Immortal India by Amish is his first non-fiction book. Amish is India’s best-selling author with two most popular book series in his name. He is one of the smartest authors who has managed to balance a wide variety of audience. Unlike Chetan Bhagat who is almost always on receiving end from the literary and intellectual circles, Amish is popular in all kinds of circles. His books are read by millions in multiple languages. This brings a whole lot of opportunities for him to influence the thought process of his readers, particularly young readers. I think it is his ability to answer any question with exactly what he wants to say without alienating that makes him a successful speaker and public personality.
I happened to meet Amish at Hyderabad Literature Festival many years ago. Am not sure if he would remember. He made 4-5 key points during his talk there. Many years later, his new book Immortal India says more or less the same. He wears his religion on his sleeve without being offensive to any other religion – that is probably the only change.
Immortal India by Amish is a collection of Amish’s articles, interviews, interactions in various publications and forums. Since the short pieces were published in different publications, at different times – there is a lot of repetition in what Amish says in them. He has found his sweet spot in the ancient civilization of India. And that is what he is using as a differentiator.
Amish claims he is a voracious reader. I am sure he does. However, I find a depth and range missing in his talks or opinions. I still can not get over the fact that he put Draupadi’s Swayamvar in place of Sita’s Swayamvar in his Scion of Ikshvaku. Not a sign of someone who claims to have read scriptures. Now, is this a carefully drafted PR exercise to stick to a time-tested narrative and not land in controversies? Quite possible. No, I am not saying it is a bad strategy. This is not a time that makes it easy to be in the public domain. Every word you say can offend someone. He has managed to stay clear successfully so far.
Amish favorite lines
Amish has some favorite lines like – Ekam Sat, Vipra Bahudi Vadanti or favorite example of Charvakas who did not follow the mainstream religion. But they were still within the folds of the religion. He loves to talk about his journey from being an atheist to a Shiva Bhakta. He loves to talk about being pragmatic in first establishing a financial base for himself before taking writing full-time. And he does not talk much about the marketing strategies of his books which any new or even established authors would like to hear about.
In Immortal India by Amish, there are two pieces that I liked. I hope Amish builds up, on them. And talks about them in greater depths in future forums. Why do I want him to do this – because he has the power to drive these positive changes in the thought process of the larger society.
Charity & Inclusiveness
First is his article on The Ancient Indian Approach to Charity & Inclusiveness. He brings out the whole PR driven charity drives vs the Charity where the giver is thankful to the receiver. He tells a lovely personal story of how his grandfather was helped by Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay. And how it lifted the whole family out of poverty. He then goes on to explain how his family will remain indebted to Upadhyay while he would never know of this. The way in which charity was done was to enable a man to earn for himself. It would inspire the rest of family to do the same as and when they can.
In my own personal experience, I am approached for covering the CSR activities of major corporates. When I ask them why they are spending more money on talking about the event rather than spending on the real need. They politely move on to next blogger or influencer. This needs to change. I personally do not believe in charity and doubt every organization that sends its volunteers on my doorstep.
Forgiving but not Forgetting
Second is his piece on forgiving but not forgetting – where he talks about forgiving the current generations of the past invaders of India. I totally agree and this thought needs to be built upon. We must forgive them and move ahead. At the same time, we must remember what happened in the past. And make sure it is not repeated. Every time someone tells me Mughals did this to us or British did this – I ask if it was more of their fault or ours. Whatever happened you can not change the history. But make sure you read history and learn from it. Not many people know that people in and around Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka will tell you similar invasion tales of Odiya Kings.
Do you think we will go there and apologize? I was there a couple of months back. And I had no idea of these invasions till I heard it there. How am I supposed to apologize and to whom? The same applies to the rest of the world.
I did not know the Kakatiya Rulers of Warangal were Shudra. This was my learning from this book.
Mumbai’s Share of Taxation
One place I totally disagree with him is where he talks about Mumbai’s share of taxation. This is an argument people of Mumbai love to give every monsoon when they face floods. Please remember Mumbai is the accounting capital of India – taxes get filed from Mumbai. They are not generated in Mumbai. Mumbai, like most big cities in the world, is a consumer of everything. Most cities do not produce anything. They do nurture the service industry more often than not.
Immortal India by Amish is a compilation of works that are already published. Even then, there are editorial mistakes. Like one piece that was published in 2013, he refers to the 2014 election results. I felt this is a book published in hurry.
Immortal India is a small, quick, easy to read a book, that you can finish in a couple of hours. However, if you read too fast, the repetitions would be more conspicuous.
Take your call.
Buy this book – Immortal India: Young Country, Timeless Civilisation, Non-Fiction, Amish explores ideas that make India Immortal at Amazon.
Other compilations of Book Reviews on India.