What is the relationship between a colonizer and a colony? What is the bending moment of a state which has been looted, plundered, enslaved and broken? How much self-worth is left when it breaks and strengthens to rise and razed to ground again? Those who rise above the ashes to fly beyond have nothing to thank the fire for.
The idea for the book germinated from a talk Tharoor gave at Oxford on the topic ‘Britain owes Reparations to her former colonies’. An Indian commentator went ahead to compute a fair sum of the reparations would amount to 3 trillion dollars in today’s money. It is way later than Britain’s entire GDP in 2015.
This makes for the next question. Is any amount in reparations enough? Will anything be enough?
The cover page portrays everything that the book is. It is a picture of atrocities on Indians under the British rule. The minimal font highlights the graphics on the cover, making clear all the intentions of the book. It is a blatant account of the rule of British empire on Indian soil.
Shashi Tharoor is a die hard nationalist, so are many of us. But one thing that keeps him at the edge is the deep recognition of facts and the courage to speak it out on a national and international platform. Tharoor begins with an stunning preface, putting the book into the context. He talks about the talk he gave at Oxford which in turn prompted him to write this book. He explains the importance of history, that it is neither for excuses nor for revenge. It is to know our past better to learn from it.
The first part begins with ‘The looting of India’. The conquest by the east India company is broadly spoken of. The conscious bleeding that led that went on for one hundred and seventy three years is accounted for. In the words of John Sullivan,
the little court disappears- trade languishes - the capital decays - the people are impoverished - the Englishman flourishes, and acts like a sponge, drawing up riches from the banks of the Ganges, and squeezing them down upon the banks of the Thames.
Before the Englishmen stepped on the Indian soil, India’s share in world GDP was 27 and when the last of them left it was left just a little over 3 percent.
The second part of the Book talks about political disintegration of the Indian mass. The basic strategy of divide and rule was applied which saw its consequences in civil services and suppression of Indian talent. The likes of Tagore and Ghosh were discriminated against which again weakened the Indian structure. The further chapters only strengthen the case against the colonial regime. The encouragement of bribery to keep posts was an open sight. The imperial system of law that we still follow is which was not suited for the Indian scenario has forced these many backlog cases.
The British Raj weakened end our social structure, the education system and imposed an economical destruction. However, division on he basis of caste, color and region is the sinful of them all. Tharoor gives a gradual account of the divide and rule policy and how eventually it led to the split of the country into two. The gradual success of the Muslim league into the state politics was a wind to the fire that eventually asked for the separate land. The mass migration and killing in the year 1947 is expressively talked about.
In addition to the slow degradation of the land and its people the Book openly condemns the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. India suffered famine, forced migration and brutality in the hands of the colonial rule. It was an era of darkness, truly.
The entire narrative of the book comes out to be very strong. The facts and reasoning pulls you in. There are some better made cases against the colonial rule which counter question ‘But British empire did a lot of good for us!’.
The language is simple non-tharoorian. Far from being boring though. This book is meant for everyone. Those who read and those who don’t.
I absolutely loved the cover. The book by itself is a great product. It is even more beautiful on the interior - both in design and writing. The content is deeply researched and binds a good argument against the colonial rule in India. Language is so accessible. This can be read by anyone. Not just those into literature.
The content sometimes comes across as fragmented as if it is written by many people. The book of this size is always a work of research of many people, but here it does show sometimes. The seamlessness is missing at a few places.
This is one of the best books on Indian history that I read last year. Definitely something all Indians should know of.
Whom do I recommend this to
This book is for all those who want to know the past of India to not ask for revenge but to move forward in peace knowing their troubled past.
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