Sharad and I were chatting up about books at my workplace and he urged me to read it. Like every other book recommendation, I put it up on my wishlist. Last year when we had Secret Santa organized at office, I shared my wishlist with Hussain (my Santa) and he picked this one for me.
About 4 days back I finished reading Lord of the Rings and picked this one as my next read. I was in Bombay at the time and boarding a flight to Bangalore. One page led to another and I finished about half the book in a span of 4 hours (I admit, I am a slow reader).
I would divide my review of the book in 3 sections –
It begins with a disclaimer and ends with epiphanies. In between them popular facts about India are put to test and rated on a scale of 10. What facts you ask me? Here they are:
- Susruta invented plastic surgery in India thousands of years before anybody else.
- India has never invaded another country in 10,000 years.
- Zero was invented in India.
- India was the richest country before British came.
- J C Bose invented radio before Marconi.
- Sanskrit is the best language for programming computers.
- Takshashila housed the oldest university in the world.
- Quotes on Indians by foreigners.
Sidin writes in plain English and uses powerful vocabulary to explain his ideas. His research work might not be as exhaustive because he has relied mostly on English language literature (original work or translations) and his work is based on existing work by other experts. He tries to explain concepts or ideas in as much detail as required to set the context for the reader and has left nothing to his assumption of the reader’s background.
Sidin does not get carried away revealing more than what is necessary and often leaves out unrelated topics. He tries to intertwine history with his own life in an attempt to keep it humourous and the reader engaged. This is good but many times, he takes it too far. I clearly recall this one story where he speaks of an Iranian colleague who stopped speaking to him since he was a Malayali, this had no relation to the India fact.
The other point that came to my notice after reading a few reviews were his rating style. His rating scale doesn’t provide reasons. For example, if a score is 2/10 why can’t it be 4/10? There are reasons for the fact to be low rated but the number is not justified.
I’ll quote a line from the book which I think sums up the essence of reading this fantastic book –
We need more state support of institutions that foster enquiry, criticism and scepticism.
This is great and I think following the path of enquiry, criticism and scepticism will lead to healthier debates that can promote the overall growth of our society and our race.
I was always interested in history and this book gave me more fascinating stories or topics to research on and read. I’ll get back to it now!