Indians have 2 things- the great epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana and the freedom movement. And Shashi Tharoor has done a brilliant job by mixing these two together in, The Great Indian Novel. Along with this, he references various other famous works on India such as E. M Forester,Rudyard Kipling and Paul Scott. He takes the story of the Mahabharata with India history, going back three generations. A satirical take on everything Indian, this book is a must read for all Indians. Just like the Mahabharata has 18 books and the war of Kurukshetra goes on for 18 days, the book has 18 chapters.
Each chapter name alludes to a famous Indian work like “Bungle Book” refers to “Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling, “Midnight’s Parents” refers to “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie, “Passages through India” refers to “Passage to India” by E. M Forester and so on. The book covers every epic event in Indian history, from Gandhiji’s Dandi March, the Jallianwallah Bagh Massacre, Subash Chandra Bose’s agitations, to Indira’s disrobing of democracy by declaration of Emergency,Nehru’s alleged affairs with Lady Mountbatten, The Indo-Pak and Indo-China wars etc. The book also hints at various conspiracy theories but on the whole, it is very well-researched.
Each and every event, person, word has a meaning referring to both the Mahabharata and the freedom movement. In short, it is a run through of everything India stands for. In the last chapter, author emulates what the Bhagavad Gita stands for and succeeds at a layman’s version. He also talks about various Indian issues prevalent in society, which is found between the lines.
This book is definitely worth a read and it won’t leave you bored at any point. Only a person who is well-versed with both the Mahabharata and Indian history sufficiently will understand this book to the fullest. Otherwise, it is just a great read. And of course, there is the allusion to the name itself, where “The Great Indian Novel” translates directly to the “Mahabharata”. It is definitely A great Indian novel.
I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words #5 from 10th – 16th July 2016
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