Thursday, October 26, 2006

Book Reviews - Jan - Oct 2006

Its november now. 10 months have passed by from when I made my new year resolution of one book per month. I know thats not something to be proud of but given my past record of one an year, i'd be happy to showoff the new achievement. Well the count is that I am lagging by one.

Here is a brief Summary of the books I have read with their ratings(max 5 star) (followed by the review of the latest one - Freedom at Midnight)
1. Conversations with God - Part 2 - Neale Donald Walsch. (***)
2 .Life of Pi - Yann Martel (****)
3. The Roots of Ayurveda - Dominik Wujastyk (***)

4. Ayurveda and Panchakarma - Sunil V Joshi (****)
5. Many Lives Many Masters - Dr Brian Weiss(***)
6. My Reminisences - Rabindranath Tagore (***)

7. The story of my Experiments with truth - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi(****1/2)

8. Existentialism and Human Emotions - Jean Paul Sartre (***)
Sometime I become too ambitious. And this was perhaps one of my most ambitious pursuits. Although I have taken two philosophy courses during my undergraduate studies, and there were obscure ideas that needed to be chewed upon, but this 100 page book was a hard gum. The existentialist philosophy for a layman would mean - man is sum total of the decisions he has made in his life. I will not go into the details to avoid making any inaccurate presentation of the idea, as I was not able to derive much thoughts from the book. Infact one reason I choose this book was its attractive 100page thickness. This was apt, after the 450 autobiography by gandhi, and before the 570 page freedom at midnight. Alas, it was meant to be otherwise.

9. Freedom at Midnight
Authors: Larry Collins, Dominique Lapierre
Rating: 4.5/5

How did India got its independence? What was the state of affairs when she was dissected by a man who had never been to the land he was going to dissect. Why was India given independence on 15th of August and not any other date?...

An amazing book that talks about the India, as she was when Lord Mountbatten was appointed the last Viceroy General of India, and what she had to go through, as the pressure was mounted by congress for her independence and by the muslim league for her dissection. Her royal princes, her common man. Her riches and her woes. The pain she had to experience during the unfateful mass killings on both sides of the dissection. The story of some real heros, the story of some gory brutal killings. The fast-unto-death tactics of Mahatma Gandhi to his actual death. The build up of situation that led to his murder. This book has it all. A 575 page book (a LOT by my standards), that keeps you engrossed as it unfolds the story of one of the largest migration in the history of mankind. Another MUST read for every India.

BUT - Keep in mind that this book has been written by a French and an American author, with most of their inputs from a the last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. Although it seems that they have tried their best to present an unbiased view of the state of affairs, but I feel that it is highly biased with what lord Mountbatten used to think. The crass belittling of Mohammed Ali Jinnah without any substantial evidence seems more of a personal opinion than a presentation of his character analysis. Also, every act of Lord Mountbatten, right or wrong has been presented in a positive light. I accept that his task was monumental, and the mistakes he made are human, but it should be accepted as mistakes and should not be presented as a praise. For example, as per the book, the date of 15 Aug, was a spontaneous decision that he made during a press conference - which was praised, as his fast decision making ability - but given that every month was important, I feel that it was a mistake to announce the date without any proper thought, and to the surprise of many. I dont propose that things would have moved more smoothly given a well thought of date, but still I find this act a mistake, but ofcourse not an act worthy of praise.

Nonetheless, the picture it paints of India in the 1940's is truly heartrending. I really want to read a historical treatise by an indian author, does anyone know of a good book by indian author about independance?