Sunday, May 17, 2015

Land of Seven Rivers by Sanjeev Sanyal - A small tribute

I was never really a history buff during school. In fact, one of my favourite lines to dismiss the subject used to be : the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. When it came to viewing the past, I used to prefer reading and re-reading mythology, if nothing else, it was certainly more interesting.

I had seen Sanjeev Sanyal over the years a few times on business channels, speaking with his economist hat on. However, it was only recently that I learnt about the fact that he is also a writer. It was through one of those serendipitous journeys on the internet that I came across this video of him speaking with Amish Tripathi - that I got to know about his writings and specifically this book : Land of Seven Rivers.

This is not a review of the book: Land of Seven Rivers: History of India's Geography, I am no book reviewer or critic. But here are just a few points about the book :


  1. This is not a pure history book per se, but an attempt by the author to give a history of India's geography - about India's changing natural and human landscape, cities and kingdoms, trade routes and rivers and so on. 
  2. As the author himself points out in the introduction, the book also is a little bit about the geography of India's history & civilization - as he tells us about the Saraswati river for example.
  3. The three key takeaways for me from this book personally were:
    • That history books can be written in a way, it is interesting and stimulating to read; I so wish that in the near future, books such as this become more widely read, especially by our young people;
    • That as an Indian, it is a good idea to be more aware, more cognizant about this nation's past, that we are part of a continuum of an ancient civilization with an incredible history and that we can carry forward this unique legacy, not as a burden, but as a gift with all its wonders;
    • That - it is always good to remember that India and Indians prospered during the times when this country and its people were an open culture which was willing to engage with the rest of the world, through trading and cultural interactions. Somewhere down the line, this quality was lost, but thankfully - that quality is back to the forefront now and this can only be a good thing.
Finally, this particular point made - right at the end of the book (which is part of the video link mentioned earlier) is my favourite part from the book. It makes a point about our identity that is worth pondering and reflecting upon. 



I recommend this book as a must read and I look forward to reading other works of Sanjeev Sanyal. Thanks for writing this Sir.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Paraphrasing Nick Cohen

Nick Cohen wrote this remarkable piece in the Guardian yesterrday : Labour would do better if it learned to like the English. It is a great analysis about the Labour party and its failings.

The paragraph 4th from last is this:

The universities, left press, and the arts characterise the English middle-class as Mail-reading misers, who are sexist, racist and homophobic to boot. Meanwhile, they characterise the white working class as lardy Sun-reading slobs, who are, since you asked, also sexist, racist and homophobic. The national history is reduced to one long imperial crime, and the notion that the English are not such a bad bunch with many strong radical traditions worth preserving is rejected as risibly complacent. So tainted and untrustworthy are they that they must be told what they can say and how they should behave.

I found this interesting. In fact, by changing a few words as done below, I thought it paints a rather interesting picture about India.

The intellectuals, liberal press, and the TV media characterise the Hindu upper-class as corrupt, inadequately educated misers, who are sexist, communal and casteist to boot. Meanwhile, they characterise the Hindu middle class as filthy, sometimes loony, who are, since you asked, also sexist, communal and casteist. The history of Hinduism is reduced to one long crime of discrimination based on caste and gender, and the notion that the Hindus are not such a bad bunch with many diverse, unique traditions worth preserving is rejected as risibly complacent. So tainted and untrustworthy are they that they must be told what they can say and how they should behave.

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