Here, I pen my thoughts on my favorite (or otherwise) movies, music and books. My hope is introduce you to films and music you may not have yet encountered.
Books: India After Gandhi ( Nov 2012)
I recently finished reading India after Gandhi – took me 1.5 months, with consistent 1 hour devoted to it almost everyday. Very pleased with it now that I’ve finished the book.
Since my college days, I felt frustrated at my lack of understanding of recent Indian history. History lessons in school ended with Jawaharlal Nehru delivering his famous “Tryst with destiny” speech on 15th August 1947. But that did not explain to me how we had transformed from a country led by able leaders such as Nehru, to what we are today.
Ramachandra Guha’s book explains the story of India from 1947 to 2000s in a fast-paced, unbiased and engaging way. The book is 775 pages long, which seemed daunting when I started it. But it proved to be a real page-turner, and I would eagerly look towards my reading hour everyday to reunite with the book.
India after Gandhi will explain many things: the challenges of uniting India after 1947, the religious, linguistic and regional divides that had to be contained to keep a fragile nation united, the challenge of policy planning of early India, Nehru’s role in shaping the country, the eventual corruption of the Congress under Indira, and the rise (and fall) of the political leaders who govern our country today. In between all this, all major political, social and cultural phenomenon India experienced are described in a gripping way. It all comes together beautifully in the last two chapters, which are also my favorite: A People’s Entertainment (tracing India’s obsession with movies and cricket), and the scholarly-yet-emotional epilogue: Why India Survives.
If you are eager to learn about how contemporary India got to this point, and can invest 2 months (give or take) on a book, I recommend India after Gandhi highly. This one is for the collection.
Music: Easy listening for indoor evenings (Nov 2012)
These are some recommendations for easy listening, when you’re home and just want something nice to play in the background while you do your thing. These are some favorites that have stuck with me over time: this review is an excerpt from a blog I originally wrote in 2008.
Night song, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook – I am not a big fusion fan, though I like some work by Shakti that I heard. However, Night song is not a fusion album. It is all about Nusrat’s brilliance. The guitar and the occasional keyboard camouflage their original flavors to suit sufi. These songs make as much sense on a quiet walk as they do in a crowded bus to office. You may have heard some of these songs, though mutilated and “mastered”, in some music videos that read Nusrat’s name in credits. Remember tere bin nahi lagda dil mera? Hear the original!
Aerial boundaries, Michael Hedges – I love, love, love this one. My idea of acoustic guitars has mostly been Tears in the rain, and of late, thanks to free records available on candyrat.com, Antoine Dufour and Andy Mckee. But late Michael Hedges made acoustic guitar music in the 80’s. Dufour et al are more advanced in techniques, their guitar has more depth, and the speed in insane. But I miss soul in their music, which I thought Aerial boundaries had in abundance.
Everything by Nick Drake – He made just three-four albums. The music is very blue, so if you are highly sensitive to music, this may not exactly cheer you up. Sorrowful but brilliant, I love many of his songs. I cannot immediately think of a parallel, but if you like songs like high hopes, comfortably numb etc, this has the same dark poetic undertones, though the songs are played mostly with just an acoustic guitar.