Vishnu’s Crowded Temple – Review

9.0 Scrumptious and Engaging



I love reading history. I fumble through the pages hoping to unravel some unfading wisdom that foretells the future. But the more I read the more I feel my attempt was futile. Although the past indisputably shed light about future, it does not predict future, and much less yield control over future. Historical events were more of a result of right person appeared at the right time rather than of a result of particular person’s determination or action. Likewise, history has no alignment; good or evil are just different interpretation for us to justify history. Order and chaos both served the “right” purpose at their own time.

Ms. Maria Misra has done a marvelous job to wrap up the hundreds of years of history in her four hundred pages book. She has meticulously and artfully represented a detailed, interesting, objective yet passionate journey of India. Let it be culture, religion, politics or economics, she has showed superior understanding and expertise. Her razor sharp analysis adeptly dissected all the evolving, interwoven forces and then she convincingly demonstrated how all the forces have influenced each other. The book dived deeply into the religious roots of the mystical country. It explained in great length about the evolution of caste system from the ancient, loose and diverse set of rules to the codified, rigid social order. It discussed the years of management and mismanagement by British Raj; the incessant civil disorder and Indian’s war effort during WWII. Then the book performed a microscopic autopsy on the Gandhian wistful utopian where he urged people to follow the traditional way in the modernized world, the Nehruian conflicting ideology where he struggled to introduce innovation into the complex layers of vested interests; and the Indira’s manipulative democracy which moved merely because of her unflinching will. The charismatic Boris and several regional bosses, extremists and populist leaders were also carefully analyzed. The book just showed that good intention does not directly translate into good result. The undercurrent is so strong that it bends to no one’s will. Nevertheless, there is never lack of courageous and admirable for people to try.

Alongside the political figures, a handful of cultural figures was also presented in the book:

“Ab tery kya hoga, khaliya?”

Sholay has not only propelled Amitabh Bachan to unprecedented stardom, but also underpinned the phenomenal growth of Indian entertainment industry. He laid the path about how to move from a super movie star to an aspiring politician; a path many of his south Indian counterparts followed more successfully.

Inevitably, the book has compared the development of Indian with those of many other Pacific country after WWII, notably China, Korea and Japan. There are many aspects which India is still lagging behind. The book critically analyzed what has dragged Indian development and also identified many potential areas to improve. It is factual yet not cynical.

An impressively little voluminous book compared to the time span it has covered. It gives a good understanding of contemporary Indian history which is a perfect example to analyze the pro and cons of democracy. The book is organized in a chronological cum topical order which at times successfully got me lost. Overall, it is great book to read.



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