Title: The Great Indian Novel
Author: Shashi Tharoor
Genre: Fiction, Satricial
Publisher: Penguin, 423p
The book portrays the Mahabharata in the context of Indian independence struggle and few decades after the independence. All the important characters of Mahabharata represent prominent real life personalities in this book. It was fun to find out which personality each character represents.
This was a nicely written novel where comparison of each Mahabharata incident with that of real life incident is not that much easy. Also we need to accept the difficulty in getting all the important figures covered. Tharoor has a funny way of describing things and make us laugh with his dig at the current life when he describes the old age.
I think, writing the history as fiction gave him the freedom of telling his honest opinions about the characters without inviting much trouble. For ex., in one place he mentioned Gangaji (Gandhiji) is not a saint, he is a masterful tactician. Then, about Dhritirashtra (Nehru), he mentions ‘Had he got the eye and seen the world as we do our country would have been way different’. About the partition and Karna (Jinnah), Karna wanted a separate country not because he was very much muslim, but because Gangaji was too much of a Hindu. In one more place he mentions SC Bose was the main reason for the congress to reach ordinary people not Nehru.
All these controversial statements would have been huge issues had it not been the fiction genre. And these things made me think then why did he join Congress party? By looking at his views during the period of his writing of the novel, I am sure that he did not have intention of joining Congress anytime.
But I could feel his dilemma to decide whether emergency was a bad decision or the need of the hour. He maintains the emergency was not the right thing to do but still he defends Indira Gandhi, saying there was no other choice. He also criticizes the opposition for it. This part I do not agree with him. If someone protests against the government, they cannot simply go and implement emergency instead of trying to solve the issue.
This book is nice read if you are interested in politics and know something about the period the novel describes so that you can relate the things well as nothing was straight forward in it. You have to match the incident in the book with the real one. The book was mostly interesting and entertaining but somewhat boring in some parts as nothing new was told there. Also I was disappointed that some of the things like power struggle between Sardar Patel and Nehru, was not captured at all. Also the power struggle between Morarji Desai and Indira Gandhi before congress decided on Ms. Gandhi as president was not captured very well.
I would suggest this book to those who want to read some deeper things about the freedom struggle and politics of those periods if you do not know more than what taught at the schools and known to general public.
My Rating for this satricial novel is ★★★☆☆