20 October, 2020

Tarted-Up History

In trying a light-footed hand at some weighty events of our past, Misra's book falls between two stools

Tarted-Up History
Don’t be fooled by the garish front cover or even the come-on title. That is for the pardesis who are to be enticed with exotic titles as they pass through airports en route to a summer holiday. Don’t even be misled by the first two pages of each chapter which, in the now-famous William Dalrymple style, retell saucy episodes about erstwhile dull people. This is a serious book and a large one. Maria Misra is a historian at Oxford and she has taken on the troublesome issue of what makes India stick together despite the pluralities of faiths and languages and inequalities of caste and wealth.

As in the blind men and the elephant story, there are various ways of ‘doing’ India. Each author comes with her own vision. None is perfect and none wrong. Misra has written a Mandir (Masjid?)/ Mandal account of what makes India so complex and yet so vibrant. Thus she puts at the front the Dalit and lower-caste movements for dignity, led by Periyar and Ambedkar, even as Gandhi was busy insisting that entry to temples for his beloved Harijans needed...



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