Patriots & Partisans

Patriots and Partisans; Author: Ramachandra Guha; Publisher: Penguin Books India; Pages: 352: Price: Rs. 699

Reading Ramachandra Guha’s new book ‘Patriots and Partisans’ is a very comforting experience. It also made me realise that he has single-handedly re-shaped my political and sociological ideologies in the past few years and I’m not ashamed to say that a lot of my ideas today are nothing but a mirror-reflection of his. In effect, Guha demolished any semblance of originality I had until a few years ago. I’m now a dyed-in-the-wool Nehruvian, just like him. In the political scale, I’m in the centre-left just like him. I am an atheist cum agnostic cum a pseudo-Buddhist, and I don’t know what he is, but I am afraid that the moment I come to know that, I might shift to his stand!

Therefore, you shouldn’t expect an objective review of this book. I loved every paragraph of it and relished every word, and found myself nodding vigorously at those pages worshipping Nehru!

On a serious level, Guha’s greatest contribution is to bring scholarly approach to mainstream journalism. Previously, serious, research-based essays used to be the prerogative of Economic and Political Weekly or Frontline. Columns in other magazines used to be seriously opinionated, often emotional, pieces. Guha bridged this gap by writing sensationally interesting pieces yet through well-researched material. This sort of opinionated objectivity, if I may coin this phrase, is refreshing as well trustworthy. His India After Gandhi is full of strong views expressed through extremely well-researched and analysed content, which is what made that colossal volume read like a thriller.

Patriots and Partisans is less scholarly though, which is understandable as it is a collection of his essays written for various magazines. In his own words, ‘When one has to state a case in a few hundred words one can, perhaps must, do so vigorously. When one has a few hundred pages to work with, it is best to let the depth of your research carry the burden of your argument.’

In this book, Guha argues his case quite vigorously in a way that is highly entertaining. He opens all the battlefronts against both the extreme left and the right. The attack on the left is easy and one-sided, but what makes it relevant is Guha’s argues that the left had a very crucial role to play in the political scenario and laments that they had missed the bus. Instead of being content at the margins of the political spectrum, they should have joined the mainstream; in other words, should have been part of the cabinet, which would have included the much needed social causes.

Back to Nehru, Guha, understandably, doesn’t seem to worship him uncritically. There are substantial pages dedicated to elaborately analysing Nehru’s political mistakes. These pages serve to clarify his role as well as serve the idea that Nehru, after all, is a human being, although it is hard to believe that considering his super-human achievements.

Through this book, Guha once again proves that he is the most important opinion leader who can bring in the much needed political and emotional balance.