The first book by Sidin Vadukut that I read was Dork. It was 2010, and I’d just finished college, and had joined an IT firm (the firm that I currently work for; man, I’ve spent a quarter of my life here). I disliked Robin ‘Einstein’ Verghese, the protagonist of the series. But I loved the way Vadukut wrote. The casual descriptions, the humour…
I think it was about two years ago that I picked up The Sceptical Patriot, in spite of being sceptical about picking it up. I started reading the book, liked it. I finished a bit—about a quarter of it, but somehow, lost track, until I rediscovered it. This time, I consciously enjoyed reading it.
The cover is comical. (Thankfully without Comic Sans!) It has a lonely man sitting atop what looks like a stub, with a large thought cloud, looming, filled with thoughts on zero (I first thought it was some sort of ring), a radio, and what not.
The asterisk and “conditions apply” add to the cover. I liked it. Seven on ten!
Apart from historical figures (yes, there’s a whole lot of history in there), there are quirky characters in the book, including the author himself, and members of his family. There’s no much depth in them, but they are a great addition. This is not a work of fiction, so there’s no need for character build, per se, in this case.
The book begins with what the author calls, “Extensive Disclaimers”. (Boy, is someone scared! Ahem.) I can’t blame him given the kind of paranoid censorship prevalent in our country at the moment.
It starts with saying how “History is an enigmatic mistress who likes to keep her lovers on their toes.”, and goes on to talk about how Justice Markandey Katju (and other incumbent/retired government officials) went on to commit blunders that resulted in some twisted “India Facts”.
As Abraham Lincoln once famously tweeted: ‘You can’t make this stuff up.’
A few of the most popular “India Facts” have been visited in detail in this book, starting from whether India invented plastic surgery, to whether or not India ever invaded a country, to whether we were the wealthiest nation in the world once, to whether India had the first ever university in the world. That’s the goal of the book—verifying the validity of popular India Facts.
If you feel even a little insecure about India and its image, you may get a little upset at quite some points in the book, but to the open-minded, this breaks a lot of myths, makes you chuckle here and there, and increases your awareness of history that we never bothered to read.
The language is simple, and the thoughts lucid. It’s a very light read. And there are things like:
Which may be over-chickening the biryani a little bit, as my grandmother used to say.
I liked how the author started each chapter with an incident from his life, and connected it to the subject at hand. These little bits make the transition into history smooth.
Because I don’t want this book to become one of those social science textbooks that turned so many of us away from Indian history in our childhood.
Some typos and grammatical errors. It seemed as if the editor skimmed through the last parts of the book. Deadlines? Because I think the last chapter was quite insightful.
I enjoyed the book. The flow was great. The book is full of information. A perfect non-fiction.
Whom do I recommend this to
Sceptical, patriotic Indians of all ages.
And those who are hopelessly tired of “family” WhatsApp groups.
(Oh, I wish my crush and close friends used some other messaging platform. Telegram? Mental note: send Vadukut a message to include how Telegram—the messenger—is not Indian, in the next edition. Hike? Yeah, that’s Indian. But the iOS variant sucks. Anyway…)
Unfortunately, Aurangzeb was also a religious nut-job and a divisive jerk who pissed off nearly everybody in the empire by the time he died in 1707.
History is replete with rulers who maintained stability at the cost of justice, humanity and morality … And when these leaders leave the stage, their nations are plunged into chaos.
People—stupid, stupid, people—are going to misuse national income data, oversimplify the implications and use it to fiddle with society.
The long lists of inventions that most people commit to memory give them the perception that inventing is an individual exercise that results in sudden, yet complete, ready-to-market discoveries that instantly make the inventors concerned fabulously wealthy.
It is truly remarkable how NASA has become the ‘India fact’ certifying agency of choice.
Einstein holds the dubious distinction of being credited with other people’s quotes.
Somehow, we’ve managed to create a social, cultural and political environment in which even our youngest citizens have been so deeply indoctrinated to hate.
Most of all, we need a society that refuses to conform, that refuses to put up social, political and ideological borders.
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