At the stroke of the midnight hour, in August 1947, when India became a free nation, little did the founding fathers of this democracy imagine that the country would come to brink of a crisis in less than a century, and the very ideals on which this great nation was founded, would be challenged by politicians with vested interests, just to stick to their thrones. Six and a half decades have passed and India still battles poverty, hunger, communalism, social malaise like discrimination based on caste; the economic structure of the nation is in shambles – crony socialism and sham capitalism has led to the nation being pushed to the walls. The people of this nation have lost faith in the leaders, thanks to rampant corruption, and i daresay, hardly any office-bearers in current ruling class display any statesman-ly quality. The sorry state of the nation reminded me of a poem by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, and i quote few lines from it:
Thy eagle pinion is chained down at last,
And groveling in the lowly dust art thou:
Thy minstrel hath no wreath to weave for thee
Save the sad story of thy misery!
What then can rescue this great nation and put her back into reckoning as a world power, restore the lost ideals of democracy and imbibe a confidence among the people for the state? Ace writer Pavan K Varma tries to find the answers to India’s current problems in the Arthashastra. There is a popular misconception that Arthashastra, conceived by Kautilya (or Chanakya, the advisor to great Mauryan King Chadragupta), deals only with economic policies. But as the author argues, the book is a treasure trove of governance and politics.
“The Arthashastra consists of about 6000 shlokas and sutras. It deals systematically with the subjects of effective governance, the welfare of people, economic properity, the qualities of a king, the competence of his ministers, the duties of its officers, administrative acumen, civic responsibility, the importance of the rule of law and an efficacious judicial system, measures to effectively curb corruption, dandaniti or the policy of punishment for wrongdoers, the conduct of foreign policy, war planning and preparedness, the strategy of alliances and the supremacy of national interest above anything else.”
Pavan K Varma, after a brief description of the crisis at home, takes up areas that need immediate attention and fixing and goes on to list out the measures that can help in carving a better nation for ourselves. The areas discussed were – Governance, Democracy, Corruption, Security, Inclusive Society – as we can see these encompass almost the entire spectrum of the duties of a ruler. I choose not to discuss the measures suggested by the author, in order not to spoil the pleasures for others, when they read the book for the first time. A seasoned bureaucrat that Mr Varma is, it is not unexpected that he does justice to the cause he espouses – his suggestions, although one might not agree with at times, do have a solid bearing on your mind.
History they say is written by victors. But it is always opportune to delve into the past and seek answers from experience to build a better future. Indian history is a myriad of experiences. Chanakya’s acumen in governance and politics is beyond doubt, thanks to the caliber with which he foiled Alexandar’s invasion and sought his revenge with Dhanananda and instated Chandragupta as the king. Hope the charter of suggestions that Pavan K Varma has assembled in his new book, attracts the attention of those who yield power and India casts this spell of idle, static, absent governance away.
My Rating for Chanakya’s New Manifesto – To Resolve The Crisis Within India : 3.5/5
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Thrillers on the lines of Sam Bourne, Fredrick Forsythe or Dan Brown are common place in any Indian bookstore these days. Breathtaking plots, incredible plots and semi-real contexts sum up most of the crime thrillers that i have come across of late. What sets Mukul Deva’s novel R.I.P. (Resurgent Indian Patriots) apart from the multitude of other offerings in the market? Nothing, really. And that is the U.S.P. of this book.
The very first chapter gets you glued to the plot, which moves at lightning speed. Although a work of fiction, the stark similarity to the current political discourse of India is evident. With half-hearted efforts by the author to give fictional names to people we always hear of in the news, the story begins with three political murders and how they change the course of history of the nation, at least in this fairy tale.
India is riddles with corruption, and thanks to the advent of alternate media in the recent past, we have been granted access to a vast resource of information. Public anger has reached a boiling point and often do we feel its time for action to make things work in this country. After a media-driven mass awakening 2 years back in Delhi, led by a “Gandhian” activist, the nation has slid back into a lull again, save the recent protests against Delhi Rape. Mukul Deva’s book is a reflection of this public anger.
Well etched-out characters and snazzy details make this thriller even more pacy and addictive. The writer’s background with the armed forces might have come in handy, because the small little details of guerrilla attacks and military warfare, as described in the book, would be known to someone who’s trained in it.
A group of ex-army-men decide to avenge the rampant corruption by politicians and restore the democracy back to the people. They decide to attack three influential yet corrupt people in the seat of power in the three wings of the Indian state. Without a shade of doubt their actions create ripples within the system and a massive manhunt is ordered against them. However, with immense efficiency, the group which calls itself RIP continues to evade arrest and carry out their biggest strike ever. To even imagine anything of that magnitude happening in reality sends shivers down my spine.
Struggling through several sub-plots – sex, anger, jealousy, death and sacrifice – R.I.P. finally manages to leave the reader in me satiated and wanting for more after i turn the last page. Just like Tagore had quipped “Sesh hoyeo hoilo na sesh” (it leaves the scent of the aromatic food in the mouth, making me crave for more). Undoubtedly, the novel is a good flight-time read and can be finished in five hours if you can read non-stop.
My Rating: 3.5/5 🙂
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