India has been a favourite literary subject for biographers and historians since Independence, but British author Patrick French is confident that his new book, India: A Portrait, has something new to say about his favourite country.
The book, released at Bandra’s Olive Bar and Kitchen on Friday, maps changes in India’s politics, economics and social life through the stories and personal narratives of diverse individuals. “Since the economic revolution of the early 1990s, India is no longer driven by politics. In this book I was trying to capture everything that has happened in the last two decades,” said French, 45, an award-winning writer and historian who claims he has been fascinated with India ever since he was a young boy in England.
India is French’s second book on the country, published more than a decade after Liberty or Death, his account of the Partition, raised eyebrows for its unconventional portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
“French is not only a brilliant writer but also a literary provocateur,” said journalist Sreenivasan Jain, who moderated the discussion. Besides examining India’s caste politics and its shift from the ‘permit raj’ to a free market economy, French’s book reveals, through a detailed survey, the growing trend of nepotism and dynasty politics among current Members of Parliament. “Rahul Gandhi is now trying to restructure the organisation of a dangerously calcified Congress and it that does happen it would lead to a democratisation of Parliament,” he said.
Adding that it is very hard to bring out India’s diversity in a 400-page book, French said, “There is also a specific Indian identity that can be recognised by people around the world.”