Harsimran Kaur ON  June 15, 2023, IN BOOK REVIEW, THE CROOKED TIMBER OF NEW INDIA: Essays on a Republic in Crisis BY PARAKALA PRABHAKAR-NON- FICTION

Rating: 4/5

What is the ‘New India’ and when its creation began? I feel lost sometimes to characterize a foundational shift from the ‘old-Spartan’ pugnacious Indian nationalism to the puritanical descent of ‘one man-many fancies’ panjandrum.  The independence gained in 1947 was painstakingly pyrrhic; a new India forging ahead where nationalistic hubris at every door knocked fervently. Religious divide played a de-trop but somehow found a way; the harrumphed voices turned placid, and acceptance of rosaries in the bed of dust-laden perpetuities became a cul-de-sac. 

So, what defines the ‘New India’ then and now?

  • Let’s go back to the shattered and heedless prescriptive under Nehru’s socialist agenda. Was he successful to put off religion as a chauvinistic propaganda for political gains? Even if he was to some extent, it was a mere liability on the idiosyncratic pundits and cognoscenti right-wing Hindus—pastiches of Hindutva.
  • In the further intrepid tide, came desperate cataclysms of egomaniacal pursuits. The political warfare embedded a sense of dystopic fundus loosely hanging to sabotage the ovum holding the Indian progeny. The blasphemous attack on ‘Golden Temple’ under the leadership of Indira Gandhi and the despicable ‘Gujarat Riots’ pioneering the Modi cult created a new India of abysmal religious intolerance.
  • India without mentioning Mahatma Gandhi looks somewhat a half-hearted affair. He had his own dream of ‘New India’ but all in vain. The debilitating partition gave rise to India only interested to purloin its sanctity from repressed emotions.

Every decade, a new India is made and unmade. The profligacy of the mind to cement bricks and stones as per its own tendentious scrutiny invokes a plethora of motives and beliefs sometimes difficult to sustain. If we talk about the last 9 years under Modi government, one sees India as a disgruntled flute blowing erratic symphonies, the holes insinuating an air of disharmony—all crooks and crawls to create a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. The author too looks like on an anti-Modi campaign.  As a reader one is left off-guard at the peccadillos the country has been subjected to, albeit re-affirmed as a growing economy.

Ultimately, what shatters us is our own confidence! 

Unapologetically true and resonates quite strongly under the Modi era. In his book, ‘The Crooked Timber of New India’ the author expiates what has kept India at the ripper’s edge. Parakala Prabhakar, a respected Political Economist and Writer has his bamboo shoots tied conscientiously with strips to present how the ‘New India’ is stuck together in a knot of implausible vagaries.

With Lok Sabha elections slated in the year 2024, it’s imperative to understand how we enliven a ‘New India’—an escorted legacy of Modi enchantments or a ‘quid pro quo’ for the selected believers. No of these, I guess!  Looking at the current situation, the seem-so- pleasant vibes is a damp squib. The international incumbents hoot a cry taking out the stuffing out of an old rag doll; the impenitent religious intolerance and secularism spun in a web of intricate thread—looks like India has become a batter of questionable morphs and mud-slinging.

All the above is an apparent reason for the author to delve into the importunate lour of rabble-rousing and political demagoguery. The BJP right wing has flustered every tiny muscle to stiffen the comeuppance Muslims deserve; the hijab imbroglio, the irresponsible romanticism of ‘Love-Jihad’ and the incendiary issue of population control. All this finds ‘New India’ as a plastered wall with multiple cracks insinuating a fall of collective contretemps.

Facts presented with ratiocination, the book offers the Raison d’ etre for the discontentment of the minorities and how Prime Minister Modi has evolved to be frippery in his addresses and a loud-mouth in actions that fail to show results. The author provides statistics and thorough research to club the shivering aspect that has left country in a feverish state. The distasteful farm laws and the Lakhimpur Kheri chaos still burns like a stubble intoxicating fumes of deprivation among the farmers. Wasn’t closing off the controversial farm laws close to elections a viable strategy to be a soft Lion sitting in his Den watching the simpletons going from being preyed to be being prod?

One too cannot forget the whataboutery on the mishandling of the lockdown and irreparable wounds during the Covid-Delta strain. There are some awkward assessments in the book that signify the imperfections we Indians have become use to. Statistically, the numbers refrain from providing an impetus; the burgeoning unemployment, the loss of education among children in rural areas during Covid and the unbridled safety of women—their ‘Mann Ki Baat’ is an underscored staccato nobody wants to hear.

The book is a live-wire to understand where India stands today. The question arisesare we ready to live with corrugated old-fashioned paternalism where valor has become intrinsic to callous aberrations, forgetting that secularism approbates dignity in soft-cultural pericardium?

TAKE AWAY

Insightful and intrepid….

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