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India: A Kaleidoscopic Journey

Vinod K. Jairath

Edited by Ira Pande
HarperCollins Publishers, India, 2007, pp. 354, Rs. 495.00

By Gopa Sabharwal
Penguin, Delhi, 2014, pp. 362, Rs. 295.00


Evaluating the journey made by Independent India is not an easy task. Class perspective, obviously, influences a traveller’s judgment. Gopa Sabharwal, in her book India Since 1947 avoids this ‘problem’ by providing a listing of events chronologically in various fields, ranging from politics to science and the arts, during the last sixty years. It is comprehensive and very useful for quick consultation on ‘facts’.   Ira Pande, on the other hand, has undertaken a more challenging task. The difficulty is evident when one notes that her introduction to the collection of fascinating thirty-three short essays by different authors comprises, essentially, three short paragraphs. But that is all she needs to present her perspective on the nature of changes in the ongoing journey of independent India. Referring to the earlier ‘paradigm’ in terms of old photograph albums, she tells us that ‘you will be struck by the clarity of the black and white world then.’ In contrast, ‘In the blazing colours of digitally perfect photos of today, calm and repose are hardly the qualities sought.’ What has happened during this journey to a new paradigm of progress is that ‘we have also lost an innocence that we will never be able to capture again.’ The essays in this book, however, present a more complex picture of the fractured Indian society on the move. Ira Pande knows it and, therefore, leaves it to the reader ‘to savour the volume at leisure.’ It is indeed a difficult task to try and summarize the essays which, together, make a vast and sensitively painted canvas. The short space here cannot do justice to all the essays, which Pande has very carefully put together. But I will try to bring out the features of the new emerging paradigm which disturbs Ira Pande and so many of us of that generation.   The essays in this collection have been divided into four sections: A Solemn Tryst, Anatomy of Change, Moving On, and Memo-ries and Attachments. The first section deals with the broad contours of dreams, plans, and the reality. Ira Pande, without giving an explicit hint to the reader, has juxtaposed writings of contradictory perspectives. Thus the reader reads of great achievements in one essay, while the next one is full of anger at the failures of the state and the fractured society. An essay on Gandhi is followed by one on Nehru. The overall picture one gets is ...

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