Book on ‘Books’
T Vijayendra

This *book under review is essentially a collection of book reviews most of which were published in Sarvodya Talisman, a Gandhian Publication. The author himself, although well informed and having an open mind, is Secretary, Gandhigram, a big NGO near Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Hence the reviews are tinged with a Gandhian outlook.

Besides book reviews there are two original articles and an obituary. Altogether there are 48 pieces with an average of 5 pages or so. Out of these 12 of them have Gandhi's name on the title (sometimes even uncalled for). Six are reviews of fiction, one is an obituary on Masanobu Fukuoka, and there are two essays by the author.

The book is eminently readable because the pieces are small and there is no logical order, so one can pick any piece and read it and go on or reflect or put the book away for a few days and pick it up again. At least that is what this reviewer has been doing. The reviews basically introduce the books and narrates the important things in the book. The language is fairly simple and one can finish each piece easily in one sitting.

Predictably the first 12 pieces are about books on Gandhi. This is a mixed bag. Some pieces have some original insights. But Gandhiana is such an industry that any thing sells and so a large number of themes in the name of Gandhi are always in the market. In this set of reviews Rajmohn Gandhi, Gandhi's grandson talks about 'what was Gandhi as a human being?' whereas Gopalkrishna Gandhi tries to 'redeem Gandhi from the plaster-cast image of the Mahatma'. Someone makes a study of all the 'Ashrams' Gandhi ran whereas someone else finds his role in modernization of India while still another finds him as 'An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology'! There is also a fiction on Gandhi, 'The Girmitia Saga'. So if the reader is interested in Gandhi he can select a few good titles. However all the titles show Gandhi in a favourable light. In India, on the other hand, a large section of the working class movement—the communist and dalit movements are highly critical of Gandhi. The reader may benefit from reading E M S Namboodripad's 'The Mahatma and the Ism' and B R Ambedkar's 'What has Congress and Gandhi given to the dalits?' and get a more balanced view.

The remaining pieces are more interesting because they cary a variety of themes all more or less related to contemporary concerns about globalisation, ecology, organic farming etc. There are two of Jarred Diamond's books (Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel), a review of 'Patrick Geddet in India', generally regarded as father of people oriented town planning, a book on water, books on farming and organic farming, critique of chemical farming and so on. There is an excellent book on Nehru and another on India's partition. Irfan Habib's wonderful book on Medieval India also finds a place as does P T Srinivas Iyengar's 'History of the Tamils'. There are two book reviews on books on mathematics too.

The author's own essay on Maoism is excellent. After giving a brief overview of the issue, he gives a summary of the report of the Expert Group of Planning Commission (2006) on the problem. The Commission had members from bureaucracy, police and intelligence branch as well as from academics. The report mainly talks of lack of governance and lack of implementation of government programmes in these areas. The essay also covers the policies of Chhatisgarh government and Operation Green Hunt and criticises the Home Ministry's approach of treating the issue as mainly a law and order problem.   It concludes by appealing for a talk between the Maoists and the government without strings.

The fiction books selected are all very good and many readers may end up reading some of them. There is a review of 'Snow' by the Turkish Nobel Laurete Orhan Pamuk, 'Sea of Poppies' by Amitav Ghosh, 'The Alchemit' by Paulo Coelho and 'Eclipse' by Patterson. The last one deals with politics in Nigeria.

Altogether the book makes an excellent introduction to many books which one feels one ought to have read but has not been able to.
The only shortcoming of the book is that the reviews do not follow the standard practice of book reviews—of giving details of the title, author, year of publication, publisher, pages and price.

*A Treasure Trove : Introduction / Review of Selected Books

By M R Rajagopalan, Sarovodaya Ilakkiya Pannai, Madurai-625001. Pp. 261, Year 2011. Price : Rs. 200

Vol. 45, No. 12, Sep 30 -Oct 6 2012

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