Sashi's fluid style of writing is brought out well in his discriptions of the complexity of blending old and new in India. In this book Tharoor argues that as a nation India has not achieved its goal, with huge problems plaguing the country such as abject poverty, illiteracy, rundown healthcare systems, separatist movements in Punjab, Kashmir, and the North East.
The book is a comprehensive analysis of all walks of India life, post-1947. but the focus of the book is politics and the criminalisation in Indian politics. While rejoicing democracy in Indian, he presents a analytical but critical view of the decline of Indian politics under the Congress and Nehru-Gandhi family. He discribes Indira Gandhi as "autocratic," Sanjay Gandhi as 'thuggish," Rajiv Gandhi as pilot with no sense of political wisdom and Madam Sonia as 'less educated, but somehow hyped as a Cambridge scholar by Indian media'. The book is an interesting read on Indira Gandhi's emergency rule, subsequent election debacle, rise of the right-wing Hindutva brigade and economic reforms.
The book is easy to read and insightful on the pros and cons faced in India being a democracy, with its emphasis on consensus and mandate. The inaction of govenment and difficulty in taking tough decisions on any front, whether it is the economic reforms initiated a decade ago or the population control program to curtail Indian burgeoning numbers. Yet, there is strenght in India's pluralism, its blend of people who have no single common thread of language, caste, creed, costume or custom to unite them.
Publishers Weekly, 1997-06-23 This year, India, whose population is expected to overtake China's within three decades, which will make it the largest country in the world, celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence from British rule. Tharoor (The Great Indian Novel) offers here the perspective of an Indian who has spent much of his life abroad, in recent years as a senior official at the United Nations. Indeed, his take is multi-layered, because he describes as well what it is like to be a native of the southern Indian state of Kerala, whose languageæMalayalamæhe and his family do not even speak fluently. The narrative presents colorful stories of village life, ruminations on the Hindu religion, accounts of political turmoil and upheaval as well as of the author's own experiences as an expatriate. If there is a villain in this book, it is former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who invoked a state of emergency in 1971 and suspended certain constitutional rights. Whereas many in the West viewed her as the tough daughter of founding father Nehru who successfully prosecuted the war against Pakistan and sundered that nation in the process, Tharoor portrays her as "skilled at the acquisition and maintenance of power, but hopeless at... wielding... it for larger purposes." He also accuses her of relying too much on her sons, Sanjay and Rajiv, to govern the country. Readers with an interest in the history of the subcontinent will find this a literate and affecting panorama of the world's largest democracy. (Aug.)
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