India, Honesty & Forgery

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The first post independent generation, especially the elite among it, seem to have a conception of India. Bureaucracy made of them, having retired in the past decade, has started to explain that to the rest of us. TS Krishnamurthy and Bimal Jalan have written two such accounts[1]. Both books have a fundamental and unstated assumption about the nation state: it’s inviolable and sacrosanct. Written with a reasonable understanding of how governance works in this country, they do educate the average reader about the civil servant’s role and contribution to status quo.

The books themselves aren’t very well written. To be fair to Bimal Jalan, his account isn’t as bad as Krishnamurthy’s. The chapters read like blog posts, are uneven in terms of quality of writing and lack cohesion. Possibly because both authors are quite used to praises that hail them as scrupulously honest men holding high offices, they fall into the trap of platitudes that the middle class prescribes. Another feature is the common quirk from the men of their generation: self worth that is determined by their job and since that depended on the worth of the nation, patriotism seems to follow naturally. A look at power in itself and the social equilibrium that it entails, even within the scope of their topic, would have added much to their analyses.

Continuing with quick reads, Lee Israel has given us a book that is quite remarkably unlike the previous two. A story of an unapologetic forger.

Bimal Jalan and TS Krishnamurthy probably deserve our thanks if we believe the idea of India was worth preserving. Lee Israel merely charms us. I’d rather be charmed than feel grateful for a cause I don’t believe in.

[1] — I was given a copy of TS Krishnamurthy’s Miracle of Democracy at the book launch. I can’t seem to find a copy of it online.

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