Sunday, April 20, 2014

Land of Seven Rivers

The case presented here, is rare among the books on India. It asks, how has geography of Indian Sub-Continent shaped the planning and outcome of events and thus written down the history. It then goes on to relate various human attempts to alter the geography, chronologically. This symbiosis of academic inference makes a very convincing read. The author has quoted several people as references and has at times gone all the way to criticize even noted authors like William Darlymple, Sir John Strachey etc. It presents a nationalistic case to re-consider our History, not based on what the historical records of Englishmen but one by ourselves, trying hard to highlight the mismatch between British studies and the Indian texts of earlier times.

An argument, which can be arguably attributed as a British propaganda during the 17/18th centuries and which I particularly liked was, “Historically, since Indians have not considered themselves as a nation, they have not cared for their History (and freedom)”. This has been excellent refuted in the book. However, unfortunately, the ancient Indian texts have been prominently religious in nature and have little to tell about the societal and national perceptions of that time. So a logical attempt to look for smaller clues mentioned in those texts have been made to draw historical conclusions. Eg. Kishkindha Jungles, Maharashtra where Rama met Hanuman and Jamvant is still there and thickly populated with monkeys. The book is indeed a mammoth attempt, catering to the unique blend of two subjects and the time frame it exhibits. Though at more than one instances I felt the lack of depth and factual clarity but somehow the flow has superseded the pause.  Another notable feature of the book was its detailed emphasis on fauna (lions, tigers, elephants etc), drawing conclusions on their lineage and correlating their scattered presence across the world.  I do know that flora and fauna are part of the subject of Geography but the extent of discussion was very insightful.

Indians have for once been aggressive and have played the conquest game, under Cholas was new to me. Personally, I will definitely look forward to any further work by Sanjeev Sanyal but for this I will have 7/10 as the rating. His staunch and apprehensive style, despite he being a non-academic is praiseworthy (in fact, personally, inspirational).

Rating : 6.5/10
Author : Sanjeev Sanyal
Buy : Here 


Excerpts
“The first thing which should be clear from the outset is that there are no ‘pure’ races. With the possible exception of some tiny isolated groups, the vast majority of Indian tribes, caste and communities are a mixture of many genetic streams.” 

On Delhi(70s), “Soon the city had to deal with yet another influx- that of civil servants and public sector employees needed to run the centrally planned, socialist economy. The PWD went into overdrive and created whole new government colonies.”

On Chandigarh, “Much of its apparent cleanliness comes from simply having left no space for the poor within its city limits. It remains a sterile and heavily subsidized city of tax consuming bureaucrats that encourages neither entrepreneurship nor tax generating jobs despite being the capital of two prosperous states.”