Book Review | India Now and in Transition – Portraying The Idea Of A Transitional India

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Editor: Atul K. Thakur

“That India is in the throes of unprecedented historical change is a cliché of the age. The transition from an agrarian to an urban society, the shift in demographic balance to a youthful society, the expansion of economic growth alongside the concentration of wealth and capital, the decimation of environmental conditions and the uneven –often conflictual- cultural and political effects of such changes, are apparent to all of us. Yet the nature of changes, their scale, qualities and implications, remain under-investigated and under-interpreted”, writes Sunil Khilnani in the foreword of the book “India Now and in Transition”, edited by Atul K. Thakur and featuring write-ups by a coterie of contributors.

Indeed, India is a country of immense diversity-be it political, cultural, religious, linguistic, ethnic, geographical, economic, ideological- the list can be endless, and has always been in a stage of transition, thus the cliché. However, the rapid transition and emergence of India as an increasingly engaged player on the global centre stage in an increasingly multilateral world in the recent years has been a topic of intense debate in national as well as international circles. Numerous essays, write-ups and authoritative volumes have been published to examine this phenomenon. Most of them, however, focus on a single topic- economic development, international diplomacy, and national political scenario, to name a few. This collection of essays is a fresh respite from the rest and is remarkable in its breadth, covering a melange of topics from governance to party politics, literature and language, domestic inequality and strife, the natural environment and cyberspace, sports, studies of foreign policy, considerations on the media, economic trends and urbanisation, and society and culture.

The book cover says it all- with a picture of an aeroplane flying over the Qutub Minar- which exemplifies that India is in the overtures of modern transformational change, but still connected to its historical past. The window to its future trajectory- its travels and travails in the world arena, is well dealt in the book which is an enquiry into possible futures, based on current happenings.

The book has five sections. The first section is on Politics and Governance. Ramachandra Guha expresses his views on choosing the greatest Indians after Gandhi, and Shashi Tharoor writes on Dr. Ambedkar’s legacy. There is an interesting write-up on Kashmir by Wajahat Habibullah and essays on judicial reforms, northeast and federalism detailing Centre- State relations.

Section two focuses on Economics and Development. The issues addressed are diverse- economic reforms, black money, India’s employment guarantee act, human development and good governance.

Section three is on Security and Foreign policy, with essays on both internal as well as external security. A write-up on India’s imminent prominence in Cyber Oceans is very interesting. Section four contains essays on Society and Culture and includes themes such as Indian news media, environmentalism, subaltern voices and Indian cinema.

Section five contains three essays on Language and Literature. The themes include Indian poetry in English and the Indian novel. Also, all the essays are well referenced and the editor has done a good job in orchestrating together thought-provoking essays, and diverse themes and ideologies in this book.

This book offers a nuanced analysis of the transformational terrain of India- with eclectic and insightful essays by erudite writers and commentators best in their areas of expertise– and regardless of whether the analysis treads on the terrain of labyrinthine muddy paths or the infrastructural marvels- highways and flyovers, and on the rural fields or the urban segments, the epochal changes that this largest democracy is facing are well dealt with and the direction in which India- or many Indias (“The beauty of India is that there are many Indias”), is moving, makes for an interesting and informative read.

Written by: CHIRDEEP MALHOTRA

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