Sunday, November 27, 2011

Coming of Age

Book Review: Non-fiction/Of a Certain Age by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Penguin/2011, 234 pp; Rs499 {Hardback}
Compilation of modern Indian social history had maintained for long a feeble pace until few years back, Ramchandra Guha’s India after Gandhi came into existence. The sidelined events of recent past suddenly started getting attention of both the writers and readers and this amalgamation quintessentially seems a quest to know modern India and who influenced it. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a seasoned administrator, columnist and among the most remarkable “Gandhi “has come out with an anthology of his earlier published essays in Of a Certain Age. Last winter, Ramchandra Guha published his much awaited Makers of Modern India with aim to theorise some of the most original thinker/writer’s work that made overarching effects on India in making. On the contrary, Gopalkrishna Gandhi had chosen to write his essays, as life sketches and with liberal selection of twenty personalities-from Mahatma Gandhi to J.N.Dixit.

Between these two unmatchable figures, Acharya Kriplani, Hiralal Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Salim Ali, Pyarelal, Jayaprakash Narayan, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Hiren Mukherjee, R.Venkatraman, M.Krishnen, Jyoti Basu, Pupul Jaykar, Srimavo Bhandarnaike, M.S.Subbulakshami, R.K.Narayan, Somnath Hore, S.Guhan and Dalai Lama have covered through the personal angle of author. Though the book has no fundamental choices of narration and looking after on the works of these formidable personalities but it has also never cease to be formal at any point and that makes overall delineation substantial enough.

What’s the strength of these essays is its different timeframe in which they have been written and their universal expression. Contemporariness in closed order often hampers the much essential interest and understanding in longer terms. This is particularly true with the journalistic writings. In academic writings, monotony through abrupt reprisal of wrong context and explanation have its own severe affects that without doubt kept historiography on low standard over the years besides making the slices of past terribly vulnerable through cynical interpretations. Of a Certain Age kind of book is a welcome continuance of new urge for constructive history writing and within the rational constructs.

Post-independence, India witnessed the consolidation of newly build institutions and spread of modernism as single most decisive virtue which in the course of time let assembling the intelligentsia to the forefront. Numbers of home grown intellectuals indeed played the pivotal roles in subsequent phases and India with afflictions to odds never distracted from the basic goals of its Constitution. That remains consistent even today; atleast in high legislative order but it’s also true that the flaws of policy executions are undermining those beauties of India as a well grown nation.

Shades of opinions are infact not bad if it comes with the purpose. Moreover, we need to know more about the work and worldviews of peoples from different domains whom we consider high on stature. This book has keen focus on twenty such remarkable lives without any preoccupations and gives readers a pleasant opportunity of experience sharing. Maturisation of this drive will realise more if history writing will come closer to the very recent past which simply stands on fringe in the lieu of ongoing contemporariness. Knowing history will be only possible through applying proper perspectives in research on history writing. Hope this work will make positive binding in this regard and help paving the way for a culture of knowledge driven discourse..!
Atul Kumar Thakur
November 27, 2011, Sunday, New Delhi

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