died pleasing their "memsahibs".
The lives of the young British officials stands as an example, enduring the harsh weather, and the problems of the "poor country". The authors, very blatantly quote that "a land of 83% illiterates got independent, but they forget to quote that it was them, who ruled these masses for 200 years, which makes them solely responsible for everything, right(a few) or wrong.
A book written only to make you like the British Raj, making Mountbatten the hero of all this, being equally praised by the British and Indians.
The book, though very well written, fails to provide the real picture of the struggle and suffering that Indians went through and tries to, through the power of the pen, make everything right what the Britishers did wrong.
I see that the header here has failed to note that this book was written by a team of authors: Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. These authors are simply brilliant and have collaberated on a number of stunning historical books about key moments in history, among them, "Is Paris Burning" & "O Jerusalem". This volume is about the struggle for liberation from British rule in India. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. Lapierre & Collins are terrific writers and their works are riveting, well-paced and packed with interesting information and history. If you like history but not the druggery of reading blah blah boring writers, THESE are the historians for you. Brilliant books!
I'm leaving for India, and this book was recommended to me. I knew nothing about India, except for the movie Gandhi and some misty misconceptions from my misspent youth. Now the animosity and tension between India and Pakistan, Hindu and Muslim, become clearer. The reading is hard going right now (events just after India and Pakistan partition) as the authors describe horrific events. Muslims intercept trainloads full of Hindus fleeing Pakistan and massacred the passengers. Trains arrived in Indian stations with compartments full of dead and maimed passengers, blood flowing from compartments. Each side experienced atrocities. How did I not know any of this?
Just few days after, India officially got independence, the two spearheads of then Indian politics, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, visited the outgoing Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, and requested him to take back his previous charge. Reason - they felt incapable of handling the horrendous situation partition had presented before them. "Take back the power of India, else there won't be any India," they pleaded. Mountbatten obliged and, sort-of staying in background, administered in military precision the smooth exodus of Indian Muslims and newly formed Pakistan's non-Muslims.
Thus, the book has brought forward the stark reality behind India's Freedom from the colonial rule. In that course, of course the book feels somehow slanted towards eulogizing Lord Mountbatten, but show me a history book that is not biased at all.
The book describes in vibrant colour and in fiction-like tone few days before ( from the day the Lord Mountbatten took the office) to the funeral day of the father of the Nation. The amount of research that has gone through the book is reflected in every page. The book has been written in a way as if the author were the eye-witness of all the incidents, and now the readers are.
The horror of partition was so animated in the book, you would flinch with revulsion. The plot of assassinating the Mahatma would make you restless. The struggle and stubbornness of political leaders to get their objectives would make you wonder, "Was the freedom really worth it?" 40s is the most important period in Indian history and the 40's India comes alive in every sentence of this book. The socio-economic conditions, the religious mindsets, the convoluted politics - you live the fight for freedom yourself throught this book. I am sure, after reading this book, you would look at our famous national leaders in a different light than before.
I have not read many books on Indian independence ( if you count the boring text books of school) to judge whether this is the best book ever written on the subject. But, undoubtedly, this one is the best history book I have ever read.
The single book can teach you a lot about Indian freedom struggle. Unlike the other history books which states just facts this book shows the social condition too, in its own way. Told in a way that even those who do not not know anything about history can clearly understand. A must read book for all generations.
for those who believe that the movie gandhi tells the story of the Quit India movement and partion, please do your ancestors a favor and read this book. a less pretty display of human emotions at work...
So, I finally successfully moved out of my reading 'comfort zone' and actually finished a non fiction book(despite finishing 4 other fiction novels since I started this). And the best part is I absolutely loved it.
This book is imo, a must read for each and every Indian and Pakistani to actually understand in detail what exactly happened during those tumultuous times in an unbiased manner through the eyes of the person who was at its epicentre.
Now, I'm not gonna waste too much space on what my views about Mountbatten, Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah or Nathu Ram Godse were/are but I can say with some conviction that those views will be much more informed now than they were before reading this book.
Be it Clement Attlee's persistence in persuading Mountbatten to take up the most difficult job of becoming The Raj's last Viceroy; Mountbatten's own apprehensions, his numerous tete-a-tetes with Jinnah, Gandhi, Nehru, Patel; the division of Punjab by Radcliffe's pencil on a map, the inevitable horrors on both sides of the new border; the planning and execution of Gandhi's execution - everything was described in so much detail backed by impeccable research and most importantly, the story telling was top notch. Infact, it picks up the pace of a proper thriller once the assassination part kicks in.
Think this is one book which every kid in the subcontinent should read before he finishes high school. Glad that I've read it now, even if, 15 years too late.
Despite all the efforts of the authors the Indian side of me is telling me that it's anything but absurd history book, it is clear that this book is biased, with nothing but criticism of Indian fighters and a desire to glorify Lord Mountbatten. Despite this, there are many parts of the book that I truly appreciate, such as the heart-wrenching stories about partition and the untold stories of the freedom struggle.
Frankly, I'm not qualified to rate this book, so I'll leave it unrated for now. Perhaps I'll reread it and change my opinion in the future
that said i still think that this book has a lot to offer, and I'm sure that it'll be a valuable asset to anyone looking to learn more about India's history. The authors have done a great job of bringing to life the struggles and triumphs of the Indian people and the events that shaped their history, surely it'll an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to learn more about India's past
Freedom at Midnight is one of those rare books about Indian history that feels more like a gripping fiction novel than what it really is - a comprehensive historical account of contemporary India during its independence. While this is testament to the author's ability of immaculate storytelling and exhaustive research that went behind engendering this book, this is also its most fatal flaw.
The book is heavily biased towards the last viceroy of the British Raj, Louis Mountbatten. It extolls the achievements of the man with regards to how he stopped the subcontinent from going up in flames as communal riots raged across cities and villages during partition. While this is true to some extent, the subtle way in which it tries to vindicate the noxious attitude of Churchill and other English rulers towards Indians and blatant omission of the meaningless murder of so many Indians during those years of subjugation and the role they played in further dividing them along religious lines stands in direct conflict with credibility of this book.
It does a brilliant job in elucidating the India of the princes though. From the hilarious stories of those princes (having a locomotive running inside his palace, organizing the most extravagant ceremony to celebrate marriage of a dog and a bitch) to the most gut wrenching of them (a prince using human babies as bait during tiger hunting), it portrays a picture of their rule in vivid detail. It also provides an enthralling narrative of the strong emotions gripping the heart of the nation during the most critical juncture in its history and lets the reader vicariously experience the lives of contemporary multitude by presenting short stories of some ordinary human beings of the subcontinent.
If you enjoy reading about history in general and can discern the inherent bias in historical accounts, this is a pretty good book to indulge yourself in.