The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History by Sanjeev Sanyal [Book Review]

ocean.jpgTitle : The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History

Author : Sanjeev Sanyal

ISBN : 9780670087327

Publisher : Penguin Randomhouse India

Genre : Indian History and Politics, Geopolitics and International Relations

Pages : 297

Source : Publisher

Rating : 4 stars


How come the fossil remains of marine animals have been found in Himalayas?

How come we can see oriental faces in the engravings by Pallavas?

Why did Vasco Da Gama worship in a Hindu Temple when he set his foot in India for the first time?

How come the Parsi Community of India embraced the local Gujarati culture so effortlessly?

Yeah, you guessed it right- This books has not only answers, but also profound explanations of all the above mentioned (and many more) questions.

History has been prescribed in our curriculum right from the primary school. But if you will ponder a bit, its easy to realize that the entire curriculum is heavily skewed towards “Mainland History”. While we discuss Ashoka and Akbar in great lengths, a minuscule space is given to the Cholas, Chalukyas and Pallavas. We talk at lengths about Ashoka and Akbar but conveniently forget Kharavela.

In this groundbreaking, one-of-its-kind book, Sanjeev Sanyal retraces history from the Indian Ocean’s and its coastline’s perspective. The book start right from the origin of Indian Ocean due to the movement of tectonic plates and ends right at the transformation of Bombay to Mumbai with the reclamation of land over the ocean. The book is full of rich details of all kingdoms that throve around the Indian coastline and islands on Indian ocean and of also those that had cultural and trade ties with these kingdoms. Some of the anecdotes are a delight to read while many others get a bit dragging and prosaic- but it doesn’t undermine the fact that the book is an extremely informative account and is a result of an honest and meticulous hard work of author. Some details in this book will challenge your notions and previous knowledge of history with new insights and a different perspective while others will make you go bewildered about the richness and obscurity of our ancient times.

A heartfelt thanks to Penguin Books India for providing The BookTrack team with a review copy of the book. Please buy a copy of this book from Amazon here and start a literary ride which will increase your knowledge quotient for sure.

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Ruled or Misruled : The Story and Destiny of Bihar by Santosh Singh [Book Review]

rm.jpgTitle : Ruled or Misruled : The Story and Destiny of Bihar

Author : Santosh Singh

ISBN : 9789385436307

Publisher : Bloomsbury India

Genre : Indian History & Politics

Pages : 339

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars

I had started this book quite a few months ago but due to some reason had discontinued it. This time I decided to pick it up and finish it in one go.

As pretty much clear from the title, the book describes the entire political journey of Bihar- The predominant Congress rule till its fall 1990, the JP movement, socialist rule under Karpoori Thakur, the rise of Lalu and the 15 years of Lau-Rabdi Jungle raaj that reduced the state’s reputation to ashes due to the bureaucratic and law-and-order carnage, the rise of Nitish, vernacularisation of Politics by both Lalu and Nitish and the recent rise of BJP in Bihar (the book was written before the 2015 Assembly Polls in Bihar).

One thing that I really liked in this book is that instead of describing all the events chronically, the author has decided to arrange chapters according to a topic/event/political figure which has proved to be a turning point in the history of Bihar. This makes sure that if Lalu-Rabdi misrule and  Nitish’s efforts to revive the economic and social fabric of the state have been elaborated in detail, figures like Paswan, Jiten Ram Manjhi and events like BJP-JDU split and reconciliation of JDU-RJD have also been given proper coverage and attention.

Bihar’s history cannot be narrated without the mention of Lalu and as expected, 6 chapters have been exclusively dedicated to him. His hilarious antics, MY (Muslim Yadav) politics, his peculiar ways of connecting with the masses while breaking all protocols, his rustic banter, stopping of Advani’s chariot, nepotism, scams and scandals have been put down with proper details with numerous references. Some spine chilling account of murders and kidnappings during the “jungle raaj” also find a space in the book, inevitably. Moving ahead, the author scans the political history of Nitish, who though started his journey with Lalu and his party, is poles apart from the RJD chief and had brought the agenda of “Development” for the first time in a state where everything has a caste angle and casteism is deeply entrenched in the political fabric. The various “Social Engineering” approaches used by Nitish have also been mentioned very profoundly and the author also doesn’t miss to point out various loopholes and failures in  execution of numerous projects started by Nitish, making the book a real unbiased account.

The author, Santosh Singh, is an Assistant Editor at Indian Express and himself has been a witness of many events in the book. He deserves all the accolades for the meticulous research he has done to put together multiple references and gather anecdotes from the popular as well as thew tainted political figures of Bihar. Though I must mention that the book needs better editing and perhaps a tighter narrative.

Buy a copy for yourself from Amazon here.

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