Rediscovering books

Posted: December 25, 2011 in Books
Tags: , , , , , ,

I don’t know if I am qualified to write on the subject, but in the past four or five months I’ve suddenly rediscovered my love for books. For someone who never managed to start one, leave alone finish it in the past ten years, except for books on journalism from where I got information from my power point presentation to show in my classes, and an occasional book on Osama bin Laden or by Kushwant Singh, I’ve just finished reading six books in the past four months! Yup, it must be some sort of record!

I’ve read three books on Jim Corbett’s adventures in the jungle and his love-hate relationship with the big cats. They belonged to my son and since they were lying around the house gathering dust, I thought of carrying them to the loo, one by one, and reading them there! Fascinating tales of Corbett’s travails in the jungles of Uttar Pradesh and now Uttarakhand, I wonder how many law suits he would have been hit with from wildlife protection groups and self serving environmentalists, had he lived today! I read ‘The Maneaters of Kumaon’ as a school kid and thought I had had my fill of Corbett’s tales, until I came upon other books on him recently.

Okay so these were man-eaters he shot down, to protect the villagers who were terrorised by them, but still, it tells us a lot about the lives and times in British India. It also gave me an insight into the mind of a man who simply loved the big cat but had no hesitation in shooting down one, if the situation required it. There was little remorse or doubt when he aimed his rifle at a man-eater. How many people today, who claim to love animals, would be able to do what Corbett did?

I then actually went and bought the ‘Maruti Story’ by R.C. Bhargava. I was working for an automobile magazine until recently and thought it only right to read up about India’s largest automobile manufacturer. Again, it was an absolutely engrossing book on the way the Maruti was born. Sanjay Gandhi’s passion for cars, a mother’s love for her errant, spoilt son and the sycophants who hovered around the then prime minister and her son, ready to do anything they asked. Strangely enough, Maruti never became a success story during Mrs Indira Gandhi’s lifetime, but after her, when her other and far more sensible son Rajiv was prime minister.

Having been associated with Maruti almost since its inception, Bhargava gives a pretty detailed account of the way bureaucrats, ministers and MPs, tried to scuttle the project even when they knew who was backing it. For a journalist, it is a shocking and revealing story of the kind of venal, petty and vicious politics that has made and destroyed the dreams of a million small industrialists and businessmen, who believed they could be a part of the India success story from the 1980s. All credit to the Japanese and a group of Indians who believed in Maruti and realised that it could be a harbinger of change. Only the Japanese with their zen-like fortitude could have succeeded, in the face of the crap being doled by self serving bureaucrats and corrupt politicians with a single agenda, that of stopping Maruti at all costs. Industry captains, who today talk of leaving India because they are fed up of the read-tapism and corruption, should take a lesson from the officials of the Suzuki Motor Company.

Maruti Suzuki may have its critics but let’s face it the automobile industry will always be divided in two eras, BM and AM – Before Maruti and After Maruti. Environmentalists may not like what it has done – brought in more cars and more pollution and more spending, but tell that to the thousands of people who got employment because of Maruti and subsequently in other auto firms, who came, saw and grabbed the opportunity. There were also those small businessmen and entrepreneurs who started out in small tin sheds and went on to become multi-millionaires only because they chose to be a part of the Maruti story. It’s a pretty fascinating account of MSL.

The other book was Vinod Mehta’s ‘Lucknow Boy’ which I thought just rambled on and on till it got to the ‘juicy’ part about his life as an editor, starting from Debonair and ending at Outlook. I liked the book because Mehta, one will admit, can tell a wonderful story in very simple language, just like another journalist who was caught on the Radia tapes!

And finally, I read ‘Jim Morrison’, a gritty, no holds barred account of the singer- poet, his drug and alcohol addiction, his turbulent relationship with his mother and Pamela Courson his girl friend (or ‘concubine’ as the French police refer to her since she was the next of kin, on Morrison’s death certificate), his numerous one-night stands and mistresses; and how through all that he still managed to get up on stage and perform. When I started the book I thought Morrison was completely psychotic.

By the time I completed the book, I was convinced he was a little unhinged, but a brilliant musician, poet and singer. It’s tragic when you realise that he probably tried to make sense of his life through the haze of alcohol and drug addiction, but in the end failed and ended up dead in his bathtub, choking on his own blood and vomit. In the end, one might well ask whether Morrison would have made a better performer had he remained sober and drug-free. We’ll never know, will we?

  1. ghostwrit says:

    Books are “adventures while sitting.” So glad you discovered what I’ve known most of my life. The absolute JOY of reading.

  2. Sunayan Bhattacharjee says:

    Again, a great read!!

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