Note: I would advice the readers to read this review in the reverse from bottom to top.
Comments Dt. 18.07.2017
To be very frank, I had no intention to publish the review of the book ‘Left, Right and Centre’ by Nidhi Razdan on my blog. I prefer to review only well-deserving books here. This book doesn’t seem to be one of them. The only motivation for writing this review here is the snub by Google Play, which I am assuming has been done under the influence of either the editor or the publisher of this book. I posted an innocuous 3 star neutral rating review of the book on Google Play yesterday, but those ….. removed it before or after publishing it. I didn’t save the copy of the review, so I am reproducing it below from my memory, which is not an exact reproduction.
In older days, that search for an item number or a pretty smile in an otherwise boring movie many a times led to manual rotating of the cassettes tapes. This need not be done now courtesy YouTube. However, books still don’t offer that convenience. Therefore, authors will have to learn to write crisp and short contents. Or at least highlight important text within the 140 characters limit, so that enterprising readers can tweet quotes from the book. I have only read the sample pages of this book, which mainly dwelled upon the Kashmir problem, so I won’t comment on the contents, but I am not buying this book unless either of the editor, the authors or the publisher tweet at least 300 engrossing quotes from the book (Rs 1/quote x 300 = Price of the book). I am giving the book a neutral 3 star rating.
As I said Google Play removed the above review, so I decided to go whole hog and wrote a new review discussing the contents of the two essays I had read; i.e., the introduction by Nidhi Razdan and the essay by Shah Faesal. Since the review was negative, I decided to send the notice of the review to Nidhi Razdan, Shah Faesal and Penguin through Twitter. I gave them a clear notice of nine hours. Nidhi Razdan was active on Twitter till late at night yesterday. There have been 10 profile clicks and two link clicks on my tweet. So, there is good reason to believe the review has been read by atleast one of the recipients. Since there was no reply by anybody, I submitted this second review to Google Play at around 8 AM today. Nearly two hours have passed since then but the review has not been published. So, I am reproducing it here in the quotes below. The review has not been edited, so please bear with me.
I wrote a review a while ago with a neutral 3 star rating here on Google Play, which has been removed. Don’t know why? But anyways, now I will go whole hog.
I have read introduction by Nidhi Razdan, the full essay by Shah Faesal, and the part essay by Rahul Pandita, which is good enough to write a review.
First, this book is expensive even after a discount. These kinds of opinions are available in blogs and magazines for free. I wonder what value addition the caption ‘Left, Right & Center’ brings to the readers.
Shah Faesal, who is a civil servant, actually has no business expressing his views in public. First thing I want to know is has he taken permission from the government while publishing his views in this book? And if he has taken the permission, then which minister or bureaucrat gave him the permission in the early years of his service when he hardly knows anything about the Kashmir problem? Anyways, his essay is a confused potpourri of immature thoughts, which hardly link to each other. Overall, the essay doesn’t leave any concrete message. Morever, it is too long winded to decipher anything sensible out of it.
Nidhi Razdan has written an introduction for the book, which in itself is an essay. Well…she is also from Kashmir, so Kashmir gets lots of space in her essay as well. She has tried to define Kashmiriyat as some kind of secular tradition in which Muslims and Hindus intermingle. I will take it with a pinch of salt because Rahul Pandita in his earlier book has written about ingrained rivalry between Muslim and Hindu kids reflected best in Cricket matches. Anyways, I think Kashmiriyat has more to do with humanity than religion. To be very frank, I doubt if Nidhi Razdan is qualified enough to speak on such intellectually stressing topics. Thereafter, she has pretty lightly linked Kashmir conflict to Ultra-Nationalism of Indians. I am an #AntiNationalHumanist, so nobody can hate Ultra-Nationalism more than me, but you can’t start drawing links where none exist — what does Supreme Court taking cognizance of Sardar Jokes has to do with Kashmir conflict? Rest is regular: Pathankot, Gurmehar Kaur, JNU, Trolls, and even Tanmay Bhatt (LOL).
This book seems to be a serious fraud. In my last review, which has been taken off, I had given benefit of doubt to the book by putting a condition for purchasing this book, which was that either of the authors, the editor or the publisher should tweet at least 300 engrossing quotes from the book to assure about the quality of the book. If they do it even now, I will buy the book and read other authors, esp people like Aruna Roy, Sunita Narayan, etc. — though I am surprised they have associated with this book.
Last but not the least, you don’t delete reviews just because the publisher or the editor asks for it. Google has fallen way down in my eyes today. I wonder if they will publish this review. Anyways, I am saving the copy of this review. If it is not published here, it will be published on my blog. Also, I am giving notice of this review to Nidhi Razdan, Shah Faesal, and Penguin on Twitter before publishing it.
At present, I am going with a 2 star rating for the book.
P.S. In the line “I doubt if Nidhi Razdan is qualified enough to speak on such intellectually stressing topics”, my reference is not to educational qualification or IQ of Nidhi Razdan. My reference is rather to her elite upbringing. In her essay, she had defined ‘Kashmiriyat’ by way of exemplification through her childhood memories. Had she defined it in abstract terms with or without quoting other thinkers, I wouldn’t have made this comment. However, at the same time, I do believe philosophy is not the exclusive domain of dreamers and thinkers as elaborated in the introduction to my book Light: Philosophy.
Comment Dt. 26.07.2017
Today I had some free time so I re-read the two essays, wherafter I am upgrading the rating to 3 stars for the following reasons:
- The essay by Shah Faesal though not leaving any concrete message is nevertheless a good reading. The comparisons of dogs to militants and soldiers, both despised yet useful, and that of cat to conflict, which sneaks in before you know it, are pretty interesting. Had Shah Faesal concentrated on these two thoughts and build around them to reach a solution, it would have been better. I think he wasted too much of his ink in describing his own celebration and the people’s cynicism surrounding it. It has not added any value to the essay. Generalisations drawn from his own case study are far-fetched. However, since it is an interesting read, it qualifies on the second reading.
I have found journalists’ appearance on TV entirely different from that in print. While they may seem completely frivolous as anchors, they do pretty well as researchers. Sunetra Chaudhury, Sagarika Ghosh, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, are some names I have discovered favourably as authors. I was expecting something similar from Nidhi Razdan. So, probably my standards were high. However, she gets benefit of doubt because technically speaking this is not her book as an author per se. It seems she has produced this book more as a franchisee owner.
Nidhi Razdan’s thoughts on nationalism find deep resonance with me because I am an #AntiNationalHumanist, but her linking it with Kashmir conflict, almost frivously as if in an anchor driven TV show, put me off. I think she also over-extended her narrative. Though “Sardar Jokes” was just a single line, it was nevertheless very distracting — there was no scope whatsoever at all for “Sardar Jokes” in the theme of her essay; if she wanted to present it as a side-thought, it should have been separated from the main narrative through appropriate separators, brackets or whatever. Rabindra Nath Tagore is an excellent anchor on any discussion on ultra-nationalism, but unlike Nidhi Razdan, he would not flirt with army tanks, Kashmir conflict, JNU, Twitter trolls, Tanmay Bhatt, Gurmehar Kaur, all at the same time. But since it is a boldly written essay on a topic close to my heart, it qualifies too.
Comment Dt. 07.01.2018
I have read all essays except that of Pratap Bhanu Mehta, whereafter I am upgrading the rating to 4 stars. Very brief comments below.
Since I have already read Rahul Pandita’s books and am aware of his political inclinations, it felt repetitive, but his writing style has improved impressively. Also, now I can assuredly categorize him as right of centre. Chandan Mitra’s essay on the growth of right wing politics is informative. He has also made certain candid admissions, which I would not expect from a Sanghi unless he is a sincere writer. Mukul Kesavan has presented an alternative theory of the Indian concept of “pluralistic nationalism” as an outgrowth of then Parsis’ predilection for moderate politics as was influenced by their circumstances. I don’t agree with the theory, but it is an interestingly presented viewpoint. Aruna Roy’s essay on feminism and Sunita Narain’s essay on environment are fine readings. Derek O’ Brien’s essay is short and sweet. Gautam Bhan’s essay deals with LGBTs, etc. His writing style is also impressive. Shashi Tharoor and Shabana Azmi have elaborated upon Indian concept of “pluralistic nationalism”. The main idea in both the essays is that of “unity in diversity”. This is the first time I read Tharoor. Contrary to popular perception, he writes simple and very well-structured sentences. Yashwant Sinha has hopped on from one idea to another, and I didn’t remember anything on the first reading (except the beeped invective albeit without any re-collection of the context). His idea of India as a nation is nevertheless no different from others except that he has shown slight inclination towards nationalism over pluralism.
The underlying idea of the book is “pluralistic nationalism”. Nobody has challenged the conception of India as a nation. I have a problem with this idea of India. If being an Indian is an identity, so is being a European. So, how is India different from Europe? In many ways, EU is more close-knit than India, but they don’t call Europe a nation. So, what is it? Is India a region like Europe? Or is Europe a nation like India? I wonder how long this idea of Indian nation will subsist. I stick to my view that India is a region with common military, constitution and government, but not a nation. Anyways, nation is a collapsing concept. India is the original example of nationalism giving way to pluralism, but our politicians have perverted the disjoint ideas of pluralism and nationalism by joining the two together into a single phrase “pluralistic nationalism”, but the fact remains the two concepts are antagonistic to each other and just can’t co-exist. India will have to make a choice sooner or later. Unfortunately the writers in this book have not shown any inclination to prepare the masses for self-determination. They have just presented the same old notions, which have lost relevance in the present times.
P.S. I bought this book from Google Play at 75% discount (a discount coupon was expiring, so I used it). Without prejudice to the quote, “a book is never too expensive”, at 75 bucks, it is a good purchase, especially for the students of politics.