For those who are active on social media, especially Twitter, Rahul Roushan is not an unknown name. His tweets come across as witty oozing with satire and sarcasm, with pithy observations on the happenings in our world, especially in the political world. So I had to get my hands on the first book written by him.
Rahul has not written anything new in his book. And yet, it is a very important book; one that needs to be read by as many people as possible, in India and around the world – especially by people like me – urban, educated, middle-class/upper middle-class, to know what has seemingly changed in India over the last 7 years; why do we see the masses getting so vocal about their beliefs and opinions, and the how and why of the rise of Modi.
Like Rahul, I too was not ‘involved’ in politics until 2013. Though I was aware of the political leaders and the various parties, I did not follow them religiously (if I may use that word!); I was not clued into their every action and I was definitely not vocal about my political, and religious, choices.
In a way, Modi changed that. This book seeks to explain it, amongst several other things.
It also seeks to talk about the change in society, and politics, from Independence – the Nehruvian era, the rise, and assassination of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s unprecedented parliamentary majority and the birth of the Mandal & Mandir politics, the rise of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, political instability at the Centre and the economic liberalization during the 1990s, the 2002 anti-Godhra riots in Gujarat, the various terrorist blasts all across India almost every other year, including the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the gang rape in Delhi in 2012, the rise of the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare, AAP forming the Govt. in Delhi, the rise of Modi to the Centre, etc.
The book also captures the double standards of the Left, the secular parties, the intellectuals, most of the mainstream media (MSM) and the online news portals [Rahul was/is a part of both] through various real-life examples and incidents. As I was not active into politics earlier, most of these were new, and shocking, to me. Now I am better able to relate to it, seeing it almost every day on MSM/SM. Rahul highlights how these people actually indulge in pretentious intellectual snobbery, with a condescending and patronizing attitude. Smokescreens of bigotry, jingoism and communalism are created, followed by muddling of facts, denials, shifting of goalposts and an orchestrated propaganda.
The book also talks about how social media has truly democratized the discourse in India [something I am truly grateful for – people have fallen off their pedestals and how!] – where people decide the tone and contours of a debate, without the direct involvement or censorship by the MSM. This has given rise to a whole generation of people who are now actively involved in politics [compared to people like me] and who are vocal about their choices & the reasons for the same.
Last, but definitely not the least, the book talks about Rahul’s journey from being offended at being called a Sanghi to actually getting comfortable with, and being proud of, being called one.
It spends a fair bit of space to discuss in detail about Modi – how he was relentlessly projected as a ‘controversial’ leader who won the 2002 elections riding on the wave of ‘hate’ (the narrative still seems familiar, right?), how he won three state elections with an absolute majority, how Modi started projecting himself as pro-development, how he understood how social media worked, etc. It also gives Modi a fair bit of credit in making people warm up to Hindutva/Hindu nationalism. Modi had started to impress many, especially the urban online-savvy educated class, many of whom had no special ideological affinity for the RSS or Hindutva.
I was able to identify with, and nod my head at, some of the incidents and examples in the book – the prejudices and biases against anything and everything connected to the word ‘Hindu’, the ‘liberal’ habit of linking every vice in the Indian society to some aspect of the Hindu culture and religion, the whitewashing of the atrocities committed by Muslim invaders, the deeply narrow definitions assigned to words like secularism, anti-Brahmin rhetoric, etc.
Rahul’s writing style is easy-to-read and the book is pretty much a page-turner in that sense. His satire and sarcasm comes across very well in the book. Also, he does not mince words while narrating or describing certain incidents. Though the book is a kind of an autobiography, I am sure many people will identify with some or the other incidents in it. The only thing I disagree with Rahul is his paranoia about the survival of Hindus. Hindus have, and will survive, forever. In fact, most Hindus, including me, have now started becoming very vocal about a lot of things.
Some of the sentences that stuck with me:
2. Every political party is not the same when it comes to the environment they end up creating by the mere virtue of being in power. They trigger some changes directly, and some indirectly, some as a driving force, some as a catalyst, some intended, some unintended.
3. You don’t need to publicize a treatise against Brahminism to push a person into cutting his janeu; you just need a good personal story. That is the power of storytelling.
4. When the ideological debates would start getting heated, it would invariably be the pro-Modi guy who had to step back and assuage the feelings of his liberal friend, who just couldn’t stop ranting about how fascism must be stopped.
5. The establishment is an entrenched bunch of people and institutions that systematically control the thoughts and beliefs of the masses. It is often achieved via control on the media and academics. Political power is transient, but the power that a real establishment enjoys is potent and lasting. [This one is my favourite!]
I would heartily recommend this book to anyone wanting to know what has changed in India, especially why do Hindus suddenly seem so vocal about their identity. I would also recommend this book to anyone wanting to get a sense of the history of India – how certain unconnected things are actually connected, which is not apparent to the common man. The book is a great read and I will definitely be rereading it often.