Title: Patriots and Partisans
Author: Ramachandra Guha
Publisher: Allen Lane, Penguin Books India
Genre: Non-Fiction, Current Affairs, History
It is in a way most refreshing to read something non-fiction after feasting on fiction, after a long time. The spell broke with Ramachandra Guha’s book, “Patriots and Partisans”. I remember reading, “India After Gandhi” by him with great fervor, however that was a long time ago and it was quite a long read. “Patriots and Partisans” on the other hand is a relatively short read and is mainly divided into two parts, consisting of several essays. I am assuming that some essays are old and have already appeared in other publications (as the case is most often) and some are new and written for this volume.
“Patriots and Partisans” manages to cover almost all grounds of India – political, socio-economical, and of cultural relevance. From what I could gather after reading the first half of the book is that Guha devoutly defends the liberal center from the dogmas of left and right with a lot of examples and relevance of situations, which takes the reader to different thought processes and at the same time challenges the intellectual. He analyses Gandhi’s religious pluralism and moves on to talk about the fall in Nehru’s reputation after his death. This book in true Guha style is introspective and can stand alone as a reference base.
The second half of the book deals with writers and scholars. This without saying was my most favourite part of the book. The essays deal with the decline of bilingual intellectuals in the country, to how literature is not what it seems. In the second half, the reader is familiarized with portraits of a magazine editor, a bookshop owner (my most favourite piece in the entire book), a publishing house and a famous historical archive.
I enjoyed reading these essays a lot. I might even reread them at some point. What I enjoyed about the writing was its honesty and transparency to a very large extent. Guha writes almost urgently and his views are strong and clear. “Patriots and Partisans” may not be enjoyed by all , given its serious content but it is definitely a great read for the reader base that will enjoy a good mix of politics and art.