All posts for the month January, 2013

Book Review: The Year Of The Golden Ape — Colin Forbes

Published January 27, 2013 by vishalvkale

The Year Of The Golden Ape
Colin Forbes

It was a toss-up between a movie and 2 books: and frankly, 2 books seemed far more attractive to me. The expense would have been the same; but while the movie would have stretched for only 3 hours, a book can give you pleasure everytime you read it; you dont have to pay again for a re-run! So it was that I picked up “The Terrorist – Juggi Bhasin” from my to-read list. Looking for a second, I could not find any book to pick up; then I saw this one. Intuition kicked in and told me to go for it. And a good decision it was, too – especially after reading RIP, my previous book!
The Characters

Winter: Perfect name for this character. And I mean character. Describes him perfectly… or does it? Sometimes Winters do surprise, you know
LeCat: Again, stereotypical name. Perfect fit – cat. Ugly cat, in fact. No surprises here…
Sullivan: Determined, Dogged, Smart, Persistent…
Mackay: Tough. Even under duress.
Betty Cordell: Surprise package

The Plot 
Straightforward. No surprises, simple potboiler formula stuff. Kijack a ship, hold its crew hostage, plonk a Nuke in its hold and blow up The Golden Gate bridge. Same old formula, told in the backdrop of an international oil crisis as the Oil Producing nations hold the west to ransom. But… there is a critical difference. There is no hero in this one, no shining knight who comes galloping to the rescue. What unfolds is a stunningly bold worldwide conspiracy; and there is no help coming from anywhere. So how does it all get sorted out? Read the book!
The Analysis
The book is a genuine surprise package; It is amazing that I have not seen it in many more book stores, given that the author is well known and a best-seller, and that the book has been written in 1975. I would rate it as being among the best fiction books of the thriller genre I have read. Dont miss this one, folks: it is well worth the money you will fork out on it. It is action packed, fast-paced and is one book that you wont be able to put down once you start it. It will keep you glued to its pages till the last page!
The characterisation is excellent, and is done in a minimalist fashion. Just enough has been revealed about the characters, who are developed quite early in the book. The rest of the book stays true to the characterisation built up earlier. This is important, as there is no hero in this book. It becomes quite apparent midway in the book that a baddie will revolt as some point. The plot, however, gives no indication of how this will come about, and the reader is left wondering. The suspense is not what will happen or indeed who will do it, but when will it happen, and how. And this is what makes this book unique, in a class of its own. The author has pulled of an amazing stunt by building Sullivan in the first half. You expect him to break in at any time. This interest has been kept alive throughout, as Sullivan keeps popping up persistently, always making the right intuitive decisions. And yet, the baddies keep winning. And then, midway, comes the bang: in the form of a subtle hint. You are left wondering at this build-up, and it is this suspense that drives you: Sullivan or a baddie – or will it be both in tandem? And what is Betty Cordell’s role? 
The writing is simple, free from expletives (which I personally hold as paramount in a good book), and easy to grasp. The pace is relentless, and the plot virtually flawless. This is a book for your collection: you will want to read it again and again. A book without a hero, and that is what makes it unique, a collectors item. A book to cherish. I realise I am going ballistic in praise, but it is \warranted as per me. I dont usually go this ballistic; but this is a truly one-of-a-kind book
Perhaps the best part about the book is that the anti-hero does not attempt to escape from justice; indeed he tries to atone for his mistake in bringing about this catastrophy. It comes across as a pleasant surprise when that transpires. It is the story of an imperfect man with a skewed moral compass; but a man with some modicum of decency left with him, some surviving hope of integrity. There are no explanations or value judgements; just a fast paced and awesome plot…

India: At The Crossroads – The Hunt For A Leader

Published January 27, 2013 by vishalvkale

Credit for this article goes to: India Today February 4th, 2013 cover story: In Search Of A Leader

If we carefully scan the national scene today, the most disturbing aspect that comes across is the absence of a leader of calibre with a national footprint, a national following. The old guard is now on the verge of retirement, and the new guard has not yet stepped up into their shoes; this is further exacerbated by the spate of scams and corruption that has enveloped the country. Unfortunately, this is on all sides of the political spectrum, with neither the ruling party nor the opposition escaping the blame of corruption.

A mood of the nation poll, conducted 5 times over the past 2 years by India Today, shows a steady increase in the preference for Modi, and a steady decrease for Rahul. This is along expected lines: but the real problem is that neither is someone with a clear mandate and image- unlike Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, both of  whom were, and are, highly respected worldwide for their knowledge, with the additional factor of a neutral and strong national footprint. This is tellingly absent in both the top candidates that have emerged in public consciousness today.
Is India in for another period of gut-wrenching change? It certainly seems like it; with the political class still unsure of how to deal with the newly resurgent middle class, as well as the spate of exposures that have buffeted them of late. The opposition does not seem to have its house in order; while the ruling party cannot develop its team, and learn to think beyond the Gandhi surname. It is indeed a shame that in a country of 1.2 billion the Congress can only find a Gandhi. I have nothing against Rahul; for all I know he may be an extremely capable young man. The point is that are we in a fuedal kingdom, or a modern democracy? Why cant the Congress have some real democracy at its core, and develop its second string leaders into people of national stature? Why should the baton pass from Father to Daughter to Son To Bahu To Son  and so on and so forth? Conversely, the BJP just cant seem to get its house in order: it has some highly capable, tried and tested people of mettle (as does the Congress, to be fair: if only they could stop their Gandhivaad!)
And so, the hunt for a leader continues. While the Congress would have us believe that only 1 family in approximately 300 million families has the right to rule us (1.2 billion population divided by average of 4 per family), the BJP is unsure. I for one just cant figure them out. It seems they have yet to grow out of their old avatar and grow into a modern progressive party. Funnily, and paradoxically, it is only one of 2 Indian parties with the potential to achieve that and grow to national status; and most certainly the strongest contender in the race for the rediscovered party. The other candidate – The AAP – is too new to comment. Even the people of India seem to agree with me on this; most seem to be reserving judgement. 
Both AAP and BJP should realise that the Congress has just presented them with a golden key: the appointment of Rahul Gandhi is not going to sit well with any number of Indian citizens- especially from the middle class. It has proven once and for all that there is no second string leadership in the Congress to speak of, and no leadership development. I, once an ardent congress supporter from the halcyon days of 1991 when the Congress fired the imagination of the nation, have now finally accepted with deep regret that it will never grow out of the Gandhis. I have nothing against Rahul: he is young, modern, educated, controlled- but he is a Gandhi. I cannot see why one family in 300 million families should rule us, we are after all a democracy.  
I just hope that either BJP – or hopfully AAP – can take up the cudgel and present a strong alternative. The opportunity is now present in the form of this elevation of Rahul: the opportunity to present itself as a progressive, modern, forward thinking party with a true democratic core. A party that has outgrown its mistakes, and is at last ready for national leadership. The AAP might take time for this, but the BJP can certainly do it – if it tones down its rhetoric and gets its house in order. 
For The Hunt For A Leader is on: the leader to take us forward in this new century…
An interesting aside: the people of India have chosen Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the best ever Prime Minister. Kudos to you  India on such a choice! I totally agree!

Book Review: RIP

Published January 25, 2013 by vishalvkale

Rating : 4.5 / 5
This book stands, beyond any shade of doubt, as one of the most dangerous books I have ever read. Confused – especially after reading the rating above? Welcome to the club. Confused is precisely the word that describes my reaction to this diabolically contrived write-up. Half of me – perhaps a little less, perhaps a little more – appreciates the book. The rest of me loathes it for its plot, its story and its setting. I cannot make up my mind… 
RIP stands for Resurgent  Indian Patriots – a bunch of retired Army Officers with distinguished service records, led by Colonel Krishna Athawle. This force sets out to rid the country of its biggest scourge: its politicians. This they aim to do by the simple expedient of fear: they threaten to kill one per day – and announce in advance who they target will be. The objective is to create a decent and clean leadership. Now keep in mind that you are talking about a bunch of top commandoes in prime fighting condition: retired they may be; but they retired after a highly successful mission backfired after it ended up killing Colonel Athawale’s wife when they were in their late 30s. So, we are talking about a set of highly trained Army Commandoes who decide to play buzkashi with the political brass. The rest of the book deals with how they go about it, whether they can do it or not, the manhunt and the resultant achievements. This is all set in the backdrop of a huge civil disobedience movement that has paralysed the nation in totality. (Seems familiar, hey? Rings a bell, does it not?). Intertwined in this scenario is a touching and equally confusing love story between 2 lonely souls: 1 in the midst of a divorce, and the other just having lost the spouse a few years ago. The budding love story between 2 confused souls forms the meat of the book, and lends it tremendous depth. 
Before I confuse you guys, (and gals), lets do away with the basic stuff. Characterisation – functional, in that it is minimal but sufficient for the story and the plot. This is actually good, as it keeps the pace going. As noted above, the similar minimalist attention to the love story, and the way it has been intertwined with the main plot, add tremendous depth to the book while keeping the relentless pace. The love story does not lessen the furious pace or the tension, which has been kept at fever pitch throughout the book. The writing style is nice and clean, with only a few expletives. The style is effective, and individual – it has a different mark of its own is the way I shall put it. The pace is relentless, and the book is a veritable page-turner. 
And yet, despite the plethora of positives enumerated above, I still find this book as the worst I have ever read. It is a highly disturbing read, and is chillingly real. You can almost identify (what almost? 95% of the cases you infer pretty accurately the real life equals) who is who in the book. The narrative is chillingly real; the politics put forward brutal and blunt, and is based and built upon a memory that is still fresh in the people’s mind: the continuing disillusionment with the political class of India and the civil disobedience movements that are striking every so often. You can smell the discomfiture of Vinod Bedi – the CBI top guy who is investigating this case as he comes under political pressure. You can feel Nandakumar’s helplessness, as he has to tell on his boss’ (Vinod) to his political masters. You can see the the story play out in front of your eyes as the dirty games unfold. The book takes you deep into the quagmire that is politics, and wrenches your gut. The action sequences, and the frustration of the RIP can be understood – especially in the current national mood; as also their resolve to set things right. 
After all, who but an Armed Forces Officer would show such guts? And that is where my moral sense, my conscience kicks in. First off, it goes against every moral stricture in my body. Killing people – ok, criminals – wantonly cannot be justice. Killing innocents in the process cannot be justice. 2 wrongs do not make a right. Holding a nation to ransom cannot be justice, Expecting sudden catacysmic events to bring in positive change cannot be justice. And, most critically, doing all of the above and basing it on characters who can easily be misconstrued  – or identified – with real life characters  is decidedly not right. Especially not when the memory of the disobedience movements is still so fresh, and disillusionment with the Government and the political class is at such an all-time high. And, being an Army Officer’s son, I dont think any Army Officer would do such things. 
The sheer quality of the writing, its power, and the plot is precisely what makes the book so diabolical: it feels chillingly real. This can happen is a thought that occurs – so powerful is the content. This is further buttressed by the characters having eerie and uncanny commonalities with real life characters. The  net result is a blurring of the fictional element with reality, leading you to lose your perspective. You find yourselves empathizing with the anti-heroes, and wanting them to succeed in their wholly evil and amoral venture. You are torn in 2:  Half of you – perhaps a little less, perhaps a little more – appreciates the book. The rest of you loathes it for its plot, its story and its setting. You cannot make up your mind…

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Peace… At What Cost?

Published January 24, 2013 by vishalvkale

Peace at what cost? I am a pacifist myself… but there is a limit to pacifism. Pacifism, if it leads to further bloodshed in the foreseeable future, is not recommended. Taken to the extreme, one has the WW2 situation, when pacifying Hitler lead to millions of casualties. I am not advocating war; just that successful peace negotiations also require the enemy to have a knowledge that behind the pacifist exterior is a will and strength of iron that can be used. Only then can a negotiation be fruitful. In my opinion, these signals emanating from India are positive; that the world had better take notice that our patience is limited and certainly not infinite! The knowledge of intent combined with the will to implement the intent can actually lead to enemies taking us less for granted! All in all, excellent posturing by the GOI!
It is a given that neither nation can afford a war – and I am not speaking in terms of economic cost, although that is part of the story. Unfortunately, that is precisely what is being utilized by Pakistan and its – aah – internal factor forces, shall we say – to keep up the pressure on India. Pakistan-based outfits are routinely terrorising India; Pakistan has also tried ill-conceived strategies like Kargil to attain its objectives. The result is that not only India, but Pakistan as well is bleeding. That Pakistan is bleeding is its internal problem; my concern is Indian blood. Despite innumerable peace initiatives, nothing has been achieved. That is reason enough for a re-calibration of our strategies vis-a-vis this problem. A slightly more aggressive approach – one that leaves no doubt that if pushed too far, India will not hold back – will give an added impetus to both our Western Neighbour as well as its Daddy USA to take urgent note of our creeping impatience. It will also serve to jettison our weak state image. The Kargil War comes to mind: wherein our controlled aggression won us accolades. That was the other end of the controlled aggression spectrum; what is also needed is controlled aggression that leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that India can only be pushed so far, and no more. The alternative is the status quo – where we are regularly taken for granted, and our strategic imperatives ignored. That has got to stop; and it will only stop when we make ourselves heard. 

India: The State Nation? Via HT Blogs

Published January 20, 2013 by vishalvkale

“A state-nation creates a sense of belonging among its people even while simultaneously giving political guarantees for diversity and minorities,” he says. The point is it can still create a loyalty to the Centre which allows it to create a single economic space, push a nationalist foreign policy and all the stuff a nation-state does so well.” –  Prof Ashutosh Varshney
We are in a time of great change, which is causing angst and uncertainty among us Indians – a feeling which is manifest in any number of indicators. Central among this is the feeling of worry at the prospect of a weak centre  which has been highlighted by many instances, and has led to many people, self included, of worrying and blaming the centre for doing nothing and being weak. For all such Indians, the attached article is a recommended read, as it opens vistas of thought that are simultaneously revolutionary (at least to the uninitiated) as well as logical.
A weak centre raises the bugbear of increasing regionalism, and the attendant worries of the centre-state balance; it hampers decision-making and the formulation and especially implementation of national prerogatives and strategies. Converse logic also hold currency – that a strong centre necessarily means marginalisation of minorities and ethnic groups; and that it is necessary to have overlording central setup for a successful nation. The advent and stunning rise of regional trends, and the attendant coalition politics that it creates, is a cause of worry among us.
And yet, “survey after survey shows that 80 per cent or so of Indians are proud or very proud to be Indian and only about 20 percent put their regional identity ahead of their national one. The first is beaten only by the US and Australia. The second is remarkable for any country of its poverty, diversity and democracy.” as stated in the article. So long as this trend of 80-20 can be maintained, there does seem to be no apparent reason to worry.
The article does provide food for thought… first of all, it makes intuitive sense. Second, the surveys quoted also seem logical, since most people from us also can identify with the stated results. Third, and most important, it makes the point that both the centre and the states can be strong, and in fact lead to a stronger India in the long run. This is indeed a unique thought: but it does explain the unity in diversity that we have displayed in India. A strong state ensures that the needs of ethnicity and of the local region are taken care of; that these local problems, culture and aspirations do not vanish in the larger national picture. This gives fewer reasons for secessionist pressures to emanate, since there is a mechanism in place specifically to deal with local, regional and ethnic issues. Thus, it tends to ultimately strengthen the national fabric.
It is further true that despite 65+ years of existence as a single nation, India has retained its ethnic diversity and not become a cultural melting pot. Each region has held onto, and in fact, retained its cultural uniqueness; most sub-cultures and languages are vibrant and alive in a very real sense. Regional problems tend to be limited to their own regions and require little intervention from the centre; the people are also increasingly showing the ability to separate the local from the national issues during voting… 
Food for thought indeed! 

National Pride… And National Faults…

Published January 15, 2013 by vishalvkale

Of late, it has become fashionable to blame India, and Indians for its faults… by fellow Indians! This is a habit among the new generation, as well as among the older citizens of our lovely and diverse nation. That, by itself, is not harmful or indeed even irritating. It is essential that faults be identified and corrected for the overall betterment of everyone. But when this goes hand-in-hand with a denial of our good points, and of a denial to associate our heritage with pride… then it becomes funny and strange.
People are quick to point out all the list of areas where we went wrong: Kashmir, Mixed Economy, Corruption, Licence Raj etc etc, conveniently forgetting the real mistakes committed by us – which get hidden in the lovely long terms and powerful place-names above… mistakes like not concentrating on the village economy, on not building up the villages of India, of not building proper infrastructure in both Urban and Rural India, of not building a proper and functioning primary healthcare system that is trustworthy, of not building a robust and strong education backbone at the primary and secondary school levels, of not concentrating on controlling population growth! These are the mistakes that are hurting us the most today, not Kashmir  or the Mixed Economy. Only corruption from the first list is actually a serious enough issue alongside the items in the second list. These real problems have far-reaching consequences for us and for the economy; they dont have even a single mitigating circumstance – unlike the list above.
Kashmir? To that, we can state underhand tactics by Pakistan by sending guerillas; intervention in NWFP referendum – which could have gone to India given that it was a congress province; attempting to entice all kingdoms (which were not part of the partition plan) like Bhopal etc to join Pakistan and giving bribes and inducements to these kingdoms; inducing communal feelings in 1946 and 1947 by ML leadership; or that Kashmir is vital to national security etc. Mixed Economy? To that we can state that it helped build a robust public sector and protected the nascent private sector; allowed our economy to  mature and build skills; our distrust of capitalism just after independence; the fact that socialism was rising in those days; the fact that the Indian experiment was considered a novel and ideal one…
Point is that there were mitigating circumstances to the popularly held primary mistakes of our nation; or that there were advantages to be had from these so-called mistakes, or indeed some were strategic and tactical responses to external stimuli. But try and name one single mitigating circumstance or advantage from the second list. It will be hard to find even one! And yet, these mistakes are only talked about in editorial columns, In the public at large, they dont feature in the national consciousness. It is the second list that is really hurting the nation the most, actually holding us back from realising our potential. Education, Health, Mortality, Nutrition, Rate of Population Growth etc are the basic indicators of a nation; these are what are actually arresting our growth as our population is simply not in a position to benefit from opportunities…
These are what I call our failures, our real failures…
Despite these faults – and this is the central point of this article – we can be justifiably proud of what we have achieved as a nation, and of our heritage. Good points do not require justification or explanation; just the bullet points should suffice:

  • The oldest surviving unchanged civilization on Earth, with a history  – uninterrupted history – of 8000 years plus
  • The birthplace of more inventions and discoveries than I care to count, from the Zero to Ayurved and then some…
  • Our culture of inclusiveness and tolerance as well as our inherent non-violence
  • The art, culture and writing of countless poets and artists starting for Sanskrut onto Brajbhasha and the medieval poets right upto Rabindranath Tagore and modern artists
  • The land of Ashok, Vikramaditya, Harshvardhan, Akbar etc
These, and many more, and a part and parcel of our national identity. They are our history, they define what we are.  Why should we feel ashamed of shouting these from the rooftops? Forget about shouting, we dont even accept them in private one-on-one conversations!
 jab zero diya mere bharat ne, duniya ko tab ginatee aayee
taaro kee bhasha bharat ne, duniya ko pahale sikhalayee
deta naa dashamlav bharat toh, yu chaand pe jaanaa mushkil tha
dharatee aur chaand duree kaa, andaazaa lagaanaa mushkil tha
sabhyata jaha pahale aayee, pahale janamee hain jaha pe kala
apana bharat woh bharat hai, jiske pichhe sansaar chala
sansaar chala aur aage badha, yu aage badha badhata hee gaya
bhagwaan kare yeh aur badhe, badhata hee rahe aur fule fale
Why cant we just feel a simple feeling of justifiable pride on the above lines? Why the defensiveness? It is a simple psychological fact that a positive frame of mind is the driver of positive action; a nation with a negative self-image is certain to project a negative image in the world. Consider this: you have 2 teams in front of you from companies which have registered massive losses. Company A’s team says “We goofed; we were stupid and paid the penalty for that. That is why sales are in the doldrum”. Company B says “Yes, we made a mistake – but the important point is that we know we made a mistake. Given our history of success, I am sure, with time, we can turn it around”. Which company would you back to succeed?
And, if we marry the above history with our recent successes, then we have justifiable reason to be immensely proud of ourselves and of our nation:
  • We are what we are – successes and failures both – because of our own efforts; at times without any help from anyone. There is no blood money or illicit gains involved from anyone; unlike the former colonial powers who are where they are today on an ocean of blood, and brutal exploitation of subjugated nations
  • Moving onto numbers, steady economic performance of most indices and parameters over the past 20 years
  • Robust Pharmaceutical, Information Technology, Advanced Medicine and Health, Education, Consumer Goods, Telecommunication, Space Technology, Missile Technology sectors
  • Robust Democracy
  • Social Equality experiment in full swing, as we try to undo the evils of casteism through reservation. Arguments aside, this is a novel intervention in equality that is being tried out
  • Independent Media
  • Strong Judiciary
  • Robust institutions 
  • Strong financial markets and Banking system, systems of procedures and regulators of various industries and sectors
And so on  and so forth…
Put the 2 lists together. I think, taken together, they are more than enough reason for us to feel a tremendous sense of pride as well as the confidence that, with time, we will make it… 
National pride is essential; it is a driver of achievement, And we have plenty to be proud of!
Jai Hind!

Book Review: From The Ruins Of Empire – The Revolt Against The West And The Remaking Of Asia

Published January 14, 2013 by vishalvkale

From The Ruins Of Empire
The Revolt Against The West And The Remaking Of Asia
Pankaj Mishra

The sense of humiliation that burdened… Asians has greatly diminished; The rise of Asia and the assertiveness of the Asian Peoples consummates their revolt against the West that began more than a century ago; it is in many ways the revenge of the East. Yet this success contains an immense intellectual failure, one that has profound ramifications for the world today and the near future. It is simply this: no convincingly universalist response exists today to Western ideas of politics and economy…

The war on terror has already blighted the first decade. In retrospect, however, it may seem a prelude to greater and bloodier conflicts over precious resources and commodities that modernising as well as already modern economies need. The hope that fuels the endless economic growth – that billions of consumers in India and China will one day enjoy the lifestyles of Europeans and Americans – is as absurd and dangerous a fantasy as anything dreamt up by Al-Qaeda. It condemns the global environment to early destruction and looks set to create reservoirs of nihilistic rage and disappointment among hundreds of millions of have-nots – the bitter outcome of the universal triumph of Western modernity, which turns the revenge of the East into something darkly ambiguous, and all its victories truly pyrrhic…

The concluding section of the book provides the jolt that I was looking for to introduce the reader to this book; a truly one-of-its-kind book, one which is in a genre of its own. . a book that defies description and forces you to think, taking you deep into the quagmire of the past and then pulling you out into the present with a shocking force; enabling you to see with startling clarity the central point of the book! Pankaj Mishra has awesome skills of presentation and tremendous depth of vision, as is evident in the short excerpt I have given above.
“From The Ruins Of Empire” is a book that focuses on Asia as a whole, and takes the reader through the exploitation and brutal rape of  the entire continent by the Europeans. However, unlike other books which deal with such topics, this story is not told through facts, figures and history lessons; it is instead told through some seminal characters that formed the core set of thinkers that defined the age they lived in. Jamal-Al-Din-Al-Afghani, Liang Qichao, Rabindranath Tagore, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Kemal Ataturk etc. Principally, the book focuses on the tumults and struggles of the first three named people… intuitively, without knowing who they are, one can see that the three together account for a large majority of Asia today…

Pankaj Mishra takes us through the lives of these three, their struggles to come to terms with the brutal reality of the colonial exploitation of their countries, and their internal tumult as they tried to reconcile themselves and understand what was happening even as they tried to formulate a response to this reality. This is shown through their experiences as well as through the speeches and writings, and make for powerful reading. You can literally see Islamic thought take modern shape through Al-Afghani and gain an insight into the modern reality; you actually visualise the revolution in China gathering force in the life and writings of Liang Qichao… 
The ultimate take-away is a deepened understanding of the entire landscape of Asia from Turkey to Japan and from India to the Middle East. The rise, fall and rise of Japan, the adjustments of Turkey and its role in the modern Islamic thought formulation contain deep lessons as well as learnings for the discerning reader; the efforts of the Chinese to recreate the past magic in the face of the European onslaught has powerful commonalities with the happenings in the Middle East and India; their juxtaposition gives the reader an insight into the modern world.
We are seeing an increasing advent of fundamentalism and hardline views in China, India as well as the Islamic countries. It may be the slowest and the mildest in India, but it is present. The present scenario has been successfully traced back to a century ago as a demoralised and conquered people tried to adjust to the new brutal reality that the Europeans put on us. The people – at least the intelligentsia – at first blamed the outmoded thoughts and practices among the people and advocated a convert to a total westernised approach in an attempt to gain acceptance and equality; when this did not happen – indeed when this created a class of educated slaves – the pendulum swung the other way, as people tried to return to their roots in order to find solace, strength and peace – all in an effort to gain self-confidence and good self-image. This turmoil has been brought out very well in the book; and the logic is sound, as we can see for ourselves!
The steadily increasing disillusionment with the west went hand-in-hand with a steady questioning of the self, of asking continuous questions as to the how and the why of the current reality. The experiments continued; with  results as far reaching as terror in Islamic nations and hardline communism in China as each society tried to find models that suited it… some succeeded through one way – like China, some through another- like Turkey, whose modernisation and westernisation attempts led to great and seminal changes that had a tremendous impact on all Asia. The return of Turkey to the fold of Islamism in the face of Western reluctance accept it as an equal partner has important questions and ramifications; for Turkey was the earliest to adjust and adopt Westernism; yet its failure in obtaining acceptance needs to be kept in mind.
Asian countries – who once used to cower before the west – are now facing them with confidence, and indeed have created a situation when once again the West is back where it was 500 years ago – asking for trade links with a resurgent Asia. People who were once rejected and brutalised have now gone on to start dictating terms on an equal basis as seen in the meteoric rise of India and particularly China; this is the revenge of the East; as western economies flounder in a quagmire of their own making, the East is once again showing the way. The west, having already paid a heavy price in the form of 2 destructive wars that destroyed 2 entire generations of Americans and Europeans, are now no longer in a position of primacy. This is truly the revenge of the East…
But this revenge has a small caveat, a ticking time bomb that needs to be defused – the rampant inequalities that western style economics and politics is creating across the world, and the race for resources, which seems to have started again. For example India is worried about the proposed damming of the Brahmaputra by China which would have disastrous consequences for India. There are many such examples; the problem is that as of now, there is no answer to western-style economic policy…
Or is there? Is there a way where we can marry our Eastern sensibilities with Western Capitalism to create a more equal world? Perhaps through focussing on basic indices like health, education and population control while continuing to drive economic goals? This questioning mirrors the questions and attempts of the 19th century as thinkers and societies looked at their brilliant past for cues – Islam, Confuciansim etc in order to make their nations a better place… further strengthening the statement with which we began this review…

An excellent book that forces you to think of the direction we are taking and its sustainability!