RAJIV GANDHI AND RAMA'S KINGDOM by Ved Mehta

RAJIV GANDHI AND RAMA'S KINGDOM

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Essays (most originally published in the New Yorker) providing a lucid account of the chaotic course of Indian politics since 1982. Mehta (Up at Oxford, 1993, etc.) tells the colorful story of Indian politics through a series of emblematic tales of envy, intrigue, and betrayal. The cast of characters encompasses Indira Gandhi's family, Congress Party politicians and their clients, and new Sikh and Hindu communalist leaders. With his characteristic attention to detail, Mehta illuminates the significance of the exact words used by Mrs. Gandhi to eject her late son Sanjay's widow, Maneka, from her home, resulting in Maneka's political counterattack; the particular British university degrees that Rajiv Gandhi falsely claimed (both Cambridge and London universities deemed him ``not a suitable candidate for a degree''); and the precise length and width of the enormous Indian paper ballots. The big story is of a country teetering toward collapse as Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi successively lose control of politics, endanger national unity by mishandling regional and religious conflicts, and die at the hands of assassins. Mehta deploys durable Western stereotypes of India to make his story intelligible. Indian women are dependent and helpless; Sikhs are fiery religious extremists; Indian mobs are elemental forces beyond anyone's control. Worst of all for a Western intellectual or tourist, the phones do not work. These exotic defects Mehta links explicitly to India's status as a medieval country where religious fanatics and old-fashioned Congress Party socialists stand in the way of a successful passage to the modern world. Mehta's innocent faith in market forces and progress make a complicated story meaningful but also perpetuate Western anxieties about the alien, unpredictable, and menacing character of modern India. (3 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-300-06038-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994




MORE BY VED MEHTA

NonfictionTHE RED LETTERS by Ved Mehta
by Ved Mehta
NonfictionALL FOR LOVE by Ved Mehta
by Ved Mehta
NonfictionA VED MEHTA READER by Ved Mehta
by Ved Mehta